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January 09, 2007

Best Seasons By Yankees Closers

Continuing with the WasWatching.com Yankees "ten best seasons" (ever) series, today we look at closers. Here is what I believe are the top ten seasons for Yankees closers, with stats via the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia:

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

Is it any shock to see Rivera '96 at the top of the chart here, or, to see Mariano have five of the top ten slots? Further, is Rivera '03-'06 the best ever 4-year run for a closer? Probably. Mo is simply amazing.

But, how did/would this list look before the days of Rivera? (I want to call it "B.M." for "Before Mo" but, well, you know.) Here's how this top ten broke down after the 1994 season:

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

There are some names here that diehard and/or old-time Yankees fans would expect to see: Johnny Murphy, Joe Page, Luis Arroyo, Sparky Lyle, Goose Gossage and Rags Righetti. And, maybe even Lindy McDaniel '70 earning a place here would not shock some Yankees fans.

But, how many Yankees fans expected to see Lee Guetterman '89 and Brian Fisher '85 make the top ten? I have to confess - I never would have guessed it. Fun stuff, indeed.

Here's some more fun. What if we allowed someone who also started some games - as long as he closed more often than started? Here's that result:

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

That was some rookie season in 1927 for (then) 30-year old Wilcy Moore.

Wilcy was a sidearming sinkerballer. Along with 12 starts, Moore pitched in 38 games as a relief pitcher - finishing 30 games. In total, he threw 213 IP that year. Without looking, I would bet that at least 105 of those 213 IP came out of the bullpen. So, Moore probably averaged around 3 IP per relief appearance that season - or probably a tad higher. Joe Torre would have loved him.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at January 9, 2007 07:51 PM

Comments

Thanks for the stroll down memory lane, Steve. Lee Guetterman, indeed.

Though I'm a bit surprised/dismayed that Rags didn't represent a bit more on any of your lists.

Posted by: brockdc [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 9, 2007 10:20 PM

That's a pretty neat study, Steve. One thing, tho'; Wetteland was the closer in 96 :)

Lee Guetterman? Who woulda thunk it? I guess he was one of the few bright spots from an otherwise dismal '89 campaign. He led the team in wins the following year, pretty tough to do from the bullpen, I suppose.

Wasn't he traded for Tim Burke?

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 9, 2007 10:20 PM

Hey, you know, Wetteland led the 1996 Yankees in saves, but, it was Rivera who was nailing down games that year, IMHO.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 9, 2007 10:24 PM

~~~Though I'm a bit surprised/dismayed that Rags didn't represent a bit more on any of your lists. ~~~

I'll always heart him for throwing the ball over the wall in Toronto.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 9, 2007 10:26 PM

Regarding the term closer, if you want further discussion/substantiation of the concept of Rivera as "8th inning closer" in 1996, I found this by Tom Singer in Baseball Digest, 2004: 'The urge to shorten games has given rise to the latest relief rage: doubling up on closers. The premier teams are paying a premium for erstwhile closers who now own the eighth.

* The Yankees, who virtually pioneered this trend in 1996 when Rivera set up John Wetteland, now have Gordon (46 saves for the 1998 Red Sox) setting up Mariano.

"We have that kind of ability to shut the game down," Rivera says. "The starters go six, then the bullpen takes over."
This applied to Mo of course in the 1996 regular season, and even more scarily in the 1996 post season. Many were eager to have Tom Gordon be the next Mo, hence his inclusion in the discussion by this writer. As we know, that didn't turn out to be the case. Anyhow, there's a thread about Mo as
'8th inning closer.'

Posted by: susanmullen [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 10, 2007 05:02 PM