March 11, 2007

Best Seasons By Yankees Center Fielders

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

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

Note "The Mick" 1956-57 at the top of the chart. Mantle is not just sitting one-two here for the Yankees. If you look at all center fielders in the modern era, he's one-two there, as well, all-time for best season ever.

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Mickey Mantle was the A.L. MVP in 1956 and 1957. It's a shame there was no such award higher than MVP - because Mantle deserved that one too.

Mantle and DiMaggio own the Yankees "ten best seasons" by a center fielder list. What's interesting is that these two players had center covered for the Yankees from 1936 through 1968. So, how does the "top ten" list look for the Yankees pre-Joe and post-Mick? Here we go....pre-DiMaggio followed by post-Mantle:

Click on the lists below for a larger view ~

Earle Combs and Bernie Williams are the big winners here. So, between the two, who was better - Combs or Williams? Here are the numbers, with OPS and RC/G expressed as against the league average:

BernieEarl.jpg

The RCAA/PA totals here are:

Bernie Williams 0.038
Earle Combs 0.047

That's pretty close - as are the OPS and RC/G against the league average marks. OWP is close as well. I would go with Earle Combs here - by a nose.

Therefore, when talking about Yankees greats in terms of offensive seasons in center, start with Mantle and work towards DiMaggio. But, don't forget Earle Combs, aka The Kentucky Colonel, before you move on to Bernie Williams.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:09 PM | Comments (10)

February 11, 2007

Best Seasons By Yankees Left Fielders

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

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

I'm not sure that Babe Ruth's 1926 season really belongs on this list. By that year, the Yankees had been playing "Hide the Babe" in the field for a while already. For those not aware on what this means, Babe Ruth played right field in Yankee Stadium because left field was the tougher spot to cover due to the space out there and the sun. However, he was shifted to left field on the road when the Yanks played a team where right field was tougher to play (than left). Note the following chart which shows where the Babe played, and when, for the Yankees:

RuthInOF.jpg

The rows highlighted in yellow above are the seasons where Ruth played more left than right in the outfield. Nonetheless, as you can see, other than 1921, Babe was never really a "pure" right or left fielder.

Moving off the Babe, Yankees fans should note Charlie "King Kong" Keller on this list.

OWP (Offensive Winning Percentage) is the percentage of games a team would win with nine of a given player in its lineup, given average pitching and defense. If you look at the Yankees' OWP leaders, through 2006, min 4,000 Plate Appearances, you see:

OWP4000.jpg

Only Ruth, Mantle and Gehrig top Keller here - although DiMaggio is close. That's sweet company.

Keller lost all of 1944 and most of 1945 when he served during the war. (And, he was 27- and 28-years old during those lost seasons.) By 1947, Charlie was done in by chronic back problems - and, by the age of 30, he was done as a full-time player.

Here's an interesting thing on King Kong Keller - he came up in 1939 and wore #9 for the Yankees - and he kept that number through 1943. Then, he went off to fight in the war - and the Yankees reissued #9 in 1944 when three different Yankees wore it that season. When Keller returned in 1945, he got #9 back. But, then, in 1946, Charlie switched to #12 for the Yanks - which he wore in the Bronx through 1948.

Keller went back to wearing #9 for the Yankees in 1949. And, after playing for the Tigers for two seasons, Keller wore #28 and #99 for New York when he returned to the Bronx for his last season (of two games played) in 1952.

I'm sure there's a story behind the switch from #9 to #12 for Keller during 1946-48. I wish I knew what it was - so that I could share it.

If Don Mattingly had changed his Yankees number four times - instead of just going from #46 to #23 - I'm sure the story behind it would be well known. And, in many ways, Keller was the Mattingly of his time - a superstar in New York cut down by a bad back basically by the time he was 30-years old.

Charlie "King Kong" Keller should be better remembered in terms of the Yankees legacy. There's no plaque for Keller in Monument Park and (at Yankees Stadium) and YES has yet to do a Yankeeography on him. Considering he hit like DiMaggio - and was pretty close to Mantle and Gehrig in terms of production rate as well - when he wore the pinstripes, maybe it's time that someone did something to get Keller more towards the front of the room which is the story of the New York Yankees.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 03:59 PM | Comments (3)

February 01, 2007

Best Seasons By Yankees Shortstops

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

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

O.K., anyone who did not expect Derek Jeter to dominate this list, well, where have you been for the last eleven years? Clearly, D.J. is the master of all Yankees shortstops in terms of bringing it in the batters box.

How about B.D.J. (Before Derek Jeter)? I ran the same list with a cut-off date of 1995. Look at some of the names that made the cut on this one.

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

When you run a query looking for the ten best offensive seasons, and you see this guy (below) come up as # 7 on the list, you know that you're not looking at a bunch of lumber kings:

Elberfeld.jpg

Kidding aside (get the pun?), check out that 1910 season for John Wesley "Schoolboy" Knight. This player had no stick whatsoever leading into 1910. And, then, all of a sudden, he's probably the tenth most effective batter in the league in 1910. But, after that, like a flash, he's back to being Chicken Stanley-ish as a hitter - and looking into a new line of work. How do you explain something like that (especially in the days before PEDs)?

Speaking of Knights, it's been said that "you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you." But, there are times when you just step in it and everything breaks your way - at least for a while.

The next time someone tries to tell you that's not true - tell them to go look up John Knight, the Yankee, circa 1910.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:54 PM | Comments (6)

January 24, 2007

Best Seasons By Yankees Third Basemen

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

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

It should not be a shock to see Alex Rodriguez at the top of this list with his 2004, 2005, and 2006 seasons. Back in September of last season, I gave a clue as to where A-Rod's 2006 season ranked in Yankees history.

What this list does drive home for me is how few "big" offensive seasons there have been by Yankees third-sackers. Just check out the top ten careers by Yankees three-B's:

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

There's not a lot of fire power there in those sticks, huh?

Here's a little trivia for you: Who are the only two RH-batting 3B to ever post 80+ RCAA in a season? A-Rod in 2005 and Al Rosen in 1953. The two "A.R." men are the only righties at the hot corner to do it.

Getting back to that top ten season list, I have to wonder about this: If A-Rod opts out of his contract following 2007, and then Jeter moves to third and plays there for another seven years, Derek Jeter should then go down in history as both the best hitting SS and the best hitting 3B in Yankees history. How many guys can make that claim - to be the best with the stick for one team at two separate positions?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:50 PM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2007

Best Seasons By Yankees Second Basemen

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

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

Now, this is a list. You've got some players from back in the day, some more current players, some sluggers and some guys who were mostly table setters.

But, what's really interesting with the second basemen is when you look at the top twenty instead of just the top ten:

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

This tells us that, basically, there have only been 16 seasons where a Yankees second baseman had a really large season with the bat. Tony Lazzeri had five of those 16 seasons and Joe Gordon had three of them.

It's no wonder that somewhat ol' time Yankees fans like to wax poetic about guys like Horace Clarke and Bobby Richardson - because there were not a lot of great hitting second basemen in Yankees history to carry on about instead. In terms of good two-B sticks, it's the five guys who can be found in the top ten list. Dat's it. And, Robinson Cano, with a few more good seasons, will be nipping right on Chuck Knoblauch's heels to crack that top five.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:17 PM | Comments (9)

January 13, 2007

Best Seasons By Yankees First Basemen

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

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

This just in: That Gehrig guy was pretty good with the stick! The Iron Horse runs the table here - posting the ten best seasons ever for a Yankees first sacker. What about since the days of Gehrig? Here's how this top ten broke down after the 1938 season:

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

Interesting! Giambi and Mattingly pretty much own this one. When I see this, the first thing that comes to my mind is that the great Yankees offensive first basemen came during the days of Gehrig and the days of Mattingly and Giambi.

Didn't the Yankees win a lot of rings in the 1940's, 1950's, 1960's and 1970's? You would think that they had big hitting 1B's on those teams, no? Well, check out this slice of the Yankees first basemen ten best seasons, covering seasons from 1939 to 1980:

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

We're not exactly seeing Hall of Fame type seasons here, are we? And, this is the best of the '40's, 50's, 60's and 70's.

Maybe the Yankees can win a ring this season with Rico Bergman playing first?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 01:09 PM | Comments (19)

January 11, 2007

Best Seasons By Yankees Catchers

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

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

Is anyone shocked to see Dickey and Berra dominate this list?

But, just as much as we expected to see those two famous # 8's on the board, I would bet that most are surprised to see Mike Stanley '93 crack the top ten - with a season just as good as Jorge Posada's best season ever with the bat (to date).

What about since the days of Berra and Dickey - what does that list look like? Here's how this top ten broke down after the 1963 season:

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

Posada and Munson own this list as much as Dickey and Berra own the overall list.

Some may be thinking here "Shouldn't Elston Howard appear more often on these lists?" Well, Ellie had three huge seasons with the stick: 1961, 1963 and 1964. That last year made the cut for this Post-'63 group. But, 1961 and 1963 missed the cut because I used 1964 as the starting year on this second group. That was a mistake - since Yogi was really done being a catcher after 1960. To fix that error, here's how this top ten broke down after the 1960 season - tweaked to only include those who played in 100+ games in a season (sorry Johnny Blanchard '61):

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

Ah, there's Elston Howard in his glory - right up there with Posada and Munson.

This is what you would expect here, in total: Dickey and Berra being # 1 (A) and # 1 (B) in terms of the best Yankees catchers ever - with Posada, Munson and Howard rounding out the top five.

When he's said and done, Jorge Posada should have locked up the # 3 all-time slot (behind Dickey and Berra) for Yankees great catchers. Not bad for a guy who didn't start playing full-time until he was 28-years old.

Here's something to noodle: If Posada puts up three more seasons like he had in 2006, does that give him enough of a resume for Cooperstown consideration? Or, does that just make him this generation's Ted Simmons? It probably makes sense to wait and see if Jorge can post those additional numbers before banging our heads on the wall trying to figure this one out.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:52 PM | Comments (8)

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 07:51 PM | Comments (5)

January 08, 2007

Best Seasons By Yankees Pitchers

Inspired by Matt Welch and powered by the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, I decided to look at the ten best seasons (ever) by Yankees pitchers and came up with this all-time list:

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

One would expect to see Guidry '78 and Chesbro '04 on this list. But, note Gomez and Ruffing. Lefty Gomez has the number one slot here - and three seasons (in total) in the top ten. Red Ruffing has two slots in the top ten. So, between Gomez and Ruffing, they own half of the ten best seasons by a Yankees pitcher.

What's also cool here is that Gomez and Ruffing were teammates from 1930 through 1942. And, as the chart shows, in 1937 they were an incredible one-two punch for the Yankees rotation.

But, what about after 1942? How would this all-time top ten seasons list appear if we only took seasons from 1942 forward? For the answer, see below:

Click on the list below for a larger view ~

Now, this is some good stuff. Whitey Ford's '61 and '63 seasons did not make the cut. (Quick, someone tell Michael Kay that it's not all about wins.) Nonetheless, Ford does take three of the top seven slots here.

Note the placement of Andy Pettitte '97 and Mariano Rivera '96. What's interesting here is that 1997 was the year after Pettitte got hosed in the Cy Young Award voting and 1996 was the year before Rivera became the Yankees closer. In any event, I wonder how many Yankees fans today realize that Andy Pettitte, in 1997, had the 7th best season ever by a Yankees pitcher since 1942.

It was nice to see Catfish Hunter '75 make the Post-'42 list. And, of course, how about Melido Perez '92 grabbing the final slot in the Post-'42 top ten? Then again, if you were reading WasWatching.com back in November 2005, seeing how good Perez was in 1992 should not be news.

I'll do some more of these "Top Ten Season" lists for other positions between now and the start of next season.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:53 PM | Comments (7)