Thursday, July 1, 2010

All-Time Yankees Roster

The following the the final write-up from the two students in my sabermetrics workshop. They worked hard on it, and they should be proud of the level of analysis they performed. The write-up was coauthored by the three of us. Also, disclaimer, I'm not a Yankees fan, but they are :). Needless to say, this is probably the only time you'll see "Go Yankees" written in this blog.

*All-Time Yankees Roster*

By Rory Davidson, Tierna Davidson, and Paul Franz


Do you think you have the best all-time Yankees roster? Well think twice and read ours. We have made our team through a series of numbers. Whether it is looking at OPS+ or ERA+, the numbers are very reliable (compliments of and Our team goes back to Babe Ruth, Lou Gerhig, and Mickey Mantle, all the way up to Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Mariano Rivera.


OPS+ is a statistic in which they make the average OPS of the major league and make it 100 and then take another persons OPS and see how much better or worse a players OPS is. We used this stat to our advantage by looking the number and seeing if they are worthy enough, for example Babe Ruth’s OPS+ was 210 for his Yankee career, we thought, “Wow this guy is amazing lets put him up.” Of course we already knew Ruth would be on our team, but that was just an example. For pitchers we used ERA+ which the exact same thing as OPS+ but with ERA.
After we picked about 40 players we looked a little deeper into their stats and see if anything jumps out at us. Another thing we did was see if they had better seasons with another team, for example Roger Clemens was a Yankee for a period of time and did very well with them, but his prime was when he was with the Boston Red Sox so we decided to put someone else on the team.


Starting Pitcher - Whitey Ford, 1950-1967
133 ERA+, 55.3 WAR

Ford was the Yankees ace during the Casey Stengel era, leading the Yankees to no less than 8 World Series titles. There are fewer storied pitchers than hitters for the Yankees, but Ford measures up to the Berras and DiMaggios nonetheless.

Catcher - Yogi Berra, 1946-1963
125 OPS+, 62.1 WAR

As much has been written about Berra as any other player in Yankees history, thanks to a wit that lies somewhere between genius and savant. With a seemingly infinite collection of quotations to his name, Berra would be famous even if he weren’t one of the best catchers of all time. As it was, he was Joe Mauer before Joe Mauer: the All-American kid made good, with charm and the remarkable ability to hit and catch.

First Base - Lou Gehrig, 1923-1939
179 OPS+, 118.4 WAR

“The Iron Horse” was voted the best first-baseman by the Baseball Writers’ Association. Lou holds the record for the most grand slams. He played 2,130 consecutive games. That record stood for 56 years before Cal Ripkens Jr. broke it. Gerhig was also elected into the Hall of Fame in 1939. His life and career was cut short by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gerhig’s Diease), a horrible diesease in your nerves. He died 2 years after being diagnosed. He is a legend that will live on forever.

Second Base - Robinson Cano, 2005-Present
118 OPS+, 22.5 WAR

Second base was a very tough decision because the Yankees have not had very good second base-mans in their franchise, out of all of the second base players I had a very strong argument for the MVP candidate Robinson Cano. In only six years he has accumulated 102 home runs. Adding on to that amazing stat he has a career .311 batting average. Also he has been an MVP, won the silver slugger award, and runner up rookie of year. Our final reason to picking Cano as our starter was because we have a soft spot for Cano because he has helped our favorite team win a World Series.

Shortstop - Derek Jeter, 1995-Present
121 OPS+, 70 WAR

Derek Jeter is obviously the best shortstop choice in the Yankees roster. He won the Rookie of the Year in 1995 and was the only player to win the All-Star Game MVP and the World Series MVP in the same year. He was selected as an All-Star ten times and he won Silver Slugger and Golden Glove awards on four occasions. He has a .317 career batting average and team captian for the Yankees since 2003. Finally, Jeter is the all-time Yankees hit leader, passing Lou Gerhig in 2009. He still plays for the Yankees and continues to break records.

Third Base - Alex Rodriguez, 2004-Present
147 OPS+, 40.2 WAR

Alex Rodriguez is considered one of the all-time best players. Pretty good. Joining the Yankees in 2004, he was the youngest player to ever hit 500 home runs, breaking a record previously set by Jimmie Foxx. Though he used steroids from 2001-2003, he has stopped using drugs and continues to play for the Yankees as a phenomenal third baseman.

Right Field - Babe Ruth, 1920-1935
210 OPS+, 149.6 WAR

A huge no-brainer!!!!!! Babe Ruth is the best player of all time. There is nothing else to say for the greatest player ever.

Center Field - Mickey Mantle, 1951-1968
172 OPS+, 120.2 WAR

Mantle’s story reads like a Greek tragedy. The All-American boy with a broad smile and all the talent in the world saw his career and greatness always overshadowed by the history against which he was pitted. He was an infamous alcoholic, his playing career was continually marred by injury, and while he continued to march bravely out into center field, his knees could barely hold him as his career went on. It is stunning, then, that he put up the kind of numbers that he did in his career. One wonders what might have been.

Left Field - Joe DiMaggio, 1936-1951
155 OPS+, 83.6 WAR

“The Yankee Clipper,” or “Joltin’ Joe,” has been immortalized in song and popular culture, of course, but he also kicked off what would become 30 years of dominant performance from Yankee center fielders. Joe was so good - the truest of the “True Yankees” - that fans met the rookie Mantle, who would replace him, with great skepticism. We decided to leave Mantle in center, because, in the end, he was an even better ball player than DiMaggio (who we assume could handle the transition to left field alright).

Designated Hitter - Reggie Jackson, 1977-1981
148 OPS+, 16.9 WAR

The original “Mr. October” didn’t play with the Yankees for long, but he forged his legacy in the five years he spent in pinstripes.

Closer - Mariano Rivera, 1995 - Present
205 ERA+, 51.4 WAR

As we all know this was another complete no-brainer with Mariano Rivera’s record setting 205 ERA+ and that he will be holding the saves holder in 2 to 3 years.

Starting Rotation and Bullpen

Starting Pitcher - Lefty Gomez, 1930-1942
125 ERA+, 43.2 WAR

Lefty Gomez was overshadowed, in his career, by the careers of Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio, but he - along with Red Ruffing - was one of the aces and star pitchers of the first Yankees dynasty.

Starting Pitcher - Red Ruffing, 1930-1946
119 ERA+, 49.7 WAR

Red Ruffing was a converted outfielder, who changed positions after losing four of his toes in a mine accident. Odd as it sounds, the change probably helped Ruffing, who didn’t have to compete in a stacked New York outfield, and instead went on to become a hall of famer and one of the best pitchers of his era.

Starting Pitcher - Ron Guidry, 1975-1988
119 ERA+, 44.4 WAR

One of the few modern starting pitchers on the shortlist of great Yankees, Guidry won a Cy Young and was runner up for an MVP in his dominant 1978 campaign, when he went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA. The Yankees won the series that year, behind Guidry’s stellar season, and the pitcher went on to anchor the Yankees staff through the 80s.

Starting Pitcher - Waite Hoyt, 1921-1930
115 ERA+, 47 WAR

Hoyt is probably better known as the longtime announcer of the Cincinnati Reds, but before his broadcast career he was the ace of the first Yankees World Series winning team.

Starting Pitcher - Andy Pettitte, 1995-2003, 2007-Present
114 ERA+, 42.3 WAR

Pettitte has been an amazing pitcher for the Yankees in his career. He has contributed to 5 of the Yankees World Series. Along with 5 World Series he has a 114 ERA+ and a 3.97 ERA.

Relief Pitcher - Rich “Goose” Gossage, 1978-1983
179 ERA+, 18.2 WAR

Gossage was one of the first “closers” in baseball history, amassing a now unimpressive 310 saves (151 with the Yankees). In Gossage’s time, most of these were two or three inning affairs, as his 533 innings in 319 appearances with the Yankees suggest. In his brief time with the Yankees Gossage was good enough - with an outstanding 179 ERA+ - to warrant inclusion in the All-Time discussion.

Relief Pitcher - Sparky Lyle, 1972-1978
148 ERA+, 14.4 WAR

Lyle’s WAR total is unimpressive, but he was a work horse for the Yankees, pitching over 700 innings in relief in his seven seasons with the club. He picked up 141 saves at a time when the statistic wasn’t recorded, and struck out twice as many as he walked.

Relief Pitcher - Dave Righetti, 1979-1990
127 ERA+, 23.3 WAR

Righetti started his career as a starter, winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1979. He was later switched to relief thanks to a glut of starters on the Yankees roster in the 80s, where he continued to shine as a replacement for Goose Gossage. As a minor leaguer, Righetti was acquired by the Yankees in an ill-fated trade by the Rangers for, it turned out, a past-his-prime Sparky Lyle.


Catcher - Jorge Posada, 1995-Present
125 OPS+, 45.7 WAR

Like Yogi Berra, Jorge Posada is the rare catcher who can hit. We chose Posada over the also-deserving Thurman Munson because Posada has managed to continue as a top-level performer well into his late 30s. Of course, we don’t know what Munson would have done had he not died in a tragic plane accident, but Posada has been every bit as good in his career, and he has anchored the latest Yankees dynasty.

Second Base - Tony Lazzeri, 1926-1937
121 OPS+, 46.6 WAR

The only second baseman in the discussion besides Cano played alongside Babe Ruth, routinely hitting 10-20 homers a year at a time when no one (except his slugging teammate) was hitting much of anything. Lazzeri’s Hall of Fame entrance took a long time thanks to suspect defense, but his offensive ability, especially for a second baseman, is unquestionable.

Left Field - Charlie Keller, 1939-1949
152 OPS+, 42.4 WAR

The best Yankee you’ve never heard of, Keller lost some of his best years to World War Two. Even so, a stunning .410 OBP and .518 SLG speak to his skill as a hitter. One can only imagine an outfield consisting of him, DiMaggio, and George Selkirk (who narrowly missed inclusion on this roster). No wonder the Yankees won all those World Series.

First Base / Designated Hitter - Jason Giambi, 2002-2008
143 OPS+, 21.8 WAR

The “Giambino” earned his nickname with a series of outstanding performances for the Yankees earlier in this decade. For someone as high-profile as he is, Giambi is actually one of the most underrated sluggers of his era, thanks to his amazing ability to get on base. As a Yankee Giambi’s OBP was .404, stellar even when not coupled with 30+ homers a season.

First Base - Don Mattingly, 1982-1995
127 OPS+, 39.8 WAR

Immensely popular, Mattingly never looks as impressive on paper as he is in people’s memories. Even so, his career 127 OPS+ is nothing to laugh at. Being a first baseman without a ton of power in the late 80s and early 90s works against “Donny Baseball,” especially because the generation following him hit more homers than any other, but his overall skill with the bat (and glove), along with his spot in Yankee-fan hearts, means that he warrants a spot here.

Right Field - Roger Maris, 1960-1966
140 OPS+, 27.9 WAR

No player was more polarizing in his time. As he and Mantle chased the Ruth’s hallowed home run record in 1961, Maris was subjected to the best and worst that fans have to offer. What often gets lost, however, in the Maris story is what a good hitter he was, period. His 61 homer season was staggering, and probably at least in part due to luck, but it was hardly a total fluke. Maris had led the league in SLG the year before, after all, and had hit 39 homers. He has been kept out of the Hall of Fame thanks largely to a short career, but he definitely warrants inclusion here.


After reading our thoughts, you probably know why our roster is the best. Not only did we do deep research, but being Yankees fans we know a lot of the players. If we were to go into even greater detail, we would write paragraphs upon paragraphs about each player. But we didn’t want to bore you (we hope we didn’t) out of your minds, so we did the main factors of each player. If we were to do a different team, that would be a different story. First, the Yankees are so much better than other teams... GO YANKEES!


  1. Other than the fact it was the Yankees, it was an interesting read. Not a whole lot of surprises, but I was surprised Cano was the 2B...but couldn't come up with another. Red Ruffing has ALWAYS been my favorite Yankee! What do the stats say about the best all-time Yankee manager?

  2. No mention of Bill Dickey at catcher? Statisticians need to remove the emotion (tragic Thurman Munson, iconic Yogi Berra, current Jorge Posada) and stick to the facts. Dickey was as good as any Yankee catcher ever.

  3. We did consider Dickey, and he was probably closer to warranting inclusion than Munson. There's really no question Yogi beats out everyone; his career WAR of 61.9 is well ahead of Posada (45.7) or Dickey (54.4), thanks to playing almost every day for 19 seasons (while Dickey lasted 17, and topped out at 140 games, a total Berra surpassed six times). He was also a three time MVP, and, yes, an icon. Statistics do tell a lot of the story, but sometimes a little mythos goes a long way.

    Dickey and Posada are much closer, and there's certainly a good argument to go with the historical player. As is, I think there was something of a modern bias in our selections, but a defensible one. In the modern era, Posada is remarkable for being a catcher who hits, who has played for one team his whole career, and for somehow being underrated despite a career on the Yankees.

    But really, it could go either way. After all, Dickey's closest comps (courtesy of baseball-refernece) are Gabby Hartnett, Ernie Lombardi, Mickey Cochrane, and, you guessed it, Jorge Posada.

  4. Dimaggio, not Mantle, married Marlyn Monroe fyi