Last decade, the Yankees were the victim of a frustrating phenomenon. Whenever a pitcher would make his major league debut against them, the team’s offense would go into a shell. From 2000 to 2010, starters breaking into the big leagues against the Bronx Bombers posted an ERA of 2.32 in 66 innings, versus an ERA of 5.40 in nearly 1,900 innings against the rest of baseball. Since then, however, the Yankees have had more luck against first timers, winning the last two games, including last night’s extra inning victory over the Orioles.
Two games do not represent a reversal any more than 11 games represent a trend (for a more comprehensive look at the Yankees’ performance against pitchers faced for the first time, click here). Nonetheless, it’s still interesting to examine how pitchers have reacted to drawing the fabled Yankees for their opening assignment.
Top-5 and Bottom-5 Debut Starts Against Yankees (by GSc), Since 1918
|Luis Tiant||CLE||7/19/1964||W 3-0||9||4||0||0||4||11||0||86|
|Billy Rohr||BOS||4/14/1967||W 3-0||9||1||0||0||5||2||0||82|
|Charlie Beamon||BAL||9/26/1956||W 1-0||9||4||0||0||7||9||0||81|
|Clem Dreisewerd||BOS||8/29/1944||W 8-1||9||6||1||1||1||2||0||72|
|Paul Rigdon||CLE||5/21/2000||W 6-1||7||2||0||0||4||2||0||71|
|Mark Petkovsek||TEX||6/8/1991||L 7-10||4 2/3||10||7||7||2||3||3||17|
|Blue Moon Odom||KCA||9/5/1964||L 7-9||2||6||6||6||2||1||1||19|
|Leo Mangum||CHW||7/11/1924||L 9-12||3||6||6||6||2||0||2||21|
|Pat Ahearne||DET||6/14/1995||L 3-12||1||6||5||5||0||1||2||22|
|Eduardo Villacis||KCR||5/1/2004||L 4-12||3 1/3||6||5||5||4||0||1||24|
The Yankees aren’t the only team to encounter brand new starters, so provided below are the aggregate performances of pitchers making their major league debut both for and against each franchise. As evident from the charts, the Cardinals’ first timers have had the most success in terms of ERA, while the Dodgers’ debutants have posted the highest average game score. However, the Yankees have the highest winning percentage when sending a pitcher to the mound for the first time. The Bronx Bombers have won nearly 60% of such games, even though the individual starters posted a lackluster ERA of 5.14 and average game score of 45.4.
The Astros have been a welcomed opponent for pitchers making their major league debut. First timers have posted an ERA of 3.65 and average game score of 51.6 against Houston, while their teams have won 56% of the games (second only to the 59% rate enjoyed against the Brewers). Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have proven to be a new starter’s worst nightmare. Not only has Toronto won two-thirds of the 48 games against a debuting hurler, but the Jays’ lineup has pummeled the unsuspecting rookie. Against Toronto, new starters have posted an ERA of 6.29 and average game score of 41.9, which are the lowest figures in each category.
Finally, there are always those cataclysmic moments when the irresistible force encounters an immovable object, or, in the context of this discussion, two pitchers make their major league debuts against each other. Since 1918, there have been 14 such games, of which most have been a mismatch (nine have featured games with a game score difference of at least 14). Among the five remaining contests that were evenly matched, four involved starters who performed equally poorly, leaving only one real pitcher’s duel between two hurlers make their debut.
On the last day of the 1941 season, just weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Cardinals’ Johnny Beazley went the distance in a 3-1 victory over the Cubs’ Russ Meers. Beazley carried over his success into 1942 by winning 21 games, but then his career was interrupted by military service. Meanwhile Meers’ deployment was more immediate. The two pitchers didn’t return to the game until 1946, at which point their days a big league pitcher were numbered. Although Beazley and Meers probably viewed their careers as unfilled, they’ll always have September 28, 1941, which for rookie starters is a day that still lives in the opposite of infamy.