Ford helped the Yankees win six World Series titles and 11 American League pennants in his 16 seasons. Ford had a career record of 236-106, setting the Yankees’ record for victories. His career winning percentage of .690 is the best for any pitcher with at least 300 career decisions. Ford was the Cy Young Award winner in 1961, when he was 25-4, and was a 10-time All-Star.
Earlier this year, we had a piece that talked extensively about Ford. Here’s the relative part:
When managers weren’t handcuffed by the front office, they could employ more creativity and look for ways to get the best out of their team. Few were better at this than Casey Stengel when he managed the Yankees in the 1950s. One way Stengel looked to get creative was the deployment of his star pitcher, Whitey Ford.
In the period from 1953-1960, Ford was third in the AL with 124 Wins. In this eight-year span, an AL hurler won 20 games 17 times but Ford was not one of them. He made the All-Star team six seasons and the two years he didn’t, he drew MVP votes. So, how could a hurler who was one of the top pitchers by almost any way you look at it, pitching for one of the best teams in the league, not win 20 games?
Stengel would jigger his rotation so that Ford would pitch against the top teams whenever possible. Let’s look at 1960. In the eight-team AL that season, three teams finished above .500 – the Yankees, Orioles and White Sox. Ford made 29 starts that year and if things were perfectly random, he would have made four starts against each of the other seven teams. Yet Ford made 12 starts against the Orioles and White Sox and threw in a relief appearance against Baltimore, too. He made just two starts against the cellar-dwelling A’s. In 1956 he made 20 starts against teams with a record over .500, compared to just 10 against teams with losing records. In 1955 in 16 starts against losing teams, Ford was 13-1. But he made 17 starts against teams with winning records.
When Ralph Houk took over in 1961, Ford more frequently pitched on a regular schedule, as 34 of his 39 starts came on either three or four days of rest. He ended up with 25 starts against teams with a losing record, compared to just 14 against teams above .500 and the result was a 25-win season. In 1960 he went 12-9 with a 117 ERA+. A year later he goes 25-4 with a 115 ERA+. Diluted talent with expansion certainly helped, as did the 10 extra starts in 1961. But more games against the dregs was a big factor, too.
Last year, deGrom had 18 of his starts come against teams with a .500 or better record and he went 3-5 with a 3.16 ERA. In 14 starts against teams with losing records, he went 8-3 with a 1.55 ERA. But if you were trying to move away from a strict 5-man rotation, you wouldn’t jigger things to have deGrom pitch against the best teams – you’d do it to have him pitch in day games. Last year, NL pitchers had a 4.31 ERA in day games. Lifetime, deGrom is 25-11 with a 1.85 ERA in those contests.