In the rich history of the New York Yankees organization, hundreds of rookies have come through the organization. I thought I’d take a loot at the 10 best rookies seasons in Yankees history, and see how they match up against each other.
10. Tom Tresh (1962), SS- In 1962, at the age of 23, Tresh became the second Yankees shortstop to win rookie of the year. The next one would be Derek Jeter. He had 20 homeruns, 93 RBI, and a .286/.359/.411/.800 batting line in 712 plate appearances. He finished number 12 in the mvp voting in what would amount to one of the best rookie performances in Yankees history, especially considering his position.
9. Whitey Ford (1950), LHP- At just 21 years old, Whitey Ford threw 112 innings for the New York Yankees, finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, and won nine games. He pitched to a 2.81 ERA and struck out 59 batters in 1950, the first of a long, hall of fame career.
8. Bob Grim (1954), RHP- Grimm did not play in the major leagues in 1952 or 1953 because he was in the military service, like many players of the era. In 1954, however, he came back to America ready to play some baseball. He threw 199 IP (so much for innings limitations), with a 20-6 record and a 3.26 ERA. He struck out 108 batters, a fantastic performance for a rookie. He would never reach 20 wins or 199 innings pitched again.
7. Derek Jeter (1996), SS- The stats aren’t quite as impressive as some others on this list, but he’s a shortstop and his playoff performance in 1996 is the stuff of legends. At the ripe old age of 22, Jeter hit .314/.370/.430/.800 with 10 HR, 78 RBI, 14 SB and a rookie of the year award. In addition to his performance in the regular season, he helped the team to its first world series in over a decade, and gave one of the greatest clutch performances from a rookie in the playoffs of all time.
6. Gil McDougald (1951), 2B, 3B, SS- McDougald may not have ever been as celebrated as Derek Jeter, but his rookie season was actually more impressive statistically. In 1951, he hit .306/.396/.488/.884 as a 23 year old rookie for the Yankees. He had 14 HR and 14 SB, and earned Rookie of the Year honors and finished ninth in the MVP voting. He would never eclipse 14 homeruns again, but had a productive 10 year career, all with the Yankees.
5. Ron Guidry (1977), LHP- He had a long, 14 year career with the Yankees, and was one of the best pitchers in the organization’s history. In his first full season at the age of 26, Guidry pitched 210.2 IP and had a 2.82 ERA. He was 16-7 and he threw an impressive 5 shutouts. He struck out 176 batters, good for a 7.5 K/9. The year was 1977, and the Yankees had only scratched the surface on Guidry’s talent.
4. Lou Gehrig (1925), 1B- Lou Gehrig is probably the most beloved first baseman in Yankees history. At the age of 22, few knew who he was. At the end of the 1925 season everyone knew who he was. He hit .295/.365/.531/.896 in his rookie season. He had 20 homeruns, 68 RBI, and 6 SB to go along with that. His long, illustrious career with the Yankees will go down in history as one of the best of all time, and he’s one of the greatest hall of famers the Yankees have to offer. Interestingly to all of the statheads out there, his OBP of .365 was a career low. He would go on to have a career OBP of .447.
3. Stan Bahnsen (1968), RHP- If we were looking at career numbers, he would probably be lower on this list, but we’re not. Stan Bahnsen won Rookie of the Year in 1968. He threw a whopping 267 innings and had just a 2.05 ERA. Oddly enough, this was only good enough to notch him 17 wins on the season. He manged to strike out 162 batters, which ended up being a career high for him. His WHIP on the season was an impressive 1.062, and he was just 23 years old at the time.
2. Russ Ford (1910), RHP- Deciding between the final two players on this list was difficult. In the end, Ford’s age as a rookie probably preempted him from being number one. His career was short, at just seven years, but that’ll happen when you average 274 innings per year and begin your career at 27. His rookie season was in 1910, well before the Rookie of the Year award began to be handed out. He was actually born in the 1800’s (1888). His statistics are impressive, but obviously we must consider that this was an extremely different time. In 299.2 innings pitched, he had a miniscule 1.65 ERA, 8 shutouts, 209 K, and a 26-6 record. That season he did not finish top 20 in the MVP voting.
1. Joe DiMaggio (1936), CF- The year was 1936, and a 21 year old power hitter out of San Franscisco, California burst onto the New York baseball scene. One of the best players to ever don the pinstripes, Joe Dimaggio was a star from day one in his career, and never looked back. He had a magical .323/.352/.576/.928 batting line in his first season. That’s right, a .928 OPS. Also before the era of the Rookie of the Year award, it’s safe to say he would have had a pretty good shot at winning it, especially given that he finished eighth in the MVP voting. He had 29 homeruns, 44 doubles, 15 triples, 125 RBI and just 39 strikeouts in 637 at bats. Never again would another Yankee have such a fantastic rookie debut.