5 Yankees Cy Young winners include a sparky reliever

New York Yankees' Cy Young Award winners

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The New York Yankees have a history of exceptional pitchers who earned the prestigious Cy Young Award, the top pitching honor in baseball. This exclusive group includes Bob “The Rope” Turley, known for his powerful pitching in 1958. Then there’s Whitey Ford, a skilled left-handed pitcher who baffled the Yankees’ rivals in 1961.

In 1977, Sparky “The Count” Lyle, a reliable Yankees reliever, played a crucial role in securing victories. The flamethrowing “Louisiana Lightning” Ron Guidry left a mark with the 1978 Yankees with his ability to strike out numerous opponents. Finally, the ageless wonder Roger “The Rocket” Clemens defied the passage of time with an outstanding performance in 2001. Despite their different eras and roles, these Yankees pitchers all had remarkable seasons that earned them the Cy Young Award, a symbol of being the game’s most outstanding pitcher.

1958-Bob Turley becomes the first Yankees’ Cy Young

The stats: 21-7 record, 2.97 ERA, 168 strikeouts

In 1958, Bob Turley aced tough competition but narrowly edged out Warren Spahn to win the Cy Young Award, a prestigious honor established in 1956. His season that year was nothing short of outstanding, as he won more than 20 games and displayed excellent pitching skills for the Yankees. Turley’s clutch performances were instrumental in the Yankees’ quest for another championship, making it a fitting year for him to capture the Cy Young Award.

Bob “The Rope” Turley changed his pitching style to improve his control, adopting a no-wind-up position in 1958. This adjustment paid off, as he led the major leagues in both wins and complete games. Turley achieved a good record of 21 wins and 7 losses and maintained a low 2.97 ERA. He also completed 19 games and secured 5 shutouts, which demonstrated his excellence on the mound. Furthermore, Turley led the American League in wins, making him the top pitcher in the league that year. It was a career-best year for him, with 21 wins, 19 complete games, and an impressive total of 336.2 innings pitched. Additionally, he struck out 168 batters, which was considered a high number during the 1950s, when strikeouts were not as common as they are in today’s baseball.

Turley’s control was outstanding, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.64, which was the best in the American League. His ERA for the season was second in the AL, just behind Early Wynn of the Chicago White Sox, who had an ERA of 2.75. Turley played a crucial role in the Yankees winning their fourth consecutive AL pennant and defeating the Milwaukee Braves in the 1958 World Series. He secured victories in Games 2 and 6 of the series, and he pitched complete games in both. Turley’s dominant performance earned him the title of World Series MVP. During these two games, he allowed only one earned run and equally solidified his reputation as a standout pitcher.

But he also led the league in walks with 128. In Game Two of the 1958 World Series, Turley had a challenging start by giving up a leadoff home run and lasting only one-third of an inning. This put the Yankees at a disadvantage, as they trailed the Milwaukee Braves two games to none. Facing potential elimination, Turley bounced back with an impressive performance in Game Five, pitching a complete-game shutout. He then secured a save in the 10th inning of Game Six. The very next day, in Game Seven, he came to the rescue again, relieving Don Larsen in the third inning and clinching his second win in just three days with 6 and two-thirds innings of two-hit relief.

1961: Whitey Ford’s season record wins Cy Young

The stats: 25-4 record, 3.21 ERA, 209 strikeouts. 

In 1961, Whitey Ford had one of his best seasons as he led the league in wins and helped the Yankees win another championship. This outstanding performance earned him his first Cy Young Award. He also achieved an MLB record by pitching 33 consecutive scoreless innings, which solidified his case for Cy Young and contributed to the Yankees’ World Series victory.

Ford had an exceptional season with a 25-4 record, a 3.21 ERA, 18 complete games, and 5 shutouts. He led the American League in wins, even though the focus was on the home run race between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. Ford also ranked second in the league with 209 strikeouts and displayed excellent control, issuing just 77 walks. What made this achievement even more remarkable was that Ford had missed two prime seasons due to army service and still excelled in 1961 at the age of 32.

The Yankees secured their fourth World Series title with Ford contributing significantly. He won Game 1 and made a crucial save in Game 4 against Cincinnati. Ford’s outstanding performance earned him his first Cy Young Award, narrowly beating out Frank Lary from Detroit, who had a strong season with a 23-9 record and a 3.24 ERA. Ford also came in a close second in the AL MVP voting, just behind his teammate Roger Maris, who hit an incredible 61 home runs that season.

Ford had an outstanding season in the American League and would likely have won the AL Cy Young Award. But during this time, there was no separate award for each league, and he couldn’t outshine Sandy Koufax’s impressive performance for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League.

1977: Sparky Lyle becomes the first AL reliever to win Cy Young

The Stats: 13-5 record, 2.17 ERA, 26 saves in 72 games pitched

Sparky Lyle made history in 1977 as the first AL reliever to win the Cy Young Award. His exceptional performance included securing games for the Yankees, leading them to their first title since 1962. He finished 72 games and had 26 saves, boasting a 13-5 record and an impressive 2.17 ERA.

Lyle ended the season with a record of 13 wins and 5 losses, along with an ERA of 2.17. This ERA was the second-lowest among AL pitchers who had thrown at least 150 innings. The reliever pitched for a total of 137 innings in his 72 appearances, which is a remarkably high workload for a relief pitcher. During this time, he struck out 68 batters and only walked 34.

His 26 saves and 72 games finished were records in the American League at that time. Lyle played a crucial role as the key reliever in the Yankees’ bullpen during the season when the Yankees won the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

He was the first relief pitcher in the American League to win the Cy Young Award. Lyle won the award over Fergie Jenkins, a starter for the Boston Red Sox, despite Jenkins having a lower ERA (earned run average) of 2.83 but fewer wins at 16.

Lyle’s performance in 1977 showed how important the role of a closer could be and how much impact relief pitchers could have on championship-caliber teams. He also led the American League in saves in 1972 and 1976. He was part of the Yankees’ World Series-winning teams in 1977 and 1978, both times against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

1978: Ron Guidry’s season record earns Cy Young award

Ron Guidry, Yankees starting pitcher in a 1978 game against the Red Sox.

The Stats:  25-3 record, 1.74 ERA, 248 strikeouts, 9 shutouts

Ron Guidry’s 1978 season is a prime example of outstanding pitching and a memorable part of Yankees history. Guidry finished the season with 25 wins and just 3 losses, the most wins of any pitcher in the major leagues that year. His performance earned him the prestigious Cy Young Award.

Guidry topped the American League in earned run average (ERA) with an incredible 1.74, highlighting his mastery on the mound. This low ERA was the best in the league and demonstrated his exceptional pitching abilities. He also notched an impressive 248 strikeouts during the season, underscoring his capacity to overpower batters with his fastball and slider. Guidry’s strikeout count was also the highest in the American League.

Among his standout moments were an astonishing 18-strikeout game on June 17th and an extraordinary run in June and July when he went 6-0, conceding just 3 earned runs in 45 innings (resulting in a 0.60 ERA). Additionally, Guidry delivered a remarkable performance on July 28th, where he pitched a two-hit shutout against the California Angels and struck out 15 batters.

Guidry demonstrated his durability and knack for pitching deep into games by completing 16 games for the Yankees. In the American League Championship Series (ALCS) versus the Kansas City Royals, he played a pivotal role by pitching a complete game in Game 4, securing the Yankees’ spot in the World Series.

Guidry played a crucial part in the 1978 World Series, contributing to the Yankees’ victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers to claim the championship. He was the starting pitcher in two games and secured a win in Game 1.

2001: Roger Clemens’ sixth Cy Young 

The stats: 20-3 record, 3.51 ERA, 213 strikeouts 

At the age of 39, Roger Clemens achieved his sixth career Cy Young award but the first in pinstripes. He had a remarkable season, going 20-3 with a 3.51 ERA in 31 starts at the age of 38. Clemens led the majors in both wins and win percentage (.870).

He struck out 213 batters in 220 1/3 innings while walking only 72. His strikeout rate of 10.84 per 9 innings led the American League. Notable moments from his season included a game where he struck out 15 players from the Detroit Tigers on May 28 and another game where he pitched a one-hit shutout against the Boston Red Sox on September 4.

During the playoffs, Clemens achieved a 3-0 record with a 2.51 ERA, contributing to the Yankees’ advancement to the World Series. But they ultimately lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a seven-game series.

At 38 years old, Clemens made history by becoming the oldest player ever to win the Cy Young Award. He also joined an elite group as only the third pitcher to win the award in both the American League (AL) and National League (NL).

In 2001, Clemens became the first pitcher in MLB history to start a season with a record of 20 wins and 1 loss. He finished the season with an impressive record of 20 wins and 3 losses. This accomplishment made him the oldest American League (AL) pitcher in 95 years to achieve 20 wins in a single season. Clemens also played a pivotal role in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series for the Yankees against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He pitched exceptionally well for six innings, faced off against Curt Schilling, and allowed only one run. Despite his efforts, the Diamondbacks managed to win the game in the 9th inning.

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