The New York Yankees' Top 10 Pitchers of the Last 20 Years

Sam FogelgarenCorrespondent INovember 24, 2010

The New York Yankees' Top 10 Pitchers of the Last 20 Years

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    In football, they say defense wins championships. In baseball, that can be translated to pitching wins World Series.

    Pitching is the most vital aspect of a team's success. A few shutdown pitchers can lead a team to greatness.

    The New York Yankees of the last two decades are known for a strong offense, but it was a solid pitching staff that got them the gold.

    Many wearing the pinstripes have stepped on the rubber at the house that Ruth built (and the house that George built) over the last 20 years, but few have done enough to be remembered.

    Here is the tribute to those who contributed to the Yankee dynasty.

10. Jimmy Key

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    1993-1996

    Regular Season: 48-23, 3.68 ERA, 94 GS, 400 K

    Playoffs: 2-1, 3.33 ERA, 4 GS, 9 K

    Many might have forgotten about Jimmy Key. After all, it has been 14 years since he has worn the pinstripes.

    Even with this in mind, Key's short time with the Yankees was extremely productive, as he won 18 games in his first season with the Yankees in 1993, and in the strike-shortened season of 1994 he led the league in wins with 17.

    Injury shortened his 1995 season to five games, but he won 12 games in the World Series-winning season of 1996.

9. Chien-Ming Wang

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2005-2009

    Regular Season: 55-26, 4.16 ERA, 104 GS, 310 K

    Playoffs: 1-3, 7.58 ERA, 4 GS, 7 K

    Wang came out of nowhere for the Yankees in 2005, as he and Robinson Cano were called up around the same time.

    He immediately became one of the most respected sinker-ballers in baseball and won 19 games back-to-back years in 2006 and 2007. His 2008 season looked promising at 8-2 but was cut short by an injury sustained running bases.

    2009 was a Dontrelle Willis-type season for Wang. Something was just off, and he simply couldn't pitch.

    Nevertheless, what Chien-Ming Wang did in those few great years will not be forgotten.

8. Ramiro Mendoza/Jeff Nelson/Mike Stanton

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    Mendoza: 1996-2002, 2005

    Regular Season: 54-34, 4.10 ERA, 16 SV, 414 K; Playoffs: 2-1, 2.36 ERA, 16 K

    Nelson: 1996-2000, 2003

    Regular Season: 23-19, 3.47 ERA, 9 SV, 334 K; Playoffs: 2-2, 3.12 ERA, 44 K

    Stanton: 1997-2002, 2005

    Regular Season: 31-14, 3.77 ERA, 15 SV, 407 K; Playoffs: 4-1, 2.48 ERA, 24 K

    It's really impossible to separate these three, because it was a result of the solid bullpen that the Yankees were able to prevail in the playoffs.

    All three were incredibly clutch in the playoffs. Each recorded at least one World Series victory, and Stanton had two in the Subway Series.

    A good bullpen is crucial in deep playoff runs, and the Yankees had a great middle relief system.

7. David Cone

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    1995-2000

    Regular Season: 64-40, 3.91 ERA, 144 GS, 888 K

    Playoffs: 6-1, 3.86 ERA, 12 GS, 68 K

    The Yankees picked up Cone in the middle of 1995, and the timing couldn't have been better. Cone joined the team for a five-and-a-half year stretch in which the Yankees won four World Series, including three in a row from 1998 to 2000.

    Cone's 6-1 playoff record speaks for itself, and his popularity among Yankee fans is still very high. Pitching a perfect game also helps.

6. Roger Clemens

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    1999-2003, 2007

    Regular Season: 83-42, 4.01 ERA, 174 GS, 1014 K

    Playoffs: 7-4, 3.63 ERA, 18 GS, 99 K

    He's certainly not the most popular guy anymore, but he does deserve a spot on the list. In six seasons with the Yankees, he won 20 games just once, but remember that he was 36 when he joined the team back in 1999.

    Steroids are most likely the answer for the durability questions, but I feel that you can't change what he did no matter what influenced his performance.

    He will be remembered for throwing the bat at Mike Piazza (roid rage?), but he also held the Mets to two hits and no runs in that game.

    Crazy? Maybe, but he did come through in the clutch.

5. David "Boomer" Wells

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    1997-1998, 2002-2003

    Regular Season: 68-28, 3.90 ERA, 123 GS, 557 K

    Playoffs: 7-2, 3.33 ERA, 10 GS, 43 K

    Believe it or not, Wells only spent four seasons with the Yankees. For some reason, it feels like much longer than that. Maybe because he was so darn good. A .708 winning percentage in the regular season and 7-2 playoff record speak for themselves.

    Coming off an 18-4 1999 season, he was sent to Toronto for the rejuvenated Roger Clemens. He signed with the Yankees prior to the 2002 season, and the Yankees (stupidly) did not re-sign him past 2003. He went on to have two very productive years with San Diego and Boston.

    He is known for his rubber arm and his clutch playoff performances, and oh yeah, a perfect game. 

4. Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez

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    1998-2002, 2004

    Regular Season: 61-40, 3.96 ERA, 136 GS, 703 K

    Playoffs: 9-3, 2.65 ERA, 14 GS, 101 K

    No one is 100 percent sure how old Hernandez is. Some say he was born in 1970, while others say as early as 1960. Whatever the case may be, El Duque spent six fantastic years of his MLB career in pinstripes and solidified his place in history.

    While his 61-40 record is certainly good, his 9-3 record in the playoffs is what gets him on this list. His clutch playoff performances with the Yankees make El Duque a Yankee legend.  

    P.S. His playoff excellence also extends to the 2005 World Series with the White Sox, when he was brought into the game with the bases loaded and no outs and retired the side while giving up no runs.

3. Mike Mussina

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    Jarrett Baker/Getty Images

    2001-2008

    Regular Season: 123-72, 3.88 ERA, 248 GS, 1278 K

    Playoffs: 5-7, 3.80 ERA, 15 GS, 92 K

    Many Yankee fans did not appreciate Mussina a lot of the time, including yours truly. Looking back, this was a mistake, as he seemed to be rather under-appreciated.

    His 123 wins were second for the Yankees in the decade, and he put up double-digit wins every season in pinstripes (and for the last 17 years of his career, for that matter).

    His last season might have been his best, as he posted his first and long-awaited 20-win season at the age of 39. Not too shabby for someone who quit with 270 wins under his belt.

    Regardless of what Yankee fans thought of him, he was a very special pitcher and one of the more reliable arms the team has seen in a while.

2. Andy Pettitte

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    1995-2003, 2007-Present

    Regular Season: 203-112, 3.98 ERA, 396 GS, 1823 K

    Playoffs: 18-9, 3.79 ERA, 38 GS, 157 K

    He has the most wins in playoff history. That fact alone tells you everything you need to know about Andy Pettitte.

    Sure, 203 regular season wins and two 20-win seasons are nice, but it is the 1-0 win against John Smoltz and the Braves in the 1996 World Series that everyone will remember forever.

    Had Pettitte not followed Roger Clemens to Houston for three seasons, he would have surpassed Whitey Ford for most wins in Yankees history.

1. Mariano Rivera

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    1995-Present

    Regular Season: 74-55, 2.23 ERA, 559 SV, 1051 K

    Playoffs: 8-1, 0.71 ERA, 94 G, 42 SV, 109 K

    No disrespect to Andy Pettitte, but I was pretty sure of this one before I made this slideshow. It is pretty funny how Yankee fans have NO idea that other teams struggle to find good closers.

    Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of all time, without a doubt. But is it possible that he is the greatest pitcher of all time? Just an argument to put out there.

    With the exception of the last game of the 2001 World Series, Mo has probably been the most dominant playoff pitcher in the history of baseball.