MLB: Whitey Ford Had a Poor 1961 Season and Mariano Rivera Is Overrated

Harold FriendChief Writer ISeptember 6, 2011

Mariano Rivera: How Could We Have Been So Wrong?
Mariano Rivera: How Could We Have Been So Wrong?Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Whitey Ford, it has been revealed, had no more than an average season in 1961.

He was 25-4 with a 3.21 ERA in 1961. He started 39 games, completed 11 of them, worked 283 innings and had 209 strikeouts.

I have always thought that Ford was the best pitcher in the league in 1961. He won the Cy Young Award when only one was awarded. He finished fifth in the MVP voting.

Boy, was I wrong.

A pitcher’s performance and value to his team should be measured by wins above replacement (WAR).

Baseball Reference explains that WAR is a single number that represents the number of wins the player added to his team above what a replacement player would add.

In 1961, Whitey Ford’s WAR was 3.6, which wasn’t good enough to rank among the top 10 pitchers.

The Minnesota Twins Jack Kralick, who was 13-11 with a 3.61 ERA, led the league with a 5.5 WAR.

Camilio Pascual, Ken McBride, Frank Lary, Juan Pizzaro, Dick Donovan, Bill Monbouquette, Billy Hoeft, Jim Archer, Don Mossi and Jim Bunning all had higher WARs than Ford.

Jim Archer of the Kansas City A’s finished tied with Mossi and Bunning for ninth place with a 3.7 WAR. Archer finished the season at 9-15 with a 3.20 ERA.

I am so grateful to learn the truth after such a long time.

Whitey Ford no longer can be considered the New York Yankees greatest pitcher of all time.

Ford’s career WAR is 55.3. It is determined by adding each season’s WAR. For his 16 seasons, Ford averaged a WAR of just under 3.5.

In 2001, Mike Mussina joined the Yankees in 2001. He had a 6.5 WAR with a 17-11 record and a 3.15 ERA.

Mussina’s 2001 WAR was 2.9 points higher than Ford’s 1961 WAR of 3.6. As Yankees fans know, Mike did really well against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series.

For his Yankees career, Mussina had an average WAR of 3.8, which is 0.3 points higher than Ford’s.

Now we come to Mariano Rivera, who is universally considered the greatest closer or relief pitcher of all time.

We are all universally wrong, wrong, wrong.

In his 17 seasons, Rivera has a WAR total of 55.5. which averages to 3.3 a season. 

It really is amazing how so many fans and “experts” could have thought that Whitey Ford and Mariano Rivera were significantly more valuable to the Yankees than any players who would replace them.

Thank goodness WAR enlightens us.