COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#40)
By Paul Semendinger
Forty-four players have worn #40 in Yankees history. Of those 44, only three are in the race to be the best ever at this number.
The winner may surprise most..
But first, it’s necessary to remember some of the many #40s who donned pinstripes. There were a few who deserve special mention:
Jackie Jensen – who would win the 1958 A.L. MVP Award as a Red Sox, wore #40 in 1950 and 1951 for the Yankees.
Ewell Blackwell, a 6-time All-Star, spent some time at the end of his career wearing #40 as a Yankee in 1952 and 1953.
Before he was a top relief pitcher for the Orioles, Tippy Martinez wore #40 for the Yankees from 1974 to 1976.
Fran Healy, who befriended Reggie Jackson in some of the more turbulent times in Yankees history, wore #40 from 1976 to 1978.
Andy Hawkins lost a no-hitter as a Yankees pitcher wearing #40 in 1990.
The Yankees issued #40 fast and furiously from 2010 through 2015. I’d be surprised if anyone could list all the players who wore the number in that time.
I have listed them here in reverse chronological order:
Matt Tracy (2015)
Sergio Santos (2015)
Branden Pinder (2015)
Cole Figueroa (2015)
Kyle Davies (2015)
Eury Perez (2014)
Bruce Billings (2014)
Matt Daley (2013-2014)
Thomas Neal (2013)
Alberto Gonzalez (2013)
Reid Brignac (2013)
Chad Qualls (2012)
Francisco Cervelli (2012)
Bartolo Colon (2011)
Dustin Moseley (2010)
Today, #40 is worn by Luis Severino. He has been injured and has missed a lot of games in recent years, but he is still a pitcher with great skills and great potential. In 2017, Severino went 14-6, 2.98. He followed that up with a 19-8, 3.39 season. The hope is that he’ll return to form in 2022 and beyond. If he does, he will easily become the greatest Yankee at #40. Right now, by WAR, Severino’s 12.0 WAR would place him in second place.
Many long-time fans remember Lindy McDaniel who was a top-notch relief pitcher for the Yankees from 1968-1973. McDaniel pitched in 265 games amassing an over record of 38-29, 2.89 with 58 saves. WAR isn’t as kind to McDaniel though as he would place third on the all-time #40 index with 9.8 WAR in pinstripes.
The player with the highest WAR as a Yankee in uniform #40 is often forgotten today, which is a shame because he was real good for a brief time and was on pace to be a important member of the starting rotation for a long time, until he got hurt running the bases in a non-DH game.
As a 26-year-old in 2006, this pitcher went 19-6, 3.63. He followed that up by going 19-7, 3.70 in 2007. One would have to go back a long way in Yankees history to find a pitcher won had back-to-back seasons with more wins than this pitcher.
He was 8-2 in the year he was injured, 2008, and was never the same pitcher again.
Imagine having a late-20’s pitcher who had a record of 46-15 over two and a half seasons. The Yankees had that… but, again, Chien-Ming Wang got hurt. In his Yankees career, Wang accumulated 14.0 WAR.
Wang doesn’t just lead this race in WAR. He also pitched more innings, has more wins, and is tied with Luis Severino for fewest losses. Lindy McDaniel was a Yankee for six years. Wang was a Yankee for five.
It seems readily apparent that a good year from Luis Severino can claim him the honor of being the best at #40, but he hasn’t done it yet. Or, at least not yet.
For now, the greatest Yankee to wear #40 is Chien-Ming Wang.
Most of the background research for this project came from Baseball-Reference.com.
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