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The history of Yankees Opening Day starters

March 23, 2018

When the Yankees begin their 2019 season on March 28 against the Orioles, right-hander Luis Severino is slated to make his second consecutive Opening Day start, a year after he became the 55th different pitcher to have that honor for the team, going back to 1908. Manager Aaron Boone told reporters

When the Yankees begin their 2019 season on March 28 against the Orioles, right-hander Luis Severino is slated to make his second consecutive Opening Day start, a year after he became the 55th different pitcher to have that honor for the team, going back to 1908. Manager Aaron Boone told reporters on Wednesday that he expects Severino to get that assignment, even though the Yankees traded for James Paxton this offseason.
After finishing third in American League Cy Young Award voting as a 23-year-old breakout star in 2017, Severino began last season by tossing 5 2/3 scoreless innings in the opener at Toronto, and went on to go 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA. Severino is one of only three Yankees to have the honor since 2009 -- joining  CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka -- and now will become the 23rd to start multiple Opening Days for the franchise in the past 112 seasons.
Yankees Magazine: Up, down and back again
As Severino gets ready to take the mound, here is a look at some notable highs and lows from the Yankees' history of Opening Day starts (All data is since 1908, the first season for which it is available).
Most Opening Day starts: Whitey Ford, Ron Guidry, Mel Stottlemyre (seven)
These three pitchers each spent their entire careers with the Yankees -- a combined 41 big league seasons. They handed off the Opening Day baton to each other, combining for 21 Opening Day starts in a 33-year span. Ford, the Hall of Fame left-hander, got things rolling in 1954, in his second season back from a two-year stint in the Army. Guidry, a fellow Cy Young Award winner, closed out the trio's run in '86. Stottlemyre, meanwhile, saw one of his sons, Todd, become a three-time Opening Day starter himself, for the Blue Jays (1990) and Cardinals ('97-'98).
Most consecutive Opening Day starts: Lefty Gomez, Sabathia (six)
Both southpaws are highly accomplished, with Gomez in the Hall of Fame and Sabathia perhaps headed there one day. Yet the Yankees won just three of their 12 Opening Day outings. Gomez produced a 2.83 ERA in his openers from 1932-37, but suffered a pair of complete-game losses in which he allowed a total of one earned run. Sabathia, who had taken the mound in five previous openers with Cleveland, managed only one quality start in six tries for the Yankees from 2009-14.

Youngest Opening Day starter: Hippo Vaughn, 1910 (22 years, five days)
How long has this record stood? When Vaughn pitched this game, the "Highlanders" were still three years away from becoming the Yankees. Vaughn also got the call the next year and is one of three pitchers to start an opener for the franchise at a younger age than Severino. A big lefty, Vaughn had pitched a total of two Major League games prior to his outing, which turned out to be quite notable in another way as well (more on that later).
Oldest Opening Day starter: Phil Niekro, 1985 (46 years, seven days)
The Hall of Fame knuckleballer made the first nine of his 10 Opening Day starts with the Braves, for whom he played his first 20 seasons. But Niekro signed with the Yankees before the 1984 campaign and went on to make the All-Star team, earning him the nod in '85. Only spitballer Jack Quinn ('31 Dodgers) and fellow knuckleballer Charlie Hough ('94 Marlins) have started an opener at a more advanced age for any team. Just behind Niekro on the list is another Yankee, Tommy John, who was 45 when he did the honors four years after Niekro.
Longest Opening Day start: Vaughn, 1910 (14 innings)
As mentioned, Vaughn had just turned 22 and had almost no Major League experience when he faced the Red Sox at New York's Hilltop Park. He allowed four runs in his first five innings -- hurt by three errors -- as Boston grabbed a 4-1 lead. But Vaughn's club ultimately tied the score in the eighth, and the lefty remained on the mound until the game was called as a tie on account of darkness. He is one of six pitchers to throw at least 14 innings in an opener, and given that no Yankees starter has completed more than nine frames since 1990, his record isn't exactly in jeopardy.
Shortest Opening Day start: Stottlemyre, 1973 (2 2/3 innings)
It's not as if Stottlemyre wasn't capable of going deep into games on Opening Day. Of the seven he started for the Yankees, he completed four, including shutouts in both 1967 and '68. But on this day, at Fenway Park, the Red Sox blasted him for eight runs (six earned), including homers by Carl Yastrzemski and Carlton Fisk. It was just a blip, as Stottlemyre completed each of the next five games he pitched that year, while allowing a total of nine earned runs.

Most strikeouts in an Opening Day start: Tim Leary, 1991 (nine)
The Yankees have given Opening Day assignments to legendary Hall of Famers such as Gomez, Ford and Catfish Hunter, as well as more modern stars such as David Cone, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson and Tanaka. Yet somehow, none struck out more in a Yankees opener than Leary, who was 18-35 with a 5.12 ERA and 5.4 K/9 rate in three seasons with the team. The righty accomplished the feat in a six-inning no-decision against the Tigers, but his record is now a tantalizing target for Severino, who struck out at least nine batters seven times in 2018.
Most walks in an Opening Day start: George Pipgras, 1929 (nine)
Facing the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, Pipgras walked the bases loaded in the first inning, and his control didn't improve much over his 5 1/3-inning outing, during which he managed to allow just three runs and earn a win (It helps when Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig both back you up with home runs). It proved to be a career high in free passes for Pipgras, who started 189 games over 11 seasons.
Best Opening Day start by Game Score: Slow Joe Doyle, 1908 (91)
Doyle, who made just 50 starts in his career, tossed 12 scoreless innings to defeat the visiting Philadelphia Athletics in a 1-0 game. But the best Opening Day Game Score that didn't require extra innings was an 87 posted by Guidry in 1980, when he and the Rangers' Jon Matlack both tossed nine scoreless frames in a game Texas eventually won on Goose Gossage's walk-off wild pitch in the 12th. Severino posted a career-high game score of 86 last May 2 against the Astros, so he is capable of that sort of performance.
Worst Opening Day start by Game Score
: Allie Reynolds, 1950 (10)
Reynolds was a six-time All-Star and six-time World Series champion for the Yankees, and two years earlier, he had notched a complete-game victory in the club's opener. The results were much different on this day at Fenway Park, as a Red Sox lineup led by Ted Williams beat him up for seven runs on 10 hits and four walks over three-plus innings. The good news for Reynolds? Behind a nine-run eighth inning, his club came back to win, 15-10.
Bill James version
Yankees Opening Day starters, by decade
: Slow Joe Doyle (1908), Doc Newton (1909)
1910s: Hippo Vaughn (1910-11), Ray Caldwell (1912, '16-17), George McConnell (1913), Marty McHale (1914), Jack Warhop (1915), George Mogridge (1918-19)
1920s: Bob Shawkey (1920, '23-24, '26), Carl Mays (1921), Sad Sam Jones (1922), Urban Shocker (1925), Waite Hoyt (1927), Herb Pennock (1928), George Pipgras (1929)
1930s: Pipgras (1930), Red Ruffing (1931, '38-39), Lefty Gomez (1932-37)
1940s: Ruffing (1940, '42), Marius Russo (1941), Tiny Bonham (1943), Hank Borowy (1944), Atley Donald (1945), Spud Chandler (1946-47), Allie Reynolds (1948), Eddie Lopat (1949)
1950s: Reynolds (1950), Vic Raschi (1951-53), Whitey Ford (1954-55, '57), Don Larsen (1956, '58), Bob Turley (1959)
1960s: Jim Coates (1960), Ford (1961-62, '64, '66), Ralph Terry (1963), Jim Bouton (1965), Mel Stottlemyre (1967-69)
1970s: Stottlemyre (1970, '72-74), Stan Bahnsen (1971), Doc Medich (1975), Catfish Hunter (1976-77), Ron Guidry (1978-79)
1980s: Guidry (1980, '82-84, '86), Tommy John (1981, '89), Phil Niekro (1985), Dennis Rasmussen (1987), Rick Rhoden (1988)
1990s: Dave LaPoint (1990), Tim Leary (1991), Scott Sanderson (1992), Jimmy Key (1993-95), David Cone (1996-97), Andy Pettitte (1998), Roger Clemens (1999)
2000s: Orlando Hernandez (2000), Clemens (2001-03), Mike Mussina ('04), Randy Johnson (2005-06), Carl Pavano ('07), Chien-Ming Wang ('08), CC Sabathia ('09)
2010s: Sabathia (2010-14), Masahiro Tanaka (2015-17), Luis Severino (2018-19)
*Data goes back to 1908

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.