Not revered like fellow Yankee pitchers Waite Hoyt, Whitey Ford and Lefty Gomez, Mel Stottlemyre was no less effective than the aforementioned trio: he just played during the Yankees lean years. He made postseason play with New York in 1964 – his rookie season – and never again saw action in October as a player.
Stottlemyre joined the Bronx Bombers in 1964 after dominating AAA batters early in the season at Richmond. Despite the jump, and the increase in competition, Mel flourished as a rookie, posting a 9-3 record with a 2.06 ERA. The Yankees went to the World Series and Mel was handed the ball three times. Making three starts in the Fall Classic, Mel’s record was split, winning one, losing one and drawing a no decision. His ERA during the contest was a fine 3.15.
In his first full Major League season, Mel was named to the All-Star team and notched 20 wins for the Yankees. The Yankees were a losing team so skipper Johnny Keane kept turning to Stottlemyre for wins, pitching him in a league best 291 innings with 18 complete games. The glory days of Mantle and Maris came to a crashing halt in 1966 when the Yankees finished dead last in the American League. Mel suffered from the punchless attack, dropping a league high 20 contests but he still led the staff in shutouts and innings pitched.
The Yankees weren’t much better in ’67 but Mel won fifteen games – four coming via the shutout. An All-Star again in ’68, Mel won 21 games (6 via shutout) and posted a nifty 2.45 ERA. Showcasing fine control, Stottlemyre walked an average of 0.233 batters per inning while Hall of Fame peers Catfish Hunter (0.295) and Steve Carlton (0.263) were more erratic with their control.
Winning 20 games again in 1969, Stottlemyre was chosen by skipper Ralph Houk to handle the bulk of the mound duties. Working 303 innings during the season, Mel led the league with 24 complete games. An All-Star for the fifth and final time in 1970, Mel showed that he wasn’t a slouch with the stick either, swatting two of his seven career long balls that year.
Mel posted a fine 2.87 ERA in 1971, winning sixteen games and finishing in a tie for second in the junior circuit with seven shutouts. A master at blanking the opponent, Mel tossed seven more shutouts in 1972 (third in the AL). He would finish his career with 40 career shutouts – good for 44th on the all-time list.
Stottlemyre tossed 273 innings in 1973 but the excessive use of his right arm led to arm troubles in 1974 and he was forced to end his career at the tender age of 32. Not counting his rookie or final season, Mel worked at least 250 innings in every season he pitched at the highest level.
W 164/L 139/PCT .541/G 360/CG 152/IP 2,662/H 2,435/BB 809/SO 1,257/SHO 40/ERA 2.97