Archive for February 18th, 2011

(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts).

Once upon a time, the Yankees had a promising young pitching prospect who was inexplicably converted into a late inning reliever. After a couple of seasons of disappointing results, however, many within the organization, not to mention the media and fans, began to question his mental makeup and body size. Eventually, there were indications that the team was looking to trade its once prized prospect, who had become tarnished because of his lack of development.

Best know as the scout who drafted Ron Guidry, Atley Donald was also a pretty good pitcher for the Yankees.

Although the parallels are similar, the story above is not about Joba Chamberlain. Rather, it is the tale of Ron Guidry’s early days with the Yankees.

The Yankees drafted Ron Guidry out of the University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1971. Despite barely being 150 pounds soaking wet, Guidry had developed a reputation as a terrific athlete, which attracted the attention of Yankees’ regional scout Atley Donald (whose Yankee record of 12 wins without a loss to start a season was broken by Guidry in 1978). The Yankees weren’t alone in their interest, however. In fact, every team but the Yankees and Reds contacted the hard throwing left hander during his college career, but only Donald seemed to realize that Guidry’s failure to enroll in USL’s spring semester made him eligible for the upcoming June draft. As a result, the Yankees came away with Guidry, making him the 67th overall selection in the third round.

Most Wins by a Yankees’ Pitcher to Start a Season, 1920-2010

Pitcher Start End G W IP ERA
Ron Guidry 4/13/1978 7/2/1978 13 13 108 1.50
Atley Donald 5/9/1939 7/25/1939 12 12 100 2.07
Tom Zachary 5/7/1929 9/24/1929 12 12 85.1 1.48
Steve Sundra 4/23/1939 9/20/1939 11 11 82.2 2.40
Aaron Small 7/20/2005 9/29/2005 10 10 57.2 3.43
Tommy John 4/8/1979 5/20/1979 9 9 71.1 1.51
Jim Coates 4/19/1960 6/29/1960 9 9 77.2 2.43
Whitey Ford 7/17/1950 9/25/1950 9 9 76.1 1.53
Orlando Hernandez 7/11/2004 9/11/2004 8 8 51 2.29
Bob Wickman 4/9/1993 6/20/1993 8 8 58.1 1.54

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Over his first three seasons, Guidry struggled with his command in the low minors, walking 147 men in only 214 innings. Meanwhile, the team had been bought by a brash new owner named George Steinbrenner, who jumped into the free agent pool head first. Instead of developing young players, particularly pitchers, Steinbrenner preferred to make a big splash by acquiring established veterans. So, the Yankees added names like Dick Tidrow, Rudy May and Pat Dobson to fill out their rotation and converted the slow-to-develop lefty into a reliever.


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