Upon launching the blog this week I was under the impression that I would be making a post in the near future about Andy Pettitte’s return to the Yankees and what it meant for the team that has held my loyalty since I was seven years old. Although nothing was concrete all signs looked as though Andy was going to ramp up for a return to the Bronx and maybe be on a major league mound around May. Today all that changed. Andy Pettitte announced his official retirement from baseball.
The first member of what has been known as the “Core Four” is gone from the game. This
is the beginning of the end of the Yankees that I have worshiped for the past 15 years. Sure, there was Tino and Paulie O and we were sad to see them leave. Then Bernie just kind of vanished silently into the night. But there is something different about Andy, Jorge, Derek and Mo. They have been here through it all, (outside of that little stint of homesickness Andy had a few years ago) in my lifetime at least. They were the pillars(with some help of course from the a fore mentioned Tino, Paulie, and Bernie) of 4 World Series Championships in one stage of my life and then again the staples of a team that went the distance in a whole new chapter of my existence, a full decade later. It is hard to say who had the biggest impact or who was most important. Most of the time, Jorge would probably get the short end of the stick when this argument is being had and Mariano would garner a vast majority of the credit in the same discussion(or Jeter, in the case of the more casual fan.) But where does Andy fall? Outside of the nation of pinstripes his portfolio of accomplishments may get lost due to the fact that he has been surrounded by more high profile stars for his entire career. Although it seems that Andy has always played second fiddle to someone else in each rotation he was in, he was an integral part of each of those teams success; Yankees and Astros alike.
I could ramble on about Andy Pettitte(too late?,) or really any Yankee from my childhood, but I will now get to the one question that everyone in baseball circles will be discussing in each time number 46’s name comes up in the next five years. Is Andy Pettitte a Hall of Famer? My opinion on the matter, at this point in time is that he will fall just short(this is despite my kind words and personal bias as a Yankee fan seen in the first two paragraphs, as I do believe Andy has had an absolutely tremendous career just not Hall of Fame caliber.) After looking at his numbers there are going to be cases in favor of his enshrinement among the immortals and cases against it. As much as I love Andy Pettitte and what he has done for my beloved franchise, I believe the evidence in his case weighs more against than for. Let me explain.
The first point to remember that although it may have become more watered down as the years have rolled on the Hall of Fame is just as started above; a place to enshrine immortals. When I think of Andy Pettitte, the word that comes to mind is “great” but not “immortal,” “unstoppable” or “dominant.” There are singular performances or stretches when he has “wowed” me but in the case of the whole he just simply is not on that level.
Andy’s numbers support this claim. He has 240 wins, an average of 15 per season over 16 years, which in the modern era is pretty good but not in the absolute upper echelon with the likes of Maddux, Randy Johnson, and Clemens. He pitched to a 3.83 ERA, which does not exactly put him in exclusive company and a 117 ERA+(163rd all time.) The ERA numbers do not falter very much when neutralized by baseball-reference. Stat neutralization is essentially the mathematical conversion of a player’s numbers into a scenario in which every game is played in a completely neutral setting (the park does not favor pitchers or batters, all teams average the same number of runs, etc.) Further explanation. With that being said, although Andy’s ERA numbers do not change in this scenario his win total drops to 169 career wins. This can be attributed to the high powered Yankee offenses he had the luxury of having throughout his career. Although it is not entirely fair to take anything away from Andy in this regard because he did earn the extra 71 wins it is certainly a factor that will be in play when the writers cast their first ballots in five years, and subsequently for fifteen years following that.
There are numbers that people will argue should land Andy in the Hall but they are flawed in their own ways. The problem is they completely revolve around wins, which as seen by Felix Hernandez’s win of the Cy Young this past season, are becoming a stat of the past.
Andy Pettitte had more wins than any other pitcher from 2000-2009 with 148. This is fact will only become relevant if Jack Morris makes that quantum leap into the Hall of Fame and considering he fell more than 20% short in the voting this past year, I do not see that happening anytime soon. Pettitte is also the all time wins leader in the post season with 19. This is truly a stellar accomplishment but will be down played because of the fact that Andy has far more starts than any other pitcher with 42. This is more than a full season’s work load for pitchers these days. He will again be penalized for being drafted by the Yankees and ending up in a great situation, being on a great team. These things will work in his favor but in the end I believe his success will be too highly attributed to the team(s) he was on throughout his career.
The final point I will make on this matter will in fact be in favor of Andy and may someday be his saving grace some time down the road and ultimately propel him into the Hall. Paul Kuehn, a close friend, baseball freak and Junkyard Dog, told me he read that the true definition of clutch in sports is when a player performs at the same level he usually does in the highest-octane situations. Andy Pettitte’s post season numbers are nearly identical or exceed his regular season numbers across the board. His postseason winning percentage is .655 to his .635 regular season percentage. In the playoffs he pitches to a slightly lower ERA at 3.83(3.88 regular season) and WHIP at 1.304(1.357 regular season.) Andy Pettitte epitomizes the definition of a clutch performer when the games really matter, and he does all of this against the toughest competition, because only the best get to play in October.
Here is a quick rundown of a few more Hall of Fame gauges for Andy Pettitte. He scores a 42 on the Bill James Hall of Fame Standards test (an average HOF player scores a 50) and 123 on the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor measurement (a likely HOF player scores a 100). Hall of Fame metrics for further reference. Baseball-reference also has four Hall of Fame players that they consider to be most similar to Pettitte via their similarity scores calculation. These Hall of Famers are Whitey Ford, Catfish Hunter, Herb Pennock and Juan Marichal. Just a little extra food for thought on the matter.
This has certainly been the longest post in my history on the blogsphere, dating back a year to my Junkyard Dog days and if you have made it this far without quitting on me then I hope you enjoyed my opinions on Andy and I would love to hear what you all have to say on the matter so comment on this post with your thoughts. A final thank you and good bye to number 46, Andy Pettitte, for his great years in pinstripes and helping my beloved Bombers become world champions 5 times during the reign of my fanhood. Enjoy retirement Andy as you shall be joined by Jorge after this season ends, Mariano after 2012 and Derek sometime in the not too distant future. The beginning of the end for the Core Four has arrived. Oh and don’t forget…