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Is Andy Pettitte a Hall of Famer?

Dec 24, 2010, 8:11 AM EDT

Pettitte looks in

Ben Shpigel of the New York Times asked a handful of baseball writers that question. There is some support there. Not a lot, though: Shpigel asked nine writers if they’d vote for Pettitte.  two said yes, four said no and three were undecided. I found the most interesting response to be Pete Abraham’s:

“I’d first want to walk up to Andy, tell him I have a vote and ask him whether his P.E.D. use helped him any games. His answer would help me decide what comes next.”

Interesting. Also interesting: Abraham’s explanation of his votes on this year’s ballot just this past Tuesday:

Sorry, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez. Your ties to drug use exclude you. Baseball banned non-prescription drugs in the early 1970s, period. That steroids weren’t specifically banned is meaningless. Players broke laws to obtain these drugs and that’s cheating. That many players did it doesn’t make it right.

Did McGwire, Palmiero and Gonzalez get the same opportunity to explain whether PEDs helped them before Abraham voted no on them?  If not, why not?  And you can’t say that it’s because Pettitte was more forthcoming about his PED use, because he didn’t say anything about it until he was outed in the Mitchell Report. And if the issue is “cheating” and “your ties to drug use,” how forthcoming one was about it shouldn’t matter anyway. Pettite used them.

I’m not trying to pick on Abraham here. I think there are tons of people who have given Andy Pettitte way more of a pass on his PED use than any other big star has been given. I suspect it’s a function of him being a pitcher and, unlike Roger Clemens, not making himself look ridiculous in the wake of being outed as a PED-user. I suppose that his deportment can legitimately color how we feel about the guy personally, but it really shouldn’t enter into his Hall of Fame case if you’re the type of voter who says things like “your ties to drug use exclude you.”

As for Pettitte’s Hall of Fame case: I’m not seeing it. Pettitte has been good — at times very good — but never great.  His postseason performance helps him, but it’s easy to overstate that too. Pettitte’s regular season winning percentage, ERA and K/BB ratio is .635/3.88./2.34.  Postseason? It’s .655/3.83./2.40.  He’s had some big performances, but over a little more than a full regular season’s worth of playoff starts, he’s around the same pitcher he’s always been. Give him a bump because of the stronger competition in October, but it’s not like he’s been transcendent.

One thing a lot of people will say about Pettitte is that he was never even the best pitcher on his team.  That’s an overstatement I think. He was the best starter on the 1996 championship team (David Cone pitched better, but he was only there for 11 starts).  He was pretty close to the best in 1997 when the Yankees won 96 games (Cone was probably better, but again, he pitched 45 fewer innings than Pettitte). After that there were always one or two better Yankees starters in any given year, be it Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, CC Sabathia, Orlando Hernandez or even Chien-Ming Wang. My sense: if you’re going to go to the mat for any Yankees pitcher of that era, you should probably go to the mat for Mike Mussina, who was far superior to Pettitte over the course of his career. But let’s leave that for another day.

I think Pettitte will get a lot of support. Most of it will be based on the “fame” part of Hall of Fame. But if there was anyone for whom the Hall of Very Good should be created, it’s Andy Pettitte.

  1. Chris Fiorentino's Rash - Dec 24, 2010 at 8:35 AM

    No.

  2. Kevin S. - Dec 24, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    Like I said yesterday, if Jack Morris gets in, Pettitte waltzes (PED questions aside, obviously).

    Honest question, though – should postseason numbers be tacked on to career totals? People will argue that he only got a chance to get those numbers because of his team, but on the other hand, they’re still miles on his arm.

  3. dodger88 - Dec 24, 2010 at 8:41 AM

    While McGwire, Palmiero and Gonzalez did not specifically explain the effects to Abraham, two of them did “testify” before Congress and one spoke at length to Bob Costas. While we will never know the identity of all those who used PEDs, thus never truly understanding the impact it had, I would be inclined to deny entry to the Hall of Fame to those where this is virtually no doubt (i.e. failed test).

    In the case of Mr. Pettitte, his PED use is enough for me to say no to his being a hall of famer. That being said, even he was clean I don’t think his numbers warrant enshrinement. Despite racking up a lot of wins, especially in the post season it was never Pettite that teams feared but the Yankee line up over the better part of two decades. Pettitte is a prime example of someone who would gain entry into the Hall of Very Good.

  4. proudlycanadian - Dec 24, 2010 at 8:52 AM

    Not until after both Jack Morris and Dave Stieb make the Hall of Fame. In other words, he belongs in the Hall on the “12th of Never”.

    • Kevin S. - Dec 24, 2010 at 9:43 AM

      Right, except Pettitte was light-years better than Morris, and either slightly worse for a little bit longer or far and away better, depending on which metrics one uses. I know you see everything though maple-shaded glasses, but try for some objectivity from time to time, mkay?

      • proudlycanadian - Dec 24, 2010 at 11:10 AM

        Light years? Methinks you exaggerate, although I admit that in 2010 Pettitte was a better pitcher than Morris was in 2010.

  5. Mark - Dec 24, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    Andy Pettite is the equivalent of Johnny Damon. Both of them were good players that you’d like to have on a competitive team, but they were never the best players in the game. They had longevity on their side which allowed them to accumulate good totals in the “magic” stats like wins, but their peak was never that strong.

  6. paperlions - Dec 24, 2010 at 10:05 AM

    I won’t give guys like Abrahams a pass. He is correct. Non-prescription drugs as well as prescription drugs without a prescription were banned 40 years ago. Among those drugs that have been against the rules since then, amphetamines. Abrahams most certainly has voted for dozens of illegal amphetamine users. As soon as he can explain why it is that amphetamine use is okay and steroid use is not (which he won’t be able to do using actual data rather than moral outrage), I’ll give him a pass. There is more evidence that amphetamine use has a positive effect on player performance over a long season than there is that steroids have an effect (and HGH have absolutely no effect whatsoever).

    HOF voters (and the media in general) would be better served to actually learn about the effects of steroids, amphetamines, park effects, and changes in ball composition to HR rates before getting on their high horses. It must be embarrassing to write so much faux outrage material that is so clearly based on ignorance.

    • nps6724 - Dec 24, 2010 at 10:19 AM

      Has Abraham ever voted for a player he knew without a shadow of a doubt used amphetamines? If not, your stance on him doesn’t hold any water.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Dec 24, 2010 at 10:20 AM

        This is the first year that Pete has had a Hall of Fame vote.

      • paperlions - Dec 24, 2010 at 4:24 PM

        That’s fine. Then he simply has to apply the same standards to everyone that used drugs that fell under that rule, which likely includes everyone that played after WWII.

  7. largebill - Dec 24, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    He falls short in my estimation. However, it is not as bad a case as it looks at first glance. Sure, I’ve been negative on Jack Morris for higher ERA than any current Hall of Famer and Pettitte is only slightly better at 3.88. Thing is they played in very different eras offensively. Morris’ ERA of 3.90 translates to an adjusted ERA+ of 105. Pettitte’s ERA of 3.88 translates to an adjusted ERA+ of 117. 12 points in ERA+ is a substantial difference. Also, looking at post season play there is a big gap between the two players. Morris is lionized due to one spectacular start, but his total post season numbers are in line with his career performance – 13 games, 92 innings and 3.80 ERA. I normally dismiss post season performance as a small sample size. Pettitte pitched enough post season games that it is getting out of the small size label – 42 games, 263 innings, 3.83 ERA. Both players pitched some important post season games and have several highlights to point at to burnish their case. I don’t think either is close enough to a Hall of Fame player that the post season play would vault them over the finish line.

    Separately, one argument that Craig knocked down regarding Pettitte is the “never best on his team” BS. I’d go further and dismiss that notion all together as well as the “not an/the ACE” nonsense. Next year Philadelphia will have a pitcher called a number one based on starting opening day. So will the other 29 teams. Does that mean Pittsburgh’s opening days starter is better than Philadelphia’s second third or even fourth starter. I doubt Cliff Lee will stay healthy enough to post a Hall of Fame career, but if he did will some future Heyman claim his case is weakened because he wasn’t his teams ace?

  8. Ari Collins - Dec 24, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    Pettitte has only had two dominant years, 1997, and 2005 (with the Astros). His five best ERAs in 200-inning seasons: 2.39, 2.88, 3.87, 3.99, 4.02. Two dominant years and a lot of #2/#3 years with good run support.

    Do the same for Mussina and you get 2.54, 3.15, 3.20, 3.29, 3.37. And a lot more in the mid 3s as well.

    And in the postseason, Pettitte put up a 3.83 ERA to Mussina’s 3.42. Although you have to give Pettitte credit (I rhymed!) for putting up that still-good postseason ERA in more innings, Moose was clearly the better postseason pitcher as well.

    Poor Mussina. Never got run support and was never on a champion team. In fact, the year before he was on the Yankees, they won a championship, and the year after he left, they won again. His Yankee career coincides exactly with their 2000s “drought”. HE CLEARLY DID NOT KNOW HOW TO WIN. Heh.

  9. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Dec 24, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    Didn’t McGwire say in the Costas interview that he didn’t think steriods helped him hit more HRs. And didn’t sportswriters all over the country explode over the statement (no, you didn’t Craig much to your credit)? So, Abraham’s criteria clearly isn’t followed in McGwire’s case. He will give Pettitte a pass because?

    Personally, I see much more evidence that Pettitte’s HGH usage helped him return to the big leagues than the evidence that steriod usage increases dinger production. That is just my opinion and know many others will disagree. On Pettitte’s HGH usage. He had surgery on his shoulder. Less than 10% of the pitchers that have that type of surgery ever pitch effectively in bigs after it. HGH injected into the scar tissue area of the surgery grows new muscle tissue to replace the scar tissue. Personally, I think that kind of usage should be permitted under the rules, but it isn’t.

  10. fribnit - Dec 24, 2010 at 11:49 AM

    Andy belongs in the Hall of Very Good, not the Hall of Fame. The Yankees should hold a day in his honor, talk about how wonderful he is, give his some silly gifts (really, is giving a car to a multimillionaire meaningful?) but do not retire his number.

    He has had a darned good career, is rightly beloved by Yankee fans, should get a standing O at every old timers game….. But the numbers tell you that he, Jack Morris, Curt Schilling and many others were Darned Good, touched greatness at times, but were/are not Hall of Fame pitchers.

    I agree with Pancho on the HGH use. If it was in fact used to heal from surgery it should not be an issue. Otherwise the surgery itself should be considered performance enhancing.

    • kaientai72 - Dec 25, 2010 at 4:31 AM

      Exactly right on the “Hall of Very Good”. I think that sums it up perfectly.

  11. ta192 - Dec 24, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    Faux outrage is what sells these days, from the pinnacles of power to the most austere dining table discussion. If you aren’t “outraged” by something, you’ve got nothing to contribute to the conversation.

    • ta192 - Dec 24, 2010 at 1:16 PM

      Crap! Did it again…supposed to be a reply to paperlions 10:05 post, not a standalone…

  12. yankeh8r - Dec 24, 2010 at 1:37 PM

    I’ll ignore the ped usage although I admire the way he handled it once he had been outed. Simple facts are that he doesn’t have the stats for the hall. He’s great to have on a team and he has been a very good pitcher over the years but just not quite enough for the hall in my opinion.

  13. fribnit - Dec 24, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    Oh, one more thought: Enough of the “outrage” over PED’s. Where was the “outrage” when players were popping amphetamines like candy?

    Other the the damage to their health and the supposed cheapening of records who did they hurt? They helped their teams. They performed at a higher level and thus their teams benefited.

    The sportswriters knew when it was happening that it was happening. Where was the outrage then? Old NFL players were dying (. Where was the outrage then?

    I am dismayed by the lying about it but not the actual use.

    Should PED’s be banned? Yes, in my humble opinion, they should. Now that there is a specific rule against their use.
    The chest thumping over their use is self aggrandizing moralistic puffery that makes the writer feel good about himself but is really meaningless.

    If, as he claims, Pettitte used HGH to recover from the surgery then That is a reasonable and logical use and MLB should approve it and monitor it.

    There are after all reasonable and legitimate uses for SOME of these drugs.

    Oh, where is the outrage over the use of ADHD drugs? A stunning number of MLB players have suddenly been diagnosed with ADHD and are now taking medications for it. Oh, by the way, those drug are stimulants.

  14. bigharold - Dec 24, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    If Jim Bouton’s ball four is to be believed amphetamines were practically institutionalized by baseball in the 50s, 60s and into the 70s. And, even though banned there was never anything that even remotely forced their cessation. So, if the use of PEDS is a guide players didn’t stop using them, they just stopped getting them from the team’s trainer.

    There will always be some qualifying era in baseball. The dead ball era, the era before baseball’s integration, the amphetamines era, the era before the mound was lowered and lately the steroids era. Each one will need to be looked at in it’s own light and compared against the players of that era. To say that anybody that either failed a test or admitted to using steroids is automatically prohibited from ever being allowed enshrinement into the HOF is shorted sighted and naïve. Technically A-Rod never failed a test, he’s was outted as a result of somebody breaking a law to leak his name that he was on a list. Barry Bonds, on the other hand, has never admitted to using PEDS nor has he ever failed a test but it’s just assumed that he did use PEDs. What about players that never failed a test and never admitted to anything, should they get a pass just because they were better at using PEDS? Each player needs to be judged on their case alone in the context of the times they played and not lumped into one big barrel.

    In the end the group that truly suffered the most was those players that never used. The guy that for whatever reason he wouldn’t use PEDs and got cut but the other guy who used PEDS didn’t. The guy that never reached his true potential because he was the 4th outfielder riding the bench and two of the other three were using. Even guys like Jeter, who as great as his career has been, is compared with a lot of guys that hit the ball father with much more frequency then he did because he chose not to use PEDs, (I realize this is a great big assumption but hey, I’m too old to believe in Santa and I need to believe in something). The point is that players did far more harm to each other. And for all the moral indignation about it now, it wasn’t exactly the best kept secret in sports. So, fans and writers need to lighten up just a bit and think, they need to a least think more and react less. If for no other reason the science of PEDs is advancing so much and so fast that it will take even more reason to parse through it all and it will be upon baseball quicker than one thinks. What is coming in the next 10 years will absolutely blur the line between what is or isn’t considered a PED. Hell, if Gatorade commercials are to be believed it’s a at least PE. We all need to use our heads for more than a hatrack.

  15. raysfan1 - Dec 24, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    @fribnit–you are correct: the #1 ADHD drug is in fact Adderall, aka amphetamine, and there over 100 players registered to use it, a truly ridiculous rate compared to the incidence of ADHD in the general population.
    ____

    Overall, I’d say let Petitte in, but then, I’m an admitted “big hall” guy. I see the name “Hall of Fame” and insitinctively want nostalgia and history, not necessarily thinking that it applies only to the absolute elite among the players. I also think it’s absurd to try to compare players across eras as the rules change, the parks change (example, Hank Greenberg officially hit 58 HRs in his best year, but if the parks he played in were still configured as they were in 1927, and there hadn’t been any rules changes regarding ground rule doubles, he’d have had 60, just like Babe Ruth), etc. For me, the biggest problem each year in filling out my imaginary ballot each year is limiting it to 10 players.

  16. stankfinger - Dec 24, 2010 at 11:16 PM

    No.

  17. mtner77 - Dec 25, 2010 at 2:01 AM

    “Is Andy Pettite a hall of famer?”

    OF COURSE he is! He played for the Yankees’ didn’t he? Got to be!

    Last year, I heard a “serious” discussion amoung some writers (this was purported to be a serious discussion) about whether Jose Posada should be in the HOF. Jose “Freaking” Posada! Umm, hmm, what team did he play for again? Jose Posada????

    Andy Pettite falls into the exact same catagory.

    • fribnit - Dec 25, 2010 at 11:34 AM

      Not to digress, and no I do not think Posada is a Hall of Fame catcher, I will say that he ranks pretty high on some all time lists as a catcher and his potential candidacy is not as ridiculous as your derisive post would indicate.

      Of course the high profile of playing for the Yanks will help get him one or two votes he might not otherwise get. Baseball writers are human and enough of them voted for Jim Rice to get him in so who knows.

      Still, it can reasonably be argued that his qualifications are greater as a catcher than Pettite’s are as a pitcher.

      I would also say that by most objective measures Petttitte has more of a legitimate claim to the HOF than Jack Morris and Morris NEVER pitched for the Yankees so please try to explain that.

      Of the Yankee Hall of Famer’s which ones do you think are in there only because they are Yankees?

      Ruth?
      Gehrig?
      Mantle?
      Berra? Dickey, Ford, Gordon, Ruffing, Gomez?
      Combs, Lazzeri? Hoyt? Pennock? Huggins, McCarthy, Stengel?

      Put aside you anti-Yankee bias for a moment and think.

      And by the way his name is JORGE

  18. kaientai72 - Dec 25, 2010 at 4:36 AM

    @mtner77….. i think there is something to that comment….just being a Yankee will give him a few more votes that he wouldn’t have had without it. Not sure he will even make the top 50 of the http://www.notinhalloffame.com baseball list when eligible. I don’t think the PED issue will keep him out, he is on the wrong side of the bubble regardless.

  19. uyf1950 - Dec 25, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    If 2010 was his last year I would have to agree with the majority of posters here and say he’s not a HOF’er. However if he returns for the 2011 season and get get his career wins close to 260 that together with 2 20+ win seasons and his post season record will be enough to get him in. Not on the first ballot but probably within 5 years of being eligible. For a side comment, as for Posada, I don’t think he qualifies for the HOF. Jeter and Rivera are locks for the HOF.

  20. bigtrav425 - Dec 27, 2010 at 7:37 PM

    nope!..Sorry andy you were good but not great by any means

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