Sep 20, 2013, 1:25 PM EDT
Andy Pettitte was never a dominant starter. That’s pretty much indisputable.
In 18 big-league seasons, Pettitte has never won a Cy Young Award, an ERA title or a strikeout crown. The only “black ink” on his Baseball-Reference page comes from the three times he led or shared his league lead in games started. He’s thrown four career shutouts, which is one more than Justin Masterson has this year.
Yet here he is. As he retires for a second time, he leaves MLB as the active leader in wins with 255 and strikeouts with 2,437 and the all-time leader with 19 postseason victories.
So, yeah, Pettitte’s Hall of Fame case is based largely on wins, which should lead to a great deal of skepticism given that he spent most of his career pitching for baseball’s most successful franchise. Among pitchers with at least 300 decisions since 1901, Pettitte ranks 16th with a .627 winning percentage, ahead of obvious Hall of Famers like Tom Seaver, Carl Hubbell, Warren Spahn, Bob Gibson and even Walter Johnson. Make the cutoff 400 decisions instead and Pettitte jumps all of the way to eighth on the list.
One could argue that says as much about the Yankees as it does about Pettitte.
On the other hand, it might surprise people to see Pettitte currently sitting with a 117 ERA+. That’s not Jack Morris territory (he’s at 105). That’s squarely in the Hall of Fame range. Baseball-reference’s Play Index gives us 51 Hall of Fame starting pitchers since 1901. Pettitte’s ERA would sit right along sign Gaylord Perry at No. 30 in that group. It’s better than Steve Carlton and Fergie Jenkins at 115. It’s much better than Don Sutton’s 108. It’s just below Bert Blyleven at 118.
Of course, Pettitte didn’t pitch as much as those guys. Jenkins has the low innings total of that group at 4,500. Pettitte is currently at 3,300. And given that modest innings total, one would certainly like to see more dominance than Pettitte offers.
Going by Baseball-Reference’s WAR, Pettitte’s 60.4 puts him right around Hall of Famers Juan Marichal (61.8), Jim Bunning (60.5) and Hal Newhouser (60.4) and ahead of guys like Whitey Ford (53.9), Early Wynn (51.6) and Catfish Hunter (36.5). But it also ranks behind non-Hall of Famers like Kevin Brown (68.7), Rick Reuschel (68.2), Luis Tiant (65.9) and David Cone (61.8). WAR rates question marks Mike Mussina (82.7) and Curt Schilling (80.7) as much more deserving.
So, Pettitte’s Hall of Fame case largely comes down to two things: the postseason and doping. Some will disqualify him automatically based on his admitted hGH use. I think that’s a discussion for a different time, though. The postseason is of more interest to me here. Pettitte clearly deserves some sort of boost for making 44 postseason starts and going 19-11 with a 3.81 ERA. He has five World Series rings, and he wasn’t a bystander for any of them.
How much credit is the tough part. I’m sympathetic to both sides of the argument. If Pettitte had been drafted by any team other than the Yankees, it’d doubtful he’d have any Hall of Fame case right now. His career is hardly any different than Chuck Finley’s.
On the other hand, Pettitte made the most of the opportunities he was given. And he’s pitched the equivalent of an extra season and a third. Would Pettitte’s regular-season numbers look better if he didn’t so often make an extra five or six starts in October? I think they probably would.
Personally, I think Pettitte still comes up short. I like my Hall of Famers to have higher peaks — to have been among the best players in their leagues, even if only for a couple of years. But it’s unfair to dismiss his case as just being Yankee hype. He has a better argument than Jack Morris, and there are certainly worse pitchers enshrined already. But there are better ones to pick from, too.
May 4, 2015, 12:25 PM EDT
The Selig rule requires that requires that every club consider minority candidates for manager positions. There really wasn’t a search for Ron Roenicke’s replacement in Milwaukee.
May 4, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT
0-4 with a 6.29 ERA.
May 4, 2015, 11:29 AM EDT
Milwaukee now has the guy who had easily the best batting stance of any current manager.
May 4, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT
Nearly a month ago Hardy was said to be “close” to starting a rehab stint.
May 4, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT
Seven errors in 21 games.
May 4, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
He says “it’s family business” and that “the old A-Rod is gone.”
May 4, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
This is getting ridiculous.
May 4, 2015, 9:49 AM EDT
This is the shortest post in the history of HBT.
May 4, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT
And noting how the Yankees can and do sell everything that isn’t nailed down but somehow can’t figure out how to market home run number 660.
May 4, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
“I got it”
May 4, 2015, 7:24 AM EDT
Some late-inning heroics. Extra-innings heroics, actually. Like baseball is some kind of gosh darned after hours club or something.
May 4, 2015, 12:23 AM EDT
The Brewers acted quickly to find a new manager after firing Ron Roenicke on Sunday night.
May 3, 2015, 11:55 PM EDT
The Dodgers acquired first baseman Andy Wilkins from the Blue Jays and designated Scott Baker for assignment on Sunday.
May 3, 2015, 11:35 PM EDT
The Padres are expected to promote catching prospect Austin Hedges on Monday.
May 3, 2015, 11:10 PM EDT
The Athletics released Cody Ross on Sunday.
May 3, 2015, 10:29 PM EDT
Ron Roenicke is the first casualty of the Brewers’ poor start to the season.
May 3, 2015, 10:25 PM EDT
Would Joe Mauer better serve the Twins in the leadoff spot?
May 3, 2015, 9:20 PM EDT
White Sox manager Robin Ventura has taken some heat for the team’s slow start, but first baseman Jose Abreu stuck up for him.
May 3, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT
Jean Segura was hit in the head by a pitch attempting to bunt. Thankfully, he appears to be okay.
May 3, 2015, 7:10 PM EDT
The Cardinals won again in walk-off fashion and now own baseball’s best record.
- And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights 67
- Report: Brewers hire Craig Counsell to replace Ron Roenicke 24
- Brewers fire manager Ron Roenicke 53
- Jordan Walden lands on disabled list with biceps injury 11
- Rays place outfielder Desmond Jennings on 15-day disabled list with bursitis in his left knee 1
- Settling the Score: Saturday’s results 34
- Torii Hunter doesn’t care what Floyd Mayweather has done outside of the boxing ring 133
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman acknowledges team won’t pay A-Rod $6 million bonus for 660th home run 69
- Pitchers batting is dumb and the DH should be universal (363)
- Comment of the Day: do not underestimate the seriousness of the anti-DH crowd (201)
- Monday’s White Sox/Orioles game postponed due to ongoing protests and violence in Baltimore (162)
- Torii Hunter doesn’t care what Floyd Mayweather has done outside of the boxing ring (133)
- The Orioles will play to no fans tomorrow; this weekend’s series will move to Tropicana Field (125)