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As we have watched Andy Pettitte’s career unfold, few of us have thought, “there’s a Hall of Famer”. But, after a great year at age 33 (17 wins, 2.39 ERA with ratios to match in 222 innings) with Houston, Pettitte deserves a second look.

Andy Pettitte was drafted by the Yankees in the 22nd round of the 1991 draft, a few days before his 19th birthday. He reported to rookie league after the draft and blew the league away in 6 starts and earned a promotion to the New York Penn League, where he fared well in a further 6 starts. He spent all of 1992 in Low-A Greensboro, posting a 10-4 record with a 2.20 ERA. He spent most 1993 in high-A Prince William, but earned a late season start with double A Albany, after another fine season. The 1994 lockout was perfectly timed for Pettitte, as he was putting the final touches on his minor league career, posting matching 7-2 records in double A and triple A with sub-3.00 ERAs. The outstanding feature of his minor league career was his ability to keep the ball in the park, as he surrendered only 21 homers in over 600 minor league innings.

Pettitte arrived in 1995 with the Yankees, and was immediately an effective pitcher, and then put together 2 fine seasons in 1996-97. In his 9-year stint with the Yankees, his seasonal ERA was usually over 4, despite good peripheral statistics, but he posted very pretty won-loss records. He is not alone in this. Some very fine pitchers started for the Yankees during this time- Cone, Mussina, Clemens, David Wells, and Orlando Hernandez, shared this experience. In any event, Pettitte got on his horse after 2003, and headed down to Texas. After losing half a season in 2004 to injury, Pettitte recovered in 2005 and had arguably the best season of his career in 2005 as the Astros made it to the World Series. What is most notable is how Pettitte allowed many fewer hits on balls in play in Houston than he did even in his best years in New York. It is likely that the improved defence up the middle behind him played a significant role.

Pettitte has had plenty of post-season experience, and unlike Smoltz and Schilling has not distinguished himself. He’s 14-9 with a 4.08 ERA in 221 innings, with peripheral statistics consistent with his regular season performance.

We are going to have a little fun with the comparables. Where does Andy Pettitte stand among lefties who have pitched with the Yankees since 1920, as of age 33? We will use Jimmy Key, Ron Guidry, Whitey Ford, Lefty Gomez, and Herb Pennock. We’ll leave the (ahem) obvious comparison with Randy Johnson for another day.

So, here’s the chart:

Pitcher  IP(Seasons)   ERA+  K/9(lg.)  W/9(lg.)   HR/9(lg.)  DER(lg)    W-L
Pettitte 2098.0(8.9)   120   6.5(6.4)  2.8(3.6)   0.7(1.1)   700(686)   172-91
Key      2100.3(8.5)   124   5.2(5.7)  2.1(3.5)   0.9(1.0)   710(695)   151-91
Guidry   1767.0(6.4)   122   7.0(4.9)  2.5(3.3)   0.8(0.9)   705(702)   132-59 
Ford     2295.0(9.2)   132   5.4(4.3)  3.5(4.0)   0.6(0.8)   721(707)   175-71
Gomez    2498.3(9.0)   125   5.3(3.4)  3.9(3.5)   0.5(0.6)   698(686)   189-101
Pennock  2583.3(8.9)   109   3.2(3.2)  2.5(3.3)   0.3(0.3)   681(685)   174-123

Ford is pretty clearly in a class by himself. Among the others, Pettitte belongs comfortably. He is a little behind Lefty Gomez (who was done at age 33), about even with Jimmy Key, and has been a significantly better pitcher than Pennock, who did pitch another 1000 average innings in his career.

Is Pettitte on a Hall of Fame path? Probably not. He will have to pitch well until he is 40 to get there. This is not to say that it is impossible. His strikeout rate, the best measure of a pitcher’s likely longevity, has been at 7.5 per 9 innings over the last three years, and this is higher than it was early in his career. If all goes well for him, he would end up with about 3300 innings pitched, an ERA+ of about 118 and, let’s say, a 275-161 record. That would not guarantee Hall admission, but I imagine in 2019 when he would first become eligible, those numbers might get him serious consideration. We will see.
Hall Watch 2006-Andy Pettitte | 3 comments | Create New Account
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best400 - Thursday, February 23 2006 @ 04:27 PM EST (#141452) #
Pettite wont get in the hall because he has never been a true "Ace", he's always pitched behind better pitchers as mentionned Clemens, Oswalt, Mussina. Being the 3rd man in the rotation leads to better matchups and a somewhat inflated win total to if he was matched against every teams number one
Glevin - Thursday, February 23 2006 @ 06:56 PM EST (#141458) #
Pettitte is not a HOFer IMO. I see him more as a good pitcher who pitched/pitches on great teams. If there were a HOF for pick-off moves, he'd get my vote.
Mick Doherty - Friday, February 24 2006 @ 11:09 AM EST (#141481) #
I think if Pettitte had stayed with NYY and ended up around 230 wins, he'd get in the Hall. As an Astro, he needs to get that total quite a bit higher, at least into the John/Kaat range (and that's worked out pretty well for them, hasn't it?)
Hall Watch 2006-Andy Pettitte | 3 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.