Thursday, May 20, 2010

Time to Count On Andy Again

I have seen Andy Pettitte pitch more than any other pitcher. I have seen Mariano Rivera in more games, but of all the pitchers I've ever seen -- live and on TV -- Pettitte has started the most games, pitched the most innings, thrown the most pitches, and given the Yankees the most wins.

After that flopulent performance by the Yankees against Tampa Bay last night, easily our worst game of the season thus far, we are once again counting on The Hawk to straighten us out. Or, better yet, straighten the opposition out.

How good has Andy Pettitte been over the years?

* He has won 234 games, 197 of them as a Yankee. This leaves him behind only Whitey Ford at 236 and Red Ruffing at 231 among wins by a Yankee pitcher. Those 234 wins (going into tonight's game) are more than the following pitchers already in the Baseball Hall of Fame: Jim Bunning, Stan Coveleski, Jesse Haines, Bob Lemon, Hal Newhouser, Dazzy Vance, Lefty Gomez. (There are others, but they were either Dead Ball Era pitchers, or relievers, or had their careers prematurely ended by injury or illness, and thus it wouldn't be fair to include them on this list.)

* His career winning percentage is .634, and that's better than all Hall-of-Famers who pitched all or most of their careers in the post-1920 Live Ball Era, except the following: Whitey Ford, Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax, Lefty Gomez, Dizzy Dean and Jim Palmer. (Though it's worth noting that Koufax, Gomez and Dean had their careers significantly shortened by injury, thus preventing them from pitching through an age-related decline, putting Andy really behind only Whitey, Grove and Palmer.)

* His career ERA is 3.87. That may sound high as far as the Hall is concerned, but his career ERA+, his ERA in relation to the rest of the League, is 117, making him 17 percent better than the average pitcher. And also making him better than the following starters from the Lively Ball Era already in the Hall: Steve Carlton, Fergie Jenkins, Phil Niekro, Eppa Rixey, Jim Bunning, Robin Roberts, Nolan Ryan, Jesse Haines, Red Ruffing, Burleigh Grimes, Don Sutton, Early Wynn and Catfish Hunter.

* Although not a power pitcher, his 2,179 strikeouts and 937 walks make for a K/BB ratio of 2.3. You might beat him, but he won't beat himself.

* He is 18-9 in postseason play. That's the most wins of any pitcher in postseason history. He's 6-3 in Division Series play (5-3 as a Yankee), 7-2 in the League Championship Series (7-1 as a Yankee), and 5-4 in the World Series (he pitched once for the Astros in the 2005 Series but was not charged with a decision).

* He has pitched in 16 seasons and reached the postseason in 14 of them, won 8 Pennants and 5 World Championships, including 2009, when he started and won the clinching game of all 3 postseason series. (Derek Lowe was the winning pitcher in all 3 Red Sox postseason clinchers in 2004, a record Andy matched, but Lowe did not start all 3 clinchers, making Andy stand alone, until this November at the very least.)

* On's "Hall of Fame Monitor," where a "Likely HOFer" is at 100, Andy is at 120. On its "Hall of Fame Standards," where the "Average HOFer" is at 50, he's at 38.

* Their Top 10 Most Statistically Similar Pitchers to him are: Kevin Brown (will never make the Hall), Bob Welch (No), Dwight Gooden (we'll never know if he would have, but he's a No), David Wells (probably No, but Happy Birthday, Boomer!), Orel Hershiser (close, but No), Catfish Hunter (Yes), Juan Marichal (Yes), David Cone (probably No), Dazzy Vance (Yes) and Jack Stivetts (No).

Andy Pettitte is a sure bet for Monument Park at the new Yankee Stadium. He is becoming a better and better bet for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But that's for the future, for when he retires plus 5 full seasons. For now, Andy, we need you tonight. Hitters, Andy needs you tonight. Let's go!

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