Andy Pettitte is a three-time All-Star, five-time champion and a staple of the New York Yankees postseason history. Is he a Hall of Famer?
The New York Yankees‘ legend is on the Hall of Fame ballot again in 2019. Andy Pettitte received just under 10% of the vote in his first year on the ballot and seems to be garnering enough support this year to continue to stay on the ballot.
However, he deserves better than just remaining on the ballot. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame for his remarkable consistency, career totals and his postseason heroics.
Pettitte was never thought of as a top-tier pitcher. He wouldn’t dominate by striking out 15 hitters while giving up only two hits over eight innings. Instead, he would methodically pick apart an offense by inducing weak contact and striking out enough hitters to keep them off-balanced.
His career 86 ERA- and 83 FIP- don’t jump off the page. Pettitte had one season with an ERA- over 100 and didn’t have a single season with a FIP- over 100. When Pettitte retired, he did so as the only pitcher in major league history to not record a losing season.
Even with some of the new age analytics, that didn’t kick in until 2002, Pettitte was consistent. Pettitte never had an xFIP- above 100. His career-high SIERA of 4.48 was a little not great but given the time period, it is probably around average.
Pettitte kept his K% between 15% and 20% in 13 of his 18 seasons. Every year he pitched, Pettitte was going to give you around 200 innings pitched, a 3.70 ERA, 140 strikeouts, and keep you in every ball game. Doing that consistently over 18 years is worth recognition.
Ranking with the Legends
Andy Pettitte has a total of 68.2 fWAR which ranks 32nd all-time. He’s ahead of the likes of Juan Marichal, Tom Glavine, Bob Feller and his former teammate, CC Sabathia. He also had fewer innings pitched than all 4 of those pitchers.
Pettitte’s 60.6 rWAR ranks 11th all-time amongst left-handed pitchers. He’s also 15th in strikeouts among all left-handed pitchers.
Pettitte put up these numbers while pitching in the steroid era, which was known for its incredible offense. It’s also important to remember he retired twice. When Pettitte returned in 2012, he was great in his small sample size. If you prorate his numbers to 175 innings, he would have had a 3.26 fWAR over that year, giving him a career total over 70. That’s a Hall of Fame caliber number.
A Postseason Performer
Pettitte basically had an additional season and a half worth innings in the postseason. It’s worth taking a look at those numbers.
Pettitte showcased a career 84 ERA- and 90 FIP- in the playoffs. From 2002 on, Pettitte had a 3.51 SIERA and 86 xFIP- during the playoffs. Those are all similar to his regular-season number outside of his SIERA and xFIP.
Since those statistics weren’t around until 2002, it doesn’t include his late ’90s numbers with the Yankees. As the postseason sample size grows, it gets closer to what the player did in their career. For Pettitte, that can be seen to be true and that’s a good thing.
Yet, there’s something about when Pettitte took the mound in a big game. When he stepped on the mound, put the glove in front of his face, and stared the hitters down, one feeling came to mind. The Yankees were going to win the game.
In 2009, he won the clinching game of every series. In 1996, in a tied series, the young pitcher gave the Yankees 8 1/3 innings of shutout baseball to give them a series lead. When you think of the saying, big-game pitchers, Andy Pettitte is one of the first guys that comes to mind.
Not Without Controversy
Pettitte doesn’t come without controversy, unfortunately. He was named in the Mitchell Report and is an admitted PED user. However, Pettitte claims that he doped in order to return from an injury quicker. He has since apologized and recognized that it was a mistake.
Steroids were a part of the game and to ignore that fact is to ignore a time period in history. While certain steroid users also come with an aspect of being unlikeable, for other off the field reasons. Pettitte is incredibly popular in the game of baseball.
Pettitte may be held down a bit while guys like Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling are on the ballot. However, they’ll come off at some point and there’s less first ballot Hall of Famers coming. He could see a Mike Mussina like rise into the Hall of Fame. If he’s voted in one day, he’ll have earned that honor.