Will this be the year that the legendary New York Yankees left-hander finally makes his way towards Cooperstown?
But is he worthy of a trip to Cooperstown? Pettitte is on the Hall of Fame ballot again, and his complicated situation is worth deciphering.
Let’s begin by discussing the case against him, with the first factor involving the PED controversy.
Pettitte admitted to using HGH, but he did so before it was banned in 2005. The fact that he came clean about it without trying to hide anything shouldn’t go unnoticed either.
Another aspect is his victory total. If induction into the Hall of Fame was solely based on wins, Pettitte’s 256 would get him in without a problem. However, if a critic wanted to undermine those wins, the argument could be made that his total is inflated because he spent his entire career with the Yankees (many of his years in the Bronx were with the late 90s dynasty) and a good Houston Astros team.
This point, however, isn’t a strong one; wins are wins, and voters tend not to focus too heavily on where pitchers recorded them.
The last and probably most significant obstacle potentially preventing Pettitte from a trip to the Hall is the fact that he was almost never one of the top MLB pitchers from a statistical standpoint. This is highlighted by the fact that he never led the majors in ERA or WAR.
Nonetheless, Pettitte’s accomplishments and success throughout his career, especially during the postseason, make up for that and should be enough to induct him.
Only five pitchers who’ve won over 250 games are not in the Hall of Fame. This group encompasses Pettitte’s former teammates Roger Clemens, who’s been swimming in PED controversy for years, and CC Sabathia, who only just retired in 2019.
Pettitte also never underwent a losing season.
His 60.7 WAR could’ve been better and is a little on the low side compared to most pitchers in Cooperstown, but there are still over 20 inducted pitchers who boasted lower marks than him in that category.
Additionally, his 117 ERA+ is superior to some surprising names like Steve Carlton and Nolan Ryan.
As was previously mentioned, Pettitte was never at the top of the league in ERA or WAR, but was up there on multiple occasions in FIP, which notably boosts his case.
In fact, his career fWAR of 68.2 is better than several Hall of Famers, such as Roy Halladay, Tom Glavine, and fellow Yankee Whitey Ford.
This is all quite impressive, but we haven’t even reached the good part yet — the postseason.
Pettitte was nothing short of otherworldly in the playoffs, and that’s how people remember him.
He recorded a career postseason record of 19-11 with a 3.81 ERA. His career playoff wins, starts, innings, and quality starts are all-time records and allowed him to help his teams win five rings. His record of 19 playoff wins will likely never be broken.
Pettitte is also just the second starting pitcher ever to win three series-clinching games in a single postseason — a feat he accomplished in 2009.
Pettitte is lucky; luck is what got him here. If he had played for most other teams in the league, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
The fact that he was fortuitous enough to end up on teams that were well-rounded and talented enough to get him to October and November is important.
He was never the best player on his championship teams, but his contributions were crucial. After all, he was a member of the Yankees’ infamous “Core Four,” and for good reason.
Pettitte often wasn’t elite, but he was always productive, and such consistency should not and cannot go unrewarded.
If you were to ask the front office, management, and fans of every team, they would do anything to have a guy like Pettitte come in and be consistently productive for 15+ years.
It won’t happen this year, but Pettitte deserves to have his plaque in the Hall of Fame. We may never see as dominant a starting pitcher in the postseason ever again, and for that, he deserves the induction.