Posted June 09, 2013

Andy Pettitte’s 250th victory a rare feat to crown an outstanding career

Andy Pettitte

Andy Pettitte

Will Andy Pettitte’s 250 wins be enough to get into the Hall of Fame? (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Andy Pettitte held the Mariners to one run on three singles over 7 1/3 innings on Saturday to earn the 250th win of his career, becoming the first pitcher since Jamie Moyer in 2009 to reach that total, and quite possibly, per the work of my Strike Zone battery-mate Jay Jaffe, the last for quite a while.

The second table in this post by Jay assumes that each of the pitchers listed will play through their age-40 season and average ten wins per season over that span, an estimate that, if it is slightly pessimistic in terms of average win totals, is also very optimistic in terms of health and longevity, such that end result is a realistic estimate for all of those pitchers on the list who don’t flame out completely in the interim.

Jay’s list was designed to identify potential 200-game winners, so the two active pitchers other than Pettitte who have already reached that mark, Roy Halladay and Tim Hudson, aren’t included. Hudson, however, is already 37 and would thus top out at  237 wins using Jay’s method (current-season wins are thrown out, though the 4-5 Hudson is on pace for exactly 10 wins this year anyway). Halladay, who is 36, projects to 249 wins, but that’s with ten wins this year, a total he has no chance to reach given that he needs eight more wins to get there and will be lucky to make eight more starts this season due to his May shoulder surgery, which could very well prove to be season-ending.

That leaves only Pettitte’s rotation-mate CC Sabathia, who I identified six years ago on SI.com’s first baseball blog as the young pitcher most likely to win 300, as the only active major leaguer projected by Jay’s system to win 250 games, and at his current pace of 15 wins a year (he won that many last year and is on pace for the same this year) the 32-year-old Sabathia won’t get there until the very end of the 2016 season.

As for Pettitte, his career win total is a testament to his durability and fortitude on the mound, but also to his good fortune of having played for 14 playoff teams in his first 17 seasons in the major leagues (and the Yankees are in a playoff position again). Pettitte has been the benefactor of some of the most potent offenses of the last two decades, having received an average of 5.4 runs of support per start over the course of his career. He has also been the greatest benefactor of the greatest relief pitcher of all time, as Mariano Rivera has saved more wins by Pettitte than by any other pitcher, setting a record for a starter/closer tandem. It was fitting, then, that Rivera recorded the final three outs on Saturday for his 71st save among those 250 wins.

In attempting to factor out his tremendous run and bullpen support, Baseball-Reference’s neutralized statistics adjust Pettitte’s career win total down to 173 (or 174 including Saturday’s victory), in part by using Pythagorean calculations to put his career winning percentage at .518, a mark more in line with his career 117 ERA+ than his actual .632 winning percentage.

There’s sure to be a doozy of a Hall of Fame debate regarding Pettitte when his turn comes at the end of the decade. Again leaning on the work of my colleague, Mr. Jaffe, JAWS has Pettitte quite clearly on the outside looking in. I’m personally a huge fan of Pettitte, but I have to agree with JAWS. Pettitte was a stalwart, but never an ace.

Indeed, there’s a great resemblance between Pettitte and lightning-rod Hall of Fame candidate Jack Morris, who will be on his final ballot this winter after receiving 67.7 percent of the vote last year, and whom I also believe falls short of the Hall of Fame standard. In broad terms, both pitched for 18 seasons (so far, for Pettitte). Morris won 254 games to Pettitte’s 250 (again, thus far). Morris’s career ERA was 3.90, Pettitte is at 3.85. Morris’s career whip was 1.30. Pettitte is at 1.35.

Both also get considerable bonus points for their postseason work. Morris, prior to a rough showing with the Blue Jays in 1992, went 7-1 with a 2.60 ERA in his first nine postseason starts and, of course, threw a ten-inning shutout to win Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Pettitte, meanwhile, is the winningest postseason pitcher in history, having gone 19-11 in postseason play, in part because he’s also the most experienced postseason pitcher in history, having thrown 276 2/3 innings over 44 starts across those 14 postseasons. Heck, Morris and Pettitte even both had their greatest moment at the expense of John Smoltz, Morris in the aforementioned Game 7, and Pettitte in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, which saw him throw 8 1/3 scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over Smoltz that gave the Yankees a 3-2 advantage in that Series and effectively broke the Braves’ back heading back to New York.

I rank that Game 5 among the greatest games I’ve ever seen. To think that was 17 years ago and that Pettitte was back out there on the mound on Saturday dominating the Mariners, on the same day that the Yankees selected his son Josh with a courtesy draft pick (he won’t sign, he’s going to Baylor), no less, is amazing and a great testament to his career. It’s no insult to say that he’s not quite Hall of Fame caliber. Andy Pettitte’s place in this game is secure even without a plaque.

25 comments
Momus
Momus

Egad, how many years does it take to drum into the heads of you crazed people that human growth hormone IS NOT A STEROID?  A performance-enhancing substance, perhaps.  But it is prescribed for HEALING.  For many patients, such a myself.  If he took this before it was labeled illegal for MLB players, so be it.  END OF STORY.  

Praise or criticize Pettitte for his lack of shutouts, his lack of speed, his lack of flashy sound bites, but please stop being ill-informed about his use of HGH.  He took it - he got named - he came out.  If you like him because of his work-ethic or his longevity or his record, fine.  If you don't like him because he is a Yankee or because he took HGH  or because he's from Louisiana, fine.  But don't confuse the issue by  calling him out for something he never did.  This is a tiresome and erroneous whine.

TL1961
TL1961

Are you kidding??

Now a pitcher gets in at 250 wins as long as he plays for New York?

Oh, did we forget the fact he used steroids? Or are we supposed to believe the story that "the time I got caught was the one and only time I used" story??

Yes, he has had a very good career. And yes, he has played on playoff teams, so he has playoff wins on his resume. But we don't need to see every player who made the playoffs in the hall of fame - Phil Rizzuto style.

Good, but not great.

olaf27
olaf27

What the sports writers will also have to take into account: the era in which Pettitte pitched. Although he admitted to using steroids to heal an elbow injury in 2002, he also had to pitch in a time when offense hitters were using steroids and his ERA was inflated because of it. It also why his numbers have somewhat improved over the last couple of years: most players are not using. I acknowledge your point that he received a ton of run support, but shouldn't we also acknowledge how runs came more so in the steroid era.

TimothyPea
TimothyPea

I was going to explode on this guy if he said Pettitte deserved to get in but Morris did not.  Morris was able to pitch to his situation no matter what some nerd SABRmeter says.

therednorth1
therednorth1

Interestingly enough, the last two seasons of Pettitte's career has him posting numbers better than his career average.  If he keeps it up he might possibly lower his career numbers to something a bit more hall of fame worthy, no?  Possibly even put in a few seasons worthy of being a "peak?"

But yes, you're right, nobody thought "hall of famer" when Pettitte was on the mound.  They simply saw a very good number two pitcher.  And very good number two pitchers don't get into the hall of fame.

Jerkzilla
Jerkzilla

I love Andy, he's my favorite Yankee of 1996 to present.  He is not a Hall of Famer w/o 300 wins.  

About PEDs, I was tremendously disappointed when this info came to light.  The only solace I find in the ordeal is that he wasn't a contract year juicer, he did it to recover from an injury and get back in a pennant race.  That doesn't absolve him of anything, it just puts him in a different class.

It is ridiculous that they adjust Andy's stats because of the offense he played with and the relief pitching, and don't take into account the fact that he pitched in the AL East for the majority of his career.  If he pitched for the Astros in a lousy hitting NL West for his entire career, his ERA would be close to a point lower.  Band box parks and tough lineups in 90's Baltimore and 90's-2000s Boston.  Plus the leads Andy had when he was on the mound allowed him to pitch more relaxed and not worry about balls being in play.   Finally you have the times Torre left him on the mound to eat a poor performance instead of wasting the bullpen, because he knew it wouldn't get in Andy's head.

You think pitching in a weak hitting NL West didn't help Randy Johnson?  Look what he did on the Yankees.   How did Smoltz do after Boston dumped him that year and he went to the Cardinals? His ERA went from an 8 to a 4. 

imst0ncld
imst0ncld

Andy was a PED guy, I know he said he was sorry but he should not be in the HALL OF FAME. Even without PEDs he was borderline HOF.  Baseball sucks anymore anyway but I say NO!

OK
OK

I like Andy Pettitte, but he JUICED. Ergo, no Hall.

Interesting to compare Pettitte's career numbers with those of Jack Morris and Mike Mussina. Pettitte and Morris are near carbon copies of each other, but Mussina clearly outpaced both in nearly every statistical category and did so with relative ease.

HOFPufnstuf
HOFPufnstuf

Peds then. Peds now. Hall of fame never. That's how long this column should have been. Somehow petitte and his people have managed to position him as an unwitting victim of the PED age. Since he was one of the first to tell the 'I TOOK IT TO HEAL' lie, people are actually buying it.

hdogg48
hdogg48

No way is Andy Petite a Hall of Famer. Sure he has 250 wins and gaudy

post season stats...So what? Look at his 20 Win seasons,..I think he

has one in his career. How many complete game shutouts? Less than

ten. How many complete games...less than twenty-five. Petite has

been the beneficiary of playing on teams that scored for him a ton

of runs, we're in the top defensively, had great middle, set up relief,

and Mariano Rivera the best closer of all time.

How many times did he go less than 7 innings, and after giving up 2 or

3 runs picked the win? Sorry a Hall of Fame starting pitcher says

give me the ball you're not scoring we're winning and I'll go the

distance if I have to..guys like Morris, Schilling and Verlander, or Halladay.

ptbnl
ptbnl

I think Petite has the numbers to get into the HOF but his association with PED use will prevent his entry.  He reminds me a little of Mike Mussina who was 270-153 during his career. Nothing eye-popping about them. Petite is 250-145 and could end up close to Mussina in totals.  In my opinion, the number that stands out is the W-L difference, for Mussina 117 and Petite 105.  Considering the modern era from around 1900, there have been only 21 pitchers who have won 100 games more than they have lost, showing the ability to win over a long period of time.  That is avery select group indeed.  And all of them are in the HOF (except for Clemens obviously, and Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine who will become eligible in 2013 and 2014 but should get in).

Let's see how the steroids stories play out.

Dave C
Dave C

Cheater......and an admitted one as well.  Case closed

Action
Action

I like Pettite, but I don't think he'll get consideration to the HOF because of his PED use.  If we take Andy at his word, he only used HGH in order to quicken his recovery from an injury, and I'll take him at his word.  However, the voters have shown that they have a zero tolerance policy.  Also at issue is that Andy and Roger Clemons were close friends and teammates for many years until Clemons went on trial.  Being associated with Roger Clemons is probably going to cause some voters to question if Pettite was really only a "one time" user.

ThomasW.Tilert
ThomasW.Tilert

He's borderline.  Put him in the Hall of Very Good with Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Don Sutton, Jim Rice, and Bert Blyleven.  

TL1961
TL1961

@olaf27 The steroid using hitters were on the Yankees, so they didn't affect his ERA. :)

Michael10
Michael10

@olaf27 Fat chance anyone is going to give Pettitte any "steroid credit" -- not only because he was an admitted user himself (they ALL used to get healthy and stay on the field) but because he benefited from having some of the most notorious users in history in his own supporting lineup. Numbers like ERA+ already adjust for era, anyway, and while he was above league average, he was not exceptional...

ITATTRACTS
ITATTRACTS

@TimothyPea it's a good thing you didn't explode on him. all that text rage would be really hurtful. 

TL1961
TL1961

@Jerkzilla The Astros played in the NL Central, and there are teams there that can hit. A point lower by avoiding Baltimore and Toronto? Ummmmm.....no.

DennisLawrence
DennisLawrence

t.  The only solace I find in the ordeal is that he wasn't a contract year juicer, he did it to recover from an injury and get back in a pennant race.  That doesn't absolve him of anything, it just puts him in a different class.

>>>>>>>>>>>>
No it doesn't.  It just means he took advantage of an illegal option that others did not.


NO HoF for Roiders

doublejtrain68
doublejtrain68

@HOFPufnstuf I don't believe 99 percent of the guys who claim they juiced for different reasons or deny juicing, but Pettitte I buy because he didn't try to skirt around the issue like Clemens, Bonds and others have. He manned up and admitted it, and taking it to heal faster from injuries is believable. With 250 wins, I think he should get a HOF nod, but not first-ballot. 

Frank27
Frank27

@hdogg48 Pettitte pitches to win. he can just as well win  a game 2-1 as he can win a game 8-6. you say "a Hall of Fame starting pitcher says give me the ball you're not scoring we're winning and I'll go the distance if I have to"....well, that IS andy pettitte. that being said, he does fall short of HOF status in my opinion, but this minimizing what he's accomplished just because of run support is ridiculous.

DennisLawrence
DennisLawrence

Hmmmmm. He manned up and admitted it.

So did A-roid

now we know there was more.


hdogg48
hdogg48

Run support was only ONE of my arguments. The lack of

shutouts and complete games was my main argument.

That and Mo backing him up. Think of Petite EVER in a big

game or a playoff game in a pitchers duel where he had

to go all the way. Remember Schilling's bloody sock game

or when he won with Arizona that had zip confidence in.

Morris going 10 in Game 7 in 1987. Verlander

throwing 98 MPH heat against the Yanks after 120 pitche

and striking out the heart of their order. even Halliday

going the distance and losing 1-0 to his pal Carpenter

in the deciding game of the league championship series.

I don't care how much he juiced...he has never been

that caliber of a pitcher. He benefited from being in the

right place at the right time, more than any athlete

I can think of in any sport. He did have a HOF pick off

move though.