Andy Pettitte sets Yankees’ strikeout record on a night he’d probably rather forget
Given how long Andy Pettitte has been pitching — since 1995, back when the Dow Jones hovered around 4,000 and the Internet became privatized — it was inevitable he’d break some records in his career. Monday night, he carved his name on the Yankees’ stone of triumph (or whatever overly epic imagery you want to use for the Yankees) for pitchers, getting Justin Morneau to swing and miss in the bottom of the fifth to record his 1,958th strikeout while in pinstripes. That makes him No. 1 in franchise history, passing Whitey Ford.
While that moment was a nice one for Pettitte, the rest of the night sure wasn’t. In his 505th career start, most among active pitchers, Pettitte was roughed up by the Twins. He allowed the first three hitters to reach in the first inning en route to giving up three runs in the frame. Overall, he gave up four earned runs in five innings, with a pair of strikeouts against four walks. Though the Yankees’ offense bailed him out in a 10-4 win — this was a Twins-Yankees game, after all — it’s the fourth straight rough outing for Pettitte, who has given up 19 earned runs in his last 24 2/3 innings.
For the season, Pettitte’s ERA sits at 4.40, which would be his worst figure since a lackluster 2008 season, when he went 14-14 with a 4.54 ERA in 204 innings for the Yankees. Though Pettitte sparkled in his surprising 2012 comeback, with a 145 ERA+ in 75 innings, his 2013 has been a different tale. His strikeout rate has fallen and he’s giving up a lot of hard contact, with a line-drive rate of 20 percent. Batting average on balls in play also hasn’t been his friend this season, with a .313 mark going into Monday’s start. But it’s hard to see Pettitte suddenly turning it around at the age of 41, especially as the months get hotter and the season grows longer.
No matter how 2013 turns out, however, Pettitte will still have that Yankees record, and it’s likely to be his for a good long while. His only current competition, CC Sabathia, is more than 1,000 strikeouts behind. With 250 career wins, he’s just one behind Bob Gibson for 46th all-time, and his 2,384 career strikeouts leave him 10 behind Sandy Koufax, 40th all-time. With four more innings, he’ll break into the top 100 in innings pitched, and will likely finish the season with more innings thrown than Kevin Brown, Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield, among others.
He recently passed Mel Stottlemyre for third place on the Yankees’ all-time list in innings pitched (and will most certainly stay there, given that Nos. 1 and 2, Ford and Red Ruffing, have 500 innings on him). His 213 wins are also good for third all-time in Yankees’ history, behind Ford (236) and Ruffing (231). Then there are all his postseason records: First in wins with 19, first in innings pitched with 276 2/3, second in strikeouts with 183, and first in games started with 44.
At season’s end, Pettitte will have logged more than 3,000 innings on his left arm. With the Yankees facing a budget crunch this offseason, it’s unlikely they’d want to bring Pettitte back for what could be another pedestrian season. Regardless, he’ll go down as one of the greatest pitchers in New York franchise history, and one of the most durable pitchers of his generation. That’s not bad for a guy who debuted the same year as Yahoo!.