I’d been wanting to write an Andy Pettitte career overview for a while but was hoping to be able to do it on the heels of the news that he decided to come back. However, as the Pettitte waiting game continues to drag on from the ridiculous to the absurd, I’ve grown impatient, and in the interest of providing you fine people with content day in and day out, there’s no better time than the present for an Andy appreciation post.
Additionally, I’ve run graphs on just about every pitching scrub in existence this winter, and thought it’d be fun to finally take a look at an all-time great Yankee in graphical form.
Here’s a look at Andy’s career statistics. All of the following data is from Fangraphs.
I was not aware prior to doing the research that Andy was a 7.4 fWAR pitcher in 1997, his high-water mark. While he’s obviously been fantastic throughout his career, he’s been even more remarkably consistent since 2006, albeit with a fairly significant uptick in BB/9 in 2009, but he was able to get that mark back under 3.00 in 2010. Until he starts showing otherwise, Pettitte’s as good a bet as any in the game to give you an ERA and FIP near 4.00 with around 7 K/9 and a minimal amount of long balls surrendered. There’s a reason we call him All Day AP around these parts.
Here’s Andy’s Batted Ball profile since 2002:
Andy’s always gotten his share of ground balls, but it’d be great to see him get that percentage back above 50 again. Correspondingly, his FB% has neared 40% in each of the last two seasons after dipping below 30% in 2008, although he’s allowed less home runs in each subsequent year.
Here’s what Andy’s pitches have been worth since 2002:
Pettitte’s fastball was worth an insane 30.2 runs above average in 2005; pretty amazing as he only recorded a wFB value above 5 one other time in the nine seasons we have data for. Even crazier is the fact that, even at that plateau his fastball was still only fourth-best that season, behind Dontrelle Willis (44.1!), Astro teammate Roger Clemens (33.8) and Carlos Zambrano (30.5). Oh, and Roy Oswalt was fifth in baseball, at 27.8. I know the White Sox also had an incredible staff that year, but it’s pretty nuts to look at those numbers knowing that Houston got swept in the 2005 World Series. Did you know that, since 2002, Derek Lowe has the highest single-season wFB mark, at 46.8 runs above average in 2002? Neither did I. That had to be one of the all-time great years for a sinking fastball.
And there’s way too much data here for a graph, so here’s Andy’s Plate Discipline data in chart form:
Here’s an interesting nugget — Pettitte induced his highest percentage of out-of-zone swings last season than at any time in the previous eight seasons, while simultaneously recording the lowest percentage of in-the-zone swings than he ever had before. He also saw contact on a career-high (at least for this data set) percentage of those out-of-zone swings, as well as a career high of contact on in-the-zone swings.
Unsurprisingly, this led to a career-high contact %, which jives with a lot of the plate discipline data we’ve looked at over the course of the year, in that hitters — for the most part — generally swung more frequently than they have in years. Look no further than the fact the MLB OBP dipped by a not-insignificant .008 points in 2010 to .325 from .333 in 2009, the lowest its been since 1992, when it was .322. 2010 was also the first time the league average OBP even dipped below .330 in the last 18 seasons.
In any event, what we have here is the picture of a pitcher who is probably a borderline Hall-of-Famer — since Pettitte’s 1995 debut, only six pitchers in all of baseball have accumulated more fWAR: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina and Clemens. I typically stay away from Hall of Fame candidacy arguments, because I find the opinions of the majority of the electorate worthless and thereby don’t find the HoF to be an accurate representation of the greatest players in MLB history (how can an establishment that doesn’t include the game’s all-time hits leader in Pete Rose and appears poised to exclude its all-time home runs leader in Barry Bonds possibly be considered the arbiter of the best players to ever play the game? But I digress), but you won’t find any dissenters regarding the level of excellence that this septet of players performed at.
Andy Pettitte has gone about his business heroically yet mostly quietly, endeared himself to multiple generations of Yankee fans in the process, and secured his place as one of the three greatest lefthanders to ever pitch for New York, along with Whitey Ford and Ron Guidry. And he’s done it all while still operating at an elite level. It’s time to come back, Andy. There’s still history to be made.
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