Through four starts, it’s hard to classify Andy Pettitte‘s return to the Yankee rotation as anything but successful. If we’re setting the bar low, it’s great that he’s shown he’s still able to get out there and pitch every five days. Setting the bar a bit higher, he’s pitched reasonably well in his limited time: a 3.49 ERA in 28.1 innings. His FIP is a bit unsightly at 4.75, but that’s largely due to an unfathomably high HR rate. Currently, Andy’s HR/9 sits at 1.91 and his HR/FB% is a whopping 26.1%. To say those are wildly out of proportion would be an understatement. Despite the homers, though, Pettitte’s ERA is still pretty low (84 ERA-). What’s been the secret there?
For one thing, Pettitte is limiting the guys he puts on base. He’s giving up 8.6 H/9, but only walking 1.59 per nine (4.4 BB%, which would be a career low. His career mark is 7.4%.). This is even fleshed out a bit in the homers he has surrendered: Three of them have been solo homers and the other three were “only” two run homers. Another way he’s keeping the runs down is with a high strand rate. Pettitte is stranding 89% of the runners who reach against him. It’s worth noting, though, that an 89% strand rate is pretty high and may not be all that sustainable, especially considering Andy’s career mark of 71.6%. Still, while that will probably come down, so will the homers and things’ll even out a bit.
Then, of course, there’s the batted ball profile. Pettitte’s GB% is sparkling right now at 56.1%. His career high is 52.8% (’04 w/HOU) and his career average is 48.6%. Aside from the home runs, he’s not giving up a bunch of hard contact. His LD% is low, checking in around 15% (career 20.9) and his tRA+ from Stat Corner is solid at 113. That tRA+ mark gives me confidence that Pettitte’s relatively low BABIP (.263; career .308) is more than just smoke and mirrors. It would seem that most of the time, Andy is inducing weak content.
In terms of what’s been most effective for Pettitte, it’s gotta be the changeup. Despite having given up some homers with it, the pitch is still registering a decent whiff/swing% at 29.41 and getting grounders at a 66.67% rate (when put in play). His cutter, predictably, has the highest whiff/swing at 35.19%.
The good? Health, control/command, and grounders.
The bad? Really just the homers.
Going forward? He’s been typical Andy so far and I assume he’ll be typical Andy as we go along.
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