In 16 big league seasons, Andy Pettitte has been a model of consistency on five Yankees championship teams. He has proven time and time again, even in the late innings of his career, he is a big game pitcher when it counts the most.
If Pettitte decides to retire at the end of this season, will he be worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame in five years? It’s a debate that has begun and will only get stronger as Pettitte gets ready for another postseason run.
Pettitte’s postseason resume is one of the best in baseball history. It should be noted that with more rounds in the playoffs, since MLB added the divisional round in 1995, Pettitte and many others have been able to pile up stats more quickly. Pettitte's 18 postseason wins are the most in MLB history, but the more telling stat is his six series clinching wins, another MLB record. The 37-year-old lefty clinched all three series in 2009 en route to the Yankees winning their 27th World Series title.
Pettitte has always been a workhorse in October. When he took the mound in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series against the Phillies, he passed Christy Mathewson and Waite Hoyt for the second-most starts ever in the World Series with 13. Only Whitey Ford is ahead of Pettitte with 22 starts. Pettitte has enjoyed plenty of postseason baseball as he has been a part of the World Series eight times (seven with the Yankees, one with the Houston Astros). If elected to the Hall of Fame, his numbers in October will punch his ticket.
Here's a look at where the two-time All-Star stands in selected categories among active pitchers:
- Second in wins (240)
- Third in strikeouts (2,251)
- Third in innings pitched (3.055.1)
- Second in games started (470)
He has won more than 60 percent of the games he has started and won 21 games twice in a season. All tremendous numbers, but in the grand scheme of things it’s still not enough to place Pettitte among the all time greats.
Compare Pettitte's numbers to those of a few others who have not had their name called to the Hall. A few have similar or even slightly better numbers than Pettitte:
3.45 career ERA
16 Gold Gloves
3.90 career ERA
It should be noted each of these men started at least 100 more games than Pettitte.
No matter how you look at it, these pitchers played in a different era than Pettitte, with shorter rotations and more starts and innings pitched. So perhaps a more accurate comparison to Pettitte is his former teammate, Mike Mussina.
Mussina never won a Cy Young Award. Neither has Pettitte. Mussina has more wins (270), All-Star appearances (5), strikeouts (2813) and games started (536).
The one thing Mussina does not have is the postseason numbers, mainly because he has not had as many opportunities as Pettitte. Morris, Kaat, Blyleven and even Mussina should be on the waiting list to get into Cooperstown before Pettitte.
Then there is the elephant in the room -- Pettitte's admission in the spring of 2008 that he used the performance-enhancing drug HGH twice. Like many active and retired players who have issued a mea culpa, Pettitte was largely forgiven by fans.
This is what sets Mussina apart from Pettitte in many ways. Mussina put up terrific numbers in an offensive era when many hitter had an advantage due to the widespread use of performance-enhancement drugs. How do we know Mussina wasn't “juicing” like his bat-wielding opponents? We don’t know, but we have to assume he's innocent until proven guilty -- something Pettitte isn’t.