Andy Pettitte is one of the most interesting cases when it comes to MLB Hall of Fame candidacy. He was never one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball but he was always good. His consistency and reliability are what made his career noteworthy.
He never won a Cy Young award and was only selected to three All Star games but he also never really had a bad year either. There lies the debate of whether or not his longevity and consistent output are enough to earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame. Here is why he deserves his spot in Cooperstown.
Navigating a Difficult Era for Pitchers
Andy Pettitte’s success was unique for the era of baseball that he pitched in. Almost the entirety of his career was during the height of the steroid era. Home run totals were sky rocketing, and in turn inflating the ERA and other various statistics of pitchers. Also, pitching velocity was going up across the board. Finesse pitching was becoming much less desirable by major league teams as they turned their focus more towards power pitchers.
Pettitte’s skill set was somewhat abnormal for the time period he played in. He was not an overly hard thrower nor a guy who produced a ton of strike outs. He often pitched with a desired result of soft contact. This was a dangerous strategy in the juiced up era where home runs were being produced even without batters cleanly connecting with a pitch. The hitters were so strong that routine fly outs were now sailing far out of the park. That’s why teams were looking for strike out specialists, to avoid most contact. Pettitte went a bit against the grain, but it worked for him.
Consistency and Longevity
Andy Pettitte never won a Cy Young award, but he did finish top six in the voting in five different seasons. Wins may not be an important stat for pitchers in modern baseball, but they still were during his playing days. He twice won 20 games in a season and accumulated 256 total wins in his career. He won nearly 64 percent of his career starts while helping the New York Yankees win five World Series titles.
WAR and ERA+ are two valuable metrics when analyzing pitchers while accounting for many variables. This is where Pettitte’s impressive consistency is on full display. He pitched to a WAR of 2.0 or better and ERA+ of 100 or higher in 15 different seasons. Only four players in the last 50 years have done it more times, including Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Tom Seaver and Bert Blyleven. All four of them are in the Hall of Fame and three of them are considered by many to be among the greatest pitchers in all of MLB history.
A Postseason Legend
Even if Andy Pettitte didn’t do “enough” in his regular season career to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame, his postseason numbers are undeniably impressive. He was an important piece of five World Series champions and eight pennant winners. He is at the top of the postseason leader board in several categories. His 19 career postseason wins and 267 innings pitched are both MLB records. He also recorded 183 postseason strikeouts, the second most of all time. His contributions towards overall winning baseball are a huge point in his favor for making it to the Hall of Fame.
Comparing Andy Pettitte to his Peers
Using the same criteria as before, a minimum of 2.0 WAR and 100 ERA+, Andy Pettitte matches up with excellent company. Some of the players who also accomplished those numbers exactly 15 times like Pettitte did include Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. They are all Hall of Famers and some of the all time great starting pitchers in MLB history.
Most believe that one of Pettitte’s former team mates with the New York Yankees, CC Sabathia, is a “lock” to make it into the Hall of Fame. It’s an interesting perception that Sabathia will definitely get in while Pettitte is on the fence at best when comparing some of their career statistics side by side. For example, their WAR is nearly identical while Pettitte has a better career ERA+ and accumulated more total wins, among other stats.
One major road block for Pettitte is his connection to PEDs. The extent of it is somewhat unknown but he did admit to participating briefly. No player linked to PEDs in that era of baseball has been voted into the Hall of Fame just yet. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are both getting close to the required percentage of votes while others have increased their chances as well. If neither Bonds nor Clemens get in, it would be difficult for anyone connected to receive the required votes. If one or both make it in, it opens the door for players like Andy Pettitte to potentially follow.
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