Andy Pettitte is not a Baseball Hall of Fame quality pitcher. Pettitte doesn’t deserve a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame, because while he has been a good pitcher during his career, he has not come close to achieving greatness on the pitching mound. Setting aside Pettitte’s links to banned and illegal substance use to help him play baseball, the debate has to focus on what he has done on the mound as compared to the best pitchers to play baseball over the years. The sad realization, is that he does not compare favorably, and even with all of his World Series rings, he shouldn’t find the support of the Baseball Writer’s when he finally makes it to the Hall of Fame ballot.
Andy Pettitte broke into the big leagues with the New York Yankees in 1995, and right away earned himself a spot in the starting rotation. He made 31 starts in his rookie season, and pitched 175 innings on his way to a 12-9 record. It was clear that the Yankees had found a great addition to their starting rotation, and he would remain there until he signed with the Houston Astros as a free agent at the end of the 2003 season. Since then, Pettitte has come back to the Yankees, and he will probably finish out his career in those pinstripes. His best season came in the National League, and despite a couple of set-backs due to injury, has been relatively consistent through his baseball career.
The key when it comes to Pettitte, is that he has been consistent, but has rarely been great on the mound. When breaking down the career of Pettitte, there are two seasons that really stand out in regards to individual accomplishments. In 1997 Pettitte went 18-7 with a 2.88 ERA in 35 starts for the New York Yankees. In 2005 Pettitte went 17-9 with a 2.39 ERA in 33 starts for the Houston Astros, as he came in fifth in the National League Cy Young voting. Outside of those two seasons, most of his career has been average, with nine years where his ERA was higher than 4.0 during the full season. He also posted atrocious ERA’s of 4.70 in 1999 and 4.54 in 2008.
For his career, Andy Pettitte has a combined 240-137 record, with an ERA of 3.87 and 2,240 strikeouts. He has pitched in 486 games during his time on the mound, and compiled a career WHIP of 1.355. These stats make him a good starting pitcher to have in any rotation, but there also aren’t very many staffs in baseball where he would be considered an ace. If we are just looking at statistics alone, Pettitte is now 55th all times in wins and 42nd all time when it comes to winning percentage. He is also 50th all time in strikeouts and 125th in innings pitched during his 16-year career. Pettitte also isn’t done yet, and could further pad those statistics if he hangs on a few more years.
The next question that has to be answered, is why Andy Pettitte received so much attention if he was only a good pitcher that never reached greatness. Well the answer is pretty simple, even though it comes in two parts. The first part to that answer is that he pitched for the New York Yankees, and as such, was typically making news win the Yankees were winning ball games. That plays into the second reason for his fame, and it is because he has found a lot of success in the postseason. Pitching for great Yankees teams has afforded him quite a bit of success, including five World Series rings and an 18-9 postseason record.
Andy Pettitte is now 38-years-old, and he might be close to walking away from the game of baseball. It’s hard to imagine that the Baseball Writer’s of American would vote him into the Baseball Hall of Fame unless he got much closer to that 300 win threshold, but stranger things have happened. The allure of Pettitte pitching for the Yankees may get him a number of votes just for that fact, but voters would be remiss if they didn’t take into account the run support his teams provided him. He is not a better pitcher than Bert Blyleven, who continues to sit on the outside of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and as it stands, Pettitte is not one of the best pitchers of all time.