Jesse Ghiorzi grew up rooting for the Yankees in Westchester, and he’s next up in our Pinch Hitters series. Jesse played baseball in high school and coached some Little League after college. Today he lives in Columbus, OH and works as the PR Director for a racetrack. He goes to at least one Yankees road series in the Midwest — Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, etc. — every year, and makes sure to get into the Bronx when he visits his parents back home.
Jesse is 26 years old. He lucky enough to see David Cone’s perfect game in person, but he has one Yankees regret: “I was at the Mantle (HBO documentary) screening in Dallas,” Jesse wrote, “and Mrs. Mantle was right next to me during the post-showing reception. I wanted to give her a hug and kiss on the cheek, but then his son (the one who looks a lot like him, David(?)) glanced over at me and I felt like The Mick was peering into my heart and telling me to stay away from his wife. I was terrified and walked the other way.”
Jesse has his own blog, and for his guest post, he broke his own heart by evaluating Andy Pettitte’s chances of landing in the Hall of Fame.
Andy Pettitte is Not a Hall of Fame Pitcher
Though it’s often difficult, I’m going to attempt to separate my head from my heart as I make this argument. Of course, as a Yankees fan, I’m sure that Dandy Andy Pettitte — he of the most all-time postseason wins — is a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee. However, when I look at his career objectively, I’m not so sure that’s the case.
My baseball writing history consists of a couple of years of blogging, sometimes about the game, so I’m clearly not qualified to vote on the Cooperstown crew. If I had a vote, I’d define a Hall of Famer as someone who was the best at his position for a number of years, or at the very least, near the top of the game for a long time.
Pettitte was always very good, but rarely great in the regular season. The 13 seasons in which he started at least 25 games, his ERA was over 4.00 a surprising nine times (and 3.99 once). Even in the Steroid Era, the best pitchers in the game – like Maddux, Halladay, Martinez and Johnson – were more effective than that. His regular season win percentage of .635, while impressive, is more a result of the powerful offenses he has played with than anything else. Only twice as a Yankee (and four times overall) have the bats behind him failed to score at least 800 runs in a season. When you have guys mashing for you on a consistent basis, you can get away with a career ERA nearly a run (.92) over that of the average Hall of Famer.
Every year, between 12 and 18 pitchers in each league are named to the All-Star Game. Between fan voting and manager selections, this roster is often made of the top arms in any given season. Pettitte has been named one of the top pitchers in the league just three times and finished in the top three of Cy Young voting only once (1996). Though he was often pitching much later into the fall than his counterparts, it was not always because of his extraordinary events in the summer.
When you talk Andy, you talk playoffs. His October wins record (19) is amazing, but it’s also a record based on quantity as much as quality. With 42 starts, he has seven more than the next closest pitcher and nearly double the figure of the highest totaled non-Divisional Era starter. Look at any of the postseason records in baseball’s history. They are filled with names from the current era of Bombers: Jeter, Williams, Posada and Mussina. Those names are there because they are very good, but also because of the extended playoff format. While you have to be good to get the chances, that in itself does not always grant you a spot in baseball’s upper echelon.
Among qualified pitchers (1,000+ IP), Pettitte ranks 720th in ERA, next to names like Derek Lowe, Jack Morris, Barry Zito and Jack McDowell. Nice pitchers, but not Hall of Famers. Looking at modern statistics, he’s tied for 163rd in ERA+ and sits 48th in WPA behind too many non-Hall of Famers to mention. According to Bill James’ Hall of Fame Monitor, Pettitte checks in at 123 (100 is likely to be inducted), but with two points assigned for each WS start and another two for each win, his Fall Classic performance accounts for 36 of the total, meaning his regular seasons are not up to snuff. The average Hall of Famer has led the league in a major category 40 times, Pettitte has just seven next to his name, furthering my point that he was never one of the best pitchers in the game. The rest of his numbers are mostly comparable to those of an average Hall of Famer, but is that the type of person we want to induct in the Hall? I do not.
Though I am thankful for all the wins he’s helped bring my team and all the times I have felt at ease down in a series with Andy on the mound in a pivotal game, my head tells my heart to ‘shut up’ after I spend some time breaking down his place in history. Also, I would bet Pettitte would rather have five rings from the South Bronx than some bronze in upstate New York.
Associated Press photo of Pettitte’s reaction to this piece!