The Hall of Fame case of Andy Pettitte

This week, TOC will be looking at five players who recently announced their retirements from the game and their potential Hall of Fame cases. Today, things get a lot more interesting, as we look at Andy Pettitte.

Andy Pettitte's reputation might actually be stronger than his actual resume. The guy has a lot of wins and a lot of Postseason heroics, but is there really anything else aside from that to put Pettitte in the Hall of Fame? Let's see what the Keltner List thinks.

Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
Absolutely, positively not. In his 18 year career, Pettitte only received Cy Young votes in five seasons. He lead the league in wins once, games started three times, and lowest home run rate once – and that's it.

Was he the best player on his team?
No. He was never even the best pitcher on his team, being overshadowed by Mariano Rivera, Roger Clemens, and CC Sabathia, among others.

Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
This is where Pettitte's candidacy really gains legs. Pettitte's 19 wins are the most all-time in the Postseason among any pitcher, though his 3.81 ERA in 44 starts isn't exactly dominant. But the man's got five rings, and was a member of three other pennant winning teams, including the 2005 Astros.

Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?
If you want to say that Pettitte's prime ended when he returned to New York from Houston, that's fine. He's had three seasons with an ERA under 4.00 since leaving the Astros, and three with an ERA over 4.00. He was an All-Star in 2010, and qualified for the ERA title in four of those six seasons. That's good enough in this day and age.

Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
Heh. No.

Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?
Pettitte's JAWS puts him 86th all-time among starting pitchers. That doesn't seem too great, especially when you consider that he's behind active, younger Hall of Fame candidates in Johan Santana, Tim Hudson, and CC Sabathia and also behind guys that didn't get much of a look, like Frank Tanana, Kevin Appier, and Chuck Finley. Pettitte's 117 ERA+ is comparable to Hall of Famers Gaylord Perry, Bert Blyleven, Phil Niekro, and Fergie Jenkins.

Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
And this is where things get more interesting. Pettitte's 255 career wins are a main part of his candidacy, but those are less than both Mike Mussina and Jamie Moyer. Mussina's stats obliterate Pettitte's, and he should be a lock, but Moyer is the more interesting comparison due to his status as a compiler rather than an elite pitcher, much like a Tommy John or Bert Blyleven. Whitey Ford is another name that gets brought up in comparison to Pettitte, and it makes sense: a Yankee starter with a lot of wins? Sign me up! Ford had fewer innings than Pettitte and as a result, fewer counting stats across the board, but his 133 ERA+ is 20th of all-time and his .690 winning percentage is the best of any pitcher since World War II.

Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
Pettitte's career gets overstated a lot because of his status as a Yankee, his high win total, and his five rings, but in reality, how great was he really? Pettitte only put together four five-win seasons over the course of his career, and his career 2.37 strikeout to walk ratio isn't overly impressive. But here's the thing: Pettitte is plagued by playing the bulk of his career with pitchers like Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Curt Schilling as contemporaries. They're some of the best players of all-time, and Pettitte's accomplishments get dumbed down when trying to thrust him into comparison with them.

Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?
No. Schilling couldn't sniff election last year, and he's much better overall. When the flood of elite pitching talent starts hitting the ballot in upcoming years, Pettitte might get left in the dust.

How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
He was the Cy Young runner-up in 1996, finished fifth in 1997, and finished fourth in 2000. Of those three years, he was clearly outclassed in 1997 and 2000, and lost a close race to Pat Hentgen in '96 despite finishing ninth in the AL in fWAR among starting pitchers.

How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame?
Pettitte was only a three-time All-Star, which seems quite odd given how great those Yankee teams of the late-90s were. That's actually the same amount of midsummer classics that Hudson and Roy Oswalt have made, though.

If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
I'd imagine they *could*, but Pettitte was at his best as a complementary piece. In 2005 with the Astros, Pettitte was awesome, but Clemens (and maybe Oswalt too) was better, while Morgan Ensberg inexplicably had a ludicrous season with the bat and finished fourth in the MVP voting.

What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
Not really.

Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
Pettitte is an admitted PED user, but has been hypocritically been given a free pass by the media because he owned up to it. It'll be interesting to see how that gets played when Pettitte shows up on the ballot.

Monday: Mariano Rivera
Tuesday: Todd Helton

Joe Lucia

About Joe Lucia

Managing editor of Awful Announcing. News editor of The Comeback. Managing editor of The Outside Corner. You guessed it - not actually Frank Stallone.