Pettitte May Be Our Real Ace
On October 8, 2010, the day after Andy Pettitte shut down the Minnesota Twin in the first round of the playoffs, I asked the rhetorical question, "Is Pettitte a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate?"
The argument for Pettitte now is pretty much what it was then, but let me review it quickly: He's won 243 regular season games with a superb .634 win percentage and a more than respectable 3.87 career ERA. In and of themselves, these numbers probably will not get him into Cooperstown, especially since a sizable chunk of that won-lost percentage derives from his having pitched for very good teams. (BTW, that .643 W-L is 43rd on the all-time list of pitchers with 1000 or more innings; if you exclude 19th century pitchers, though, Pettitte clocks in at No. 34, and many of the guys higher than him on the list pitched for pretty good teams, too.)
Let me suggest, though, a couple of things that could push Pettitte closer to the HOF vote. One, of course, is his postseason record. He's 19-9 in the playoffs and World Series and holds the record for the most starts, innings pitched, and wins. Now, I know a lot of people say, 'It's not fair to consider one guy's postseason record when everyone didn't have those same opportunities." Okay, but Pettitte didn't just find his postseason opportunities on his doorstep, he played a considerable part in getting those postseason chances.
He won more than 20 games in 2 seasons, 15 or more in 8 seasons, and 14 or more in 12 seasons. Anyway, the point to me is that he did pitch those postseason games, so why not count them when discussing Hall of fame worthiness? If you add them to Pettitte's regular season numbers, they would look like this: 262 wins and 149 losses for a .637 W-L. I'd say that this is perilously close to HOF bait.
Second, there's the simple argument that he's been very good for a long time. It occurs to me that one of the reasons he's come back, besides his natural competitiveness, is the possibility of boosting his Cooperstown credentials.
To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about Pettitte and the Hall of Fame, but if he can continue to pitch as brilliantly as he did last Tuesday against the Rays - 7 1/3 innings, 2 hits, 2 walks and 10 Ks - he'd certainly be chipping away resistance..
If you watch him pitch against the Mets, probably this Sunday, see if you agree with me that he's doing something different. The fast ball is faster, the slider is slidier, and those amazing mechanics smoother than ever. Watch with the attention you would give to a future Hall of Famer, because that's just what you might be watching.