Andy Pettitte will forever be remembered as the last winning pitcher at Yankee Stadium. A week and a half ago, he threw five solid inning to earn himself the W against the Orioles in the Yankee Stadium finale. While the fans gave Pettitte, in potentially his last start, a huge ovation, the last few months of the season were not kind to Pettitte, supposedly one of the anchors of the Yankee rotation.
After the Yanks and Joba Chamberlain downed the Orioles 13-3 on Wednesday, July 30, everything was coming up roses for the Yankees. Counted out in May, the Yanks were four games behind Tampa Bay and just one game the Red Sox for the Wild Card lead. That tantalizing glimpse of postseason hopes would fade the next day.
Andy Pettitte, 12-7 with a 3.76 ERA, would draw the start against Jon Garland and the Angels. While the Yanks would plate eight, Pettitte gave up nine. Over the next few weeks, the Yanks would slip in the standings, and Andy Pettitte couldn’t buy an out.
From that July start until he shut it down early due a sore shoulder, Pettitte would make 11 starts and win just two of them. He would go 2-7; the Yanks would go 2-9. Pettitte threw 65 innings to the tune of a 6.23 ERA. He allowed 87 hits and 22 walks while striking out 51. Opponents hit .323/.374/.461 against him.
On the surface, Pettitte’s numbers didn’t change that much during that 11-start run. Over his first 139 innings, he had a K/9 IP of 6.92 and a K/BB of 3.24. Over those final 65 innings, he would strike out just over 7 per 9 innings, but he would strike out just 2.31 per walk. With the worse walk rate and the higher hit rate, Pettitte’s overall numbers slumped.
Watching the games, it seemed as though Pettitte just ran out of steam in August. The velocity on his fastball was down, and he couldn’t locate his pitches as well as he had been earlier in the year. While Mike Mussina adjusted to a new physical reality, Pettitte was trying to pitch as he always had but with little success.
Had Pettitte and the Yanks won three more of his 11 starts — or even four more — the Yanks would have been that much closer to the playoffs by mid-September. But it was not to be, and as the Yankees face a tough off-season, Andy Pettitte’s status, if he choose not to retire, will be front and center on the agenda. If the Yanks can find a way to ensure that first-half Pettitte shows up for a full year, they’ll be set. If not, I’m not sure for how much they should rely on Pettitte next year.