‘Andy Pettitte is a starting pitchah’

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Breaking down the Yanks with runners in scoring position

Say what you will about Mike Francesa’s opinion, but the man does his job. As the midday host on the city’s most popular sports talk radio station, he is supposed to drive listeners to his show and keep people talking. By taking controversial stands and harping on them to no end, he succeeds and what we do here at River Ave. Blues is, in a way, a natural step in the evolution of sports talk radio.

Today, the man talking about the news is the news. In a piece on MLB.com, Bryan Hoch profiled Francesa and the Great Joba Debate. There’s no needs to rehash any of the debate right now. We know it by heart, and we know how heated the discussion can be. “Whenever the topic is brought up, there is always a spirited debate on both sides, and it really can come up out of nowhere,” Francesa says. “It’s what you would call a hot-button issue. Everybody seems to have an opinion, and there are a lot of people who feel the way I do.”

Hoch didn’t, at least in print, push Francesa on that quote. The debate never really comes up “out of nowhere.” It comes up out of a quest for listeners. Shouting “Andy Pettitte is a starting pitchah!” over a caller trying to make a valid point does wonders for the ratings.

(As an aside, Joba himself seems to recognize the absurdity of this whole charade. He said to Hoch: “I guess it’s a good conversation piece over lunch, and it gives people something to talk about. I could win 20 games and people are still going to think I could save 50. No matter what happens, I just think it’s going to be debated.”)

While the debate outside of the Yankee organization continues to rage, the team is committed to keeping Joba as a starter. Meanwhile, this whole thing coupled with a Tweet by Mike a few hours ago got me thinking about Andy Pettitte and the state of the Yankees’ starting pitching.

After April, Pettitte was 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA. While I had my reservations about re-signing Pettitte this year, he was on his way toward proving his doubters wrong. Since then, though, it’s been a downward spiral for Pettitte, culminating in last night’s appearance. Staked to a seven-run lead, he couldn’t get out of the fourth.

Let’s see then how the four Yankee starters who haven’t missed a turn in the rotation since the start of May have done since then.


The funny thing about this table is its lack of a win column. It’s easy to conflate pitchers’ win totals with their ability to pitch effectively, and Pettitte is a prime example of that phenomenon. The Yankees are 8-3 in his 11 starts, and he and CC lead the team with five W’s since May 1. That win total is, though, largely a function of run support for Pettitte. While he has given up 40 runs, the Yanks have scored 64.

At some point, the question will become what to do with Pettitte. He hasn’t pitched terribly, but he hasn’t pitched terribly well either. Because the Yankees have a question mark in Chien-Ming Wang and an innings limit for Joba, Phil Hughes will get his starts but so will Pettitte. I have a feeling though that, despite his Francesa-inspired “starting pitchah” moniker, what you see is what you get from Pettitte. He won’t be as good as he was in April, and he won’t be as bad as he was last night. As long as the Yanks keep scoring those runs for him, the team can get by.

RAB Live Chat
Breaking down the Yanks with runners in scoring position
  • Evan NYC

    Pettitte is a second half of the season guy thought.

    His career first half – 110-79 with a 4.13ERA

    His career second half – 112-51 with a 3.64ERA

    Go figure?

    • Ed

      His body is old and cranky now, and it’s getting harder to predict what you’ll get from him. Look at last season. First half 4.03 ERA, second half 5.35.

      • radnom

        He was not 100% at the end of last season.

        I’m not sure I would expect that to be a trend.

        • Mattingly’s Love Child

          But I’m not sure his past performance in the 2nd half is a good predictor either. He’s older and his stuff is just generally not as good as it used to be.

          To me, he’s probably going to be consistently inconsistent for the remainder of the season.

          • radnom

            Agreed – things could go either way.

            I’m more apt to expect what has been a career long trend as opposed to a one year deviation because of injury.

            Besides, in the second half Pettite benefits from warmer weather which could offset the wear on his body so far this season. Who knows? Pettite isn’t that old though.

        • Say Hey Willie

          There are some reports that he is not 100% now.

          • radnom


            I hadn’t heard any.

            • Ed

              Here you go, where Pettitte’s back issues first popped up at the end of May. link

              • radnom


        • Ed

          I didn’t either, but he’s already complained about back stiffness this season.

          • Bo

            What SP is ever 100%?

            • Ed

              No athlete ever is, but they don’t mention it to the press unless it’s something more than the everyday soreness.

            • Mattingly’s Love Child

              This has to be a different Bo….

              Might be one of the 1st times I’ve ever agreed with you, on anything!

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                He’s improving.

  • The Iron Horse

    If not Andy, who else? He’s fine.

  • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

    This post is gold.

    • Drew

      It’s gold Jerry, gold.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        The jar is round… the mug is round… they should call it “Roundtine”.

  • Ed

    I think Pettitte is a good pitcher whose body can’t keep up anymore. If you look at his game logs, it’s not like he’s consistently pitching to the stats above. He’s more or less alternating between good starts and bad starts. He was terrible yesterday, but he was dominating the start before that. Go back another start and he was bad, go back one more and he was good.

    I wonder if it would help to periodically just give Hughes a spot start. Give everyone an extra day of rest. Pettitte could probably use it with his back issues. CC definitely could with his arm issue this week, which he’s hinted is due to overuse. Joba would benefit, as he’d go further into the season before being shut down. Don’t know how Burnett or Wang would deal with it though.

  • Zach

    “I could win 20 games and people are still going to think I could save 50.”

    atleast Joba understands the situation

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      The sad thing is how freaking hard it is to convince B-Jobbers that 20 wins is way better than 50 saves.

      They don’t believe it.

      • JP

        Nor would they believe that in some cases the guy pitching the 8th inning with 2 saves and 15 more innings is more valuable than the guy with 50 saves.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          That too.

  • JeffG

    For 5 mil guaranteed I like him as our fifth best guy slotted in the fourth. Last night was obviously a poor showing but look at the guy on the other side who a lot of people here wanted to sign…

  • JP

    At some point, the question will become what to do with Pettitte.

    Do you mean this season, or after?

    As for this season, I don’t know what else there is to do with him other than march him out there every 5th day, right? Are you suggesting that Andy could move to the bullpen, in order to maximize innings from Hughes, since Hughes at present might be an upgrade over Andy?

    After this season, I think it’s clear that the best he’s going to get here or elsehwere is a one year deal for probably alot less than his current deal. Assuming he doesn’t retire, or turn it around and pitch great the rest of the season.

    One last possibility…as for what to do with him, how about considering DL’ing him for 2-3 starts to fix his back, and give Phil some work?

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I’d be down with that, but I don’t know if Andy would. And, unless I’m wrong with how the DL works, Andy kinda has to sign off on his being “injured” before we can DL him.

      • JP

        Which brings up the whole contract issue…someone suggested to me during one of his starts recently where he clearly looked like he was unfit to pitch due to his back, that perhaps there was a bit of “professional courtesy” being extended to Andy, allowing him to pitch hurt, for his financial incentives.

        I didn’t say it, my nephew did, so don’t flame me.

        • jsbrendog

          that possibility was discussed around the time of the back issue, although i think it was mroe from a andy will say he is fine even if he has garbage because of said incntives.

          it is an interesting point and quite possibly a condemnation of incentive deals. lets say smoltz has trouble and is feeling tired/unhealthy, he’s not gonna say shit because he gets paid over 100 gs for every day he is on the active roster

  • Drew

    If AP continues to have one good start followed by 1 bad start, we’ve got to consider his status. We need some consistency. Of course, if Wanger can’t continually improve, I guess we have to live with Andy being okay one day and bad the next.

  • The Scout

    He was signed for the back end of the rotation, and that’s the role he’ll fill unless he’s hurt. The time to worry about the future (next year) is after the season. Next case….

  • radnom

    At some point, the question will become what to do with Pettitte.

    Right now, he is pitching the 4th best out of any starter. If he was pitching worse than Wang and Hughes this will be an issue right now.

    Considering Joba and Hughes are both on innings limits, this won’t be a question for later in the season either – whether or not Wang regains form.

    The question will only pop up in this offseason. And the answer of course is simple – not to resign him. No problem at all though – the Yankees are better off with him in the 2009 rotation.

    • Mattingly’s Love Child

      I agree. With this lineup, the Yankees should be able to score enough runs on the nights that he really doesn’t have it (last night being a very good example of both). They don’t need every pitcher to be an ace to make it to the playoffs.

      All that being said, would I feel comfortable with this version of Andy Pettite as the 4th starter in the playoffs….well not so much.

      • radnom

        Well, lets assume everyone is healthy and Hughes spends a few more weeks in the bullpen. The potential playoff rotation could look like

        1. CC
        2. Burnett
        3. Wang
        4. Hughes/Pettite

        Bullpen – Joba

        Who would get the nod at 4? I can’t imagine they wouldn’t go to Pettite, unless Hughes finishes really strong and Pettite sucks it up moreso than he is doing now. He probably gets the nod solely from experience.

        • Mattingly’s Love Child

          With Pettite as the 4, I don’t feel like that is a rotation destined to go deep into the playoffs. But your estimated rotation is definitely the most likely one.

          I know with the innings issues Joba isn’t an option, which sucks. And I know that due to loyalty the Yanks would lean towards Pettite over Hughes. But a rotation of:


          looks a hell of a lot better to me than the more likely one. I guess that would have to be for 2010!

          I guess it really is vital that the real Wang shows up before too long. Though he doesn’t have postseason success, his past abilities suggest that he should be decent.

          BUT they gotta make the playoffs first. No sense counting the chickens…

    • MattG

      He is pitching worse than Hughes.

      • radnom

        I think Pettite would be far more consistent at eating innings than Hughes, and Hughes would certainly have his fair share of shaky starts. I largely ignore what he is doing out of the bullpen right now, since that isn’t a fair comparison.
        Regardless, this doesn’t affect my point either way you come down on it, as he is still ahead of Wang at this point of the season.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Over the course of the season, yes.

        Over the course of the past 6 weeks or so, no, he’s no pitching worse than Hughes.

  • Bo

    Who else bitches about their 5th starter? We should be lucky to have a 5th starter who is as good and has as much experience as Andy P.

    • radnom

      Who is this and what have you done with Bo?

      • jsbrendog


    • pat

      Right, this is definitely bitching…. He won’t be as good as he was in April, and he won’t be as bad as he was last night. As long as the Yanks keep scoring those runs for him, the team can get by.

      Good job.

    • JP

      Is it bitching to suggest that maybe there’s a guy in the bullpen who would be a better 5th starter than your current 5th starter? I see where you’re coming about Andy, but maybe the Yankees (or Ben Kabak) has a right to complain, when you consider Phil’s half of the equation.

      • radnom

        The only problem here is assuming Pettite is the 5th best starter.

        Wang is until he proves otherwise (which hopefully will be soon).

        • jsbrendog

          im confused as to what you are saying. wang is currently the 5th best starter?

          • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

            I think he’s assuming Hughes is possibly a better option than Pettitte or Wang.

            • radnom

              @js and Matt
              Yeah I guess that was confusing how I put that.
              JP was saying that it wasn’t bitching the consider Hughes as an upgrade over Pettite – I was just reminding him that Pettite is pitching better than Wang right now, so Pettite really is not a candidate to be replaced by Hughes until that changes.

              • JP

                And I went of Bo’s tagging of Pettitte as the #5 starter without stopping to think that at the moment Andy is probably #4, ahead of Wang…

                Hughes is probably an upgrade over Wang, too, but that’s not what Ben’s thread was about…

          • radnom

            In the rotation, right now, yes.

            • jsbrendog

              oooooo ok i get it now, above helped but this puts it all together. yuo meant currently in the rotation not counting anyone but those 5 guys. makes sense.

              now, pettittes start last night was worse than wang’s last 2. obv means nothing, but if wang can steadily continue to improve then it puts pettitte in the replaceable zone if he continues to struggle.

              and by struggle i mean 4 inning 6 run games. seriously, wang NEEDS to return to a 3-5 form of at least 5-6 innings 3-5 runs average per start so hghes can go back down and get his innings because everyday he doesnt the chance of him reachig that limit and having a cap next yr grows….

              and that woud suck ass with him and joba both on limits AGAIN nxt yr

        • JP

          Is it not wonderful to have excess pitching? (I guess that’s one for the ‘don’t bitch’ side…)

          • Bo

            Actually Andy P is our 4th starter.

            Can’t put Wang ahead of him at this point.

            Now you certainly got an argument if you want Hughes over Wang but Andy is fine at the back of the rotation.

            You can’t expect much more from a back end guy.

            • jsbrendog

              bo. this is awesome. concise, well thought out, sensical.

              i agree

              (golf clap)

              i like this bo

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              Well said.

              Private Bo, you are definitely born again hard. Hell , I may even allow you to serve as a rifleman in my beloved Corps.

  • Jake H

    I think Andy has had his moments that are good and that are bad. Just like any 5th starter.

  • e mills

    Joba is a beast. Simple as that.

  • Jeffrey

    I’ve always been a big fan of Pettitte since aside from his time with the Astros he’s a lifelong Yankee. That 5 ERA since May isn’t horrible but its not good either. The thing with him is he usually gives the Yankees a chance to win by keeping them in the game. Most starts he gives the team length by pitching an average of 6IP/GS. I’m not worried about last nights start being his shortest of the year, every pitcher will have a couple disaster starts each season. Pettitte’s biggest problem is that he allows too many base runners evidenced by the overall WHIP of 1.54 and the fact that he averages 4.61 BF/IP. If he can give up less hits the rest of the year he will be in better shape, aside from Wang he is the only other starter on the staff giving up more than a hit/IP.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      The thing with him is he usually gives the Yankees a chance to win by keeping them in the game.

      That’s not true. The Yankees’ bats usually keep them in the game. They’ve scored 24 more runs than their opponents in his starts. That’s why, despite his high ERA, the team is 8-3 in his last 11 starts.

      • JP

        Wonder what the records would be if we swapped Andy’s and Joba’s run support?

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Do I need to start an “Andy Pettitte pitches to the score of the game” meme to go along side the “Bernie Williams was the most feared hitter of his era” meme?

        • jsbrendog

          i think mike pop beat yout o it earlier this morning

  • Slu

    Did anyone read the comments on the linked MLB.com article?

    They are hilarious. The ignorance level is quite high over there.

    • jsbrendog

      i cant. i got to the second page and had to close the window. awful

    • JP

      Which comments? Gossage’s comment that “any player” can become a starter is sort of odd sounding. Goose is a pitcher and I’m definitely not, so I’ll give him his props there, but I don’t know how you look at how difficult it is to get starting pitchers today and conclude that any pitcher can be made a starter.

      Howevaaaaah……I know over here we are familiar with advanced metrics and know that, by the numbers, there is no question that Joba is worth more as a starter than a reliever. I also realize everyone here is tired of arguing with “b-jobbers”, but as a general point, there is nothing stupid or silly in having a debate about whether a pitcher should be a starter or reliever. The MLB.com audience is different; maybe there are people who’ve never thought about the issue.

      I didn’t think it was such a bad article.

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  • miketotheg

    OF COURSE!!! who cares about the win column??

    “It’s easy to conflate pitchers’ win totals”

    I understand you want to prove your point but you have certainly lost perspective.

    Its all about the wins.
    welcome to the new “partisan” yankee blog, ya finally tore down Yankee stadium.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      When assessing a pitcher’s ability to keep his team in the game, wins do not matter. They just don’t because they are largely a function of a team’s ability to score runs there. As I’ve said a few times, the Yanks have outscored their opponents 64-40 over Pettitte’s last 11 starts. If they gave Pettitte the same run support they’ve given Chien-Ming Wang, Andy would probably be closer to 4-7 or 3-8 with a 5.00 ERA over that span. That doesn’t sound too good, does it?

      • miketotheg

        You can spin statistics to any point of view, if you want to get technical, but the only column that matter is wins. There’s no spin in that column.

        I personally think that the team rallys around Pettitte beit becuase he’s a great guy, a veteran Yankee and because he toughs it out in sticky situations. I think it comes down to chemistry.

        Whether its cashman or girardi, Joba’s innings limit hurts the team (albeit protecting the pitcher’s longevity) and keeps him from learning to swim in “shark infested waters”. Add the fact that the bullpen is full of minor league starters and you see a bias towards one pitcher over the others.

        According to baseball-reference dot com Joba has 10 ML wins in the past 3 years. Petite has 36 in that same time frame. This year Joba has 4, Petite has 7. That is how I assess a starting pitcher’s capability. All else is a distraction.

      • miketotheg

        look, i love this site. the fan debate is awesome, but it feels like you guys are walking the party line here and comparing a near rookie to a champion veteran doesn’t feel right.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

          Walking the party line? What are you trying to insinuate?

          • miketotheg

            i think you guys are parroting cashman’s party line and objectivity has gone out the window. i thought we were all fans here, not holier that thou press agents.

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

              Parroting Cashman’s party line? Where do you get off making these claims? We’ve never spoken to or interacted with Brian Cashman before. What exactly are you trying to — but failing — to charge us with here? You really think we’re some sort of stooge for the Yankees? Why?

  • miketotheg

    i have been checking out this site almost daily since i found out about it from mlbtraderumors about a year ago. i feel betrayed. it used to be a fan site. now its just another yankee media outlet where yankee management can do no wrong. you can talk down to me all you want. its become SO easy to bash fans but management can do no wrong.