Pettitte, offense come up empty in loss

Sublett & Fryer power Tampa to win
A brief musing on the starting pitching

Andy Pettitte had a 2008 to forget. He went 14-14 with 4.54 ERA. While he reached 204 innings, he gave up more hits than innings pitched and had his worst season since the Yanks nearly traded him in 1999.

Despite this poor showing, the Yankees wanted to bring Andy Pettitte back for 2009. While Pettitte wouldn’t be making the same $16 million, many thought Pettitte could become the 2009 version of Mike Mussina. In other words, he would be the old pitcher at the end of his career who could use his smarts to reinvent himself and still get outs. The only problem is that what Mike Mussina did in 2008 was not the norm, and so far, Andy Pettitte hasn’t been this year’s version of last year’s Moose.

Yesterday afternoon, Pettitte proved that point. He labored through five innings, giving up five earned runs on 12 hits and a walk. He put runners on base every inning and couldn’t get anyone out with a fastball averaging under 89 miles per hour. In the end, Fernando Nieve shut down the Yankee offense as well, and the team lost 6-2. With a Boston drubbing of Philadelphia, the team fell to three games out of first, clinging to the Wild Card lead but slipping in the East.

To me, it’s that fastball that really drives home the point. Andy Pettitte no longer has a fastball — cutter, four-seamer, two-seamer, whatever it is — that gets Major League hitters out, and yet, he throws it far too often. Yesterday, Pettitte broke 90 on three pitches, all of them in the first. He started the game throwing around 90 and left the game throwing around 88.

Beyond the velocity, though, is the issue of pitch selection. Pettitte just throws too many fastballs. Yesterday, of his 104 pitches, 65 of them were either fastballs or cutters. Even though he threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of 27 batters, it didn’t matter because he was throwing hittable pitches. Meanwhile, when Mike Mussina was at his zenith last year, say on July 23 when he shut out the Twins for eight innings, just 42 of his 105 pitches were fastballs. Mussina was throwing fastballs in breaking ball counts and breaking pitches in fastball counts. Pettitte isn’t keeping anyone off balance.

For Pettitte this was just the continuation of a bad run. Over his last four outings, he has thrown 21 innings, giving up 30 hits and 14 walks while pitching to a 5.57 ERA. He throws too many pitches and sports a WHIP of 2.14. He just isn’t going to win many games.

While we can’t talk about yesterday’s game without slamming the offense for a generally pitiful showing against a pitcher who could locate a 94 mile-per-hour fastball, Pettitte never really gave the Yankees a chance. I don’t know what to do about that. The Yankees could use Phil Hughes and Al Aceves in the rotation, but they can’t put Pettitte in the bullpen. They have a guaranteed contract with him and will keep sending him out there every five days. Can we really expect anything better than what he did against the Mets? Without a new approach, the answer is most likely no.

Sublett & Fryer power Tampa to win
A brief musing on the starting pitching
  • josh

    well said, but what to do about it. this pitching staff is not doing well. cc is good but girardi seems to leave him in just a little bit too long. burnett is a little worse than his normal self. joba is good but young, inconsistent and erratic. pettitte is old and i dont know if he has the breaking pitches to make up for the lost velocity. the yankees are taking a huge gamble in hoping wang can finish rehabing at the major league level. and phil hughes has no real role and it seems right now that this organization is intent on not developing what was at one time the best pitching prospect in baseball. i was so happy last year when joba, hughes, and ipk were considered the teams future and the yanks were gonna let them develop into just that. poor performance and injuries seemed to stunt their development, but even worse than that they changed the organizations commitment. cashman’s non trade two off seasons ago said to us the yankees were going to develop these arms for the future. the organizations actions this year say to us they have no idea what to do. this team needs stability soon.

    • josh

      i understand and applaud the commitment to joba as a starter but this hughes/wang thing is really bad

    • ry

      With the bullpen in such disarray, I am troubled by the fact that Melancon has not been brought back up. Any insights from anyone?

  • John

    Well, he betta get it together soon because…


  • yankees=warriors

    This is not the best time to kid around, but…did anyone else think Nieve looks A LOT like Jose Veras?
    I would even call them twins!

  • Moshe Mandel

    It cannot be Andy’s fault. It must be Jorge’s. Or Eiland’s. Or Girardi’s. Or A-Rod’s.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      It’s all A-Rod’s fault. Isn’t that just the accepted truth by now?

      • Moshe Mandel

        Nope. I was off the blog for 24 hours, and came back to find that the pitching issues were all on Jorge. Never mind that his CERA for his tenure as a Yankees is the same as the team ERA. HE IS TERRIBLE AT CALLING A GAME!!!!

        • Benjamin Kabak

          If Jorge were the one calling for a pitch I refer to as “hittable fastball,” I’d blame him. This one’s definitely on Pettitte.

          • Moshe Mandel

            Apparently Girardi had a talk with Moose last April after he was terrible in a few starts and told him that he just could not pitch the same way he used to any more. Maybe he needs to have a similar talk with Andy. Andy still has sharp breaking stuff, he can be effective if he uses it properly. The team needs to sit down with him and formulate a plan.

            • Mike Axisa

              He needs to pitch like Jamie Moyer.

        • The Artist

          First, nobody claimed the pitching woes were all on Jorge. Your attempt to oversimplify this long standing issue many Yankee pitchers have had with Jorge is pretty weak, along with the rest of your argument.

          Next, CERA is one of the dumbest stats ever invented. It doesn’t normalize for the opposing teams/players or a pitchers history facing them. Jorge’s been the Yankees starting catcher for the past 9 years, of course his CERA will be the same as the staff, since he’s caught the overwhelming majority of the games. Torre also had an explicit rule against ‘personal catchers’ so the work among the backup catchers will be spread out too evenly among the staff to draw any conclusions.

          Mo, do yourself a favor. Shoot one of the Yankee beat reporters an e-mail and ask them if Jorge’s catching is an issue for any of the pitchers. Ask them if Girardi would like Posada to DH more. Maybe then instead of quoting CERA, you might actually know what’s going on.

          • Moshe Mandel

            Hey Steve. You obviously took my post a bit personally, but quite frankly, it was not directed at you. It was directed at the people in previous threads who think that Jorge calls a terrible game and that Cervelli should be the everyday catcher.

            In regard to CERA, I’m sorry you do not like it, but you cant discard it just because it does not fit your argument. Most of the stats we use are not corrected for opponent. In regard to CERA, unless you give me a reason to think that it needs to be adjusted for opponent, that for some reason certain catchers would be catching tougher teams and certain catchers easier teams, I see no reason to discard the stat. is it perfect? obviously not. But it is instructive. The backups catch about 30 games a year. In no individual season were their numbers significantly different than Posada’s, nor over his entire career.

            In regard to emailing a reporter, I will do so. But if this was an issue with more than the three veterans over the years that we have heard about, why hasn’t it been printed? Where are the newspaper stories on this? it would be a pretty large story, and I have heard nothing but vague rumblings that always use the same three examples. I really do not appreciate the “then you might actually know what is going on” bit. I have had this argument a hundred times over the last year, and my opinion is every bit as thought out and based on logic as yours. No reason to be condescending.

            • The Artist

              Gotcha, we obviously crossed up signals here. The mocking tone of your first post is what I was reacting to, and I thought it was directed at my piece from yesterday.

              About Jorge, you won’t find pitchers going on the record about this kind of stuff, unless things are really out of control. Teammates don’t call out each other publicly all that often. Sometimes this stuff is just the usual clubhouse politics, other times it goes further. I’m not totally sure this has crossed that line yet, but it has been discussed a lot lately in various ways by people around the team, and not just Cone.

              BTW-I’ve never been a fan of CERA (or BABIP) so those are two stats you’ll never find me citing to support an argument.

              • Moshe Mandel

                That’s fair. If he was calling fastballs to make himself look good in the running game (the knock on Pudge), that would be a problem to me. I guess my point is that if it was a major issue, something big enough to justify the huge loss in offense making Cervelli the everyday guy would entail, we would have heard about it. With just rumblings, I cant imagine anything to egregious is going on.

  • jim p

    He just never puts away hitters with 2 strikes. If he’s 0-2, 1-2, 2-2, you can bet that the very next pitch will be designed to be outside of the strike zone. Every single time.

    This was even when he had a fastball in previous years. But I can’t imagine a major league hitter who thinks, down in the count, “I’m might have to swing at the next pitch.”

    • John

      Phil Hughes syndrome? (but Phil has improved A LOT on that recently)

    • Dela G

      this is quite annoying. glad i’m not the only one who noticed this…

  • Jobamania

    he’s not gonna fool anyone lobbing 88mph heaters down the pipe.

    theres no way Andy will be effective. At best i see a high 4 era once again. We can do better, sadly we won’t because andy is too selfish to admit somethings wrong and the yankees are too stupid.

    • Moshe Mandel

      “theres no way Andy will be effective.”

      Really? No way? I bet you said that about Moose last April.

      Andy was fine in April, he is just having a bad stretch.

      And how can we do better, exactly?

  • BronxBomber44

    Eiland has to be looked at, this is all way too ridiculous. It’s not one pitcher… it’s everyone. Even freakin’ Mo and CC have had struggles they are unaccustomed to.

  • Ivan

    While Eiland deserve some blame, mainly cuz he’s the pitching coach and some people gotta take some responsibility, I can’t put all this stuff on Eiland.

    Pettitte yes has to make some adjustment to his game but it’s alot easier said than done. Moose had to go thru that hard process and heck in 07 it lost him his job to none other than Phil Hughes. I disagree that the yanks won’t replace him albeit it will take alot. Moose is a HOF pitcher who got replace by a 21 year old rookie Hughes. Pettitte, while has a terrific career wasn’t as good as moose, and potentially can be replace with a soon to be 23 year old Hughes who is much better now. Now the yanks have to have the balls to do so but still, it could happen.

    Nevertheless, this is a tough issue. At the end of the day, Pettitte has to say to myself and say hey my stuff isn’t that great but good enough, but I have to change to correspond to my current stuff. Again it’s not easy. It’s a much tougher transition than people think it really is. HOPEFULLY, Pettitte makes that transition quickly, cuz personally, I wouldn’t mind if the Yanks replace Pettitte with Hughes.

    • Ivan

      Moose didn’t lose his job to Hughes, my bad, but IPK.

  • BigBlueAL

    As bad as the pitching has been there are some red flags all over the lineup now too.

    Cano has been awful lately and as I mentioned a few days ago his OBP is the worst of the 10 regulars (including Gardner) buy at least 15 points. He has to be taken out of the 5th hole soon because the walks and HBP to Arod will just increase. I dont give a shit if Matsui and Cano are both LH and might have to hit back-to-back in the 6th and 7th holes, Posada MUST bat 5th to give Arod some protection. Heck Cano should bat 8th in front of Melky/Gardner with Matsui and Swisher 6th and 7th.

    Melky too has been bad lately but at least to me it seems his at-bats are much better than Cano’s and he has hit some balls hard lately but not for hits, unlike Cano and his quick at-bats and slow grounders and pop-ups to the right side of the infield. Damon also has really been bad lately and he has mentioned that this vision problem has been bothering him for the past couple of weeks so that too could be a lingering problem.

    Im not worried about the offense at all, the pitching is the definite long-term problem, but it would be nice if Cano and Melky can think it was this April again and for Damon to hopefully not have any long-term problems with this vision thing. With the way the pitching is looking this offense is going to have to be firing on all cylinders….

  • JeffG

    Pettitte is obviously not a power pitcher. He relies on location and movement and both have been a little off. When his cutter breaks he’s going to get a lot more ground ball outs. Because he is going through a bad stretch now does not mean that he can be successful later.

    Our pitching in general has been loose lately. In fact, I just think were a little flat as a team. Hopefully the Nationals will really blow and later in the week we start breaking out and getting hot again.

    A-Rod is due and I bet Cano hits 400 for a month(July?). I just think it is a matter off… you have to dealt with that and enjoy when they get hot again.

  • Mac

    Pettitte has alot of incentives – if the Yanks have other options, PR nightmare aside, I wonder if they consider moving/releasing him:

    (from Cotts BB Contracts)

    1 year/$5.5M (2009)
    re-signed by NY Yankees as a free agent 1/26/09
    $4.5M in performance bonuses: $0.5M each for 150, 160, 170 IP; $0.75M each for 180, 190, 200, 210 IP

    $2M in roster bonuses: $0.1M for 120 days on active 25-man roster; $0.2M for 130 days; $0.25M each for 140, 150 days; $0.4M each for 160, 170, 180 days

    Historically, he’s been better in the 2nd half – last year he was awful, but he was supposedly pitching hurt.

    • Ed

      The collective bargaining agreement says teams cannot release players for financial reasons. Glavine is talking that he is going to file a grievance with the Braves over his release (he was due a 7 figure bonus if they activated him from the DL, plus other bonuses based on time on the active roster).

      So, releasing Pettitte would probably lead to a big battle with the Player’s Association.

      • Doug

        but can’t they release players if they just plain suck

  • Ed

    Can we get one of the posts with the Pitch FX graphs comparing Pettitte yesterday to when he was pitching well at the beginning of the season? I’m curious to see what’s changed.

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  • Capital T

    Andy was pitching decently until he had that back problem 2-3 starts ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is actually hurt and trying to pitch through it like last year.

    For those who are in a hurry to get rid of him, lets not forget who are #5 starter was last year (Rasner/Ponson). I’d be more inclined to skip a start or 2 and see if the rest helps him get back to his April/May form.

  • Charlie

    yea, petitte sucks. i always advocated not re-signing him in the offseason, but now we have to pay the price.