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.