Sep
22

Pettitte eases concern over pitching staff

By

The Yankees are not perfect. Despite having the best record in baseball, and despite coming off a stretch of nearly two months in which they played .750 ball, there are concerns with this team heading into the playoffs. Like most of their post-2003 counterparts, these are concerns with pitching. Even with a much-improved rotation the Yankees have issues after their No. 1 man, CC Sabathia. Thankfully, Andy Pettitte helped alleviate some of those concerns last night.

Pettitte was an integral part of the team’s August surge. He pitched 39.2 innings that month, striking out 39 to 12 walks and allowing only 13 runs, 11 earned. The Yankees went 6-0 in his starts. But in September the waters got a bit rougher. Pettitte allowed four runs over six innings, and then three runs over five innings. That last start came on Friday the 11th, and on Tuesday the 15th, just before his next scheduled start, we learned that the Yankees were pushing back his next start due to shoulder fatigue.

The news couldn’t have come at a worse time. A.J. Burnett was riding a string of poor starts, the only saving grace coming in the back half of a doubleheader against the Rays. In the two starts surrounding that he’d allowed 12 runs over 12.1 innings. Concerns abounded for Joba Chamberlain as well. After storming out of the gates in the second half, Joba was looking the worst of his career. Pettitte’s injury meant there were question marks with each of the team’s starters after Sabathia. That’s not a position a playoff team wants to be in.

By pitching well last night, Pettitte started to alleviate those concerns. He had trouble in the first inning, throwing 29 pitches and allowing two runs, but he settled down and worked quickly through the next three frames. Four of his six innings were of the 1-2-3 variety, though he did allow runs in the other two. The Yanks weren’t pushing too hard, as they lifted Pettitte after six innings and 91 pitches. He had shown them that he was healthy.

After the game, Pettitte said he felt good:

“Physically, everything was good,” the lefty said after pitching six solid innings. “Joe (Girardi) pulled me, he didn’t want me to push it. I felt things went well as far as me being healthy.”

Winning is the ultimate goal, but the Yankees got a decent consolation prize. No, Andy Pettitte probably won’t pitch again like he did in August. But he can still be a reliable arm in the playoffs. He’s had a few hiccups this season, but on the whole he’s bee the Yanks second-most reliable starter. They’re going to need him in three weeks, and Yanks fans can rest easy knowing he’ll be ready to answer the call.

Categories : Pitching

93 Comments»

  1. Excellent write up, Joe.

    You acknowledged that not everything is perfect and that there are some concerns, but explained why, when looked at from the big picture, we have reason to be confident.

  2. Ed says:

    Nicely put. Lays out the concerns the team has going forward while putting everything into the proper perspective. No sugar coating, no gloom and doom.

  3. jsbrendog says:

    and to think all those people who said we shouldn’t bring pettitte back were so adamant about it. and he has been the yankees second best starter.

    • Well, yeah, but there was no way of knowing that then. Coming into this season, did you really think Pettitte would pitch this well?

      • Makavelli says:

        The question is…what would we have done if we didn’t re-sign him? Hughes would probably have stayed in the rotation with “Hughes Rules”…and who knows how good he would have been…we’d be in a pretty big predicament…

        Andy’s been far better on the road than at home though…his ERA is nearly 2 full runs higher at home than on the road. Perhaps that whole anti-stadium rant at the beginning of the season stayed in his head…although, he pitched pretty well there in August…

        • His poor pitching in the Stadium early on probably had a lot to do with the fact that he pitched against a lot of really good hitting teams there early on.

          As for the other point, well, it’s hard to tell. I’m sure Hughes would’ve been on a higher limit than Chamberlain this season because of a previous innings high water mark and there always could’ve been some other pitcher brought in to help. Maybe if Pettitte wasn’t back, they’d've (double contraction, ftw) been more aggressive in the trade market or in bringing in someone other than just CC and A.J.

          Next year, and I just wrote almost 1,000 words on it, it’ll be interesting to see what they do with Pettitte. I think we could see another round of hardball negotiations–despite how well Pettitte’s pitched of late–and possibly another FA pitcher brought in on a short term deal (Webb? Sheets?). That’s doubtful, IMO, but I think it would signal the end of Andy’s time in NY. I think, though, he’ll be back next year and they’ll break camp with a rotation of:

          CC/A.J./Andy/Joba/Phranchise

        • Mike Axisa says:

          If they didn’t resign him, they probably would have just gone out to get someone at midseason.

      • Yes. He’s got a 107 ERA+. He’s doing pretty much exactly what I thought he’d do, and his performance this year is exactly what the Yankees thought they were getting when they signed him.

        • Yeah, I think the people who were anti-Pettitte weren’t sure if he could do league-average-or-better this year. I’m pleasantly surprised he was able to.

          • Right, and the people who were pro-Pettitte thought he’d soak up some decent, above-average innings and be a stabilizing presence in the rotation, which he’s been.

            Now, 2010 I’m not so sure about. But of course the people who wanted the Yanks to sign him for 2009 thought he’d pitch this well. Otherwise they wouldn’t have wanted the Yankees to sign him.

            • Makavelli says:

              I have absolutely no problem with another incentive laden contract…and while I understand he’s lived up to the contract this year…I don’t see how at one year older…you scrap the incentive laden deal and offer guaranteed money “just because”. Perhaps just increase the incentives…I’d be ok with it. I wish all contracts were incentive based lol

              • Yeah, I’d rather the Yankees again go too hard than too soft with Pettitte.

              • and while I understand he’s lived up to the contract this year…I don’t see how at one year older…you scrap the incentive laden deal and offer guaranteed money “just because”.

                Because
                A) Pettitte has more leverage to ask for a better deal this winter than he did last winter since he’s coming off an impressive year instead of a down year, and
                B) There’s fewer good pitchers on the market, meaning there is a greater demand for his services. Last winter, Pettitte was, what, the 7th or 8th best FA pitcher, tops? This year, you could make a damn good case that he’s the second most attractive vet behind John Lackey.

                Pundits are already describing this winter’s FA crop (of both pitchers and position players) as one of the weakest in years. That means Pettitte will have more interest.

                Look at the Dodgers and tell me Joe Torre wouldn’t love to put Andy Pettitte in the huge void left by Derek Lowe. Their rotation has been a patchwork all year long.

                • Makavelli says:

                  Yeah that’s very true. This mean Smoltz and Penny get nice NL contracts next year? lol

                • Right. I’m sure the Yankees will start by offering another incentive-laden deal. That deal is in their best interests, there’s no reason to scrap it. But Pettitte will certainly have a say in what kind of deal he signs, and he might have some more leverage this offseason for the reasons TSJC discussed.

                • Eh, perhaps. Smoltz is much older, he may just walk away. Penny’s a more curious case; clearly he still has some ability but he’s so damn inconsistent and a headcase.

                  I’d say the winter starter pecking order goes like this (assuming that Lee, Webb, Hudson, and Garcia have their options picked up as expected):

                  1.) Aroldis Chapman (21)
                  2.) John Lackey (31)
                  3.) Joel Pineiro (31)
                  4.) Jason Marquis (31)
                  5.) Rich Harden (28)
                  6.) Andy Pettitte (38)
                  7.) Randy Wolf (33)
                  8.) Ben Sheets (31)
                  9.) Carl Pavano (34)
                  10.) Brad Penny (32)
                  11.) Erik Bedard (31)
                  12.) Jon Garland (30)
                  13.) Jarrod Washburn (35)
                  14.) Doug Davis (34)
                  15.) Justin Duchscherer (32)
                  16.) John Smoltz (43)
                  17.) Jose Contreras (38)
                  18.) Randy Johnson (46)
                  19.) Mark Prior (28)
                  20.) Jason Schmidt (37)

                • Makavelli says:

                  Remember when Joel Pineiro was a bullpen arm for the Red Sox a few years back? lol…now he’s more valuable than Harden, Sheets, Pettitte, etc.

      • Ed says:

        I did. This season is pretty much in line with his career stats, both the overall totals, and the first half / second half splits. This is roughly what he’s been for most of the past 15 years.

        You could be concerned about his shoulder, but considering the team let him pitch through it for months last year, it couldn’t have been that bad. While the team did want him to take a paycut, their offer still was significant money, so they didn’t seem to be too concerned, which was enough to erase any doubts I had.

  4. Makavelli says:

    Pettitte was an integral part of the team’s August surge. He pitched 39.2 innings that month, striking out 39 to 12 walks and allowing only 13 runs, 11 earned. The Yankees went 6-0 in his starts. But in September the waters got a bit rougher.

    It’s amazing how it seems that once the calendar flips over to the next month…changes start to happen. It’s silly to think the month actually means anything…but it seems that way at times.

  5. Keanu Reeves says:

    This is the laugher of the day. I was reading the latest post at Pinstripe Alley and I came across a bit taken from Red Sox Nation, basically saying that the Sox are in better shape than the Yankees going into the postseason. Here’s a quote that left me a little confused:

    “(The Yankees are not in better shape the Sox.) Not when the Red Sox have enough arms to stock a gun show, and the Yankees bullpen has more holes than a pair of seven-year-old sweat socks”.

    What arms am I missing from Boston? Lester and…? Beckett has been average this year. Papelbone has proved hittable. Wagner isn’t scaring anyone. Delcarmen’s ERA has risen each month. You get my drift. This is just…not true.

    I realize the Yankee pitching has not been perfect, especially the last few weeks, but is the bullpen really the right place to attack? If anything their bullpen has saved the collective asses of the starting rotation.

  6. Andy Pettitte, Career:

    456 starts, 3.90 ERA, 6.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.359 WHIP – Regular Season
    12 starts, 3.93 ERA, 5.7 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.350 WHIP – ALDS
    9 starts, 3.92 ERA, 5.0 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 1.324 WHIP – ALCS
    11 starts, 3.82 ERA, 6.3 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.394 WHIP – WS

    In a word: Cosistency.

    Sincerely,
    Theoretical Joe Morgan

    • Makavelli says:

      That’s pretty incredible. Remember that Game 2 against the Indians in the 2007 ALDS?? Pitched an absolute GEM. He was in line to tie Smoltz for the most wins in post season history then I believe? Then the midges not only ruined that…but ruined our chances of moving on as a whole (well the midges and poor playing).

    • Yeah, Pettitte is almost eerily consistent.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      Yeah, Andy Pettitte being a “great postseason pitcher” is pretty much just a myth. He threw a great, great game against Smoltz in 1996, but otherwise he hasn’t been anything special. Just cosistent.

      • But, the myth of ANY PLAYER being “clutch” or a “great” player in the postseason is almost always a myth.

        What we generally equate with being “great” in the postseason is generally just players who are good-to-great in all situations continuing to be good-to-great at the exact same level of production in the playoffs.

        Virtually no player ever raises his game in the playoffs, in all sports. They just either mantain their level (making them “great”) or play worse (making them “chokers”).

        So, postseason Andy is great because he’s the same great regular season Andy.

        • Makavelli says:

          “Clutch” in the post season is a myth. Everything is situational. In the post season there is a much better chance that you get a nervous pitcher on the mound in which a very good hitter will take advantage of a more common mistake from them. It happens, Tom Gordon was puking his guts out in the bullpen during the 2004 ALCS. Same can happen with batters. Then on top of that you have mere coincidence and circumstance as the major factor…

          • Exactly. I don’t think “clutch” really exists… but “non-clutch” probably does.

            • Can’t clutch exist in the realm of those factors Mak was discussing, though? Like… Can’t a good player, who stays cool under pressure, be clutch, because he’s a good player who stays cool under pressure?

              I agree “clutch” is an annoying and overused concept, but I have trouble conceding that it doesn’t exist. People, in all walks of life, certainly deal with pressure in different ways. Just because we can’t quantify the concept of “clutch” in baseball doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

              • Sure, I guess.

                But then we need to retrain the brains of all of America to stop equating “clutch” with being better, and start equating it with just being as good as you are normally.

                • Eh, I disagree on this one. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to think that certain people are somehow positively affected by pressure – that it possibly excites them in some way or energizes them or makes them concentrate harder and lock-in more – in a way that raises their level of performance. There’s no way to measure something like that, and 99.9% of the time when people talk about clutch players they’re talking out of their asses, but I reject the notion that athletes can’t be “clutch.”

                  There’s an understandable backlash against the concept, but in stating that the concept doesn’t even exist, the backlash has gone too far, in my mind.

                • “It must be done.”

                  Taking the backlash too far must be done? I totally disagree. A perfectly rational argument can be made explaining why most references to “clutch” are ridiculous. Going so far as to deny the existence of the concept only works to cheapen the anti-”clutch” argument. Being disingenuous and knowingly taking an argument too far only gives your opponents opportunities to poke holes in your (unnecessarily specious) argument, which doesn’t help you persuade anyone and only further obscures the truth.

                • Makavelli says:

                  I agree here. The word “clutch” exists…although it may be a misconception to those who flaunt it around with their favorite players. If that player can stay calm in pressure building situations where others can’t. One could look at that as “playing to normal abilities”…you’re still able to play to your normal abilities in situations where most people can’t…making you “better” perhaps. There’s just really no way in determining these situations…you can’t automatically assume that a pitcher is actually nervous or not…but you can sure speculate.

                • I was responding to Tommie’s comment. I think there needs to be a re-definition of “clutch.” The anti-clutch backlash doesn’t need to be serious, there just needs to be a re-examination of what clutch really is. I tend to agree more with what Tommie put forth in that clutch is maintaining level of performance rather than “rising” above what one normally does.

                  To re-define clutch, stats like WPA, leverage, etc., need to start replacing the other current “clutch” stats.

                • But Matt… Why can’t an athlete raise his level of performance in a high-pressure situation? I just don’t understand why we have to stipulate that something like that just isn’t possible. We know for a fact that certain people get significant adrenaline rushes when they’re under pressure. We know that some people concentrate to different degrees depending on the pressure they’re under. So why can’t we accept that it’s possible that an athlete can not only stay calm under pressure and perform to their normal levels, but can actually raise their level of performance?

                  We tend to think that all professional athletes are motivated by the same things and all try hard and all that. But they’re people, too. There’s a human aspect to all of this. We can’t get so annoyed with the MSM and certain fans that we completely discount the human aspect of the game. Was Jack Morris “clutch?” Fuck no. But we don’t have to act like an aspect of human nature doesn’t exist just because a lot of people tend to be pretty dumb in their assessment/over-celebration of that aspect.

                • Yeah, you’re absolutely right.

                • pete says:

                  if a player could raise his playing ability, he would do it always, not just in tight situations. If a hitter could hit .400/.500/.600 all the time, he would.

                • pete – It’s not necessarily a conscious decision. Everyone seems to agree that pressure can negatively affect an athlete, all I’m saying is that it can also have the opposite effect. Maybe someone, unbeknownst to them, gets an adrenaline rush when they’re in high-pressure situations. Maybe that person performs better in those situations than he does in mid and low pressure situations. There’s absolutely no reason why that’s not possible. I’m not talking about conscious effort, I’m talking about the effects of external stimuli (in this case, pressure).

        • Virtually no player ever raises his game in the playoffs, in all sports. They just either mantain their level (making them “great”) or play worse (making them “chokers”).

          Jack Morris and Alex Rodriguez beg to differ.

          /MSM’d

        • Ed says:

          Virtually no player ever raises his game in the playoffs, in all sports. They just either mantain their level (making them “great”) or play worse (making them “chokers”).

          I mostly agree, but, I think there’s one big thing you’re missing. I think athletes perception of risk vs reward changes in the postseason. Most guys never get to win it all, so it does mean more to them.

          I think players are a lot more likely to risk injury to make a play in the postseason than they are in the regular season. It probably has the least effect on hitting, but fielders are probably more likely to make diving plays and pitchers are more likely to throw max effort.

      • Makavelli says:

        3.96 ERA in 219.1 innings in the post season is definitely something I’d take any day of the week…but when you compare him to some of the post season “Greats” like John Smoltz…he comes up short every way.

        But this may be due to sentimental reasons…but I’d take him as my #2 over quite a lot of pitchers…except ironically this year…AJ should be #2…

      • Chris says:

        One game leading to a reputation as a big game pitcher is one thing. One game leading to a Hall of Fame candidacy (like Jack Morris) is completely different.

      • Ed says:

        Eh, I’m going to disagree. When you get to the World Series level, I think he’s had a bunch of great games, but there were a few really bad clunkers that bring his stats right back to his career norms.

        Pettitte in the World Series, minus the Arizona game where he was tipping his pitches:

        3.12 ERA, 1.27 WHIP

        Obviously the game still counts, but if he’s tipping his pitches badly enough that the announcers are calling it, it’s not really a representative game.

        I’d also like to point out the 2003 World Series – you can’t ask for anything more than he did there.

        • whozat says:

          But that’s the thing…That’s Andy. He’s ALWAYS been capable of throwing a great game from time to time, and throwing a clunker from time to time. Sometimes everything’s working, you get a friendly ump, and you’re rolling. Sometimes you can’t get anything down, and it’s wallball til they pull you. Sometimes you get grounder after grounder and they all sneak through or die 15 feet from home plate and there’s nothing you can do.

          • Ed says:

            Right, but if you look at his individual World Series games, it’s far more pronounced than in the regular season.

            He doesn’t throw a great game “from time to time” in the World Series, he does about half the time. A quarter of the time he pitches to his career norms, and a quarter of the time he’s horrible.

        • Tom Zig says:

          Were the announcers really able to predict his pitches?

          (I don’t really remember and was in my sophomore year of HS)

          • Ed says:

            Rick Sutcliffe was announcing the international feed and was predicting what Pettitte’s pitches would be.

            link

            Thanks to Ben for linking to that article recently.

  7. [...] Andy Pettitte finished the sixth inning on Monday, there was a sense of relief. He was going on nine days’ rest in an attempt to rest his fatigued shoulder, something that [...]

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