Mar
22

Succeeding Andy Pettitte

By

Andy Pettitte gets some work in during Spring Training. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Since 1994, the New York Yankees have been the cream of baseball’s crop. They reached the playoffs every year except one, won the AL East 11 times, captured seven AL titles and brought home the World Series trophy five times. Yet, throughout the years of success, the Yankees have not done a very good job of developing pitchers internally.

On Gene Michael’s and Bob Watson’s and Brian Cashman‘s various watches, the Yankees’ system has mostly come up barren when it comes to arms. They brought along Mariano Rivera but nearly traded him before realizing what they had. His emergence is generally considered a fortuitous happening, and the Yankees can take some, but not all, credit for him. If George had his druthers, Mariano would have been elsewhere.

Beyond Mo, though, a handful of others made small impacts. Sterling Hitchcock bounced around the league for a bit but wasn’t much more than a below-average left-hander. Ramiro Mendoza, an unsung hero from the late 1990s, served as the team’s long reliever and spot starter with great success. Only Andy Pettitte has turned into something special.

Number 46 was also one of those Yankee pitchers who was nearly traded, but except for three years in the mid-2000s, Pettitte has been a pinstripe stalwart since 1995. Over 12 seasons with the Yanks, he is 192-109 with a 4.02 ERA and a 113 ERA+. In 40 post-season starts, he is 18-9 with a 3.90 ERA, and last year, Andy won the clinching games in the ALDS, ALCS and World Series.

Yet, Pettitte is no longer a young man. The 2010 season will be his age 38 year, and he is clearly feeling the call of retirement. He wants to spend more time with his family, and after spending a few years going through the “will he or won’t he” dance of re-upping with the Yanks, he confidently returned for 2010. Still, this is shaping up to his informal swan song. If Andy Pettitte retires after this year, few will be surprised.

For the Yankees, then, Pettitte’s looming departure underscores the need to find out what the team has in Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. Right now, the only starters the Yanks have under contract for 2011 are A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia. Burnett will be 34, and CC will be pitching in a potential opt-out year. The Yanks could open up the checkbook for a Josh Beckett or Cliff Lee type, but the team can’t spend $80-$100 million on five starting pitchers.

So with Joba and Phil, as much as I don’t like ultimatums, 2010 is the year to see what these two can do. Joba is off of his innings limit but seems to be losing the fifth starter race while Phil Hughes will be entering his second straight season in the majors after some injury-filled developmental years. It is important to remember, too, that Joba will turn 25 later this year and Phil Hughes will turn 24. We demand results now while forgetting their age.

What the Yankees are looking for is an internal low-cost solution, one that can replace Andy Pettitte and maybe another than can replace Javier Vazquez after this year. Can Joba or Phil be pitchers who are 3.5-5.5 wins above replacement? That’s what Pettitte has done for the Yankees over his career, and it’s not a reach to see either or both reaching that range. It is, of course, a matter of patience and a leap of faith for the team to stick with the pitchers, but as the Yanks try to get younger on the field and leaner in the wallet, those who replace Andy Pettitte could be linchpins for years to come.

Categories : Pitching

130 Comments»

  1. mike c says:

    cliff lee + joba/hughes for 2011

  2. steve s says:

    Bleich hasn’t shown us yet that he is up to the task but his motion sort of resembles Pettitte and he is a high enough pick to cut some slack until he finds his stuff. He certainly fits the internal low-cost parameters.

  3. Steve H says:

    While I want them both to have success this year, it is far from a make or break year for either of them. Just for fun, below I will list 5 young stud AL East pitchers, in order from oldest to youngest.

    Clay Buchholz
    David Price
    Wade Davis
    Joba Chamberlin
    Phil Hughes

    It puts things in perspective. The 1st 3 are getting time to develop, and are viewed as the future. Joba and Hughes are viewed in some regards as busts already, and they are the youngest of the 5.

    • bexarama says:

      Thank. You.

      I also remember the panic on another site when Hughes was pitching against Price in an early ST game and I think Joba had pitched the day before; Price was touching 95 or so while Joba and Hughes were getting kind of beat up and apparently this meant that the Yankees had ruined those two FOREVAH. These people aren’t really anywhere to be found now that Hughes and Joba are doing better.

    • It isn’t make or break for their careers, but the Yankees are going to have to make some tough pitching decisions that would be far easier if Hughes and Joba both put it all together this year. No one’s writing either off with bad seasons in 2010, but the economics and the Yanks’ current contract obligations make the next six months fairly important for the pitching staff.

      • Steve H says:

        I completely agree with that, I wasn’t implying that you were writing off their careers. I think if one of them shows enough this year (and really Joba just needs to pitch a little better than last year), that you can be pretty comfortable with both of them in the rotation next year, even if they aren’t in the Cy contention. If Joba regresses, and Phil doesn’t get a chance to pitch 175 innings, the questions, for the Yankees, but not about their careeers, will be huge.

  4. Hughesus Christo says:

    Yet another reason to put Phil Chamberlain in AAA after Joba Hughes secures the 5th starting spot.

    Also, I felt the same way last year, but Pettitte is on the precipice of uselessness, even if he avoids major injury again. His margin of error is way down. He is now on the Moose Plan™.

    • so is he going to learn to pitche like jamie moyer? the 2008 version please, not 2009.

    • Beamish says:

      Absolutely – they are both Starters. The “loser” of the 5th Starter battle goes to AAA. Of course that has to be Joba or else Hughes will simply have to come up and go to the pen due to his Option Clock expiring.

      I would like to Joba stay at AAA as a starter from half the season then come up to take the 5th Starter role while Hughes is forced to the pen by his innings limit. It would also mean no one in the rotation is hurt.

      Also I think spending a few more months in AAA would teach Joba a bit of that humility he seems to be lacking. He is good – but he is not great…yet. I have never been impressed by his 5 cent head behavior but I do love the million dollar arm.

  5. Tom Zig says:

    Can Joba or Phil be pitchers who are 3.5-5.5 wins above replacement?

    I’d be ecstatic if just one can put up a 3.5 WAR this year. That would be a huge step in the right direction.

  6. Jamal G. says:

    I’m a proponent of the Yankees signing Cliff Lee – ~$20M per annual for three starting pitchers on the wrong side of 30 that are signed for at least three more seasons (by 2011)? Considering Javier Vazquez says he wants to sign one-year contracts from here on out, that benefit of a Lee mega-deal does not outweigh the risks in comparison to a short-term Vazquez deal.

    Even if it’s not Vazquez, I hope the Yankees can find an alternate to signing Josh Beckett or Lee.

    • JGS says:

      wouldn’t that make you an opponent of signing Lee?

    • bexarama says:

      I assume you mean not a proponent based on the rest of your comment.

      If Vazquez does well this year, and he really does want a one-year deal, I’d get that done in a hot second. Even if he wants a longer deal than just one year, I don’t think he’ll want as much as Lee or Beckett. Also, I’ll root for the laundry, but don’t make me root for Beckett. Plz, Yankees. ;_;

    • Zack says:

      Arroyo, Bedard, De La Rosa, Duchscherer, Garland, Harden, Harang, Lilly, Huroda, Millwood, Sheets, Westbrook.

      Those are the alternates who will be FA (excluded the Pavanos, Suppans, etc). So really you dont have a lot of options- unless Cashman can pull off another Javy-like trade.

      Ideally, I’d want Javy back, Joba to step up for an entire year, and leave the 5th spot open for Hughes.

    • Drew says:

      Please Cash, offer Javy arbitration. Assuming all goes as planned of course.

      • Agreed. Putting aside for a moment the likelihood of the players accepting (which, as Mondesi rightly repeats, must be a consideration in the calculus), in a vacuum, offering a 34 year old Javy Vazquez (coming off an 11M salary) arbitration is a much safer “worst case scenario” than offering arb to Andy Pettitte, Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, Xavier Nady, etc. over the past few years.

        Jazzy accepting arb and winning his decision still wouldn’t lead to him being grossly overpaid for his market or becoming a roster permutation liability. Whether he accepts or declines, it’s a win-win for us.

      • YankeesJunkie says:

        Javy has a really good shot to be the Yankees second best pitcher this year IMHO. Hopefully, Javy will shut up the fans that don’t know jack about baseball and just remember 2004, that was six years ago and Javy has been a consitent pitcher every since leaving New York. While Lee would be nice to have years 4 and beyond of his contract would probably not be to fun to watch. In a perfect world Joba and Hughes both become starters in 2011, where the winner of this year’s competition starts 30 games and pitches more like a #3 starter rather than #5 starter.

        • Steve H says:

          Javy will shut up the fans that don’t know jack about baseball and just remember the 2nd half of 2004, or even one pitch in 2004.

          A little addition to your spot on comment. I fully expect Javy to be the 2nd best pitcher on the team, unless Joba makes the leap.

      • Tom Zig says:

        That’s the thing, Javy isn’t making a whole lot of money (11.5 million in 2010 via Cot’s). So why not offer him arbitration? Say he accepts what will he get like 13-14 million? That’s not bad either. If he rejects the Yanks get two draft picks.

        • Steve H says:

          Or even this. Javy gets $17 million in arbitration, which of course would mean he just had a lights out year, so of course you’d take him at $17mil for 1 year.

  7. Reggie C. says:

    It’d be nice to have TWO bonafide aces front the staff in CC & Lee, but tied-up money & a slow economic rebound are real considerations. Writing that luxury tax check is probably Hal’s worst day of the year.

  8. Hughesus Christo says:

    I wouldn’t want to sign Lee to a huge deal under any circumstances. The track record isn’t there. 20+ a year? Get the Mitre out of here.

  9. Renny Baseball says:

    Media is getting ridiculously carried away with anointing Phil the 5th SP. “Reporting” is atrocious, instead selective and non-factual, present company excluded.

  10. dkidd says:

    is andy a hall of famer?

    11 seasons of 14 or more wins, 9 of them in the al east
    5 seasons of top 6 cy young voting
    post-season success

    i still say no, but it’s not an obvious answer

    • No. He’s in the Hall of Very Good, but not the HOF.

    • thurdonpaul says:

      I think if Andy pitches 2 or 3 more years at his current production theres a very good chance he makes the hall of fame.

    • bexarama says:

      No way, and this from someone who likes him a lot. The only argument you can really make for him are the counting stats and even then, they’re not that impressive, mostly just because he’s pitched for so long on generally very good teams.

      He’ll get votes but it’ll be like voting for Jack Morris. I just hope he doesn’t get more votes than Mussina and people won’t write dumb articles defending their votes for Andy and non-votes for Moose with stuff like how Pettitte was “just a winner” and Mussina “couldn’t handle pressure” because then I’ll feel obliged to make fun of them, and I’ll feel bad for saying bad things about Andy. :(

      • Mussina should be in. If Glavine is going to get in, Moose had better get in. Moose >> Glavine.

        • bexarama says:

          Yup. Though Glavine’s peak was very, very good. I was surprised at how meh his stats are overall for a guy that’s considered an absolute no-brainer first-ballot Hall of Famer, though. Damn you, magical 300 win total!!!!

          • Snakes on the mother effin plane says:

            Which raises the question, how many more years before some other threshold – 250? – becomes the new 300?

      • dkidd says:

        andy vs moose is the perfect case study for old-school proponents of “clutch”

        • dkidd says:

          mussina: prickly northeasterner who loved crossword puzzles
          andy: gutsy, gritty gamer who loved christ, spoke with a accent, and raised his game when it mattered most

        • bexarama says:

          the silliest argument against Moose being “clutch” was I think 1996 when he had like four chances to get win #20 and couldn’t get it. He did get beat up in three of those starts, but the last one of those starts was a game where he went 8 innings, gave up 1 run, struck out 9, and got a ND. Plus, frankly, that Moose was even that close to 20 in that year was kinda weird, as it was, all things considered, one of his weakest years with the Orioles. 103 ERA+, 4.04 FIP.

          On the other hand, Pettitte went for win #20 in his last start of 2000. He gave up nine runs and walked more guys than he struck out (4 to 2) in 1.1 innings. So… yeah. (I wish sites like this/LoHud existed toward the end of the 2000 season. The panic would have been delicious.)

          • dkidd says:

            i remember gammons saying that mussina’s problem was that “he doesn’t pitch to win, he pitches not-to-lose”

            not sure how that qualifies as a problem, peter. he managed to “not lose” 270 times

          • CS Yankee says:

            A) Moose might of been the best pitcher in MLB for 1-3 years while on the O’s
            B) Pettitte was never the best pitcher in MLB but had complete redemption in the ’96 WS after the MSM pronounced the Braves better than the ’27 Yankees & outpitched the Braves #1 gun in doing so.
            C) Glavine was never the best pitcher on the Braves and often was their #3 guy behind Maddux & Smoltz. Has over 300, but was a Met.

            I’ll take B for the clutchness please.

  11. Thanks for the link, Ben. Always appreciated.

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