Pettitte’s biggest mistake was just that

Fan Confidence Poll: April 19th, 2010
2010 Draft: High School Targets

For seven innings yesterday, Andy Pettitte held the Rangers in check. He used both his curveball and his cutter equally, mixing in the changeup five times. I’m still amazed that Pettitte continues using his fastball as often as he does. He threw 53 four-seamers to go along with 17 two-seamers, and even though he topped out at 90 according to the PitchFX gun the Rangers hitters still couldn’t do much with it.

Pettitte’s only blemishes came in the third inning, when a leadoff single opened an opportunity for the Rangers. As I mentioned in the recap, Elvis Andrus drove in a runner from second on what appeared to be a good pitch. The next batter, Michael Young, followed with an RBI of his own. Yet I couldn’t help notice something peculiar about Young’s at-bat: Pettitte used his fastball exclusively.

By reputation, Young kills fastballs. For a bit of statistical proof, if you look at his pitch type values at FanGraphs, you’ll see that he consistently rates very high. Why, then, would Pettitte deal Young a steady diet of fastballs? After the game he admitted that his mechanics didn’t feel right during the first five innings, so perhaps he stuck with the fastball in order to get everything back into working order. I think, though, that there’s a more likely explanation.

To that point in the series Young was 4 for 8. All four hits were singles, but with the relatively quick Andrus on second a single would have been all the Rangers needed to take the lead. Josh Hamitlon was due up after Young, and he presented a better match-up for many reasons. Not only would that be a lefty-lefty match-up, but Hamilton had also gone hitless since his first at-bat on Friday evening. He didn’t look particularly strong during his at-bat in the first, and I’m sure Pettitte would have much rather faced him than Young.

To that end, here’s the Gameday chart of the at-bat.

Five fastballs, all away. Even on a 3-0 count Pettitte still tried to catch the corner rather than throwing one over. This makes me think the strategy was to just keep the ball away from his wheelhouse, get him to chase if possible, but accept the walk if it comes to that. On the at-bat’s ultimate pitch, it appears Pettitte just missed his spot. The ball caught a bit too much of the plate, and Young did what he could with it.

That pitch was Pettitte’s only real mistake of the afternoon. Maybe the changeup he threw to Matt Treanor three batters earlier didn’t get inside enough, but that was just a single. The double to Andrus looked like a good enough pitch, but went for an RBI double anyway. To Young, though, that last pitch looked like it was supposed to end up a bit more outside, perhaps too far outside. That would have put runners on first and second for the slumping Hamilton. Of course, Hamilton hit the ball well, and would have had an RBI himself had Teixeira not made a leaping stab at a liner destined for right field. I do wonder, though, how differently the at-bat would have gone had Pettitte known that a ground ball would have ended the inning without another run scoring.

This actually makes me appreciate Pettitte’s start that much more. He ran into trouble in the third, and even though he wasn’t feeling 100 percent, he still stuck to his plan. He got a bit unlucky when he missed with a hittable fastball, but he also recovered that luck when Teixeira snagged Hamilton’s liner. This had the potential to be a big inning for the Rangers, but Pettitte limited the damage. A situation like this is one of the many reasons that the Yankees continue bringing him back every year.

Fan Confidence Poll: April 19th, 2010
2010 Draft: High School Targets
  • vin

    I felt the same way watching the AB. It seemed like they were pitching around him, which surprised me when his 3-1 pitch got as much of the plate as it did.

    More than anyone on the staff, Andy seems willing to navigate a lineup. CC, AJ and Javy have the stuff to attack any hitter. Hughes isn’t at the point of his career when he can feel comfortable putting runners on base.

    The way he has been pitching the last year-plus, it wouldn’t surprise me if Pettitte just kept on returning for another 2-3 years. Results-wise, he’s almost as good as he’s ever been.

    • mustang

      Totally agree.

      “Andy seems willing to navigate a lineup.”

      That’s the key he will pitch around guys to get to the batters that he can handle.

    • Rick in Boston

      I think your point about 2-3 years is right on. I really wonder if he’s going to pull a Moose and walk away while he still can, or if he’s going to be like his buddy Rocket and stay just a bit too long.

      In the short term, though, I’m happy to see him keep going like this. If anything, Eiland should use him as an example to Hughes/Joba/etc. as to how to pitch even with diminished stuff.

  • Evan NYC

    I’ve almost come to expect Andy to give you 6 quality innings every time out. That is not only a tribute to his longevity, but a tribute to his ability to “pitch” rather than “throw”. Even when he was feeling far less than 100% with his stuff through the first three innings, he was able to get back on track and deliver another excellent start. He continues to amaze me every time out, but it’s almost expected at this point. Andy is awesome!

    • bexarama

      I have nothing to add to this. Really well-said. :)

      Obviously he’s probably not going to pitch like THIS all year, but it’s great to watch him right now. The guy knows how to pitch.

  • Tank Foster

    It seems like Andy is becoming one of those old lefties that defies age….Jamie Moyer being a great example.

    You could see him pitching effectively for 4-5 more years, even though it looks like this is his last year.

    • Evan NYC

      He is certainly one of those “crafty” lefties. Hopefully we can keep bringing him back on these one-year contracts because they are working out swimmingly.

      • Thomas

        He’s crafty and he’s just my type.

        • king of fruitless hypotheticals


          • Thomas

            What does that mean?

            I thought maybe: That was bullshit
            Google gave me: Third Wave Business Systems
            Urban Dictionary: Taiwanese Brothers (TWBs)
   Traditional Wooden Boat Society
            acronyms.thefreedictionary: The Wendell Baker Story and That Would Be Something

            Please help.

            • Tom Zig

              Thats what Bexy Said.

              • bexarama

                hahaha I was trying to figure that out myself. I even got the Beastie Boys reference! But I didn’t even think of that.

              • Thomas

                Thanks. I’ve seen the acronym here and still never would have guessed it.

                • king of fruitless hypotheticals

                  yup! :)

  • Rose

    By reputation, Young kills fastballs. For a bit of statistical proof, if you look at his pitch type values at FanGraphs, you’ll see that he consistently rates very high. Why, then, would Pettitte deal Young a steady diet of fastballs?

    Well that’s the real question, isn’t it? Why? The how and the who is just scenery for the public. Young, Andrus, Texas, the Rangers. Keeps ’em guessing like some kind of parlor game, prevents ’em from asking the most important question, why? Why was Young thrown fastballs? Who benefited? Who has the power to cover it up? Who?


  • Steve H

    If I’m Andy, I head to the NL and get 300 wins and make the HOF (PED’s aside, since he apologized “correctly” in the minds of the MSM).

    Either that or I hope he can continue to get outs in the AL with his diminished (but obviously still good enough) stuff.

    • bexarama

      nooo he loves us and will stay with us forever/until he retires.


    as much as I would like to herald the Yankees and Pettitte for a well executed series sweep, the Rangers played poorly the entire series. friday night their starting pitcher gave them 6 IP, 3ER, but 5 R total, and Sat and Sun, both starters only combined for 6 IP – that had as much to do with the Rangers pitching and defense as it did with the Yankees offense.

    During the Rangers series, the Yankees pitching and defense played well (still no errors, right?), but the Rangers were pretty awful this weekend. No plate discipline, no pitching/defense to speak of. then again, the Yankees offense isn’t firing on all cylinders yet either, but maybe with those first homers from ARod and Tex, things are getting closer. Cano is looking pretty good, Sunday aside

    • Evan NYC

      Well doesn’t that separate the good teams from the bad ones, those who can capitalize on other teams mistakes? No team out there is going to play perfect baseball day in and day out. But the teams that rise to the top are those who make a Texas Rangers pay for their botched plays and mishandlings. The Yankees did just that this weekend and should be lauded for it.

    • Tom Zig

      What you can give credit to the Yankees for is taking advantage of those mistakes. Not every team is capable of doing so. The Yankees have made mistakes, but have limited them and the damage done.

    • Snakes on the mother effin Temple Of Doom

      /debbie downer’d

  • mryankee

    Great outing by Pettite not an easy lineup to go 8 innings against. I am very impressed by what I have seen thus far. I am sorry but I have to say seeing Lackey get lit up is almost too sweet I do not knowif the Rays are that good or the Sox that bad.

    • Steve H

      Great outing by Pettite not an easy lineup to go 8 innings against. I am very impressed by what I have seen thus far. I am sorry but I have to say seeing Lackey get lit up is almost too sweet I do not knowif the Rays are that good or the Sox that bad.


    • Dirty Pena

      Go Andy Pettitte! Now let’s have a discussion about UFO’s. Real or a government hoax?


      • Thomas

        My favorite thing about Pettitte is that he isn’t an alien. I think aliens are a government hoax. Your thoughts? In conclusion, we should have drafted Dan Bard over IPK.

    • Rick in Boston

      Way to barely stay on topic, mryankee. Your skill for that is amazing.

    • Januz

      I think the Sox are quite possibly that bad. What we have seen from Theo Epstein is a man who actually believes all the praise bestowed on him by the mainstream media, which is he is the “Boy Genius” who can’t do anything wrong (Even after the Yankees won the World Series more people on MLB Tonight picked BOSTON to win the World Series than anyone else, that’s how much they fawn over Boston). Last year it they brought in Smoltz, Baldelli, Victor Martinez etc, and it was considered the BEST offseason ANYONE had, now it is Cameron, Lackey, Beltre etc, and you hear the same thing. The problem with the Sox is easy to spot: There is not one guy in that lineup who scares you to death. Down through the years they had guys like Foxx, Williams, Yaz, Rice, and Manny who you wanted no part of, now perhaps the most feared hitter is Pedroia (Compare Boston’s hitters to the Yankees or Tampa’s lineups). This team has third place written all over it.

      • CS Yankee

        VMart wasn’t an offseason pickup.

        The rest may be true, but the bread is still baking.

        • Tom Zig


          I don’t care what the Mediots say, I refuse to write off the Sox until after the All Star break. Look how the Yankees looked last year, we were 6-6 after 12 games and had just lost 22-4. The Sox will be contenders in the end.

          • Januz

            There is are a couple of big differences between the Yankees of 2009 and Boston of 2010. First, the Yankees knew they were getting Alex Rodriguez back (Adding his bat makes a huge difference (Particularly when you realize you replaced Cody Ransom with A-Rod)). Second, the Sox have to pass TWO superior teams, while the Yankees only had to climb out a deep hole with Boston (No one considered Toronto elite last year).
            Does this mean Boston will end up say 79-83? No it does not, but if they fall 10 games behind the Yankees AND Rays, they just might end up packing it in.

      • Evan NYC

        The season is still very young. Once they get into a rhythm they are a team that could rip off 8-10 wins in a row without a problem. Beckett, Lackey and Lester are too good to fall by the wayside that easily. Pending a devastating injury, they will be the WC winners (Yankees taking the East, obviously).

  • larryf

    Andy stays on in 2014 to be our lefty out of the pen. Retires in 2023 at 50.


  • CS Yankee

    It would be interesting to know what Young has done with outside fastballs…maybe Posada (or someone on staff) thought that as long as you stayed outside that you would be fine. I also recall that Andy usually likes to be lead by his battery mate.

    Pettite has chosen his battles well lately and maybe when he cranks the heater up the results are poor location or movement. Still though with pitching everything works off the fastball, however location>>>movement>>>velocity.

    He has a couple of impressive wins, plus the way he finished last year was incredible. I hope he wins 20 this year, but would be glad with 15, along with a low-mid 4 FIP.

  • SK

    i give credit to girardi and eiland (sp?) for not jumping the gun and letting andy pitch his way out of his funk. Many inferior managers would have started warming up their long men and began to calculate how they could get 6 innings out of their bullpen.

  • Jon in Cyclist-Unfriendly Orlando

    Besides Mo, Andy is the pitcher that gives me the greatest sense of ease when he’s on the mound. I don’t disagree that CC/AJ/JV have better stuff, and produce better results – my feeling on this is slightly irrational.

    Others have noted Andy’s “battling” qualities – I think this gets to the heart of it. He pitches like he has a plan for every hitter, and when he walks a guy I’m inclined to believe he did it on purpose, with some overarching strategy in mind. Men on base don’t seem to faze him. I’m always somewhat surprised when he gives up a run – that’s my level of confidence in the man.