Debating Andy the All Star starter


Photo credit: Andy King/AP

At 7-1 and sporting a nifty 2.48 ERA through 10 starts, Andy Pettitte is off to the best start of his career. As the Midsummer Classic fast approaches, talk is swirling that Pettitte should get Joe Girardi‘s call as the American League starter. In fact, Times national baseball writer Tyler Kepner made that very argument yesterday.

With the AL aces struggling, who would be a better choice than the 38-year-old lefty? After all, says Kepner, “no one can match Pettitte’s combination of record and ERA,” those two stalwarts of basic pitching stats. So let us ponder the question of Pettitte and the All Star Game.

There is absolutely no denying Pettitte’s value to the Yanks and his great 10 starts. Seven of his ten outings have been quality starts, and although his K/9 IP has dipped to 5.6 from a career norm of 6.6, his BB/9 IP has sunk to 2.5, and he’s allowed fewer than one home run every nine innings. By keeping free runners off base and allowing fewer home runs than he had last year at this point, Pettitte has seen his numbers improve markedly.

He is not, however, the best starter on the Yankees from a value standpoint. That honor belongs to Phil Hughes, tonight’s starter. The 24-year-old, 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA, has Pettitte beat in the three true outcomes categories. He’s striking out 9.1 per nine innings and has allowed 0.6 home runs per nine. His walk rate at 3.0/9 IP is slightly than Andy’s, but he has posted a 1.5 pitching WAR to Pettite’s 1.2. Hughes’ 3.63 xFIP tops Pettitte’s 4.12 mark by no small margin.

Yet, there’s something about Pettitte that makes him the front-runner for the symbolic mid-July start, and I believe that edge reaches to the essence of the All Star Game. Baseball’s showcase is nothing more than a glorified exhibition game/popularity contest (that counts for something but probably shouldn’t), and Pettitte is quite likely making a final pass through the Junior Circuit. In his career, Pettitte has swung from underrated to overrated and back again, but his career numbers are hard to deny. He’s 236-136 with a 3.87 ERA (and an ERA+ of 117). He has five World Series rings to his name, and on the verge of securing his 200th Yankee win, he’s a fan favorite in the Bronx. If anything, he deserves the honor.

Not everyone, though, agrees with that perception of Pettitte. As one of the many Yankees named in the Mitchell Report, he doesn’t carry a clean record, and as Will Carroll noted in his Under the Knife column yesterday at Baseball Prospectus, Pettitte, an admitted hGH user, has escaped much scrutiny and criticism over both his drug use and subsequent comments. We’ve watched people who have done worse, though, outshine the field in the All Star Game and the Home Run Derby over the past 15 years, and if the fans and players want to see the Andy Pettitte Good Bye Tour hit Anaheim for the All Star Game, it should.

As pitchers go this year, Andy Pettitte has thrown up some very impressive counting stats for a 38-year-old lefty who has clearly lost a few miles per hour on the fastball. He’s emerged as a smarter and better pitcher this year, and he’s now leading a very solid pitching staff in wins and ERA. He might not be atop those lists come July, but if Joe Girardi handed him the ball for the All Star Game start, few should complain all that much.

Categories : All Star Game, Pitching


  1. Tom Zig says:

    It’s not that I think pettitte doesn’t deserve it, I just don’t want yankee pitchers anywhere near that game.

  2. ultimate913 says:

    I’d much rather keep Pettitte out of the game. If he stays out, he gets rest, doesn’t have to worry about anything and we wont be hearing “BIASED CHOICE IS BIASED!!!1111one111″ from anyone. Same for Hughes.

    • bexarama says:

      If he continues to pitch the way he has been, if he doesn’t start, I don’t see how anyone can say Pettitte going to the All-Star Game is outrageously biased. He’s been fantastic.

  3. mustang says:

    Its amazing that we are having this debate about Andy after so many people declared is career all but over after the second half of the 2008 season.

  4. Templeton "Brendog" Peck says:

    i don’t want any yankees to play in the game. they need to rest up for the second half splurge

  5. dygg says:

    So, barring any yankee pitchers, who starts the ASG? David Price? Bucholz?

  6. steve s says:

    I’m sure Hughes would love to pitch in ASG (especially in Anaheim being from Southern California). Andy, on the other hand, should rest but adding an ASG selection at his age could only help in a small way to Andy’s late drive for HOF consideration.

  7. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    Hughes vs. Kennedy. The RABbi’s get some redemption.

  8. Riddering says:

    While I’d really like Pettitte to be selected for the ASG I wouldn’t be crazy about him starting over some of the other dominant pitchers in the AL currently. (Of course, last year I was surprised at Halladay starting over Greinke but it is just an exhibition game, even when it counts.)

    The practical side in me definitely sees the value of giving Andy complete rest over the ASB but my sentimental side is as crazy as Bexy over the thought of Andy being named to this year’s game.

  9. yoo-boo says:

    If both continues pitching well and staying healthy then they should be in ALS. 30 pitches a game wont kill you as I am pretty sure Girardi would not select any Yankee starter to be the ALS starter.

    and oh, Pettitte’s fastball has been the same for few years.

    • and oh, Pettitte’s fastball has been the same for few years.

      I — and Pitch f/x — beg to differ. There’s not a huge difference, mph-wise, between 90.2 and 88.6, but it impacts the way Pettitte pitches.

      • yoo-boo says:

        it backs up my words. Since 2007, he has been mixing with cutter and 2 seam FB. As long as you keep mixing with other late breaking fastballs you wont notice any difference on 4 seam FB.

        Yes, he lost some velocity on 4 seam FB comparing to his prime years but he has been the same pitcher for 3 years now. Losing one or 2 mph in that span does not mean it is clearly slow as Mark mentioned.

        • Templeton "Brendog" Peck says:

          and oh, Pettitte’s fastball has been the same for few years.

          these were your words. and they are false.

          • Chris says:

            His fastball has been the same since 2008 (the drop in velocity was between 2007 and 2008). So depending on your definition of ‘a few’ it may or may not be false.

      • Chris says:

        But the 2007 data is spotty – it only contains 10 of his 34 starts (mostly late in the season). His velocity has been pretty stable since 2008.

  10. Non-Yankee category, I’d go with either Lester or Romero.

  11. Jammy Jammers says:

    I thought the posters here scolded people for placing any emphasis on the number of wins a pitcher has?
    I thought only idiots placed value on that stat since it very much depends on run support?

    • Dirty Pena says:

      Do you come here just to be antagonistic? Normally wins are heavily factored into the selection, right or wrong (see: Wakefield, Tim). Since he’s leading the Yankees in ERA and wins, not many of the general population would complain about him starting, as the next sentence says.

    • whozat says:

      Did you stop reading after you saw “at 7-1″ and miss the parts where they talked about K/9, BB/9, HR/9, ERA+, WAR and xFIP?

  12. Cecala says:

    Pettitte actually leads the American League in the Cy Young Predictor. It wasn’t that surprising, the most surprising though is the lack of big name pitchers on that list. It’s also crazy to see Ubaldo only give up 7 earned runs, 7! He has to be the NL starter.


  13. FIPster Doofus says:

    At least the debated veteran starter this year actually deserves to be in the all-star game, unlike last season (Wakefield).

    However, I’d give the start to Lester.

  14. Dirty Pena says:

    Has anyone ever gotten hurt at the all star game? I think people are overly worried about this. It’s not like Girardi is going to leave one of his guys out there for 7 innings. I’d much rather see a game of nothing but Yankees than have a guy sit rather than throwing 100% stress free pitches for an inning or two.

    • Cecala says:

      Pete Rose took out a catcher when it didn’t count.

      • Dirty Pena says:

        Touche. Has anyone got hurt in a situation that could actually happen in 2010?

        • Rick in Boston says:

          The only thing I can think of is when Cito Gaston bruised Moose’s ego in Baltimore. As for ‘real’ injuries…I’m sure someone had to have sprained an ankle.

        • Sweet Dick Willie says:

          In the 1937 ASG, Dizzy Dean took a line drive off his foot that broke his toe.

        • Riddering says:

          In 1887 Old Hoss made pitches that he knew would be scorching line drives at every defensive position playing behind him from opposing teams. Five suffered broken limbs.

          This was, of course, in an unofficial and obscure all star game as it took place before 1933.

      • nsalem says:

        Ray Fosse Pete and him were friends. They ate dinner out the night before. Career ending (for all intents and purposes) injury.

  15. the209 says:

    we don’t share the mound in the 209

  16. nsalem says:

    I don’t believe Andy is retiring so fast. He may very well be an anomaly entering the effectiveness prime (see Warren Spahn age 37-42
    of his career. Talking about leaving (as in his ex best friend or Mr.
    Farve) at the top is much easier than actually doing it. For every Mussina who walks out on his own accord there are many times more who have to be dragged out or retire well past there prime. It’s been a pleasure being able to watch Andy over the better part of the last 15 years and I hope he finds peace in any decision he makes.

  17. bexarama says:

    I just got to this post and I saw myself referenced, I am so proud. *sniff* Anyway, unsurprisingly, I totally agree with what Riddering said. The practical side of me says, let the old guy get some rest. The sentimental side of me says, OMG ANDY AT THE ALL-STAR GAME I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!!! I don’t think he should be starting, though. I’m sure Girardi will talk to Andy and see how he feels.

    Really, though, I think Girardi should take Lester and Price and make them pitch all nine innings. With a bowling ball.

  18. Januz says:

    It is way to early to predict that either Andy or Phil will end up in the all-star game. If you go by the assumption that Cano and Jeter will be selected (Barring injury of course), that leaves those two, Rivera and Teixeira as possibilities (I don’t think Mark should be selected, based on his numbers). If they both keep pitching well, there is an excellent chance they both go (Particularly Phil Hughes, being from Southern California).

    • A.D. says:

      Figure with the voting Jeter & Cano are locks thus far.

      I would guess that Posada (even with the injuries) and A-Rod also have shots.

      • bexarama says:

        A-Rod has a shot, and might get taken as a backup even if he doesn’t make the final voting. Posada does not.

        • poster says:

          I want A-Rod to win…but right now, Longoria is doing kick-ass.

          Still A-Rod, by virtue of being A-Rod, always has a shot.

          • Riddering says:

            A-Rod’s days as starting third baseman are behind him with Longo around. But he should definitely be on the ASG roster this year.

            • poster says:

              I wouldn’t say that. I think he still has some kick-ass years left in him.

              • Riddering says:

                I’m not doubting A-Rod’s ability to produce for the Yankees for many years to come. Simply, when it comes to talent + popularity I think Evan Longoria will continue to beat him in ASG voting.

                (Extra clarification from my first comment: A-Rod’s days as a starting third baseman IN the All Star Game for the American League are behind him.)

                • poster says:

                  I see what you’re saying, but I still think the old man can give Longo a run for his money one of these years-I think he still has the ability to gon an MVP-like surge. But not this year.

                • MikeD says:

                  You may be turn out to be right, but A-Rod is such a dominant player in the public’s mind that he’s going to generate a lot of votes even when he’s mediocre. People want to see him, even those who hate him.

                  Last year he was injured early on, and this year he’s having a good, but not great season, so that opens the door for somoeone like Longoria. Yet even last year, even with the injury, missed time, and slow start, A-Rod’s OPS+ was 147 to Longoria’s 130. It’s not clear that Longoria is the better hitter. So far this year, Longoria is having a better season and should start, but I can certainly see A-Rod starting again in future seasons if he can get off to a quick start.

                  • MikeD says:

                    ..and I should add, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if A-Rod has better stats than Longoria by the time the All-Star game comes around. He’s been cruising and hasn’t even had a hot streak yet. It’s coming.

  19. Daniel says:

    why is it Girardi’s call to hand andy the ball? is joe the allstar coach?

  20. Dick Whitman says:

    James Shields should start this game.

  21. bexarama says:

    I don’t see how you can say no to this face:


  22. MikeD says:

    There are a number of pitchers having solid seasons, although they may not be the traditiona names we’d have expected, such as CC and Beckett. With Girardi the manager, at current course and speed no way he doesn’t select Pettitte, Hughes and Mariano. How he uses them is another story. AJ also is making a strong case.

    Pettitte, Price, Hughes, Marcum, Lester, Buchholz, Niemann, Weaver, Lirano, Garza, etc. also are having good seasons on the starters side. Yet we know the plan of attack in recent years is to go heavy on relievers, who are used to shutting down teams an inning at a time. That means Mariano, Valverde, Feliz, Soriano, Soria and others are going to get as much consideration, if not more, than a number of starters.

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