The difference between Pettitte and Mitre

Mailbag: From Double-A to MLB
Food For Thought: Robbie Cano

Which one looks better to you?

CC Sabathia CC Sabathia
Phil Hughes Phil Hughes
Andy Pettitte A.J. Burnett
A.J. Burnett Ivan Nova
Ivan Nova Sergio Mitre

There is no questioning that the one on the left is the preferable option. The only unknown is of how big a difference exists between Pettitte and Mitre. An initial reaction might have the difference pegged at a few wins, but I’m not sure it’s that wide a gap. In fact, given each pitcher’s limitations I think we’re talking about a single win, maybe even less.

The assumptions

As Mike did yesterday, I won’t count on Pettitte for a full season’s worth of starts. In the same way, I won’t count on Mitre for that, either, since the last time he started more than 10 games was in 2007. I also assumed 6.1 IP per start for Pettitte and 5.2 per start for Mitre. That leaves Pettitte with 126.2 IP and Mitre with 113.1. That’s just 13.1 additional bullpen innings, which we’ll have to factor in somehow.

The tougher part of this exercise is projecting ERAs. Bill James forecasts Pettitte at 3.86 and Mitre at 4.57, but I think both of those are a bit aggressive. But let’s keep them in the bank, just in case. As a rough estimate of ERA, I’d peg Pettitte at 4.00 and Mitre at his career ERA, 5.27. Let’s see how the differences work out.

The results

If we go with the James projections, Pettitte works out to 54 earned runs, or 2.7 ER/GS. Mitre works out to 58 ER, or 2.9 ER/GS. In 20 starts that amounts to a whopping four runs. Even if we go with the more conservative 4.00 and 5.27 estimates, we get Pettitte at 56 ER, or 2.8 ER/GS, and Mitre at 66 ER, or 3.3 ER/GS. That’s a 10-run difference — or roughly a single win. Now that we’ve put it in the simplest possible terms, it doesn’t seem like that big a difference, does it? We can adjust up or down, but I don’t think you’ll get an exceedingly different answer unless you think Mitre will produce something like a 7 ERA. I don’t think that particularly likely.

The bullpen

Where we actually get the biggest difference is with the bullpen. Those are just 13.1 innings, but they’re 13.1 innings that are already accounted for with Pettitte. This obviously can fluctuate wildly. If we have those innings filled by 2010 Chan Ho Park, that’s another 8 ER. If they’re thrown by David Robertson it’s 6 ER; with Boone Logan it’s 4 ER; with Mo it’s 3. I’d say 5 ER is a decent compromise.

That brings our difference between Mitre and Pettitte — accounting for earned runs and innings pitched — to somewhere between 9 and 15 ER over 20 starts, or between .45 and .75 runs per start. That’s going to cost the Yankees a couple of those 20 games. But the key term is a couple. It’s hard to argue that the difference would amount to much more than that.

Bringing back Petitte will clearly make the Yankees rotation better. There is no reliable measure that can say otherwise. But given both Pettitte’s and Mitre’s limitations, the difference might not be as great as we imagine. In the AL East two wins will matter plenty. But the difference between Pettitte and Mitre is not the difference between a .500 team and a 92-win team. Unfortunately, the small difference that does exist could play a large role in determining the 2011 postseason.

Mailbag: From Double-A to MLB
Food For Thought: Robbie Cano
  • LawStudent

    Assuming the post-season was made, the bigger concern with the mitre rotation is not having Andy in short series where you dont have the luxury of the big picture. Andy vs mitre over 162 games might just be 2 wins, but andy over mitre in a 5 or 7 game series is a huge impact.

    • Steve H

      This is a good point. The good thing is that Cashman has time to fix that aspect of it. He doesn’t need to replace Mitre by April 1st. He’ll likely have more opportunity to do it by July 31st, so that if they get to that 5 or 7 game series, we’re not running the Meat-tray out there.

      • mike darragh

        is mitre the starter i think they will have a competition for the last 2 starts have one of the new guys start over him with more upside mitre stinks

  • Jake LaMotta’s Left Hook

    The first one with Pettitte of course…

    unfortunately, Tex doesn’t think he will be back.

    • Thomas

      But what does Lance Berkman think?

      • Jake LaMotta’s Left Hook

        Tex and Pettitte have been texting each other.

        • Plank

          Pettitte to Tex: OMG, I’m toats gonna retire!!! lol ;)

          • Bulldozer

            Are they Farve-ing?

            • Jerome S.


            • bexarama


  • Yank the Frank

    After CC we are facing the abyss in our starting rotation. Hughes might be a #3, Andy at best would be a 4 or 5 starter. AJ is AJ. This was just not a good off season to pick up quality SP. Thinking that Mitre and Nova would be in the rotation for the long haul is nauseating.

    • mike darragh

      its back those yankees when giambi was here

  • Soam

    I’m a big fan of sabermetrics but when you start saying things like there is only a 1-2 win difference between Andy Pettitte and Sergio Mitre over 162 games, that’s when you go too far. I know the stats, I know the science behind it, I’m just still not buying it.

    • Jamal G.

      Look at the seasons Pettitte and Burnett had last year. Because of the quantity of Burnett’s production, the advantage Pettitte had in terms of quality was just a win.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      I knew I’d get this. There is nothing advanced about this analysis. It is based on runs allowed. I just showed that even if Mitre has a 5.27 ERA and Pettitte has a 4.00 ERA, that there won’t be that big a difference. It’s not advanced math. It’s figuring out how many runs they allow based on those ERAs. And the difference isn’t very large. I don’t see how you’re not buying it — there’s nothing to buy.

      Also, I made it clear that it’s not over 162 games. Please read the context in which I framed this article.

      • Rams Bladder Cup

        I can’t disagree with the numbers, but my mind also, doesn’t want to agree with the conclusion. I guess what I think of is how many of the 20 starts would result in a Yankee win if Pettitte starts? If Mitre starts? Because of my non-analytical brain I see it as something like AP 14-6(team W/L) and Mitre 8-12. Obviously numbers are going to right more than my brain, but that doesn’t mean it won’t still feel wrong to me.

        Another thing I like and don’t like about per-game averages. If you take Yankees run scored per game averages vs. Mitre + Bullpen runs allowed per game averages then the Yankees go either 20-0 or 0-20 in his starts, based on the numbers.

        • Plank

          You just laid out a pretty good case for not using pitcher wins as a way to determine pitchers’ value.

          • Twains Yankee

            Even simpler approach. Pettite will likely not match the bWAR (3.1) of 2010. He was 1.8 or 1.7 the previous two years. Can Mitre be worse than AJ last year (-0.1 bWAR)? I would suspect him at about replacement (his worse year was -1.5). So yep, a couple of wins sounds about right. This makes me feel better. I suspect AJ will bounce back enough to pick that up and Phil should progress to an additional win.

    • hogsmog

      What is the use of science and statistics if you don’t allow them to lead you to conclusions that aren’t immediately apparent, or even crazy sounding? If you put your trust in the numbers for some aspects of baseball, what right do you have to disregard the ones that surprise you? This is like saying you believe mathematics to be true, but not the derivations proving planes can fly.

    • mike darragh

      i dont look at wins with this stuff look at eras petitte was one of the best pitchers before he got hurt thats what hurt the yankees last year

  • Plank

    The other thing to consider is that if the Yanks go into the season with Mitre, they will almost certainly pick up a top starter at the trade deadline because they can assume a big contract when other teams can’t.

    The team that starts the season is not the same one that plays in September.

  • JCK

    Unfortunately, the small difference that does exist could play a large role in determining the 2011 postseason.

    That’s a key. A health Pettitte in the post-season > Mitre (or AJ). Still, that’s the post-season, and there’s 162 other games to figure out who starts those games.

  • Plank

    I agree with your sentiment, but applying runs, ERA, and IP to determine team wins is certainly a sabermetric way of looking at the numbers.

    • Plank

      Oops, that was a reply to Joe P’s reply to Soam’s post.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      It’s really just using logic. I used runs, ERA, and IP to determine how many more runs per game Mitre would allow then Pettitte. The rest you can determine for yourself.

      • Soam

        I also don’t see why you’d assume only 126 innings out of Pettitte. He had 215 in 2006, 204 in 2008 and 194 in 2009. So the whole foundation of your logic is pretty flawed to assume we’d get so few innings out of a guy who is generally a horse.

        • Plank

          He’s basically repeating Pettitte’s innings total from last year. It’s conservative, but not overwhelmingly so considering he’ll be 39 next year. If he pitches more than that, then the gap between Pettitte and Mitre is going to get bigger of course.

          • Ted Nelson

            Mitre (or whoever replaces Pettitte…) might pitch more innings than 113 as well.

            Plus the money Pettitte would get might allow the Yankees to add a Soriano type reliever to close the gap further.

            So, Pettitte’s innings aren’t the only thing that can impact the gap.

            • mike darragh

              if yankees get soriano if they have the lead in the 8th inning it probally be a an automatic win and they should go after soria from the royals so the bullpen would have a role before the season starts

              • Ted Nelson

                You want Soriano and Soria?

        • whozat

          He’s 39, pitched 120 innings last year, and was not really healthy at the end of the season even with extended time off between starts.

          I don’t see how his innings total from 5 years ago is useful here. He was a horse in 2008, he got a liiiittle hurt in 2009, and then was plagued by injuries last season. Explain to me why a bounceback is more likely than continued injury issues for a 39 year old man.

          • Steve H

            And he might* be behind on his offseason workouts.

            *Though this was reported as FACT by Buster.

      • Jerome S.

        Or maybe it’s proof that sabermetrics is actually an arbitrary term applied to anything in baseball that requires more than one step of math?

      • OldYanksFan

        See if this makes any common sense.
        We play 20 games, and in each game the pitcher gives up 4 runs.
        In a parallel universe, the exact same games are played, but in 10 of those games the pitcher gives up 5 runs and in the other 10 games the pitcher gives up 6 runs. Is it probably that in this universe (giving up 4 runs) that we Win more then 2 more games then the 20 played in the parallel universe?

        It’s like with a closer. A 1 run difference is HUGE in terms of actual games being won or lost.

        It might be dumb, but my gut says over a season, Pettitte starting games as opposed to Mitre, is a 4-5 team Win difference.
        (of course, what does my gut know about baseball?)

        • Joe Pawlikowski

          Actually, if we’re talking 32 starts, the different probably is around 3-4 wins, and with a bit of luck it could be five. But I’m talking about the difference using 20 starts, which is why it might seem conservative.

  • BigLou

    As far as I’m concerned Mitre stinks…he doesn’t brlong on the Yankees he never belonged on the Yankees he has never done anything godd but play for Joe Girardi in Florida….put some kid in at least you start with a clean page…Petitte will do what he wants when he wants so be it!

  • Reggie C.

    I simply can’t realistically hope that Mitre could pitch well enough to STAY in the rotation should the man start the season in the rotation.

    Honestly, Joe P., when you say the difference bw Pettitte and Mitre is small, i think you’re assuming mitre lasts as a starter. Bad assumption.

    • Steve H

      The other side of that coin is that Cashman will be able to do more to replace Mitre in July than he can now. So the difference between Pettitte and Mitre might only be a win or 2 over 162 games, but Cashman will have a better opportunity to keep that to 100 games and make a move, a move that he can’t make now.

      • whozat

        I assumed that’s why we went with 20 starts….obviously, he won’t start for longer than that, if he’s pitching to a 5.5 ERA.

        • Steve H

          I assumed injury, but either way it would likely shake out.

  • PJ

    The problem is that the innings Pettitte leaves the starting rotation to take care of when he’s injured would get filled up by Mitre. The innings Mitre leaves if Pettitte doesn’t resign are left to [insert scarier-than-Mitre-option-here]. So while Pettitte may only make 20 starts, the remaining 14 starts would likely have been mostly Mitre’s. But without Pettitte, Mitre has 20 starts and those other 14 starts get worse too.

    • mustang

      I was thinking the same thing and how about if anyone else needs a day off here or there?

    • Ted Nelson

      Not necessarily. The Yankees have a few pitchers in the high minors who may be better options than Mitre by some point mid-season. Mitre might get the first crack since he’s a veteran, but if he falters the Yankees have some potential options. That will be as true if Pettitte is starting the season as Mitre. Noesi, Phelps, or Brackman might even beat out Mitre in spring training.

      Plus, the Yankees could theoretically use the Pettitte money on Rafael Soriano and get 60-75 innings that are a lot better than Mitre.

  • Michael Mirabella

    Look at it this way, if Pettitte does retire and Mitre is the number 5 pitcher, then maybe the one of the kids can take over if Sergio gets injured.

  • Kiersten

    I don’t think the issue is the Yankees getting to the postseason. If everyone stays relatively healthy, I don’t think they’ll have a problem. But it comes down to Nova starting in the playoffs instead of Pettitte and I don’t care what numbers say… eesh.

    • Plank

      In hindsight, would you (everyone) rather have the current lineup and rotation or Ajax, Kennedy, and Coke minus Granderson? If we had Kennedy, our rotation issues would be much less pronounced.

      • bexarama

        Not really in the AL East. He had a nice season but his FIP isn’t anything to write home about. I’d have more confidence in him than Nova but not very much.

        • FIPster Doofus

          Exactly. Kennedy would get destroyed in the AL East.

          • Mike_Ro

            Totally. IPK’s FIP and especially his BABIP show how lucky he was in the NL last year. Translate that back to the AL and the AL Eeast and his stuggling with an ERA north of 5.50. We don’t need him.

  • bg90027

    If Burnett rebounds, Hughes continues to improve, and Nova is decent, then Mitre is probably perfectly acceptable as a fifth starter. It’s the adding one more question mark in the rotation when there are already a couple of question marks that is the real problem.

    Related to that, Pettitte when healthy is very reliable and Mitre is not. If they get a lot of short starts from Burnett, Nova and Mitre, the bullpen will get overtaxed and not be as effective in general. Pettitte’s ability to consistently give them 6 innings is a big difference that you probably haven’t factored in. I’m not sure how you really do that but it to me is an issue. Just analyzing the two in isolation understates the impact in my opinion.

  • Pinky

    Joe- Lottery numbers please, now that we can project everything.

    • Plank

      He’s offering one realistic scenario. He’s not saying it’s a foregone conclusion.

      If you disagree with how he reached his conclusion, bring it up and say how you would modify what he did.

    • Steve H

      The lottery is random, this post is not based on randomness.

      • Tom Swift

        Right. This sort of analysis is akin to the mathematical analysis that shows that buying a lottery ticket is a bad investment because the expected gain (on a probabilistic basis) is less than the cost of the ticket. You can quarrel with the particulars, but attacking the very idea of a mathematical analysis like this is being a Luddite. IMHO.

    • The Fallen Phoenix

      Projections are reasonable expectations for what might happen given all the data that is available. This is a lot different than, say, lottery predictions – or predictions in general – which rely simply on unreasoned guesswork.

      I mean, come on.

  • vin

    I think the problem is that we shouldn’t really be comparing Pettitte to Mitre (plus the bullpen ramifications).

    The bigger issue is rotation depth. In scenario 1, if Andy only does throw 126 innings, Mitre would presumably be there to fill in the missing innings. In scenario 2, there’s a cavalcade of lesser options to pick up Mitre’s slack.

    Quality rotation depth is the key. I expect Cashman to make a move, but if he doesn’t, then they really are rolling the dice going into the year.

    • Ted Nelson

      “In scenario 2, there’s a cavalcade of lesser options to pick up Mitre’s slack.”

      They’re not necessarily lesser options, just younger options. Mitre is not good, so if any of Noesi, Phelps, and/or Brackman is/are going to be legitimate ML starters they could easily be better than him soon or already. If Pettitte does come back and does go down for a stretch (or if anyone else in the rotation needs replacing) Mitre might get the first crack, but Noesi, Phelps, and Brackman could also be options.

      “I expect Cashman to make a move, but if he doesn’t, then they really are rolling the dice going into the year.”

      Going into the season is the key. He might find a quality veteran being given away mid-season, if he needs one. A prospect may emerge. I’m more worried about the season as a whole than the start.

  • Yazman

    What do you think about the 1/2 year option for Andy?

    Would he come back Jun – Oct?

    Joe’s post is insightful, but October is when the Pettitte/Mitre delta is likely greatest.

    • Plank

      Mitre wouldn’t be pitching under any realistic scenario in October.

    • bexarama

      I would love this but honestly, if Pettitte retires, we don’t know why. It might be because his body’s beat up, in which case the half-year thing isn’t a bad idea provided he stays on his workout schedule or what have you. It might be because he wants to spend time with his kids, in which case he wouldn’t accept that.

  • mustang

    ” Mitre at his career ERA, 5.27. ”

    Mostly in the NL put him in the AL East and it’s at least 6 era and I’m being nice.

    • mustang

      “Bill James forecasts…. Mitre at 4.57”

      Not even in Mitre’s dreams.

    • mustang

      In 5 years in the NL Mitre had an ERA of 5.36 and we are expecting him to pitch to July in the AL east to a better ERA?

      What’s wrong with this picture?

      • Ted Nelson

        He has actually pitched in the great AL East for two seasons now. His ERA across 105.2 innings is 5.05.

  • Jimmy McNulty

    Yeah I can see Mitre easily throwing up a six-ish ERA this year.

    • Plank

      If he did, it would be in 30 IP or so before he gets released or sent to the pen.

  • Paul Felici

    How can anyone say that the difference between Andy and Mitre is only 1 or 2 wins? Mitre only pitches in blowouts and anytime he pitched in a close game he lost it. He is the worst pitcher in baseball and obviously has something on Cashman Joe G or Hal or Hank or he would be back in A ball where he belongs. I saw him pitch for Scranton and it was like watching batting practice. The team would have to score ten or more runs a game for this clown to win. Andy may or may not come back but please do not insult peoples intellegence by saying Mitre is a viable option. Maybe for the Pirates and I doubt they would want him

    • LawStudent

      Worst pitcher? Not even close.

    • Poopy Pants

      Here at RAB, we all know that only pitchers the Yanks trade away are ‘the worst pitcher in baseball’. Ex: Phil Coke is the worst pitcher in baseball no matter what.

  • mustang

    “That leaves Pettitte with 126.2 IP and Mitre with 113.1. ”

    Mitre pitched over a 100 innings just once in his career again mostly in the NL so your asking a mostly career NL pitcher that has average about 60 IP a year in his career to add 53 more IP while he hold a 5.27 era in the AL East.

    That’s a bit much.

    • mustang
      • Plank

        What you are saying is true. Mitre could be that bad. The thing is though, that he is being projected as basically replacement level. If he is worse than that for the first month or so, the Yankees will replace him with another pitcher who will be replacement level. If they stink too, they will be replaced and so on.

        In this scenario, Mitre is a placeholder for replacement level out of the 5th slot.

        • mustang

          I understand, but my problem is with the projections. With Andy the projection is more solid based on his body of work, but with Mitre Joe’s just filling in the blanks to make the comparison closer. There is a reason why Mitre average 60 IP a year for his career throwing another 53 innings and saying that his results will be about the same is a bit much.

          • Ted Nelson

            The point is forget about Mitre. He’s not written in stone as Pettitte’s replacement. The idea is that over the course of the season Pettitte would be replaced by replacement level pitching. The actual name is fairly irrelevant. Could be Mitre, but could just as easily be Nova (if a proven starter is acquired), Phelps, Noesi, Brackman, Prior, Mitchell, Betances, Chamberlain, or some name outside the org we aren’t even considering right now.

  • nsalem

    I don’t agree with the assumption that Andy should be penciled in for 20 starts. In the 5 years prior to 2010 Andy averaged 33.4 starts during the regular season plus he had 12 post season starts over that period. I don’t know where that ranks him with the rest of mlb starting pitchers, but I think it is safe to say he is somewhere near the top. His injury last year was to his groin and it took him much longer than thought for him to recover. The scenario of longer than predicted recovery periods from pulled muscles often occurs with athletes much younger and no one gives it a second thought. I believe it maybe just as probable that Andy can return with the health he enjoyed from 2005-2009. Great and healthy years have been put up by 39 year olds in the past. In all probability Andy is in better physical condition than most of his predecessors who have done so.

  • miketotheg

    This excercise in statistical studies is an excellent example of “not seeing the forest for the trees” let’s play another ridiculous game, project oliver perez as our 5th starter. Or mabe mo should be in the rotation. His projections should be ridiculous. We’ll just stretch him out in spring training.

    The numbers can’t be wrong can they?

    • mustang

      A little strong for my taste , but agree.

    • whozat

      Keep beating up those strawmen!

      Oliver Perez hasn’t been even replacement level in the big leagues for years and has lost all semblance of velocity and command. No one in his right mind thinks that Rivera could actually throw six straight innings every five days for even two weeks at this point in his career. In these ways, they are totally different than Sergio Mitre.

      • miketotheg

        So u r saying those suggestions are preposterous? Like mitre being an acceptable replacement for Andy Petite?

        I agree.

    • Mike HC

      It is just one guys prediction. And he gave you Bill James projected ERA for both of them as well, acknowledging that there is a lot of subjectivity in his analysis. I get why it got under your skin, because it seemingly knocks Pettitte down a notch, but in reality, Pettitte’s main value to the Yanks has always been in the playoffs anyway, where Joe acknowledges the difference would be more pronounced.

  • Mike HC

    We have seen the Yanks mash their way to the playoffs with a crappy rotation many times in the past. Like you said at the end, it is the playoffs where the difference might be insurmountable. Not to mention I love watching Pettitte pitch every fifth and Mitre will simply not be as entertaining.

  • Jerry In Queens

    Why are we assuming Mitre as the #5? wouldn’t it be better to assume whoever is the best of Phelps, Noesi, Brackman etc.?

    Or are we just using Sergio because it would be impossible to predict the performances of the minor league prospects?

  • Diego

    I’ll just throw some arguments for why I disagree with the methodology of this analysis. If we consider only Mitre’s career as a starter for the Yankees (granted, not a big sample), we have:

    Games: 12
    IP: 57.2
    ER: 44
    ERA: 6.87
    IP/G: Something between 4.2 and 5
    That projects to 100 IP and 76 ER in 20 starts and would bump the number of extra bullpen innings to 26.2.
    Another thing to consider is that since Mitre lasts considerably less, his starts would be probably followed by weaker bullpen pitchers. Hence, I don’t think it’s fair to consider the same bullpen ERA for both Pettitte and Mitre. There is also the impact of these extra bullpen innings in the availability of the relievers for other games. I’m also not a big fan of directly relating earned runs and wins, but I won’t go into that since I guess it’s off-topic.

  • virginia yankee

    STUPID IS AS STUPID COMPUTES — MITRE does not merit 1 START — If Pettit is no better than MITRE then he does not merit a start. Get the GUYS out of AAA and AA and move on

    I think I would take Andy — I was not terribly upset when he went to Houston because he was showing signs of arm trouble; but even with the physical issues he is someone to cheer for. MITRE is simply someone to DREAD.

    I do not understand why Yankee fans have not given up on CASMAN – 1 WS since 2000 — seasons and post seasons have turned on one missing piece that was evident during the season. Much blame is St. Joe’s but Cashman has been the big stick since George “retired” and the passed on — the ebtire mess with Kennedy, Hughes, Joba Vasquez Mite Mosely and the pide piper and the seven dwarfs has been Cashman — he looks for hopes for an anointment that comes from stealing a deal – he can’t make a straightforward risk reward assessment — spend the money on free agents is the “easy” approach
    So trade the kids or bring them up but NO MORE MITRE, MOSELY, GAUDIN, WRIGHT, the “Guy from Aruba” crap — PLEASE

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      Says the guy who said “it’s 2004 all over again!” when the Yanks lost Game 5 in 2009.

  • mustang

    The only thing this analysis has done is made me look at Mitre’s numbers and realize that the Yankees need for another starter was worse then I thought.

  • Mark

    Pawlikowski needs to put down that crack pipe. I don’t know what kind of numbers he’s pulling out of his ass but to conclude that substituting Mitre for Pettite is only worth a loss or two difference sounds pretty ridiculous. I guess you can manipulate statistics to make them say whatever you want but from what I’ve seen, Mitre is a putrid pathetic excuse of a pitcher, even worse than Javy was last year and I’d just as soon see Kei Igawa in the rotation as Mitre.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      If you followed the post you’d see where the numbers came from and why I deemed them reasonable. If you disagree with the Mitre projections, offer a reason that goes beyond your anger when he dares allow a few runs. There are plenty of dissenting comments here that are perfectly reasonable. This is not one of them.

      • mustang

        So agree.

    • Ted Nelson

      It’s just a projection, an estimate. And it’s based on assumptions that Joe clearly states. He has not said that this is what will happen. He has said that based on these assumptions this is a likely scenario. He has at least tried to work it out, and found that maybe the difference is not as huge as we may think. Rather than just saying “I disagree because it sounds ridiculous and I’m going to be a jerk about it” why not look at the assumptions and see where you disagree?

      There is plenty of room for disagreement in either direction. One can speculate that Pettitte might start 30+ games if healthy and pitch lights out to an ERA below 3. It’s possible. And it’s also possible Pettitte will pull a Favre and stink/be injured.
      Or one could speculate that without Pettitte the Yankees will sign Rafael Soriano and if Mitre doesn’t have a flukishly good season they will find a better starter either from the minors or outside the organization. Or that Mitre will forget how to throw a baseball and move to Antartica to spend time with the penguins. It’s all possible. Joe was just trying to evaluate based on somewhat likely expectations.

  • bobmac

    As we await the next episode of” As The Andy Turns” let’s go out and nail down Duchscherer for a piddling 2 mil and have the comfort of the cool side of the pillow insurance.Anyone who takes a shot with this guy is going to look pretty smart in September.If Andy comes back all the better.

  • Superking

    I’d say Joe came to a fairly reasonable conclusion. I agree that at this point Pettitte won’t be making 34 starts for us anymore, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the injury he sustained last season made him take a closer look at the possibility of retiring, along with wanting more family time. He’s getting old, and the wear and tear on his body will get to him eventually, it’s just a matter of when.

    Sergio Mitre is not a great pitcher. We all know that. The Yankees know that. That’s why time and time again they’ve reiterated that they’re looking for another starter. Right now, there are really no other options besides Pettitte, so we’ll have to make due until the first couple of months, when more pitchers become available. I just want to see Mitre do what he does best: keep the ball on the ground. Keep the ball on the ground, and the Yankees will at least stick around in most of his games.

    Now, of course, there are other factors that we haven’t taken into consideration, but that would be missing the point. The projections here are based on simple but clear statistics. Joe is just using the information we already have, and extrapolating it to next season, which is perfectly fine.

  • Jamie G.

    Mitre is barely a major league pitcher…he doesnt belong anywhere near the Yankees roster.

  • Mike_Ro

    Oh, please. Stop insulting your readers. Are you seriously projecting a difference of only 13 innings and ten runs between Pettitte in the rotation and Mitre?

    Stop. It. Now.

    What you’re trying to do is take a worst-case scenario for Pettitte against a best for Mitre, and this is not the proper way to project a rotation. Sure, it could happen, but it is not resonable to assume.

    The Yankees will be a much better team with Pettitte in the rotation. Stop with the numbers game. Please. Stop it.

    • Ted Nelson

      Last season was the first time Pettitte has had an ERA below 4 in 5 years… It’s hardly his worst case scenario. The guy is 39 and coming off an injury marred season. He may pitch 200 innings, but he may also get hurt in the first month.

      It’s also not Mitre. It’s whoever replaces Pettitte. If Mitre stinks the Yankees will have a number of other options to throw out there. Between prospects, bargain signings, and trades it’s fairly reasonable to assume they can find a 5.5-ish ERA.

  • Larry G

    Mitre would be a disaster, I cant believe that he is even a consideration. This is a media thing, there is no way the Yanks have this guy in the rotation…no way! In plain English, he stinks!

    • Ted Nelson

      Starting the season with someone in your rotation hardly means you finish it with that guy in your rotation. And the Yankees might not start the season with Mitre, but that theoretically means they’d start it with someone better.


    I’ts all about the playoffs and in that regard pettitte has a huge edge! I dont think Mitre even makes the rotation out of spring training, may be he makes the bull pen but im hoping that Mark Prior shows us somthing and makes the team instead of Mitre. my gut says that Pettitte signs somtime in January and Nova, Betances, Brachmen and Banuelos fight it out for the fifth spot. If Pettitte does not return then the the two rotation spots will be filled by two of the 4 young pitchers I listed above….

  • Damian

    This was an insulting article.

    Probably made just to get hits.

    It’s worse than Lupica and Goldman.

    Why should we go with Bill James’ projections or anyone’s projections?

    Mitre is horrible and would have an ERA of 5 after 4 starts in April.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      I’m sorry I used a simple process to challenge your preconceived notions.

      Also, you obviously don’t understand what ERA is.

      • Damian

        The worse kind of Stat Head is a DUMB Stat Head.

        It’s not just about ERA, you jerk- it’s about the number of quality innings Pettitte offers over Mitre. Mitre can’t even get out of the 5th inning.

        Mitre’s ERA was good last year- big freaking deal. He was a mop up man in low leverage situations.

        Using Mitre or some AAA pitcher all year would result in bullpen overuse.

        Andy is good for 6-7 innings of high quality innings over 25-30 starts if he comes back.

        This gets amplified in the post season.

        Preconceived notions?

        Okay, I though your article sucked, and it still does.

    • Plank

      What part of it is insulting? Insulting to you?

    • bronxbrain

      How on Earth is this an insulting article? Sure, my gut tells me that the difference between Mitre and Pettitte is much more substantial than what Joe finds, but isn’t that the beauty of a numeric analysis such as this? Joe’s analysis gives us a feasible prediction. Mitre may perform much, much worse than what Joe’s posting says, but, then again, he may (somehow, someway) play a serviceable role on the staff. In any event, Joe isn’t claiming to have a crystal ball—he’s just using numbers to project outcomes different from what our intuition might come up with.

      • Ted Nelson

        And if Mitre does perform worse the Yankees can theoretically replace him with someone who can pitch to a 5.5 ERA.

  • the Other Steve S.

    It always gets really squirrelly around this time of year.

  • kingj

    This stuff drives me nuts. Baseball is not played in a math book! I am not one of these “old school” guys who discounts sabermetrics and numbers. I get it. There is a quantitative component to baseball, and those “old school” guys drive me just as crazy. But to write that Pettite over Mitre is a negligible is just as nuts. Human emotion and psyche go into this stuff. Guys playing behind Pettite are going to play differently–note not necessarily just harder. OK–what makes a guy get a hit with a runner on second, bottom of the 8th, in a tie game? How does a runner who should be dead at the plate manage to score beneath that killer arm in right? Why does the slide into first–despite all evidence to the contrary–sometimes just seem to work? I don’t know. And neither do you. And neither does sabermetrics. That’s what makes baseball so cool. It isn’t a freaking video game or computer program. A round ball hit with a round bat at speeds in excess of 100 mph. Baseball is a game of both parts and the whole, and you can predict a lot of that sum. But not all of it. And sometimes you’ll be way off (Seattle Mariners, AL West Champs, 2010). Stats are a great tool. But don’t let them stand in for human intellect. Andy Pettite is a significant upgrade over Sergio Mitre.

    • Ted Nelson

      By your logic it’s just as likely that the guys behind Mitre play harder than behind Pettitte because they realize they need to do everything they can to help him to win games.

      No one is arguing Mitre is better than Pettitte. The question is how much more is Pettitte worth to the team if he doesn’t retire than his replacement would be worth if he does (and Mitre is not necessarily his replacement for the season, just a likely candidate to break camp in the rotation).

      Joe is not trying to say “this is what will happen.” Clearly you understand this is impossible, and so does Joe. He’s merely saying that given X, Y, and Z assumptions this is how much more valuable Pettitte is. 2 wins is actually pretty big. We’re talking about the difference between CC Sabathia in 2010 (5.1 WAR) and Dallas Braden in 2010 (3.0 WAR). Try to understand Joe’s article before just dismissing it.

  • John H

    How can you make any legitimate projections for Mitre at all? He has not been a regular starter since 2007, and he’s never pitched as a regular starter in the AL East whereas Andy Pettitte has a strong record of performance. Your analysis is absurd.

    This kind of analysis is why we are having a housing valuation crisis today. People make projections of future performance using highly flawed methodologies to make these projections.

    • Ted Nelson

      It’s not just Mitre. It’s really Pettitte’s replacement, whoever that is. Mitre is just a candidate to break camp in the rotation. He might get beaten out in camp or replaced if he doesn’t pitch to that 5.5 ERA.

      That’s why we have a housing valuation crisis today: people are too stupid to understand simple concepts.

  • Tom

    You all are CRAZY if you seriously think Sergio Metre and Ivan Nova will both be in the rotation in April. NOT ROCKET SCIENCE.

    CC, Phill, and AJ

    Nova and Mitre will compete for the 5th spot and i’m willing to be my paycheck that the Yankees will sign or make a trade for someone before the season starts.

    Now if Andy Petite comes back they have enough to get them to the Trade Deadling when they can make their move

  • Ernie

    If Mitre is allowed any where near the starting lineup, Girardi and Cashman should both be fired. 2010 was not one of Cashman’s shining moments.

    • Plank

      Put it into perspective. Getting to game 6 of the ALCS doesn’t count as a success?

      The Yankees lost Vasquez, Wood, Berkman, Mosely, Johnson, (Thames), and (Pettitte)

      They got Martin and Feliciano and have Montero ready to play in the majors.

      Pettitte may or may not re-sign, but either way the team is largely unchanged or perhaps will be better than last year by the time the offseason is over.

      Also, the Yankees have a boatload of money burning a hole in their pockets. They can make moves this offseason or at any point before the trade deadline. The team that starts in April is not the team that plays in October.

  • George39

    Whoever thinks that Mitre is a good substitute for Pettite is either one or more of the following: Idiot, Drunk, Not a Yankee Fan (idiot), high on crack, idiot, sniffs glue, idiot.
    This isn’t even my opinion, this is just FACT!

    • Ted Nelson

      No one thinks he is a good substitute. In looking at the Yankees’ current roster, though, he’s a good candidate to break camp in the rotation. So the question is how much worse off are the Yankees with Mitre as a starter than Pettitte?

      Joe concludes that they are worse off. That it could cost them a playoff spot. But that they don’t suddenly become a .500 team. How is that unreasonable? Why does that lead you to accuse Joe of stupidity and hardcore drug abuse?

  • Ted Nelson

    I think it’s a really interesting study.

    Obviously the assumptions are fairly variable, so you might have been better off setting it up as a sort of sensitivity analysis: if assumptions X, Y, Z are reached by Pitcher 1 and Pitcher 2 this would be the difference to the team. Including a best case where the difference is really negligible because someone steps up/is acquired through a worst case where Pettitte would give you 200+ IP at an ERA of 4 and his replacements would get shelled.

    You also might have gone with “Pettitte’s replacement” instead of “Sergio Mitre.” Mitre is a likely candidate to break camp in the rotation, but the larger point (IMO) is that the Yankees will try to at least replace Pettitte with a replacement level guy. Preferably better. That can come internally or through an acquisition. Doesn’t have to be Mitre, and really hopefully it’s not him for long.

  • Joe Pawlikowski

    You also might have gone with “Pettitte’s replacement” instead of “Sergio Mitre.”

    I think this is the single biggest failing of the post. Not the assumptions — I laid them out clearly and I think a number of people made good cases for why they are not good (some more rudely than others, but this is an anonymous comments section, after all). But the idea that Mitre — SERGIO MITRE — could be capable of a 5.27 ERA through 113.1 innings. I think he can, or at least I think the Yankees can find someone who can. I’m sure fans would have an easier time believing that some random pitcher could do that while Mitre could not.

    • Plank

      The highlight of the post for me was when mustang kind of aggressively demanded you admit you were wrong for writing this article. Classic.

      • Joe Pawlikowski

        It’s funny that the comments section made me realize that I was right for writing it. I could have gone into a bit more depth and provided a larger swath of projections, but we’re not exactly going for Pulitzers the week between Christmas and New Year.

      • mustang

        Never did that and I have no idea what your talking about.

  • David Nelson

    OMG! Sergio Mitre doesn’t belong in the conversation for the rotation. He pitches horrid in a mop-up roll with no pressure. He gives up too many gopher balls. I’d rather see Nova and one of the kids if Andy doesn’t come back or Nova and somebody like Chris Young at the back of the rotation.

    In regards to Soria, he is a great closer but he would cost too much in young talent. Go get Soriano for the 8th inning and to close when Mo needs a day off. When Mo retires, you already have your closer.

  • NY15

    I can’t believe you are seriously comparing Andy Pettitte to Sergio Mitre. Shameful!

  • Damian

    I’m gonna Tweet this article to show the world the idiocy of Joe Pawlikowski.

  • NYG

    The biggest difference between the two is that Andy is the man, and Sergio eats camel dung.

  • Jay

    The name Mitre makes me cringe.

  • JMA

    I don’t believe in playing a season on paper. You can put Mitre in the rotation but you’re not going to get the same results. If Pettitte retires, we’d better come out of the gate with some hot bats. that means everybody (TEX). Otherwise we’ll be out of it by the trade deadline. We’ll be chasing the Bosox who always start fast. Maybe they’ll fade and maybe not. They had a much better off season than we did. Quite fartin’ around and go after Carl Pavano. He’s the best out there right now. Don’t get bogged down with numbers.

  • Tom

    I think Serio Mitre is a great Long man out of the pen and even spot starter. Anyone who compares him to one of the greatest big game pitchers in baseball history (petitte) is CRAZY!

    Carl Pavano: I would rather have Mitre to be honest. Yanks will never go down that road again.

    I’m actually really excited to give Ivan Nova a shot. I love when they give the young guys from the system a shot.

  • Damian

    Just so you don’t think I’m hating, here is what three rational minded people from Baseball Think Factory said:

    “I think the big problem is the idea that you are going to get anything close to 20 starts out of Mitre. He’s done that once in his MLB career.”

    “Eh, I think he’s understating the difference. First off, I don’t like the assumption that you’re only getting 120 IP from Pettitte. There’s a lot of variance in terms of what you can expect from Pettitte inning-wise, but there’s at least a chance he gives you 190 IP. As #4 points out, Mitre’s odds of doing that are pretty much zero.

    Also, if Pettitte comes back, I’m guessing you’ve got Mitre slotted in as the sixth starter and he’s still going to get some starts when someone inevitably goes down for a bit. If Pettitte doesn’t come back, those back-up starter games are now going to someone presumably worse than Sergio Mitre. That’s another change for which one must account.”

    “This was the issue that jumped out at me. If you’re starting with an assumption that you’re only getting 20 starts out of Pettitte (and as #5 says, that seems like an awfully low estimate – Pettitte beat that even last year (barely) and that was his first season under 32 starts since 2004) then you’re already expecting 13+ starts from Mitre. So, the proper comparison is who’s now going to pick up the 15 or so starts that you would have gotten from Mitre in the #6 starter role. Presumably, somebody even worse than Mitre. I suspect if you add that all up, you’re down to maybe 4 or so extra wins from Pettitte. And in a division with the Red Sox and the Rays and likely some additional competition for the wild card, 4 wins are nothing to sneeze at.”

    • Ted Nelson

      Forget the name Sergio Mitre. If the people you quote aren’t smart enough to realize that Sergio Mitre is just a placeholder representing whoever replaces Pettitte in the rotation, their opinions are pretty worthless to me. Mitre is the obvious candidate to break camp as the 5th starter. Doesn’t mean he will or that if he does he’ll hold the job. The point is not that Sergio Mitre is capable or X, Y, or Z. It’s that if Pettitte retires the Yankees can probably find a guy to go out and give them 20 starts at an ERA of 5.5 either internally or with a pretty modest investment. If they want to invest more ($ and/or prospects) they can probably get better. They might wait to make that investment until mid-season, though.

      “There’s a lot of variance in terms of what you can expect from Pettitte inning-wise, but there’s at least a chance he gives you 190 IP.”

      There’s also a chance he gives you 40 innings before getting injured and retiring. I agree that the variance is high and a sensitivity analysis would have been more useful, but a chance he gives you 190 doesn’t mean you assume 190. The guy is 39 years old.

      “Also, if Pettitte comes back, I’m guessing you’ve got Mitre slotted in as the sixth starter and he’s still going to get some starts when someone inevitably goes down for a bit. If Pettitte doesn’t come back, those back-up starter games are now going to someone presumably worse than Sergio Mitre. That’s another change for which one must account.”

      Who are these guys you quote? The Yankees will go with a younger option, but not necessarily a worse option. Noesi, Phelps, and Brackman are all unproven, but they also all have a chance to be a better ML starter than Sergio Mitre. Maybe they struggle in their first taste of the bigs, but maybe they kill it for a few starts before other teams get a book on them. Even if Pettitte comes back there’s a chance one of these guys beats out Mitre for the 6th starter role.

  • 2Much2Lose

    This type of analysis misuses statistics to get an extremely flawed result. If you take a number three starter away from a lineup, your numbers four, five and six all move up one spot in the rotation. Not only do you lose your number three, but your four is now facing the opponents’ number three, your five is facing their four, and you are going with a number who is weaker than what you had before. Thus, not only do you lose your three, but you place greater stress on the bottom of the rotation, who are now facing tougher competition. You are likely to lose a game or two from each of your bottom three rotation spots. That’s a loss of three to six wins. The additional losses can be even greater if the additional stress throughout the rotation causes a loss of confidence (no small factor when dealing with fragile egos). This also puts great stress on the top of the rotation, who are pressured to overperform in order to make up for the bottom of the rotation. The difference between having a winning team and a losing team can be extremely small. Take no comfort from this blogger’s analysis, Yankee fans.

    • Ted Nelson

      The way the MLB schedule works you do not always have your number 1 starter facing the other teams and so on down the line. So, your critique is completely off-base. Where did you even come up with that idea? In the playoffs, yes, losing a #3 starter hurts. In the regular season this is just not the case because different teams have different off days, so the rotations do not necessarily line-up.

  • Dennis

    He forgot one thing.

    One guy is Andy Pettitte.

    The other one is not.

  • Nostra-Artist

    I would like to see what 20 Andy starts +12 replacement level starts looks like compared to 32 starts by Mitre.

  • solamon

    if pettitte doesn’t com back then trade for matt garza even if pettitte resigns with the yanks but if pettitte doesn’t com back then hAVE ANOTHER battle again with mitre and joba