Waiting for Andy but with what expectations?

Yanks met with Jeter and Casey Close on Tuesday
Could the Yankees find a second LOOGY in the Rule 5 Draft?
A familiar stare. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

While the Derek dealings are nearing a denouement, the Yankees still don’t know what the future will bring for Andy Pettitte. He hasn’t yet decided if he’s going to pitch in 2011, but the Texas Rangers set everyone into a tizzy when word leaked that they had contacted Pettitte’s people.

Today was a day full of denial for those involved. The Yankees reacted strongly to the news. Someone in the Yanks’ front office called it a “total [insert your favorite expletive here] joke.” Said the source, “Pettitte’s gonna pitch here or he’s gonna pitch nowhere,”

Later in the day, Jon Heyman chimed in as well. Relying on someone he called a “Pettitte pal,” Heyman reported that, if Pettitte returns in 2011, the “only way he doesnt go back to the Yankees is if they offer something insulting.” Clearly, the Yanks won’t offer anything insulting to Pettitte, but Pettitte has yet to say if he’ll return.

Meanwhile, Nolan Ryan himself put an end to the rumor. He said he spoke with Pettitte when the Yanks’ lefty called to wish his fellow Texan good luck in the World Series. “I asked him if he thought he was going to play in 2011 or retire,” Ryan said to The Star Telegram. “He said if he played it would be with the Yankees because he wanted to retire with the Yankees. It wasn’t like I was asking him if he wanted to come play for us.”

So now, we’re just waiting on Pettitte, and while we do, it’s worth examining what the Yanks could expect from the lefty who will be pitching his age 39 season in 2011. This past year was a frustrating one for Petitte. He was dealing before a groin injury sidelined him for two months, and by the end of the playoffs, he said his hamstring and back were barking at him. Still, his numbers were impressive. He maintained a 7.0 K/9 IP and kept his walk rate (2.9 BB/9 IP) in line with his career total. He went 11-3 and lowered his ERA to 3.28, his lowest AL mark since 2002.

Going forward, there’s no reason to expect a huge dip in performance. While Pettitte’s velocity isn’t what it was once, he, like Mike Mussina before him, has managed to make it work. He uses his breaking pitches and control more effectively, and he keeps the ball down in the zone. History too shows that lefties who are still in the game at Pettitte’s age have pitched effectively. They aren’t termed crafty southpaws for nothing.

Of the 30 seasons spun by left-handed pitchers who were at least 39 years old and made at least 20 starts, all but 10 have seen ERA+ figures top 100. Randy Johnson and Lefty Grove are the leaders, but Jamie Moyer pitched exceptionally well in Seattle at ages 39 and 40. David Wells did the same in New York in 2002. Have left arm, will travel.

Ultimately, for Pettitte, the biggest worry in 2011 will be his health. He broke down in 2010 after a long 2009 campaign, and he felt the strain of the season at the end of 2008 as well. Even though he keeps himself in very good shape, as he ages, his body isn’t as fast to heal as it once was, and he is more prone to minor strains. But if the Yanks can convince him to come back for another go of it, the team will be all the better for it.

Yanks met with Jeter and Casey Close on Tuesday
Could the Yankees find a second LOOGY in the Rule 5 Draft?
  • Gonzo

    If he needs a break, have AJ come in from the bullpen to spell him.

  • The Almighty Binder

    Or Joba can make a spot start (ducks).

  • James

    I don’t know if we can *expect* a 3.28 ERA again. Andy was nails in big spots with runners on, but I don’t know if we can expect that same kind of magic. Since returning to the Yanks four years ago he’s had FIPs in the 3.70-4.15 range, and every year except last year that resulted in an ERA over 4. I think that’s a safer expectation next year. A solid workhorse, which is definitely valuable.

  • LunaticFringe

    Speaking of Moyer, I saw him on MLB Network tonight. He said he undergoes TJ surgery today (Wednesday). He expects to miss 2011 and says he plans to rehab and resume career in 2012. It’ll be his first arm surgery of any sort.

  • Sean C

    Is it unreasonable to expect Andy to pitch better than AJ in 2011?

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

      No, but IMO it’s also not unreasonable to expect AJ to outpitch Andy.

  • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

    Even though he keeps himself in very good shape,


    Good article. I noticed he also struck out more and more guys as the season went along (even after he came back from his injury, I think his FIP actually went down like significantly as his ERA rose). Just hope he can stay healthy in 2011 if he comes back is all.

  • EB

    “While Pettitte’s velocity isn’t what it was once”

    A simple fact-check via fangraphs uncovers that Pettitte’s FB velo has been essentially constant at 89 over the last NINE seasons.

    So in effect this is a false narrative, that is, unless you can point to and clearly state that you are referring to earlier data.

    Come on Ben, we expect better here than lazy analysis via the regurgitation of baseless myths.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      Pitch FX data goes back only to 2007, and since then, his FB velocity has dropped from 90.2 to 89 while the velocity on his secondary pitches has stayed the same. In the late 1990s and early 2000s he would be in the low 90s and relied more on his fastball and cutter than on the curve and change. He’s been a finesse pitcher for a while now, and that’s what should enable him to carry that success over into next season.

      I’m not sure where you’re getting nine seasons’ worth of data.

      • EB

        You may be right about Andy’s velo from the early days of his career but these are the figures 2002-10 straight off of his fangraphs page. These figures must hold some weight, even though I’m not sure where FG sourced them from. They indicate essentially no decline over NINE seasons.

        Pettitte FB Velo
        2002 – 89.1
        2003 – 89.5
        2004 – 89.1
        2005 – 87.9
        2006 – 89.0
        2007 – 89.1
        2008 – 88.5
        2009 – 89.0
        2010 – 89.0

  • Mike R

    If a pitcher like Jorge De La Rosa is essentially getting 10 million a year what does that say about a pitcher like Pettitte. All I know is Andy should be getting quite a bit more than that guy.

    • YankeesJunkie

      Probably, but over the last few years the Yankees and Pettitte have worked out reasonable contracts every year and I’d expect the same this time around. He may get up to 12-13 million this year, but other than that if he comes back it will be a very smooth negotiation.

  • Sal

    Anybody who has watched Pettitte pitch the last two yr’s knows his velocity has dropped, it’s nice that the laborers at FanGraphs have the tale of the tape but it’s unnecessary, he’s not about velocity.If Pettitte isn’t hitting the spots and his pitches aren’t painting he’s in trouble. Pettitte’s biggest problem like the author mentioned is his health. de la Rosa’s contract can’t hurt Pettitte for sure. Jorge missed a lot of work in 2010, so they’re hoping he returns to his 09 numbers, but he’s nearly 10 yr’s younger then Andy. We lost Pet for half a season in 2010, and it cost us the division, maybe the ALCS, so he’s a luxury more than a staple in 2011 IMO. If you want to pay him $13M a yr, he should have incentives in the contract that give him a shot at that high water mark. I don’t think you can offer him that type of dough straight up, not with his health history. That said I hope he comes back. Where the financially strapped Yanks will find the dough to pay him is another story, that imaginary $210M payroll figure is gonna get whittled down to zip after Cliff Lee, Mo and the Capt get their cut.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Anybody who has watched Pettitte pitch the last two yr’s knows his velocity has dropped, it’s nice that the laborers at FanGraphs have the tale of the tape but it’s unnecessary, he’s not about velocity

      Actually that’s the exact opposite of the FG said but okay.

    • YankeesJunkie

      After the year that Pettitte had it might be tough to get him too much on incentive laden deal which happened a couple years ago. Pettitte pitched well when he pitched and he will want guaranteed money, rightfully so because he has pitched more than 195 IP the five years previous. The Yankees and Pettitte probably agree on 1/11-12 deal.

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

      Anybody who has watched Pettitte pitch the last two yr’s knows his velocity has dropped, it’s nice that the laborers at FanGraphs have the tale of the tape but it’s unnecessary

      Actually, the laborers at Fangraphs say the exact opposite, but sure.

      If Pettitte isn’t hitting the spots and his pitches aren’t painting he’s in trouble.

      And this is exclusive to Andy Pettitte how?

      We lost Pet for half a season in 2010, and it cost us the division, maybe the ALCS,

      I have no problem with arguing that cost us the division but the ALCS, wut? He was the only pitcher who actually pitched well.

      so he’s a luxury more than a staple in 2011 IMO

      Aren’t you saying the exact opposite?

  • Hobbes

    Do you know what denouement means?

    • John

      I know because I’m French Canadian. It means the resolution of a plot.

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals

        You’re from France?

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      Do you? I used it properly in the post, but in your attempt to be obnoxious, you seem to have missed that fact.

  • A.D.

    At least less miles on Pettitte this past season, since he only pitched 143 innings all season (not including rehab) vs about 225 in 2009

  • gc

    Point: If you read it in the papers or on the internet before it actually happens, chances are it’s probably bullshit. Especially with the way some of these “journalists” cite their info, with alleged hot news stories being preceded by, “My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night.”

  • I am not the droids you’re looking for

    In an ideal world we’d simply get him to agree to $500k per start. If he starts 30 times I have to assume he is both healthy and dealing, for which I’d happily pay $15mm (if I’m the Yanks FO). Obviously something so incentive biased isn’t going to happen. But I could see maybe $10mm guaranteed plus $100k per start. Certainly not insulting.

    All that said I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s a flat $12mm and call it a day.

  • http://www.bleedingyankeeblue.blogspot.com the mighty casey

    i think that jeter will stay but i’m worried about boston swooping in.

    i wrote this today.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      Besides the fact that Boston has absolutely no need or desire for Jeter and has said as much, can you please review our commenting guidelines? Number 8 in particular applies here.

  • virginia yankee

    Let’s lobby for a youth movement — Montero can’t catch for an ML career – he will add mass as he grows — can’t be helped and won’t hurt his hitting — so don’t break him down at C — it will limit what he might do with the bat over his career. Turn him into an OF/DH or trade him for UPTON. As an alt you might send Tex back to 3B, ARod to DH (I focus on the hip), if Tex would move — I Wouldn’t force it and am aware of the loss of D at 1B. I would not trade him for any P short of King Felix — and not certain there.

    Forget the old expensive guys — push the stock of minor leaguers – emulate Oakland, Tampa, Twinkies, Tigers — start with moving Joba — fix his slider — to the rotation — noothing wrong woth the 2008 plan — Joba rules was a srew up but fixable — CC provides the support leadership the kids didn’t have in 2008

    while i am at it why not give jeter 1 yr with 3 1 yr club options based on performance make them incentive loaded such that he could earn 15 minimum and as much as 25 mil — allow him to drink from the fountain of youth or don’t play — he can retire with grace if he can’t make his body go – and we won’t have to witness a Ripken like decline