Apr
23

The Importance of Andy Pettitte

By

(AP Photo/Eddie Michaels)

Things were not supposed to be like this, not after three turns through the rotation. The Yankees brought no fewer than six legitimate starting pitchers to Spring Training two months ago with three big league ready pitching prospects at the Triple-A level. Mid-way through camp they signed Andy Pettitte simply because they could. He had the itch to play and they weren’t going to tell him no. A month later, Pettitte has gone from feel good story to a pretty important piece of the puzzle.

Those first three turns through the rotation have been pretty ugly. Ivan Nova and his 3.79 ERA/4.04 FIP has been the lone bright spot on a starting staff that currently ranks 29th in ERA (5.84), 26th in FIP (4.52), and 29th in HR/9 (1.76) among the 30 clubs. If you’re a believer in xFIP, then I suppose you’ll be comforted by the fact that they rank ninth with a 3.58 mark. Keep your fingers crossed that their homer rate regressing to the mean, I guess. We know quality starts aren’t the best way to evaluate a pitching staff, though I do think it’s telling that the Yankees have the second fewest in baseball (four) through 15 games. Not easy to win like that.

As if the current rotation situation isn’t bad enough, the Yankees are going to be without Michael Pineda for the foreseeable future. He suffered a setback in his rehab over the weekend and will have his his right shoulder re-examined today. Even if they get good news, the Yankees can’t expect him to contribute anytime soon. David Phelps has impressed in long relief and both Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell continue to bide their time in the minors, but all three remain unproven. Pettitte is the only guy on the horizon with a track record, and even that is compromised by his year-long hiatus.

After throwing five innings in an Extended Spring Training late last week, the plan calls for Pettitte to throw 80-85 pitches for Double-A Trenton on Wednesday. Early reports say he looks like the same old Andy, but this will continue to be a wait-and-see thing. The Yankees have said he will make at least two starts of 100 pitches before considering him for a big league spot just because they have to see how his soon-to-be 40-year-old body reacts. With the Roger Clemens trial set to start in two weeks and Pettitte expected to testify in some capacity, his return could be pushed back to mid-May.

CC Sabathia will right his ship at some point and although I think Hiroki Kuroda will as well, there are reasons to be skeptical about him. Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia have been trash through their three starts and Pettitte is coming for one of their spots. The Yankees shouldn’t expect to receive the Andy of old, but it won’t take a miracle for him to be an upgrade over Hughes or Garcia. Having a second left-handed starter will be nice as well. Pitching depth has a way of disappearing in a hurry, and now Pettitte might have to play a big role in the team’s success this season if some current members of the rotation don’t straighten themselves out.

Categories : Pitching

82 Comments»

  1. Havok9120 says:

    The judge ruled today that he won’t actually be allowed to testify. So that’s something.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      He can’t testify about getting HGH, but he can testify about other stuff apparently.

      • Havok9120 says:

        Hmm. Missed that, but you’re absolutely right unless ESPN wrote the ruling up wrong. Still, I’m not sure what else he could testify about that would have much effect on the case. Depends on how the trial is going methinks.

        Darn.

  2. Manny's BanWagon says:

    I think it will also be great for kids like Hughes, Phelps, Nova and Pineda (if he ever returns) to have Pettitte around to see how a real professional prepares and carries himself.

    I can’t recall Pettitte ever showing up to spring training out of shape and not ready to pitch.

    • jjyank says:

      I also love the idea of having Pettitte around for the younger guys. I just wish AAA wasn’t on a constant road trip this year, otherwise he could get a couple of weeks with the B’s, Warren, and Mitchell. Oh well.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Hughes had a chance to see some very good Ps prepare: Pettitte, Clemens, Mussina. Not sure there’s more of a consistent pro than CC or Mo, so we’ll have to see how much marginal impact Pettitte has.

  3. Manny says:

    Phil Hughes has failed.
    Joba has failed.
    And IPK has been a success.

    I don’t blame Cash though, who could’ve known. So much for the IPK and Melky for _____ jokes huh.

    • Johnny O says:

      TNSSAAPP

    • pat says:

      Too bad we can’t know how the other two would have fared in the NL West.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        And we haw no idea how IPl woul be doing in the AL Wast. Might be doing very well. Let’s stop acting like the AL East is infinitely better than any other division.

        Hughes mechanics are just pitiful, so I doubt he’d have much success in any division.

    • Spiff says:

      IPK and Melky’s earned a combined 16 fWAR in their careers (8.5+7.5) compared to a combined 15 fWAR (7.1+7.9) for Joba and Hughes. Their careers are still very young but who would’ve believed that a few years ago when it was so easy to make those IPK and Melky for ______ jokes.

    • ROBTEN says:

      And how many people declared Kennedy a “bust” before he was traded?

      This is not really in response to Manny, but the sentiment that lies behind the “bust” declaration that is thrown out much too easily.

      To be honest, I should preface this next comment with a full disclosure that I remain a frustrated Hughes fan, but I am tired of the “finality” of declarations that are often made. I know that is the nature of the internet today, but it’s tiring.

      If the team was run the way that people too often propose, we’d have burned through, DFA’d or traded virtually every starter short of the Staten Island rotation, and only because it is not named yet.

      Is Hughes likely to succeed? I admit that with every passing year it seems like he won’t be the starter we hoped for. But, before we conclude that everyone is a bust, perhaps we might develop a little bit of patience.

      /sorry, rant over

      • V says:

        I fully expect an NL West team to pick Hughes up when he’s a free agent and he’ll be a successful pitcher on par with Kennedy.

        Ditto Joba – someone will sign him and convert him back to a starter.

      • Cris Pengiucci says:

        +1. IPK had a good year last year. And let’s not forget he brought us Granderson. This season is early, so who knows what he’ll do. Phil has shown, at various times, that he can be quite productive. The fact that he may not be a top of the rotation starter, doesn’t mean he can’t be valuable, perhaps more valualbe than IPK in the long run. Time will tell.

        Joba has also been quite productive when healthy. He may still be when he returns from his latest injuries. These guys are still young. They may (or may not) have long, productive careers in front of them. I’m not willing to give up on the 2 that are still with the Yankees.

        • Mike Axisa says:

          Joba has never actually been bad in his career either. Hurt, yes. Ineffective, no.

        • David Ortizs Dealer says:

          This might be a different discussion, but as much as I like Grandy, I wouldnt mind having Coke the Loogy, Kennedy and Austin Jackson instead. I havent done the WAR analysis, but seems like we gave up 3 cheap major leaguers for one expensive one.

          I do see your point, Kennedy had to go to bring in Granderson, have to give quality to get quality. I also think Kennedy needed a change.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      You have to be just fucking with us here.

    • OMG! Bagels! says:

      I don’t think head cases (i.e. IPK, AJ) do well in NY. I don’t think that Hughes or Joba are headcases but I do think that IPK’s success is definitely NL West specific.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        Huh? IPK’s makeup was probably his most highly regarded attribute coming up.

        What’s wrong with AJax?

  4. Havok9120 says:

    So, barring setbacks and the need to testify, that would slate him to be ready for a start on the 10th. that, however, is CC’s day, so that’d line him up for a start against either Seattle at home or Baltimore on the road depending where they slot him in and what the status of the rotation is by that point.

    I can dig it.

  5. CountryClub says:

    I have no doubt that Pettitte will be an effective starter once he gets called up. Now, he needs to stay healthy. But we can say that about every pitcher on the team.

    The Yanks rotation will be fine.

  6. Mattchu12 says:

    Are we really doing this right now? Are we seriously freaking out on April 23rd?

    Does anyone actually think CC won’t be CC when it’s said and done? Does anyone actually believe Kuroda won’t have a sub-4.50 ERA come October? Why are we any more sure about Nova after three good starts and a crappy spring than we are about Hughes after three bad starts and a great spring? Step back from the ledge, guys. It’s April 23rd.

    • Bonnie Parker says:

      Because Nova has been consistent for a while now. He’s going to break the all time consecutive wins streak for a Yankee pitcher. Nova could win 20 ballgames this year. Might have been able to do it last year had he not been sent down for the overhyped Hughes. It’s funny that all of these stat guys like to tout Hughes when his stats aren’t good as a starter. He had one good half year in 2010, that’s it.

      • Havok9120 says:

        Stop it with the basis of your argument for consistency being the wins streak. It would have been snapped several times if he wasn’t getting insane run support in 2011. He DOES pitch well enough to keep us in it, but its often a near thing and on edge or the offense clicks and has a great night.

        There ARE reasons to like Nova over Hughes, but his advantage in a team stat is not one of them.

        • Mattchu12 says:

          This, and for the record, I’m not saying Hughes is better than Nova. I’m saying that the sample sizes are small for both, and I’m not going to be any more enthusiastic about Nova than I’m going to be down on Hughes.

          Lets wait until about six or seven starts before we even start to judge.

        • Bo Knows says:

          Since the streak started, Nova has had an ERA in the mid-low 3′s he’s had an ok strikeout rate, with very good walk and groundball rates. Yes the Yankees did give him run support, but he has pitched very well for the team in that span.

          Since his return from AAA last year to now Nova has given up 3 runs or fewer in a start 11 times, pitched at least 6 innings 12 times; 7 innings 8 times.

        • .zip file says:

          Ivan Nova’s first full year (2011) stats and peripherals look an awful lot like Andy Pettite’s. Nova got a cup of coffee in the majors the year before his first full year, Pettite did not.

          http://www.baseball-reference......an01.shtml

          http://www.baseball-reference......iv01.shtml

          Your assertion that his pitching is often a near thing and on edge, well, that also sounds similar to many of Andy Pettite’s starts.

    • Havok9120 says:

      No one here is ledge jumping, but you’ve got to admit that Andy’s role in the rotation when he gets here is a far more certain now than it was a month ago. Garcia has been well and truly awful in every way. And while I, too, think Kuroda will straighten out and perform quite well, there are arguments worth making that he won’t. CC will be fine, methinks.

      As for Hughes….it ISN’T just 3 bad starts. Its 3 bad starts and a history of mediocre to bad starts. He shows silver linings almost every time out, but he also hasn’t shown any sustainable improvement in a long time. People are treating Nova like more of a sure thing partially out of frustration with Hughes, but also because Nova has been improving at a fairly steady pace ever since being called up in 2010. Hughes has set an average for himself and stayed at or below it since before the 2010 ASB with only glimpses at improvement. We don’t even really get glimpses of awesomeness anymore, just silver linings in decent to good starts.

      • Mattchu12 says:

        I’ve always been sure that Andy would have a role. But until Pineda’s set-back, I still saw him as a luxury because I believe we have four guys (CC, Kuroda, Hughes, Nova) who will put up sub-4.50 ERA’s with a good chance at posting sub-4.25 or better.

        That’s kind of stellar in the AL East. Having Andy is great, but I don’t feel like at this point he is anymore needed than he was on Opening Day. Talk to me in mid-to-late May when we should be worried, but by then, I doubt we will be.

        • Havok9120 says:

          Its possible to be worried about an individual starter without being worried about the team. The team is going to be fine. We are and have been the frontrunner for the division. However, Freddy Garcia has looked off all spring. Worse than off, he’s looked cooked. Now I don’t think he’s done, but he’s definitely the weakest link in the rotation, a rotation that he wasn’t even supposed to be in in the first place.

          Does the team “need” AP in order to succeed? No, and I don’t think anyone here is really saying that. But we certainly have more use for him than most of us thought we would at this point in the season. That’s my and, I think, the article’s point.

          • jjyank says:

            That’s pretty much the point I was trying to make below. Agreed.

          • Mattchu12 says:

            Well, if we’re talking strictly about Garcia, then yes, Pettitte definitely has a use. I thought he’d be in the rotation even before Pineda’s injury, so very much so yes. I’m just sick of hearing the panic.

            Pettitte was always going to be a help, even if Pineda never hurts his shoulder in Spring Training. Just sick of the “cut people for Phelps” talk.

            • Havok9120 says:

              Yes, both the panic and the “Phelps over everyone” line of thinking has very much worn on me as well. The fact that all these people disappear when we win or when Phelps got hit around on Saturday just reinforces my annoyance.

        • jjyank says:

          I agree with the notion that it’s only April and thinks will get better. However, I don’t think everyone is exactly dripping with confidence that Hughes and Garcia will right the ship. CC will be CC, I have faith that Kuroda will be fine, and Nova has certainly stepped up since his prospect days. But with Pineda’s setback, there are still 2 spots up for grabs, so I thnk Pettitte is slightly more necessary than he was in spring training.

          If Hughes and Garcia gave us more reasons to expect bounce back performances, then I would agree with you. But Hughes has been a disappointment for awhile now, and Garcia’s junkballing approach is always subject to an implosion. So I agree with your general sentiment, but I would say that Pettitte is more than a luxury now.

    • A.D. says:

      Why are we any more sure about Nova after three good starts and a crappy spring than we are about Hughes after three bad starts and a great spring?

      Probably because since beginning of last year Hughes has 17 starts and a 5.93 ERA (4.74 FIP) while Nova has 30 starts and a 3.71 ERA (4.01 FIP)

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Agree with the premise. A few starts is too early to start predicting the whole season.

  7. Bonnie Parker says:

    CC and Nova are going to have to carry the staff until Andy gets here. With the rain out we can skip Freddy but we still can’t skip Hughes. We need 3-4 solid starters and I have no doubt that Andy will be solid. He has been his whole career. Kuroda is the one we need to be consistent to give us that 4th guy. Hughes should be replaced by Phelps.

    • Erica says:

      Girardi has made it extremely clear that Phelps isn’t going to be a starter.

      • David Ortizs Dealer says:

        Yet another reason why the Yanks will win the division inspite of binder boy. Why not start him, hes been a starter in the minors.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          Great. Let’s call up Scottie Allen. He’s been a starter in the minors.

          I actually am for giving Phelps the next start over, say, Freddy Garcia. I want to know what we potentially have in him, as he’ll really be fighting for a spot next season. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I could be a better manager than Joe Girardi if it doesn’t happen, flapjack.

        • Havok9120 says:

          Because rookie pitchers that come up and outperform even middling vets are very rare. They become even rarer when they aren’t star prospects.

          I’d like to start Phelps over Garcia. But NOT doing so is not an indefensible position.

      • Rookie says:

        You may very well have heard an interview/Q&A that I didn’t hear. But the only times I’ve heard Girardi address that topic, all he said was that he wasn’t going to be a starter for NOW.

        If Phelps were to consistently outpitch Garcia and whoever else is the Yankees’ fifth best option at that time, I would be VERY surprised if he didn’t wind up in the rotation at some point — although it may be after the trade deadline so that the Yankees can showcase Garcia and/or the pitcher(s) they hope to trade.

        I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to Garcia’s velocity last year and this year. But if he hasn’t lost too much velocity from last year, I’m still hopeful that he winds up getting it together and being a productive fifth starter or a reliable long man out of the bullpen.

    • Havok9120 says:

      No. No he shouldn’t. Not yet. Phelps, the rookie with no experience in high leverage situations cannot be reasonably expected to be a better choice than Hughes on a performance standpoint. Better than Garcia? Probably. Better than Hughes? Almost certainly not.

      And that doesn’t even take into account that Girardi has no intention of adding Phelps into the rotation right now.

      • jjyank says:

        This.

        Phelps has definitely impressed in the early going, and I think he has the potential as a relatively successful backend starter. BUT. His 2012 performance is super SSS. It’s a little early to throw him into the rotation I think. Girardi may very well change his tune a few months from now, but for right now, the rotation is going to be the same.

      • Manny's BanWagon says:

        The thing to consider it that all these starters have only had 3-4 starts this season so you can’t be too rash in making these decisions. It’s not fantasy baseball after all.

  8. infernoscurse says:

    i wonder why people have faith that kuroda can fix things and become serviceable but Hughes cant.

    Let hughes pitch through good and bad , let him figure it out on the big stage this early before yanking him. Its not like hes close to Brian Matusz territory

    • Havok9120 says:

      Because Kuroda’s track record is better, possibly significantly so depending on which stats you like. I agree that Hughes shouldn’t be removed yet, but he has absolutely NO history of “figuring things out” (or even consistent performance) over the course of a season. Kuroda does.

  9. .zip file says:

    “David Phelps has impressed in long relief and both Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell continue to bide their time in the minors, but all three remain unproven.”

    Sometimes you need to give the unproven a chance to become proven.

  10. roadrider says:

    Hughes has to do better but he has not been nearly as bad as Garcia. In his first start he was more inefficient than bad and in last start, if he hadn’t been sabotaged by his manager (playing Nunez at 2B, the shift on Doumit), would have been a good one. The only real clunker was the game against the Angels.

  11. Manny's BanWagon says:

    I’m getting worried about Pineda’s test results. If the MRI was negative, I would think the Yankees would get word out right away. The longer we don’t hear any news, I gotta think it’s bad and they’re trying to figure out how to spin it.

    • jjyank says:

      Wasn’t the test just scheduled for today? Let’s wait until we hear something before assuming the worst.

      For the record, I’m slightly worried as well, but I am waiting until I hear a report about his results before making a judgement.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      The Yankees almost never announce injury news until Girardi meets with the media.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      ….and he may still sitting in the waiting room reading Maxim.

      • gc says:

        Let’s hope they don’t perform this MRI in haste. They’ve been known to be hasty before. I hate when they’re hasty.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          GET YOUR STINKIN ASS IN THERE, PINEDA, AND GET IN THAT METAL TUBE.

          *hands tech $20*

          Make it look good. We got a presser in 20 and Jesus Montero went 1 for 4 today.

        • Cris Pengiucci says:

          Maybe they didn’t even perform and MRI and are just going to make up the results. In their haste, maybe they decided not to do it at all.

  12. Tom says:

    While Hughes may be a better option in the rotation than Garcia, I wonder if the Yankees are better off keeping Garcia in the rotation if/when Pettitte is ready.

    Hughes starting, Garcia as long man in pen, Phelps sent down? 2 LOOGY approach continues

    vs

    Garcia starting, Hughes as a swing man in the pen (like Wade), Phelps still the long man, 1 LOOGY gets dropped?

    I think the upgrade to the bullpen configuration is better than the downgrade of the #5 starter. Hughes also can fill in as a 1 inning guy when So/Ro/Mo are not all available.

    • Havok9120 says:

      Or we can use Phelps as a swingman for a few weeks and send down a LOOGY. There are plenty of options.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      We’ll se if progresses, but Garcia has been unusable. Even though Hughes isn’t good, I think the upgrade in the rotation is far more valuable than in the pen.

  13. mustang says:

    Have to give Cashman credit he could easily told Andy that he wasn’t interest and at the time they had 6 starters for 5 spots.
    It’s the lesson that keeps being pounded into our heads: CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH STARTING PICTHING!

  14. ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa says:

    I dropped Stephen Drew to add Andy Pettitte to my fantasy team…
    #signofahomer

  15. Rob Garnsey says:

    I wouldn’t be too worried about the pitching right now. It’s way too early to start spewing statistics and rankings about anything at this point in the season. Yeah we got a fat lazy injured pitcher from Seattle and lost our pants in the trade. But in reality Montero wasn’t going to get much PT on the big club this year anyway. I would have kept him though and let him work on his defense in the minors or maybe switch him to 1B or outfield, bring him up for a short stint in July to inflate his trade value and get a front line starter at the trade deadline…but that’s neither here nor there. What’s done is done. On the other hand it would be foolish to rush Petitte back before he is 100%. While it is tempting to want to get him into the mix, we are going to need him for the stretch run and the playoffs. As long as we stay in contention even with a few clunkers thrown in by our pitching staff here and there, I still do not see a 4 alarm emergency. Petitte will be our number 2 guy by the time the second half of the season starts, and Garcia will be flipping burgers! Bank on it!

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