Career Profile: Andy Pettitte
With Andy Pettitte officially announcing his retirement today, it seems like a good time to review his career and what he was like as a prospect. I did a Prospect Retro for him five years ago. Let's review that, then see where he stands in historical context.
Pettitte was drafted in the 22nd round in 1990, out of high school in Deer Park, Texas. A "draft-and-follow" pick, he went to junior college for a year, then signed with the Yanks in May of '91. He made his pro debut that year, going 4-1, 0.98 in six starts in the Gulf Coast League, then 2-2, 2.18 in six starts for Oneonta in the New York-Penn League. His K/BB was a combined 83/24 in 70 innings. At this point, he'd rate as a Grade C+ prospect, promising but needing to show what he could do at higher levels.
Pettitte had an excellent 1992 season, going 10-4, 2.20 in 27 starts for Greensboro in the Sally League, posting a 130/55 K/BB in 168 innings, allowing 141 hits. Strong numbers across the board. He ranked second in the Sally League in ERA, but surprisingly he was left off Baseball America's Top 10 prospects list for that circuit. His command was impressive and he pitched well, but his velocity and stuff were just average. Using my current standards, I'd probably have rated him a Grade B- prospect, pending exposure to better hitters.
Promoted to Prince William in the Carolina League for '93, Pettitte had another solid year, going 11-9, 3.04 in 26 starts, 129/47 K/BB in 160 innings, 146 hits allowed. His control was excellent, but his strikeout rate wasn't super-impressive, and once again he was left off the Top 10 league prospects list. His grade would stay around B-, and I probably would have written something like "Pettitte is a good control pitcher but will have to prove he can pass the Double-A test."
He did that just fine in '94, going 7-2, 2.71 in 11 starts for Double-A Albany, then 7-2, 2.98 in 16 starts for Triple-A Columbus, combining for a 111/39 K/BB in 170 innings. His walk rate got even better, but his K/IP was below average. Still, he showed that he could get advanced minor league hitters out. I likely would have promoted him to Grade B, but his below average K/IP would have kept him from a B+ rating.
Pettitte entered the Yankees rotation in '95, going 12-9, 4.17 in 26 starts. He won 21 games in '96 thanks to good run support. Overall, he's been a very effective starting pitcher, if erratic on occasion. His ERA has crept into the 4.00s several times and he's been lucky to have a strong supporting cast in New York and Houston.
Pettitte is a very good pitcher, but in some ways his reputation has been a product of his environment due to all the post-season exposure. He was never better than a Grade B prospect in the minors, but he's been able to show the same skills against major league hitters that he showed against minor league ones: throw strikes, change speeds, keep guys off balance. Many pitchers who show similar skills in the minors have trouble doing it in the majors, as they lose the balance between "hitting your spots" and "nibbling."
Similar Pitchers to Andy Pettitte (through 2005): Jimmy Key, Bruce Hurst, Lefty Gomez, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, Jerry Koosman.
That was how things looked five years ago. With Pettitte's career now complete, his "most similar" list is Mike Mussina, Jack Morris, Kevin Brown, Tommy John, Tom Glavine, Dennis Martinez, Luis Tiant, Carl Hubbell, Whitey Ford, and Herb Pennock. The last three of those guys are Hall of Famers (although Pennock got in basically because he was a Yankee). Glavine will get in, and the other guys are all marginal candidates who are better than some guys who did get in but don't have slam-dunk cases.
Should he get in the Hall? Pettitte's career stats: 240-138, 3.88 ERA, 117 ERA+ in 3055 innings, 3185 hits. Looking at Bill James' metrics of Hall of Fame standards, Pettitte's "Black Ink" score is 7; the average Hall of Famer has a score of 40. His "Gray Ink" score is 103; the average Hall of Famer has a score of 185. His Hall of Fame Monitor reading is 123; a "likely Hall of Famer" has a score of 100. His Hall of Fame Standards reading is 42; the average Hall of Famer has a score of 50. All of these readings indicate that Petttite is a marginal candidate. There are worse pitchers in the Hall. The "monitor" measure indicates that he'll likely get in, but that his actual statistical case to do so isn't that good.
Pettitte, of course, gets a lot of attention for his post-season success: 19-10 in 42 starts, with a 3.83 ERA in 263 post-season innings, 271 hits allowed. His post-season performances are actually very much in line with his regular season numbers. He won a ton of games in the post-season, but also had a great deal of strong support from teammates to get to the post-season so often in the first place.
My guess is that he'll get in the Hall, but the two key factors that will lead to his enshrinement are 1) his longevity 2) the fact that he was lucky enough to be drafted by the Yankees in the first place. Personally, I would not vote for him.
From a prospect analyst perspective, Pettitte was a Grade B/B- type prospect who made good.