In a similar way to the way we always thought Roberto Alomar was an elite fielding second baseman, I think most of us have the perception that Andy Pettitte was a particularly good post-season performer.
However, this, like the Alomar thing, is a case where our eyes aren’t telling us the whole story.
During his retirement press conference today, Andy told those gathered that he was no better in the post-season throughout his career than he was in the regular season.
This does seem hard to believe, I mean, Pettitte was a major part of all those World Series wins for the Yankees and always seemed to be pitching in the big games.
In my own memory, that’s the thing that stands out most about his career. The dude was nails in the post-season.
Don’t get me wrong, saying that he wasn’t any better in the post-season doesn’t mean he was shit. He is, after all, a very good pitcher and has been since I first heard his name in 1996. That year he was in an epic battle for the AL Cy Young award with Blue Jays’ ace Pat Hentgen. Hentgen, of course, ended up winning the award that year.
Obviously I didn’t like Pettitte at the time, but I came to begrudgingly respect him as time went on; part of the reason for that was his post-season reputation.
So when Pettitte said these words today, I did what many of us baseball nerds probably did, I dashed over to FanGraphs to see if Pettitte was just being modest or if, once again, our eyes were tricking us.
Sure enough, Mr. Pettitte is right.
Regular Season: 3.88 ERA, 6.63 K/9, 2.83 BB/9, 3.75 FIP
Post-Season 3.83 ERA, 5.92 k/9, 2.46 BB/9, 4.17 FIP
No better, that’s for sure.
Traditionalists will point to his 19-10 career post-season record without mentioning, of course, that most of those wins were because of opportunity having played for the Yankees for so many years and the fact that the Yankees are always one of the best offensive teams in the league.
Just like the perception that post-season games are somehow totally different from regular season games in that you have to “manufacture” more runs (whatever the hell that means) the perception that Andy Pettitte was a great post-season pitcher is wrong.
Pettitte was a very good post-season pitcher, just like he was a very good pitcher in the regular season, but he was no better.
And just to get it out of the way: No, I don’t think he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
In that regard, however, he has one thing going for him and one going against him when it comes to the “completely unbiased” BBWAA.
For him: He spent most of his years in a Yankee uniform
Against him: He admitted to using HGH while recovering from an injury.
Either way, I don’t think he belongs there, but his vote count in five years will be very interesting none the less.