Friday, February 04, 2011

A Fan Says Goodbye to Andy Pettitte

Immediately following the news (that entered the top ten in trending on Twitter) Andy Pettitte was retiring, the two most common "tweets" were questions about his Hall of Fame status and what the Yankees were going to do without him. Obviously, Andy Pettitte doesn't give a tweet about those things or he wouldn't have retired. His age and win total paralleled Tom Glavine, so he probably would have gotten to 300 wins. But he stopped at 240. No, the first thought that came to this Fan's mind was sadness that we would never again get to watch him pitch.

He was our Andy. He was simply this consistent force that we could count on every five days to give us a gritty and determined performance. We watched him in more big games and in more big situations than anyone else. Was he the greatest pitcher of his generation? No, but that's not the point. The point is that he was a professional pitcher who cared deeply about his team, his teammates and his performances. You always knew that Andy Pettitte would bend a little. But he would seldom ever break. His worst performances in the post season were against the Indians (yes, that team was good once). The Indians just seemed to whack him around in the playoffs. If you take out those three games against them, his post season performance is even more outstanding.

And if anyone questions his post season savvy, consider that Tino Martinez said that if he had one choice to pitch a post season game, it would be Pettitte. Andy Pettitte won nineteen post season games. Tut tut, you may say because anyone could have won that many with that many chances. But the point often missed is that what was Pettitte's genius wasn't throwing shutouts. It was holding down the other team long enough to get to the great Mariano and giving his team a chance to win every time he pitched. His performances in the post season were remarkably similar to his regular season line. Except, they were all one tick better. His career ERA was 3.88. His career ERA in the post season was 3.83. His regular season K/BB ratio was 2.34. In the post season, it was 2.40. His WHIP in the regular season was 1.357. His WHIP in the post season was 1.304. His career winning percentage was .635. His post season winning percentage was .655. See?

His consistency over the years was what we really liked. You could count on Pettitte. He didn't have slumps. He didn't loose his composure. Games didn't get away from him. He just did his thing. He gave up his hits and his walks, but he never gave up the game. Pettitte had a .670 winning percentage at home, but it was just barely under .600 on the road. He was always better in the second half of the season. He had a .595 winning percentage with a 4.07 ERA in the first half, but then had a .682 winning percentage in the second half with a 3.66 ERA. Isn't that when you would want him to be good? Just how did Pettitte keeps his team in the game? In games where his teams scored three to five runs, he won 63 percent of those games. And that doesn't count all the no decisions where his team eventually won.

How consistent was Pettitte? His OPS against the first time through the batting order was .704. The second time through the order, it was .705. The third time through the order it rose a bit to .759. That kind of thing will get you to Rivera more often than not. And he beat the teams he needed to beat. His record against teams with a record better than .500 was 97-70. And his record against AL East teams:

Baltimore (who weren't always terrible): 27-6 with a 3.52 ERA
Toronto: 21-12 with a 4.16 ERA
Boston: 18-10 with a 3.91 ERA
Tampa: 16-6 with a 4.11 ERA

Total that up and Pettitte was 82-34 against the teams in his division. To put that another way, he won nearly 71 percent of his games against the AL East.

Several players on Twitter tweeted that they were glad Pettitte was retiring because he was nasty. He had the respect of his peers.

For a Fan, he can be forgiven his three years in Houston and his short term HGH use since it was simply to recover from an injury. He can be forgiven that he was never a flame thrower or ultra-flashy. He was our rock and it helped that he was handsome and had that way of peering over his glove when taking the sign. We could see his determination. We could see the way he cared about his craft and the game's outcome. He was always first class and never did anything to disrespect anyone. Ultimately, he chose his family over his profession. We wish it weren't so, but it says a lot about who Pettitte is. He could have hung around and gotten his 300 wins. But he has his five rings, plenty of money and the gratitude of all of us who got to watch him perform for the last sixteen years.

It's been a true pleasure and we'll let historians figure out his place in the pantheon of stars. For us, all that matters is that he was a big part of a dozen great teams and a common and consistent performer who took it up just a notch whenever the team needed a win. We'll miss you, Andy Pettitte. It's been a treat.

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