Houston Astros, New York Yankees

Andy Pettitte might fall just short in Hall of Fame case

ESPN recently made the case that Andy Pettitte should be in the Hall of Fame. Here, we look at why his case may fall short.

Sam Miller of ESPN recently made the case that longtime New York Yankees and Houston Astros pitcher Andy Pettitte should be in the Hall of Fame. Pettitte has had a hard time gaining support, as his vote total has been around 10 percent during his first two years on the BBWAA ballot (with 75 percent support required for election).

On the surface, Pettitte appears to have, at best, a borderline case. His career WAR of 60.7 doesn’t exactly wow us; scroll through the list of WAR leaders and you’ll see non-Hall of Famers such as David Cone, Luis Tiant, Rick Reuschel and Kevin Brown above Pettitte. Meanwhile, according to ESPN, Pettitte’s lifetime ERA of 3.85 would be the second-highest for a Hall of Fame pitcher.

Miller’s case in his article relies heavily on these three factors (read the article for more in-depth information):

  • The fact that Pettitte pitched during a time that was difficult for pitchers between the offensive explosion of the 1990s and the increased pressure on young pitchers.
  • The fact that Pettitte has a reputation as one of the best all-time postseason pitchers.
  • The fact that there aren’t a lot of sure-thing pitchers from his era that are getting elected.

However, there are a few legitimate reasons why Pettitte falls short:

  • Pettitte was a very good pitcher but not a dominant one. He only made three All-Star teams, placed in Cy Young Award voting five times and placed in MVP voting twice. You would expect a Hall-of-Fame pitcher to be more dominant over the course of his career compared to his peers, even if it was a difficult time to pitch.
  • I certainly agree that postseason success should be a factor in Hall-of-Fame voting. However, Pettitte’s postseason accolades might not be as great as they seem. His lifetime postseason ERA is 3.81, which is almost identical to his regular season ERA of 3.85. Yes, he was facing stiffer competition, but it’s not like he was totally dominant in the playoffs, either. He ranks among all-time leaders in many playoff categories A) Because he was on a lot of good teams and (B) Because there were more rounds of playoffs, starting in 1995, for him to build up his numbers.
  • As for there not being more pitchers from that era that we are considering, it’s a legitimate point. Yet that doesn’t mean that Pettitte is the right guy to enshrine. Curt Schilling, who is struggling to get in but probably will eventually make it, and Kevin Brown, who inexplicably got almost no support, seem to be better choices, at least in terms of WAR. Even the underrated Tim Hudson, who also doesn’t seem to be getting much support when he is on the ballot for the first time coming up, is a comparable choice (if we take away all the postseason stuff).

Then there’s the PED situation. While I don’t believe that Pettitte’s use should automatically disqualify him — I still believe we go down a slippery slope when we do this — it certainly isn’t helping his case, and he’d probably see a lot more support had he not been linked to them.

Andy Pettitte was a great pitcher, and he accomplished a lot throughout his career. However, I just don’t feel that his Hall-of-Fame case is quite there. We’ll see how much more support he gets, if any, this year and beyond.

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