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Andy Pettitte in the Coop?

More from the mailbag!

    During the Yanks-Sox game Jon Miller and Joe Morgan briefly discussed Andy Pettitte's HOF chances. As a Yanks fan, I'd of course love to see him in the Hall, but to be honest my gut tells me he doesn't belong there, and I'm not sure he's even that close. Am I wrong? I hope so.
    David
    New York

My gut's telling me the same thing as yours, David. But I have this annoying habit of not trusting my gut, so let's see if we see what the other stuff tells us ...
Pettitte certainly has an impressive record. At this moment he's 217-128 for a lifetime .629 winning percentage, which is better than most of the guys in the Hall of Fame. Those 217 wins themselves aren't anything to sneeze at, particularly when you consider that he's presumably got a few dozen more wins left in him. But wait! He's actually got more than 217 wins. He's started 35 postseason games -- which I'm guessing is a record -- and has a 14-9 record and a 3.96 ERA in those 35 games.*
* By the way, Pettitte's postseason record is practically a dead ringer for his regular-season record.

Those 14 wins should count, as they constitute a fair amount of value to his teams. One might even argue that they should count double (or more). One thing I think nobody's ever done: calculate the value of postseason performance relative to regular-season performance (which of course has been calculated, many times over).

So what if we give Pettitte 231 wins and 137 losses? Does he start to look like a guy who might belong in the Hall of Fame? I think that he does. What if we assume that he pitches decently enough for another two or three years and wins more than 250 games (including those October games that do count for something)? I think that he looks a lot like a Hall of Famer.

Only two obvious problems:

One, the lack of big seasons. Pettitte's got two 20-win seasons, and he hasn't finished better than fourth in the Cy Young balloting since his second season in the majors, all those years ago. And while you know that I don't think it's fair to judge players on how well award voters liked them, one might reasonably argue that Pettitte's actually done better in the Cy Young balloting than he deserved. He's finished in the top 10 in his league in ERA only three times: second (in 2005), fourth (1997) and eighth (1996).

Essentially, your gut's telling you that Pettitte doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame because we think of the Hall of Fame as a place for great players, and the stark truth is that Pettitte has rarely been great.

The other problem is that Pettitte's an acknowledged user of at least one banned substance, and to this point the voters have not looked kindly upon such players. I happen to think attitudes about PEDs will change, slowly. But the current attitude is probably going to impact his candidacy.

Thanks for the gut-check, David. Pettitte's a better candidate than I thought, but I don't believe I could vote for him because I don't believe he's done enough great things.