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Pettitte isn’t even a borderline case. But he SHOULD be

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Taking a look at Pettitte’s case vs some other notable candidates

MLB Steroid List Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

While reading Theo’s article on Pettitte, Buehler, and Hudson evaluation for the Hall of Fame, I started to comment on the bottom my frustration. Not with his article or it’s premise, but the need for the Hall of Fame to do something differently with their voting.

I decided I would go back to look at 6 Hall of Fame cases. I’ll keep Pettitte as the known entity to show why I don’t believe Pettitte is even a borderline case for the Hall of Fame, but why I think he should be, and some players who I believe to be crazy oversights.

Pettitte’s “case” generally is of an above average pitcher with an long tenure, and a large portion of the argument is centered around his wins and post-season track record. My issue with that, is it’s basically, he should get into the Hall of Fame because he played on a good team. The better the team you’re on, the more wins and more opportunities in the playoffs.

Of the list below, we have Pettitte and 5 other Hall of Fame Candidates. The last numbers are their bWAR/fWAR.

Pettitte -256-153, 3.85 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 3,316 IP, 6.6K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.351WHIP, 117 ERA+, 60.2/68.2

#2 - 194-124, 3.46 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 2,898 IP, 7.8 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.256 WHIP, 121 ERA+, 62.3/56

#3 - 214-191, 3.37 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 3,548 IP, 5.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 1.275 WHIP, 114 ERA+, 69.5/68.2

#4 - 211-144, 3.28 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 3,256 IP, 6.6 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.222 WHIP, 127 ERA+, 67.8/76.5

#5 - 288-231, 3.34 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 4,710 IP, 4.3 K/9, 2.4 K/9, 1.283 WHIP, 111 ERA+, 61.6/79.4

#6- 354-184, 3.12 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 4,916 IP, 8.6 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 1.173 WHIP, 143 ERA+, 139.2/133.7

As you take a quick look, #6 stands out as by far and away the best player, standing head and shoulders above the rest. Since he’d take essentially the #1 spot in essentially every category, I removed him from the equation and I’ve bolded who would lead if not for him.

Pettitte doesn’t stack up well on this list, not taking the lead in a single category and coming in last of the group in ERA, FIP, K/9, WHIP, and bWAR. But the argument for Pettitte’s case is not just of his regular season, but his post-season heroics. So let’s take a look there next:

Post Season

Pettitte - 19-11, 3.81 ERA, 276.2 IP, 6.0 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.305 WHIP

#2 - 8-3. 3.80 ERA, 111.1 IP, 7.6 K/9, 4.7 BB/9, 1.356 WHIP

#3 - 1-4, 5.85 ERA, 32.1 IP, 3.9 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.701 WHIP

#4 - 5-5, 4.19 ERA, 81.2 IP, 7.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 1.310 WHIP

#5 - 6-3. 2.65 ERA, 88.1 IP, 4.9 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 1.200 WHIP

#6 - 12-8, 3.75 ERA, 199 IP, 7.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.221 WHIP

Pettitte is renowned for his post-season performance, Mr. October himself, but truthfully his numbers fall in the middle to back end of the pack other than the number of opportunities he was given to pitch in the post season. What I found interesting is #4 who has the second worst record/ERA here is one that Astros fans will remember as being dominant in the playoffs. Let’s take a look at accolades next.

2010 State Farm Home Run Derby Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Accolades:

Pettitte- 3x All-Star, 4x in Top 6 of Cy Young

#2 - 1x Cy Young, 5x All-Star, Perfect Game, 5x in Top 5 of Cy Young, 2x Top 10 MVP Voting

#3 - 2x Gold Glove, 3x All-Star, 2x Top 6 of Cy Young

#4 - 6x All-Star, 5x in top 6 of Cy Young, 2x ERA leader

#5 - 4x All Star, 3x Top 4 of Cy Young

#6 - 1x MVP, 7x Cy Young, 11x All-Star, 12x in Top 6 of Cy Young, 7x ERA Leader

Again, #6 is in a different league, but Pettitte falls into the lower tier in comparison to any of the others.

Other Factors:

Pettitte - Admitted user of PED’s

#2 - None

#3 - None

#4 - Named on Mitchell Report, Bad PR

#5 - Surgery named after him overshadows playing legacy

#6 - Named on Mitchell Report, Fought and found innocent on trial, Bad PR

While Pettitte is an admitted PED user, as I read through articles a lot of this was “forgiven” due to the admission in the youtube video above. I’ve been less of a believer of holding players out of the Hall due to steroids, not because I disagree with the sentiment, but it seems unfair to only punish a handful of selected players given the lack of knowledge on a widespread issue. If the Hall had a method for removing a player if they later found he used, then maybe there’s a discussion to be had. (And a cleansing of the existing members). The most interesting part to me is that Pettitte seems to be have a “pass” on Steroids. Why? Because he admitted to it, apologized and went back out and had success on the field. In comparison to Clemens who has sworn his innocence, literally went to court and WON with Congress finding him innocent. I’m not here to argue that Clemens was innocent, I’m not even advocating that, but all of it seems wrong. Being suspected but found innocent is worse than committing and admitting to it? I feel like there shouldn’t be people including Pettitte but not including Clemens on their ballot. Particularly in a case where we’re talking about a top 10? pitcher all time vs a borderline candidate. Especially since, at worst, people believe both used. Unless we believe the morality of admitting it absolves all sin and boost to stats? Or if Clemens is lying, that the Hall of Fame is clean of liars?

Regardless, as you guys have looked at the numbers, I’m sure you were able to put together some of the players identities. I wanted to leave the names off initially as it helps to avoid biased memories and look back at statistical evaluation. I think most would agree that Pettitte is the worst pitcher of this list of candidates, unless you consider #3’s post season stats enough to drive them back into Pettitte’s league.

So let’s reveal them and let’s look at how their Hall of Fame voting went (numbers as per Baseball-Reference on 12/24/20)

#1 - Andy Pettitte - 2019 - Received 9.9% ///// 2020- Received 11.3%

#2 - David Cone Received 3.9% and fell off Ballot, One and Done

#3 - Rick Reuschel - Received 0.4% and fell off Ballot, One and Done

#4 - Kevin Brown - Received 2.1% and fell off Ballot, One and Done

#5 - Tommy John - Maxed at 31.7% and fell off Ballot

#6 - Roger Clemens - 2019 - Received 59.5% ///// 2020 - Received 61%

When I started writing up a comment that evolved into this article, I figured Pettitte would be a borderline case, but he’s not. He’s not in the remotely in the ballpark. He shouldn’t have had a second time on the ballot given how he compares to this group of players who never came close, with most of them being one and done with no second chance on the ballot.

I say all of this, not out of a dislike for Andy Pettitte. Actually, quite the opposite. When I first started researching, I figured he’d be a borderline case that I’d ultimately be a bit biased towards getting in based on his time in Houston. I’d actually like it if Pettitte made the Hall, and I think back extremely fondly on his years as part of the Big 3 in Houston. But if you look at the players who haven’t made it, he’s simply not even close.

When I read Theo’s piece on the eligibility of Hudson, Buehler, and Pettitte I realized how incredibly broken the current Hall of Fame voter standards are.

Pettitte in my opinion SHOULD be a borderline case. He was a top tier pitcher across nearly two decades. There’s always the peak vs longevity arguments, both of which I think have some validity to it, but Pettite does fairly well with both and has a ton of intangibles.

I strongly agree with Theo’s article that pitchers have gotten snubbed in recent times and I think it’s because of an over reliance on an archaic metric like wins. We’re at a time where people need to re-think the way they’re evaluating pitchers, or we’re essentially deciding we’re never electing a pitcher into the Hall of Fame again. 300 Wins used to be the “lock” for the Hall of Fame.

Pitchers aren’t throwing 300 innings in a season, hell even 200 is a rarity nowadays (and the same is happening with wins). It’s a different era and generation of baseball, and we’re going to see these cases go from rare to non-existent.

Want to know the closest active pitchers to 300? (Number of Wins, Age)

Bartolo Colon (247, 47)

Justin Verlander (226, 37)

Greinke (208, 36)

That’s it. That’s all the active pitchers over 200 wins.

Kershaw has possibly the best chance. He has been an absolute dominant force in the game of baseball basically since breaking into the league. After 13 years in the league, pitching to an absurd tune of 2.43 ERA, winning 3 Cy Youngs, an MVP and 8 All-Star selections has amassed a grand total of 175 wins. He’d need to continue at this pace for another 9 years before he’d have a chance of eclipsing the 300 win mark.

I personally feel like the Hall of Fame needs to make a drastic shift on what the standards are. We should be taking a step back and taking a look at some of these players, and players that have had shorter careers but high peaks like Johan Santana and Roy Oswalt.

I am hopeful that the veterans committee ends up picking up some of these players and potentially helping find some of them a missed place in the Hall of Fame. While I’ve never been a fan of the “big” vs “small” hall argument, but I think we’re doing baseball fandom a disservice by not making a change immediately in how we’re evaluating pitchers for the hall.

What do you think? Does the hall need to make a change in the way they evaluate pitchers? Do you think any of Cone, Reuschel, Brown, John or Clemens should be in the hall?