For Evan, it didn’t matter that Barry Bonds was, by all accounts, a major ^*^%*. The circus he brought to the ballpark on a daily basis was fine with her, so long as he kept bashing homeruns into McCovey’s Cove. She was a fan–which we often forget is short for fanatic. And for a fan, it wasn’t that hard to convince herself that Bonds was completely natural (as well as both a scholar and a gentleman). From that perspective, I hate the post I’m about to write–because I’m a fan of Andy Pettitte‘s. And this is just one of the many examples I have to show that being both a fan and an analyst can be….difficult at times.
Because compared to the jump Evan was making with Barry Bonds (which required the turning of a blind eye to any number of Bonds’ foibles, the newspaper articles that seemed to come out daily, his own teammates potshots, not to mention his grotesque musculature), the jump I would be taking, nudging Andy over the finish line into the hall of fame would be quite small (though as I’ll show, not insignificant).
Unfortunately, I just can’t take that leap.
Let’s get one thing out of the way early–performance enhancing drugs have nothing to do with my conclusion. If this is the linchpin of anyone’s argument out there, they’ve probably missed the point. I can understand someone toeing the line against a rampant Andro user like McGwire (though I find it distasteful even at that point). However, Andy’s sin is quite different–he admitted to using human growth hormone momentarily. A steroid is not the same as HgH, is not the same as ritalin, is not the same as a corked bat, etc. There are different gradations, and Pettitte’s foible seems to me the least of them.
Next, let’s talk about what it means to get into the hall of fame. The purpose of the hall is to enshrine the best players of each generation, and as such, it’s sort of odd that most arguments seem to focus on players versus those already enshrined. Who really cares whether Andy looks like Dizzy Dean or not? They played in different eras, and the statistics aren’t particularly comparable due to context. I prefer to look at Andy versus his peers, because simply put, it would be very odd for 10 pitchers from the same decade to get in (though this number is rather arbitrary). Along that line, who are the best pitchers of Andy’s generation, so we can compare them?
The names that come to mind for me, and the names Andy will be compared to, run as follows (not in any particular order): Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Curt Schilling, and Kevin Brown. Let’s take a look at them matched up properly.
|Postseason Wins||Postseason Losses||Saves|
The above table tells the story pretty well. I’ve bolded the numbers that are particularly absurd, and italicized one in particular which should act as a veto. Though I imagine most of the readers of this blog know fullwell what these statistics mean at this point, for those of you who don’t, a primer.
WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement, and is a somewhat complicated equation which estimates the true value of a pitcher, taking into account league, era, park effects, etc. For instance, a pitcher that wins a game but gives up 15 earned runs has probably lost value in their career WAR, even though they get the shiny addition to their win-loss record. We like WAR around these parts.
ERA+ is a normalized version of ERA centered on 100, basically showing how much better or worse a pitcher was compared to their league average (by ERA). 110, for example, would indicate that the pitcher’s ERA was 10% better than average. 95, on the other hand, would be roughly 5% worse than average. This is a good statistic for comparing pitchers between different time periods–a 4.00 ERA in 2000 doesn’t mean the same thing as a 4.00 ERA in 1920, for example.
K/BB is how many strikeouts a pitcher had per walk. More is better, less is worse.
As you can see, the above table doesn’t do Andy any favors. He’s 6th in wins and 5th in winning percentage, but he’s 9th in ERA+ and dead last in WAR. His K/BB beats only Tom Glavine, who comes off looking pretty bad on this list. The only thing he has going for him is his playoff record–and frankly, the team he was on won a whole bunch of playoff games while he was on the team, even when he wasn’t pitching. Besides, we’re pretty much past the point of taking W/L record as a good indication of pitcher skill–why is it that when we slap the word “postseason” onto the statistic, we suddenly devolve 10 years to when such things seemed to matter?
For me, the most damning number is one you’ve probably not seen before–WAR/9IP. I threw this together mostly to fisk Tom Glavine‘s candidacy (up front, I think it’s silly he’s going to get in). This is basically showing the rate at which players accrued wins above replacement. Of this list, only two names are below 0.20–Pettitte and Glavine. Let’s take a moment to consider how much lower Glavine’s is…I think it’s clear that one of these things is not like the others. Let me write this quite clearly–the only reason he’s in this conversation whatsoever is that he pitched 4413 innings–every one of which was in the NL, and mostly for winning teams–but I digress.
So the question becomes this: How many pitchers is the coop going to let in from this time period? It’s clear that Pedro Martinez will walk in, as will Maddux and Randy Johnson. Clemens probably would have walked in as well if he’d just admitted his steroid use and moved on–but he’s turned himself into a pariah. At this point, I don’t know how you keep him out of the hall of fame (to be clearer, I think he should be in)–but I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if it took him a decade to make it. After that you’ve got Schilling, Mussina, Smoltz and Pettitte, all of whom have serious postseason credentials. Smoltz has the 158 saves (4 in the postseason) which will grease the skids for him. Schilling has the bloody sock, to go along with the crazy 4.38 K/BB rate and ~86 WAR. Mussina has the 270 wins, the ~86 WAR, the and a pretty darn high 3.58 K/BB of his own. Pettitte, well, Pettitte has five world series rings. Kevin Brown is already off the ballot, not even managing to stay on for a second year, and the only thing Pettitte has on Brown is wins. Then we’ve got Tom Glavine, who is like a much crappier, but more more determined version of Andy Pettitte (by these numbers).
So we’ve got four pitchers who will be no doubters: Martinez, Maddux, Johnson, Glavine. Actually, it’s pretty hard to argue that Smoltz won’t be a no doubter as well. Then there’s Clemens, who is probably the best pitcher ever, but has that little steroid/court/^*(%^*(% factor to deal with. Then you’ve got Schilling, Mussina and Pettitte. And of the three, unless you’ve got blinders on and are only worried about postseason wins, Pettitte is the least compelling. And hell, even if you do massively overweight postseason performance, Schilling’s got that calling card, too.
I entered this post thinking that if Andy had played another two seasons, he’d probably be a lot closer to induction–but if you actually look at the table, he’d still be 9th in WAR, last in ERA+, second to last in K, second to last in K/BB, etc. If we’re really honest about it, Andy isn’t even really a candidate.
Which really sucks for us fans.