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Stiff Com-Pettitte-ion
2003-12-12 02:32
by Mike Carminati

Well, the winter meetings havenít even started and it's already been an interesting offseason. Today, as I'm sure you heard, longtime Yankee Andy Pettitte signed with a team a bit closer to home for reportedly less money with the Astros, heralding in the coming Armageddon according to some Yankee fans. But as quick as you can say Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck, Brian Cashman and George Steinbrenner, not necessarily in that order, have swooped down and apparently liberated Kevin Brown from the Dodgers and left their own little bomb, Jeff Weaver, in his place.

But Yankee fans will protest that though Brown and Vazquez are competent starters, they can't be compared to what the Yankees lost, a 300-game winner in "retired" Roger Clemens and a two-time twenty game winner in Pettitte. Between them Clemens and Pettitte have won 20 eight times, including Pettite's 21 this past year. Brown's 14 wins in 2003 were his most since 1999. He's only won 20 once. Vazquez has never won more than 16.

Well all that's true, but I submit that not only have the Yankees backfilled those holes nicely, they have improved themselves. They have gotten younger and better (and did I mention they dumped Jeff Weaver). Pettitte is very good as a number three pitcher, but has never been a staff leader. Overall, Pettitte was a pretty good pitcher in NYC, very good occasionally. His best years were 1996-97 and 2002. He never was a "bad" pitcher, except maybe 1999.

Yes, he's a great number three pitcher, but even with 20 wins this season and the very good 2002 season, his best years seem to be behind him or at least he has been having many more poor ones. But look at it this way: Clemens' adjusted ERA for his career is 40% better than the league average. Pettitte had only one season better than Clemens' average and that was seven years ago.
I think it's a really dumb move on his part. First, because of his home-road splits for the last three years. It doesn't bode well:

ERAWLGSCGIP/GWHIPK/9IPK:BBHR/9IPOp AVG
Home3.462894256.561.197.384.710.52.262
Away4.2021144416.091.467.222.870.84.289

The next reason is that lefties who leave the Bronx don't tend to fare as well their first season with their new team (through 2002):

NameYrWLERAYr2WLERA
Al Closter19720011.5719730014.54
Al Downing1969753.3819705133.52
Al Leiter1989126.081989004.05
Al Schulz1914134.7619149123.37
Ambrose Puttmann1905274.271906225.30
Art Schallock1955006.001955354.15
Bill Miller1954016.3519550113.50
Bill Wight1947101.0019489204.80
Billy Brewer1996109.531997124.13
Bob Kuzava1954135.451954134.18
Bob Meyer1964034.911964254.20
Bob Shirley1987104.5019870014.73
Bob Wiesler1955023.9119563126.44
Bobby Shantz1960542.791961633.32
Curt Young1992303.321993114.30
Danny McDevitt1961127.621961102.36
Dave LaPoint19907104.1119910116.20
Dave Rajsich1978004.051979133.52
Dave Righetti1990113.571991273.39
David Wells19981843.49199917104.82
Dennis Rasmussen1987974.751987413.97
Denny Neagle2000775.812001985.38
Don Hood1979313.071980463.39
Ed Lopat1955483.741955344.22
Ed Wells1932334.2619336144.20
Fred Heimach19291164.011930024.91
Fritz Peterson1974004.7019749144.36
Garland Braxton1926512.6719271092.95
George Mogridge1920594.31192118143.00
Gil Blanco1965113.981966244.70
Graeme Lloyd1998301.671999533.63
Grant Jackson1976601.691977533.86
Greg Cadaret1992484.251993324.31
Hank Thormahlen1920964.141921174.48
Harry Smythe1934027.801934115.91
Herb Pennock1933745.541934203.05
Hippo Vaughn1912285.141912432.89
Jake Wade1946212.291946004.76
Jerry Nielsen1992104.581993008.03
Jesse Tannehill190315153.27190421112.04
Jim Abbott1994984.5519951183.70
Jim Deshaies19840111.571985000.00
Jim Kaat1980017.201980873.82
Jim Roland1972015.041972008.10
Jimmy Key199612114.68199716103.43
John Candelaria1989335.141989023.31
John Cumberland1970343.941970200.82
Johnny Johnson1944024.051945304.26
Johnny Schmitz1953002.081953273.68
Ken Brett1976000.00197610123.32
Ken Holtzman1978104.081978036.11
Kenny Rogers1997675.6519981683.17
Larry Gura1975783.511976402.30
Lee Grissom1940000.001940252.81
Lee Guetterman1992119.531992345.82
Lefty Gomez1942644.281943015.79
Lefty O'Doul1922003.381923115.43
Marshall Bridges1963203.821964035.70
Mickey McDermott1956264.241957145.48
Mike Kekich1973119.201973147.02
Mike McCormick1970206.101971009.31
Mike Wallace19750014.541975002.08
Pat Clements1988006.481989413.92
Paul Assenmacher1993223.121994123.55
Paul Mirabella1979048.7919805124.34
Ray Fontenot1984893.6119856104.36
Ray Francis1925007.711925027.71
Rich Hinton1972104.861972012.38
Rick Honeycutt19950027.001996212.85
Rip Coleman1956353.671957075.93
Rob Gardner1971003.001971002.35
Rob Murphy19940016.2019951210.95
Rudy May1976433.5719761173.78
Russ Van Atta1935003.8619359165.34
Sam McDowell1974164.691975212.86
Shane Rawley1984236.2119841063.81
Slim Love191813123.071919643.01
Sparky Lyle1978933.471979583.13
Sterling Hitchcock199511104.7019961395.35
Steve Barber1968653.231969474.80
Steve Hamilton1970432.781970006.00
Steve Trout1987046.601988477.83
Stubby Overmire1951114.631952033.73
Ted Gray1955003.001955128.22
Ted Kleinhans1936115.831937122.30
Ted Lilly2002363.402002214.63
Terry Mulholland1994676.4919955135.80
Tim Lollar1980103.341981286.10
Tippy Martinez1976201.931976312.59
Tom Underwood1981144.411981323.18
Tom Zachary1930116.4819301154.58
Tommy Byrne1951216.8619514103.82
Tommy John198210103.661982423.86
2942924.183694374.13

The average departing southpaw maintains his ERA but has a severe dropoff in winning percentage.

Speaking of winning percentage, this is already a concern for Pettitte. What, you say, how can that be an issue for a pitcher with a .656 winning percentage.

Well, Andy Pettitte has been helped greatly by pitching for a winner in the Bronx. I made a table of the 70-odd pitchers who have won at least a 100 games and debuted after 1980. I took their winning percentage and I compared it against their teams'. Here 'tis:

NameWLW PCTTm WTM LTm W PCT% of Tm
Pedro Martinez17371.70914031383.504140.79%
Randy Johnson230114.66913971288.520128.50%
Curt Schilling155108.58912831404.477123.43%
Roger Clemens310160.66016091399.535123.31%
Mike Mussina182102.6411086949.534120.08%
Dwight Gooden194112.63415311331.535118.52%
Ramon Martinez13588.60511321067.515117.60%
Kevin Brown200136.59516171556.510116.80%
Bret Saberhagen167117.58814301398.506116.29%
Kenny Rogers158114.58112921235.511113.61%
Greg Maddux289163.63916011242.563113.54%
Tom Browning12390.577955921.509113.44%
Tom Glavine251157.61514611219.545112.85%
David Cone194126.60616091380.538112.62%
Pat Hentgen129103.55610111029.496112.20%
Kirk Rueter11973.6201037840.552112.18%
Jack McDowell12787.593995879.531111.77%
Jose Rijo11691.56011061095.502111.52%
Kevin Appier169136.55413361347.498111.28%
Jamie Moyer185132.58415001343.528110.61%
Mark Langston179158.53112931395.481110.42%
Frank Viola176150.54012361290.489110.33%
David Wells185121.60515471275.548110.29%
Brad Radke116110.513673764.468109.60%
Jimmy Key186117.61413251037.561109.43%
Denny Neagle12492.57412411123.525109.36%
Kevin Tapani143125.53411471199.489109.14%
Dave Burba11186.56312121135.516109.11%
Andy Pettitte14978.656865571.602108.97%
Eric Show10189.532848881.490108.38%
Mark Portugal10995.53412411268.495108.03%
Orel Hershiser204150.57615201327.534107.94%
Al Leiter145112.56414901358.523107.84%
Chuck Finley200173.53614231428.499107.43%
Pete Harnisch111103.51911441219.484107.14%
Bryn Smith10894.53510251024.500106.88%
John Smiley126103.5501053984.517106.44%
Scott Erickson140128.5229941027.492106.21%
Mike Hampton12089.574930787.542106.00%
Pedro Astacio118109.52010791121.490105.99%
Aaron Sele12288.581949768.553105.11%
Charles Nagy129103.5561078959.529105.07%
Alex Fernandez10787.552816736.526104.90%
Storm Davis11396.54112341147.518104.32%
Bob Tewksbury110102.51910981103.499104.01%
Andy Benes155139.52711981152.510103.42%
Sid Fernandez11496.54313191184.527103.02%
John Burkett166136.55013481178.534103.00%
Bobby Jones103103.50012331292.488102.39%
Tim Belcher146140.51011781182.499102.27%
Ron Darling136116.54012481112.529102.06%
John Smoltz163120.57613321026.565101.96%
Darryl Kile133119.528973906.518101.92%
Mike Witt117116.50210241030.499100.72%
Doug Drabek155134.5361086952.533100.65%
Ken Hill117109.51813781291.516100.27%
Shane Reynolds11495.5451023856.544100.19%
Tom Gordon113107.51412971228.51499.99%
Bud Black121116.51113501285.51299.65%
Greg Swindell123122.50215331479.50998.64%
Todd Stottlemyre138121.53312811084.54298.37%
Tom Candiotti151164.47913911458.48898.18%
Tim Wakefield116101.535961802.54598.07%
Jaime Navarro116126.4799991040.49097.84%
Mike Moore161176.47810771125.48997.68%
Jeff Fassero113108.51112421120.52697.24%
Mark Gubicza132136.49311161084.50797.10%
Terry Mulholland116127.47717631734.50494.69%
Kirk McCaskill106108.495984893.52494.48%
Bobby Witt142157.47515051487.50394.42%
Kevin Gross142158.47311861176.50294.27%
Greg Harris119154.43619502184.47292.41%
Walt Terrell111124.47210761028.51192.36%
Danny Jackson112131.46113671318.50990.53%

Now, this list is far from the be-all/end-all for evaluating pitchers, but one does notice the better ones gravitating to the top, and on it Pettitte is 30th, slightly above average. Yeah, Pettitte is probably a better pitcher than Tapani and Burba, but if you look at his most similar pitchers, McDowell, Reuter and Hampton are there. I think it's a fairly appropriate position for Pettitte.

Now, if you look at Pettitte's career adjust ERA, it's 117. That's a good performance but far from a superstar. Vazquez's is just 109, but he recorded a 153 figure last year, just one point short of Pettitte's career high, and consider that he is still improving. He also has pitched at least 215 innings each of the last four seasons, something that Pettitte has not done since 1998.

As far as the Clemens for Brown "swap" improving the team, Clemens had adjusted ERAs of 97, 137, 128, 101, and 112 in New York, for an average of under 115. Brown has had adjusted ERAs of 160, 148, 167, 152, and 169 (with a 79 in an injury-shortened 2002). That's an average of just under 160. I am leery of pitchers leaving the confines of Dodger Stadium, just as I would be for a hitter leaving Coors. However, Brown is no Hideo Nomo: he has performed well with many teams in many parks over the years. His checkered history of injuries is a concern though, and at 39 will continue to be a major issue for Brown.

So Pettitte goes to Houston, but he'll likely be no more than a number three pitcher there as well, behind Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller. The worst consequence for the Yankees is a dearth of left-handed starters, almost assuring that David Wells is in the rotation next year. Let's say he had pitched for the Astros this year. Using his average above, if he had a 9% better winning percentage than the team in, say, 25 decisions, he would end up 15-10. With his 9% better than average adjusted ERA, he would have posted a 3.54 ERA in ex-Enron. Those are good numbers, not great. If Pettitte's winning percentage hits the skids like past ex-Yankees while keeping the same ERA, he could be more like 10-15 with a 4.00 ERA. I doubt that will happen, but it's probably as likely as another 20-win season in 2004.


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