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The Off-Season: In Or Out? 

The Off-Season: In Or Out?

By Tim Kabel

December 29, 2021


It’s that magical time of year again. No, I’m not referring to Christmas, although it is that time of year too. This is the time of year when we discuss whether retired baseball players are worthy of entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame. These discussions are usually quite earnest and often involve hushed tones and handwringing. Some people view themselves as the guardians of the Hall of Fame, whose job it is to restrict entry. They become quite animated in their desire to keep those who they feel are unworthy out of the Hall of Fame. I think that serious discussions can be held without getting apoplectic about it. Even when there are disagreements, we don’t need to have duels over them. It is possible to have disagreements and still be friends. Discussions about who belongs in the Hall of Fame should be fun, not bitter. Most of us don’t have votes anyway so, there is no need to go to the mattresses over it. I’m going to consider the candidacy of one person in this article. That person is Andy Pettitte.

Last year, Andy Pettitte earned 13.7% of the vote for the Hall of Fame. That is well below the necessary 75%. To put things in perspective, Curt Schilling, whom most people view as a definite Hall of Famer, earned 71.1%. Mike Mussina is in the Hall of Fame. CC Sabathia. who recently retired is considered by many to be a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Are those three men that far superior to Andy Pettitte?

As those of you who have read my articles probably realize, I am not a sabermetrician. I do not rotate statistics in my hand like Captain Queeg rubbing the little metal balls. I look at the basics and make my decisions accordingly.

Curt Schilling pitched in the Major Leagues for 20 years. He won 216 games and lost 146 for a .597 winning percentage. His ERA was 3.46. He struck out 3,116 batters. He walked 711 men in his career. He won 20 or more games on two occasions. He was a three-time World Series winner.

Mike Mussina pitched 18 years in the Major Leagues and won 270 games while losing 153. His winning percentage was .638. His ERA was 3.68 He struck out 2,813 batters and walked 785. He won 20 games once in his career, which happened to be his last season. He was never a World Series champion.

CC Sabathia pitched 19 years in the Major Leagues and won 251 games, while losing 161 for a winning percentage of .609. His earned run average was 3.74. He struck out 3,093 batters, while walking 1,099 in his career. He won 20 or more games one time in his career. He was a World Series champion in 2009.

Andy Pettitte pitched 18 years in the major leagues and won 256 games while losing 153 for a winning percentage of .626. His earned run average was 3.85 He struck out 2,448 batters, while walking 1,031. He won 20 or more games twice in his career. He was on five World Series championship teams with the Yankees and ranks as Major League Baseball’s all-time postseason wins leader with 19.

You can sift through these numbers any way you’d like to reach various conclusions. However, to sum it up, the four pitchers’ career records are all very close. Mike Mussina won 14 more games than Andy Pettitte. Pettitte won 15 more than Sabathia and 40 more than Schilling. Pettitte had the highest ERA but won the most World Series championships. The fact that Pettitte holds the record for most postseason victories should certainly count for something.

When we look at the Hall of Fame and those players who have been elected to it, we look for similarities. Often there are certain milestones that are considered to be automatics for entry. For example, 500 home runs for a batter or 300 wins for a pitcher. It has become virtually impossible for a pitcher to win 300 games in this day and age. I’m not saying it will never happen but, it is much less likely than it used to be. Mike Mussina is in the Hall of Fame, Curt Schilling narrowly missed election last time and could well get in this time. CC Sabathia is being touted by many as a definite Hall of Famer. Andy Pettitte fits in very neatly with the other three. He certainly deserves more than 13.7% of the votes necessary to gain entrance. I realize some of this has to do with his name being on the Mitchell Report but, bear in mind that he was never suspended for even one game. He was a great competitor and a top-notch pitcher during his era.

In my opinion, Andy Pettitte is a Hall of Famer. I will brace myself for the contrary opinions.


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