Connect with us


Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte were great Yankees, but are they Hall of Famers

Over the weekend, the Yankees retired core four members Jorge Posada’s No. 20 and Andy Pettitte’s No. 46. Manager Joe Torre’s No. 6 was retired last year and center fielder Bernie Williams’ No. 51 was hung up in May. Mariano’s number was retired in 2013, and Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill have also been given plaques. All this “honoring” has left plenty of people questioning whether the Yankees are going to retire Shane Spencer’s number next, but if Harold Baines and Paul Konerko have their jerseys retired, why shouldn’t Posada and Pettitte, who were not only great Yankees that rode atop five parade floats but on the cusp of Cooperstown?

In all, what you make of the two Yankee icons Hall of Fame case depends on what you make of the Hall of Fame. Jim Rice is in the Hall, but Tim Raines is not. Barry Larkin was recently inducted, but Allan Trammell has been shunned. Catfish Hunter is a Hall of Famer, but Jack Morris is not. Speaking of Morris, he received only 61.5% of the vote a year ago in his last year of eligibility and can now be considered for the Veterans Committee. He also happens to be one of Pettitte’s greatest comparisons. Morris: 254-196, 3.90 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 105 ERA+. Pettitte: 256-153, 3.85 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 117 ERA+.

The two have eerily comparable résumés, were key members of multiple World Series champions, had big postseason moments and both even enjoyed their greatest moment at the expense of John Smoltz. Morris was the ace of his staffs and made 14 Opening Day starts (far more than Pettitte), but Pettitte is the winningest pitcher in postseason history with a 19-11 record over 44 career playoff starts (also a record) and he also gets a major boost because in his career he pitched three times as many postseason innings as Morris to the same postseason ERA (3.81 to Morris’s 3.80) in a much more difficult era to succeed as a pitcher.

Pettitte’s durability and winnability sticks out. He tossed over 3,600 big league innings and only nine left-handed pitchers in the expansion era started more games than he started (521). His 256 wins are good for sole possession of 42nd place on the career wins list, and who knows how many more pitchers will even reach the 250 win plateau. Amazingly of the 23 pitchers who have reached the mark over the last 70 years, only five had fewer losses at the time of their 250th win than Pettitte: Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver.

In fact, Pettitte has over 100 more wins (256) during his career than he has losses (151), something only 25 other pitchers have been able to do. His .626 winning percentage is the ninth best of any southpaw and he ranks tenth all-time for career WAR by a lefty. Many critics will say that victories do not matter as much anymore in assessing a pitcher’s worth, but for Hall of Fame voters they have mattered quite a bit. Of the 46 pitchers who had previously won 250 or more games, only 8 have reached eligibility for induction and not been elected to the Hall. Of those, four played in the 19th-century dead ball era, three are considered borderline (Tommy John, Jim Kaat and Morris), and one is of course Clemens.

However, Pettitte’s 3.85 ERA would be the highest of any pitcher in the Hall. He wasn’t a strikeout pitcher, he appeared on just three All-Star teams and received only one top-three Cy Young finish. But the biggest thing overshadowing Pettitte’s career may be his admission to using PEDs. He’s been connected to steroids and performance-enhancing drugs by sharing a strength and training coach with Clemens, and was supposedly named in a 2006 affidavit by relief pitcher Jason Grimsley. In the end he stood accountable, more than about 90 percent of the worldwide athletes who have been caught doping.

Meanwhile, there are currently 16 catchers in the Hall of Fame, making it the position with the second fewest inductees to date. As an offensive catcher, Posada’s stats don’t pop out — he hit .300 once, hit 30 HRs just once and drove in 100 runs only once.  However, consider his ranking in the following categories among catchers since 1901: 3rd in walks (936), 7th in doubles (379), 6th in OPS (.848), 8th in OBP (.374), 8th in homers (275), 11th in RBIs (1065), and 8th in OPS+ (121).

He outranks popular names such as Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk in every offensive category except WAR and home runs. The only catchers who had a higher OPS+ were Mike Piazza, Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey, Johnny Bench, Ernie Lombardi, Gabby Hartnett and Yogi Berra. Posada caught more games (1,574) than all but 24 others, made five all-star teams, won five silver sluggers and one cannot overstate the value of a switch-hitting catcher who produces offensively and leads in the locker room. Among his contemporaries, Posada stands behind just Ivan Rodriguez and Piazza.

But his problem is that he just doesn’t have enough playing time.  He made it to the majors in 1995, but didn’t start playing everyday until 2000 (though he did average 112 games in 1998 and 1999). In his 17 years in the majors, Posda played in 140+ games in a season just six times and he didn’t manage to reach any of the nice round numbers people like to point to as shoo-in status for the Hall. It doesn’t help that he never won a major award, nor was he perceived as good fielding catcher, accumulating 142 passed balls and a defensive WAR of -2.9.

While Posada and Pettitte’s place in Cooperstown is questionable, there place in Yankee history is not and they fully deserved the honor bestowed on them this weekend.  Pettitte played 18 seasons in the majors, 15 of which with the Yankees. His 219 victories in pinstripes are good for third-most in franchise history, behind Hall of Famers Whitey Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231). No Yankee anytime soon is breaking his record of 2,020 punch-outs and he ranks first in games started (438-tied with Ford). He also won the clinching game in six postseason series, including the clincher in all three rounds of the Yankees’ last run to the Canyon of Heroes, in 2009.

There are only eight other starters whose Yankee careers lasted more than 2,000 innings and whose ERAs over that time were at least 10% better than league average. Of those, three were from the dead-ball era: Herb Pennock, Waite Hoyt, and Bob Shawkey. The fourth is ex- pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre and the other four are; Ford, Ruffing, Lefty Gomez and Ron Guidry. When ERA+, WAR, strikeouts, wins and WHIP are all factored in, Pettitte stands smack in the middle of the famed group. When factoring everything in, the lefty from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is probably the second or third best starting pitcher in the team’s storied history, because Gomez and “Louisiana Lightning” simply didn’t do it for nearly as long.

Posada proved a worthy heir to the likes of Dicey, Berra, Elston Howard and Thurman Munson. It often seemed that Posada was under-appreciated in his prime, playing in a line-up with the likes of Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, and Alex Rodriguez. But he was a proud Yankee who was a part of 12 division championships, seven pennants and five World Series titles in his time. Posada’s power and passion made him one of the most important and beloved players in franchise history. And think about all the great pitchers he caught. From Clemens and Mariano. Sabathia and Coney. The Big Unit, Mussina and Pettitte.

While the doors to Cooperstown will open wide for Jeter and Mo, they will most likely be not so wide for their buddies Posada and Pettitte.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

More in Baseball