Thursday, May 24, 2012

What's Next For Andy?


Things are looking great so far for Andy Pettitte and the Yankees. After three starts Andy has thrown 21.1 innings to a 2.53 ERA and 1.078 WHIP. Looking at the total stats for Yankee starters, and ignoring the fact that Pettitte has only started 3 games versus 8 to 9 for the other guys, he's leading the team in ERA, WHIP, Hits/9, Walks/9, and Strikeout/Walk. In fact, Mike from River Avenue Blues went as far as to say "if the Yankees were going to start a best-of-five playoff series today, Andy would be my number two starter".

But I can't look past the fact that Andy has thrown against the Mariners, Reds, and Royals. Seattle and Kansas City are 10th and 11th in the American League, and Cincinnatti is 12th in the National League, in runs scored. Not that I believe anybody expects Andy to keep a 2.53 ERA all season long, but perhaps we're all feeling a false sense of security. What do some of Pettitte's "other" stats look like?


For starters, hitters are getting a bit unlucky against Andrew Eugene. The MLB average Batting Average on Balls in Play this season is .298, and Andy's career BABIP is .312. Which has led batters to have a triple-slash against Pettitte of only .234/.280/.390, which are 37, 45, and 8 points below his averages. So far it looks like we're in for a bit of a correction, and in a bad way.

In his career Andy has struck out batters 17.1% of the time, and walked batters 7.4% of the time. In his three starts this season he's striking out 22.9% of hitters, and walking only 6% of hitter. Not a huge difference, but this too leads me to believe his 2.53 ERA is a bit of a mirage.

Batters are also hitting a lot more ground balls against Andy. In 16 MLB seasons Andy gave up ground balls in 48.6% of at bats, while in 2012 hitters are putting the ball on the ground 56.1% of the time. Which has led to him getting more double plays than normal too (25% vs. 13%). But there have been only 12 double play opportunities with Pettitte on the mound this season, against 2,561 opportunities in his career. So chances are we're going to see a few more fly balls hit off of Andy, and fly balls tend to lead to more hits against a pitcher.

Here it comes.

Which leads me to the one stat that makes me believe that Andy isn't due for a big-time correction... the wrong way. That would be his Home Runs/Fly Ball rate. So far this season opponent's have hit home runs on 22.2% of fly balls hit off of Andy. That is way above the MLB average this season of 7.9%, and even higher than Pettitte's career mark of 6.3%. But this isn't something that only Pettitte is suffering from, as I wrote on Monday.

To sum things up, don't be surprised if Andy starts giving up more hits, and therefore more runs. But there's no reason to expect him to drop that far either. So Andy may not be the team's #2 starter come playoff time, but he probably won't be pitching out of the bullpen either.