I’ll take “Things that may impact Andy Pettitte’s decision” for $100, Alex

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I have no idea what’s taking Andy Pettitte so long to decide if he’s retiring or not. You’d think it would be pretty simple: (a) pitch for Yankees; or (b) stay home in big house with family.  I mean, sure, if there was some option (c) that represented harrowing unknowns I could see the reason for the delay, but it’s not like he’s dealing with some strange and sinister Z-axis here.

Oh well, his life and his decision.  But that won’t stop us from speculating what might complicate it all for him. Bob Klapisch has an intriguing theory:

One theory circulating at Yankee Stadium is that Pettitte is spooked by none other than Roger Clemens. Knowing he’s going to be the government’s star witness this summer might be enough to force Pettitte into hiding – especially if Clemens decides he’s going to take his former buddy down with him.

The trial, which is set to begin in July, figures to be a doozy. Unless The Rocket has a change of heart (or tactics), he’s going to swear he never used HGH or steroids. Those who’ve testified otherwise, including Brian McNamee and Pettitte, will be cast as witnesses with bad memories or are just flat-out lying.

It would certainly be way harder to concentrate on the season if the trial actually starts on time and if Pettitte is in the middle of that firestorm.  And given that he has already implicated Clemens under oath before the grand jury and in closed Congressional sessions back in 2008, he will be antagonistic to Clemens and Clemens’ lawyers will go after him. Query: if you had to deal with that would you rather go home for a couple of days afterward or would you rather have to get on a plane to Boston and face the Sox?

Let’s see, what else could be holding up the decision?  Maybe it’s a stretch, but here’s one:

Dow Jones reports a ruptured storage tank spilled 15,000 gallons of beef fat Tuesday, closing the northern end of the Houston Ship Channel … “Luckily the stuff is easy to clean up,” Brahm said. “It solidifies at room temperature, so as soon as it hit the water it just kind of sat there.”

Pettitte’s hometown of Deer Park, Texas is right next to the Houston Ship Channel. I don’t know if I’d want to be next to a beef-fat-filled waterway in 95 degree weather. Maybe this will make Pettitte decide to spend one more summer in New York instead of back home.

What? You got a better theory?

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.