Is Andy Pettitte a Hall of Famer?

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Too early? Nonsense!

When we ask if someone is a Hall of Famer, we’re really asking two questions. (1) Does he deserve to make the Hall of Fame?; and (2) Will he make the Hall of Fame, deserving or not.

First question:  They give a guy a five year waiting period for a reason, but my quick reaction is no, Pettitte is not a Hall of Famer.  I covered this back on Christmas Eve, but based on the traffic reports that day none of you read it so I’ll say it again.

Pettitte has been good — at times very good — but never great.  His postseason performance helps him, but it’s easy to overstate that too. Pettitte’s regular season winning percentage, ERA and K/BB ratio is .635/3.88./2.34.  Postseason? It’s .655/3.83./2.40.  He’s had some big performances, but over a little more than a full regular season’s worth of playoff starts, he’s around the same pitcher he’s always been. Give him a bump because of the stronger competition in October, but it’s not like he’s been transcendent.

One thing a lot of people will say about Pettitte is that he was never even the best pitcher on his team.  That’s an overstatement I think. He was the best starter on the 1996 championship team (David Cone pitched better, but he was only there for 11 starts).  He was pretty close to the best in 1997 when the Yankees won 96 games (Cone was probably better, but again, he pitched 45 fewer innings than Pettitte). After that there were always one or two better Yankees starters in any given year, be it Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, CC Sabathia, Orlando Hernandez or even Chien-Ming Wang. My sense: if you’re going to go to the mat for any Yankees pitcher of that era, you should probably go to the mat for Mike Mussina, who was far superior to Pettitte over the course of his career. But let’s leave that for another day.

Now the second question

Second Question:  I think Pettitte will get a lot of support. Most of it will be based on the “fame” part of Hall of Fame. He was a Yankee. He was the most constant of their starters over the Jeter era. He had a lot of wins.  There will be people bending over backwards to make a case for Pettitte in ways that they’d never consider making for other pitchers.  A lot of these cases will be intellectually dishonest in that those making the case won’t ding Pettitte for his admitted HGH use the way they’ve dinged other guys like Bagwell for his merely suspected use.  It’s going to get ugly when guys start writing their Pettitte Hall of Fame columns, frankly.  I can’t wait!

But I have this sneaking suspicion that he’ll make it eventually.  It won’t be on the first ballot, but I think he’ll hang around a long time and eventually get over the hump.  People like Andy Pettitte. And for good reason.  And he’s got a non-trivial case for induction, even if it’s not up to snuff in my view.  Without hard analysis I think his case is better than Jack Morris’ for example.

But I suppose we can save all of this for 2016.

Robinson Cano hit his 300th home run last night

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Last night Robinson Cano hit a solo homer in the ninth inning of the Mariners’ loss to the Texas Rangers. It was his 22nd on the season. Though it was insignificant to the outcome of that game, it was significant to Cano: it was his 300th career homer.

While we’ve become accustomed to not caring much about home run milestones south of, say, 500, 300 homers for Cano is a big deal, as he’s only the third second baseman to cross that threshold in baseball history. The other two: Jeff Kent, at 377, and Rogers Hornsby at 301.

Cano, who turns 35 next month, has a career line of .305/.354/.495 and 1,179 RBI, 512 doubles and 33 triples to go with those bombs. He’s in his 13th big league season and still has six more years left on his deal with the Mariners. He’s averaged 24 homers a year since coming to the Mariners. While he’ll obviously trail off at some point — and while great second baseman’s have this weird habit of just suddenly falling off a cliff — it’s highly likely that he’ll finish his career as the all-time home run leader among second baseman. If he remains healthy he should also get over 3,000 hits in his career.

Cooperstown, here he comes.

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.