We have five years until we need to seriously think about Andy Pettitte: Hall of Famer. My view right now is that he’s not. That could change, or it could not. Depends on what I’m able to figure out and what others are able to figure out and express persuasively for his cause.
There have been a lot of “he has a lot of wins!” arguments floated in the past 24 hours and I don’t think those will ever persuade me. Joe Sheehan, however, has the first serious attempt I’ve seen that I think has the potential to make headway. It’s less about “here are Pettitte’s numbers,” and more about re-defining what it means to be a Hall of Fame pitcher:
Pettitte’s raw statistics fall short of the standard for the Hall of Fame, but not by enough to keep him out of the discussion. Pettitte, by dint of the timing of his career, is going to be the focal point for two arguments about the electorate’s standards: that the line for starting pitchers has gotten too high, and that postseason work should be given greater weight then it ever has.
Again: if I had a vote today, I think it would be no, and part of that is because I’m not convinced, as Joe is, that Pettitte’s postseason work “pushed him over the top.” But Joe has identified a fertile line of inquiry here about era and context. And it would do us well to use the next five years to think hard about it.
Maybe that will change my mind and the mind of the majority of people who, I sense anyway, don’t think Pettitte is a Hall of Famer. Maybe it won’t. But it certainly does us better than spinning our wheels like we seem to have done so much with starting pitchers in recent years.