Pettitte: “I just didn’t have the hunger”

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I’ve been watching Andy Pettitte’s press conference.  It just ended a minute ago.  Some random things that struck me:

  • All of the conflicting reports we’ve heard over the past several months make a lot of sense given how much Pettitte says he wrestled over this.  He said that just two weeks ago he was ready to come back. And then he wasn’t.  He’s been all over the map, really.  At the risk of reading too much into this, it seems like his subconscious knew that he wasn’t going to play again, because he admitted he lacked the drive to rehab his groin and do the other kinds of offseason work he normally does.  He didn’t come to a conscious decision about it, however, until just recently.
  • Pettitte does not seem like a waffler. People will read too much into a random “you can never say never” comment he made, but he was emphatic about not pitching in 2011 certainly, and said that he’s done pitching.
  • He’s pretty clear-eyed about his career. He said he doesn’t consider himself a Hall of Famer. When asked about how he was able to pitch so well in the post season he said that if you look at the numbers he wasn’t really any different in the playoffs than he was during the regular season.  If anything that sells himself a bit short given the tougher competition in the postseason, but it does kind of harm the case of those who would claim that he was some sort of October clutch god.
  • He said the Roger Clemens trial had zero impact on his decision. This squares with what I’ve been hearing from a source I know close to Pettitte. And if you think about it, there’s even an argument that playing would have made the Clemens stuff less of a distraction. At least then he’d have something to do with himself rather than obsess about it. He could hide behind team spokesmen more easily.
  • He said that he spoke with a lot of people about whether he should go on. One of the people he spoke to was Tino Martinez, who told Pettitte that if he had any doubts, he shouldn’t play. Why? Martinez felt like he hung on for one season too long and seems to have regretted it.
  • He also said that Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies didn’t ultimately impact his decision, though there was an interesting note: he said that his offseason workouts began when Lee signed because he “felt an obligation” to the Yankees now that they were down a pitcher they had been assuming they’d get.  Ultimately, though, his lack of a desire to come back trumped this.

That last thing is probably the most interesting thing in all of this to me. I find his sense of team on that point to be fascinating and highly admirable. Indeed, in this whole press conference he has come off as just a swell dude, and I mean that sincerely.

Who knows what the future holds for Pettitte?  I don’t see him as a broadcaster. I could totally see him as a folksy pitching coach or something.  I don’t think he’s going to play baseball anymore, however. And that’s a good thing given that Andy Pettitte — more than most guys in his shoes — seems to have truly engaged the question of his desire and his ego and his drive to go on.

Good luck, Andy.

MLB’s juiced baseball is juicing Triple-A home run totals too

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There has been considerable evidence amassed over the past year or two that the baseball used by Major League Baseball has a lower aerodynamic profile, leading to less drag, which leads directly to more home runs. If you doubted that at all, get a load of what is happening in Triple-A right now.

The minors have always had different balls than the majors. The MLB ball is made in Costa Rica at a Rawlings facility. The minor league balls are made in China. They use slightly different materials and, by all accounts, the minor league balls do not have the same sort of action and do not travel as far as the big league balls. Before the season, as Baseball America reported, Major League Baseball requested that Triple-A baseball switch to using MLB balls. The reason: uniformity and, one presumes, more accurate analysis of performance at the top level of the minor leagues.

The result, as Baseball America reports today, is a massive uptick in homers in the early going to the Triple-A season:

Last April, Triple-A hitters homered once every 47 plate appearances. As the weather warmed up, so did the home run rate. Over the course of the entire 2018 season, Triple-A hitters homered every 43 plate appearances. So far this year, they are homering every 32 plate appearances. Triple-A hitters are hitting home runs at a rate of 135 percent of last year’s rate.

Again, that’s in the coldest, least-homer friendly month of the season. It’s gonna just get worse. Or better, I guess, if you’re all about the long ball.

Which you had better be, because if they did something to deaden the balls and reduce homers, we’d have the same historically-high strikeout and walk rates but with no homers to provide offense to compensate. At least unless or until hitters changed their approach to become slap hitters or something, but that could take a good while. And may still not be effective given the advances in defense since the last time slap hitting was an important part of the game.

In the meantime, enjoy the dingers, Triple-A fans.