October 8, 2010
Andy Pettitte's Game Two Starts: A Mini-Retrospective
For most of his career, Andy Pettitte has been a Game Two kind of guy. The longtime Yankees lefty generally hasn’t distinguished himself as the best pitcher on his teams, though that’s perhaps more a reflection of his past and present teammates than an indictment of his own abilities. In only two of his 16 seasons have the teams for which he’s played failed to qualify for postseason baseball, so it’s no surprise that he’s shared a rotation with a number of Hall-of-Fame-caliber talents—Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Roy Oswalt, David Cone, and current rotation-mate CC Sabathia among them. Some of those luminaries have deprived Pettitte of Game One duties, but—as has been the case thus far in this year’s ALDS—the lefty has often managed to outpitch his teams’ nominal aces.
15 of Pettitte’s record 41 postseason starts have come in Game Two; the southpaw has kicked off a series on only six occasions. The following table lists Pettitte’s Game Two performances, from earliest to most recent:
Postseason Pettitte’s statistics are almost an exact match for the regular season model’s: Pettitte sports a career 3.88 ERA in the regular season, and a 3.87 ERA in the playoffs. On the face of it, replicating one’s regular season performance in October might not seem particularly “clutch,” but considering the higher level of competition one faces during the playoffs, keeping up appearances qualifies as an accomplishment. Pettitte has saved his October best for Game Two starts—though probably not because they so often turn out to be pivotal—recording a 3.02 ERA in his 98 2/3 innings of second-game action.
On five occasions, Pettitte has followed a Yankees loss in Game One with a victory; three of those successful outings were concentrated in 2003, perhaps Pettitte’s signature run of second-game performances. That season, the lefty righted the ship in each round of the playoffs, after Mike Mussina (twice) and David Wells failed to get the Yankees off on the right foot. Last night’s seven innings of two-run ball against the Twins were roughly par for Pettitte’s career Game Two course, but in this case, more of the same bodes well for the Yankees. Given the lefty’s two-month layoff and late-September swoon, his return to form has to be reassuring for Joe Girardi and his staff, rewarding the skipper’s somewhat controversial decision to save Phil Hughes for the series’ third act and line up the veteran for a decisive (and increasingly unlikely) Game Five.