Andy Pettitte pitched one of the best games in the World Series anyone has ever seen. 1996, Game 5 against John Smoltz and the Braves. He had to be perfect—Smoltz only gave up 1 run that game—and he was, beating the Braves 1-0 and setting up the amazing comeback for the Yankees that year. It was a bravura performance and set up his reputation as a tough-as-nails postseason pitcher.
What everyone forgets is that Pettitte got shelled in Game 1 of that series, giving up 7 runs in 2.1 innings in a Braves blow-out of the Yankees.
Is Pettitte the post-season dominator that everyone seems to think he is? Well, his stats say that at the very least, he is pretty good. He is 19-10 with a 3.83 ERA, which is pretty much right in line with his lifetime 240-138, 3.88 ERA stats. But a guaranteed postseason world-beater….
Well, like a lot of myths, he isn’t. A few examples. Try the season after his fantastic game 5 performance, the 1997 ALDS against the Indians. At home, in Game 1, Pettitte putting the Yankees in a hole in a short series. Then with the series tied at 2-2—in the deciding game 5, Pettitte gave up 4 runs in 6 innings to lose the series. He had a 0-2 with an 8.49 ERA that series. The following year, the Indians shelled him again in the ALCS for 6 runs in under 5 innings. He was bailed out in the 1999 World Series after giving up 5 runs in 3.2 IP. His bullpen and batters won the game for him 6-5 to win game 3.
But the real stain on Pettitte’s record came in “The Series New York Should Have Won,” the 2001 World Series, just after 9-11. That series, to be blunt, Pettitte laid a Tyrannosaurus Rex-sized egg. In game 2 Pettitte, lost to Randy Johnson, giving up 4 runs in 7 innings, including a devastating 3-run blast by Matt William to pout the game out of reach. But the truly uggo-game of that series, was game 6. With the Yankees improbably up, 3-2, Pettitte didn’t get out of the 3rd inning, only recording 6 outs total. Pettitte gave up 6 runs on 7 hits, including 3 doubles in a beat-down, that broke any momentum the Yankees had after winning 3 amazing games at the Stadium. The following season, Pettitte got battered by the Angels in the ALDS, giving up 4 runs in 3 IP.
More recently, last season, Pettitte earned a 5.63 ERA in the 2009 World Series. And last night he lost a must-win game against Cliff Lee and the Rangers.
Now, this is not to say that Andy Pettitte is a bad post-season pitcher. The above was just to state, that every time an announcer talks about Andy Pettitte in the postseason, they always use words like “clutch,” and “stopper, “when the evidence doesn’t necessarily support that. Heck, former teammates David Wells was 10-5 with a 3.17 ERA in the postseason, and David Cone was 8-3 with a 3.80, and was lights out when it mattered most—in the World Series—where he had a 2.12 ERA in 29.1 IP. Orlando Hernandez 9-3 with a 2.55 ERA—with a 2.20 ERA in the World Series.
Even some of his rivals could claim to be just as good, if not better, than Pettitte in the post-season. Tom Glavine, who pitched 218.1 innings in the postseason, had a 3.30 ERA, though his team failed him to a 14-16 record. Similar story for Greg Maddux, who had a 11-14 record, but had a 3.27 in 198 postseason innings.
Probably the contemporary most deserving of the title of big-time postseason starting pitcher should be Curt Schilling, who earned an 11-2 record and 2.23 ERA in 133.1 innings of postseason play. His .968 WHIP is much better than Pettitte’s 1.357.
Again, this is not to condemn Pettitte’s postseason record. It’s just to confirm that Pettitte isn’t the superhuman “clutch” big-game performer that say, Mariano Rivera is. He’s good, but no God.