According to ESPN, Andy Pettitte According to ESPN, Andy Pettitte

Andy Pettitte’s Comeback


According to ESPN, Andy Pettitte has agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million minor league deal with the Yankees.  The 16-year veteran did not pitch at all last season and announced his retirement prior to the start of the 2011 season.  He is a a three-time All-Star and has finished in the top-ten for Cy Young voting five times, but what does he have left in the tank?

Pettitte will work back into game shape and try to earn a spot back on the Yankees major league team.  He has been out of baseball for a full year, but players comeback from a year off all the time.  Normally those players are returning from injury, but like Manny Ramirez, Pettitte is returning from retirement.  Assuming Pettitte can work his way back to major league shape, let’s examine his past and what he may be able to do going forward.

Using Brooks Baseball’s pitch data since 2007, I’ll explore Pettitte’s velocity over the last few years:

From 2007-2010, Pettitte’s fourseam fastball velocity averaged 89.69 mph.  His cut fastball averaged 84.65 mph.  His sinker averaged 89.70 mph.  Let’s break this down by year:


PitchCountFrequencyH. MvtV. MvtMphH. RelV. RelSpin ΘRPM
Fourseam (FA)28128%0.69-12.0290.942.206.741742,161
Sinker (SI)22723%10.41-14.7591.182.576.601402,366
Cutter (FC)27527%-3.81-26.2885.932.256.67205771


PitchCountFrequencyH. MvtV. MvtMphH. RelV. RelSpin ΘRPM
Fourseam (FA)130741%-2.47-14.3789.351.836.781871,899
Sinker (SI)53017%6.19-16.3489.382.176.661521,901
Cutter (FC)83026%-7.19-28.8483.701.866.67235927


PitchCountFrequencyH. MvtV. MvtMphH. RelV. RelSpin ΘRPM
Fourseam (FA)127135%-0.14-14.0289.702.196.881771,940
Sinker (SI)70320%9.00-17.4489.562.496.761412,023
Cutter (FC)82623%-5.27-26.4285.552.266.77215879


PitchCountFrequencyH. MvtV. MvtMphH. RelV. RelSpin ΘRPM
Fourseam (FA)94844%1.17-14.7089.752.246.681711,871
Sinker (SI)24611%9.34-19.4689.422.436.551351,859
Cutter (FC)51824%-5.61-29.7684.072.376.53231681

You’ll notice these charts include not just mph, but spin, RPM, horizontal movement, and vertical movement.  These are all important when considering declining skill-sets, but for now I’m going to focus on velocity. Pettitte’s four seam velocity took a big dip after the 2007 season, but in his last two seasons, it was back on the rise:

Pettitte’s cutter was less predictable.  His velocity saw drastic peaks and valleys:

Finally, let’s look at Pettitte’s sinker, perhaps his best pitch:

The sinker velocity drops off drastically after the 2007 season and essentially stays flat.  Putting this all

together, Pettitte’s best days are obviously behind him.  However, he remained surprisingly consistent in his last three seasons.

It would seem a safe bet that Pettitte’s velocity may drop a bit coming back this season considered he took an entire year off.  But, velocity is only part of the equation.  The movement on Pettitte’s pitches will be just as important.  As you can see by the charts above, Pettitte’s movement on each of his three “fastball” pitches actually increased from 2007 to 2010.

Fourseam Fastball (vertical movement): -12.02, -14.37, -14.02, -14.70
Cutter (vertical movement): -26.28, -28.84, -26.42, -29.76
Sinker (vertical movement): -14.75, -16.34, -17.44, -19.46

The increased movement on the sinker is what allowed Pettitte to recover after his rough 2008 season.  In 2007, Pettitte’s ERA was 4.05.  It jumped to 4.54 in 2008.  But in 2009, Pettitte was able to lower that to 4.10.  He was able to lower his ERA to under 4.00 in 2010.  His final season before this one-year retirement, Pettitte’s ERA was 3.28.

Pettitte’s one year off will show in his performance.  There’s little doubt about that.  Yet, Pettitite should still be able to provide a positive contribution to the Yankees if the team chooses to add him to their 25-man roster.  Aside from his veteran presence, his solid performances over the years, and his sentimental value to the team, Andy Pettitte is a workhorse.  He started 30 or more games 12 of his 16 major league seasons.

Pettitte will not be All-Star caliber, but he has a chance to be a back-of-the-rotation contributor for the Yankees.  He could be the piece the shores up the Yankees’ rotation.  He will almost surely parlay this minor league contract into a spot on the major league roster.