The Ballot: Andy Pettitte
Pitching: 287 points
League leaders: 5 points (wins)
Postseason bonus: 10 points
Greatest pickoff move ever: 15 points
It was a balk: minus-5 points
PED admission: minus-??? points
Probably not the best lefty ever from Louisiana (Ron Guidry, Chuck Finley, Vida Blue): 0 points
Hall of Fame Race to 400 points: 312, minus whatever for that PED thing
* * *
An interesting discovery emerged in my Schilling-Mussina post -- once Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, and Roy Halladay get elected (or, I guess, fall off the ballot) there really isn't another Hall of Fame starting pitcher on the horizon. Well, there's always the ongoing Clemens saga to consider, but moving past him, well, you can look and see who the best starting pitchers coming on the ballot will be:
2020: Cliff Lee, Josh Beckett, Brad Penny.
2021: Tim Hudson, Mark Buehrle, Dan Haren, Barry Zito.
2022: Jake Peavy, Scott Kazmir, Tim Lincecum.
2023: John Lackey, Matt Cain.
Do you see a Hall of Famer on there? Lincecum with his two Cy Youngs? Probably not. Lee or Buehrle? No. Hudson? We'll talk about him in a minute.
And after them, who will be next? Bartolo Colon? No. I guess CC Sabathia will probably retire at some point in the next few years, and I think he's someone who should get serious consideration. But Sabathia plans to go on. And the sure Hall of Famers -- Kershaw, Verlander, Scherzer, Greinke -- are years from retirement, you would hope.
[caption id="attachment_24015" align="aligncenter" width="425"] Pettitte's day in Cooperstown could very well come.[/caption]
So it truly could be a decade before we see another sure Hall of Fame starter on the ballot. And people will notice that while it's happening. You know this because we just lived through a decade like that -- from 2000 to 2010, not one starting pitcher was elected (unless you count Dennis Eckersley). And what happened was people began to squint really hard to try to find a Hall of Fame starter -- that's why there were so many arguments about Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris.
So I think that could happen again. Tim Hudson is a guy who, if you squint hard enough, can look like a Hall of Famer. His 222-133 record looks sort of Hall of Fame-ish. He remains widely respected around the game. There's a lot of Catfish Hunter in Hudson, a couple of Southern boys, about the same height and weight, both right-handed, both bulldogs, won almost the exact same number of games, etc. By numerous advanced stats, Hudson was better than Catfish.
That probably doesn't hold up, though. Catfish was famous in a way that few pitchers have ever been famous -- I mean, Bob Dylan wrote a song about him. Catfish had the nickname, Catfish had the Cy Young, Catfish had the first huge free-agent contract, Catfish had the World Series heroics. In the end, Tim Hudson didn't have any of that stuff; he seems destined to fall off the ballot like David Cone.*
*Cone deserved a better fate ... if David Cone could come on the ballot in 2022 or so, I think he'd have an EXCELLENT chance to go to the Hall of Fame. But maybe I'll save this for a David Cone post.
The point to all of this is: If Andy Pettitte can stay on the ballot -- no sure thing, but if he can -- he might be someone who can gain Hall of Fame support in the years ahead. Let's ignore his HGH admission for the moment (and leave behind if he was fully honest about everything) and just look at his career.
He had three Hall Qual years, which is certainly on the low end for a Hall of Fame candidate. His peak value is well below what you would expect from a Hall of Famer.
But he had a 60.7 career WAR, which is at least in the Hall of Fame ballpark. No pitcher coming on the ballot in the foreseeable future will have that many wins above replacement (though Buehrle is about the same).
Pettitte won 256 games, which will look better and better as the years go along. And then there's the postseason performance. He made 44 postseason starts, which is insane, and while he had some downs (the 2001 World Series, for instance), he had more ups (incredible in 2003 World Series, won 2001 ALCS MVP, etc).
Plus, he built a modicum of fame. Yes, this was mostly because it would be impossible to be on the dominant Yankees teams of the 1990s and NOT become at least a little bit famous, but he also pitched brilliantly for the pennant-winning 2005 Astros.
And everyone remembers that pickoff move.
It was a balk.
What do you get when you add it all up? You get a guy who might not even make it off the ballot this year; there are a lot of people who see him as basically a more celebrated Jamie Moyer, who got only 10 votes last year.
But Pettitte was better than Moyer, and he might get the 5 percent he needs and move on to the ballot next year. And next year's ballot won't have Roy Halladay on it, might not have Mike Mussina on it, so there will be some more oxygen. If he can hang on, by 2022, one way or another, Schilling and Clemens will be coming off the ballot. Then, as mentioned, that 60.7 WAR will be on the top of the list for a long time.
I'm just saying: Keep an eye on him. I don't think Andy Pettitte is a Hall of Famer; I would vote for Roy Oswalt first, to be honest, and I would definitely vote first for Johan Santana, David Cone, Bret Saberhagen, Dave Stieb ...
But none of them will be on the ballot when we hit the dry spell that's coming.
Andy Pettitte might.