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August 20, 2004


One Game, One Pitcher
by sj

It’s Game 7, Yankee backs are against the wall, who is the one pitcher you want on the hill? It’s a fun question to throw around. I was talking with my friend the other day, he narrowed the question some, by limiting the options to Yankee starters of recent vintage. He said without hesitation, Andy Pettitte. I have a feeling that many Yankee fans feel the same way. I wasn’t sure what the answer was, but I knew what it wasn’t, Andy Pettitte

I decided to take a look at the numbers. As everyone knows, wins and losses only measures how many runs the offense scored behind a pitcher, and does not effectively indicate the quality of a pitchers performance (Think El Duque, Game 6, 2000 ALDS). ERA doesn’t factor the length of a pitchers performance (witness David Wells perfect 0.00, Game 5, 2003 WS). I used Bill James’ Game Score and look at the each Yankee start since the 1995 postseason. Game Score is somewhat flawed, as it is hard to put up a really big number if you don’t strike anyone out, but I think it is the best way to take a quick look at the numbers. I limited it to pitchers with 5 or more starts, so Gooden, Neagle, Kamieniecki, McDowell, Key and Rogers were not eliminated from consideration. None of them were the answer anyway.

Andy Pettitte, mean:48.2, median: 49.5

2001

ALCS Game 1

74

1998

ALDS Game 2

72

2003

WS Game 2

72

1996

WS Game 5

70

2003

ALDS Game 2

69

2000

ALDS Game 2

68

1996

ALCS Game 5

66

1998

WS Game 4

66

1999

ALDS Game 2

62

2003

WS Game 6

60

2000

WS Game 5

56

2001

WS Game 2

56

1999

ALCS Game 4

55

2001

ALDS Game 2

55

2001

ALCS Game 5

50

2003

ALCS Game 2

49

2000

ALCS Game 3

47

2000

WS Game 1

47

1997

ALDS Game 5

46

1996

ALDS Game 2

45

1996

ALCS Game 1

44

1995

ALDS Game 2

37

2003

ALCS Game 6

37

2002

ALDS Game 2

27

1997

ALDS Game 2

22

1998

ALCS Game 3

22

2000

ALDS Game 5

22

1999

WS Game 3

20

1996

WS Game 1

15

2001

WS Game 6

15


I know where Andy’s postseason reputation was cemented, in 1996 dueled with John Smoltz with the series tied at two. Mariano Rivera unavailable as the bridge to John Wetteland, because he pitched multiple innings two days in a row, the Yankees needed a big start from their Cy Young candidate. They got it, Pettitte went 8 1/3 for a game score of 70. This game is an example of the limitations of Game Score, Good Andy only struck out 4.

Just 4 days earlier, in the first World Series game at Yankee stadium in 15 years, he laid an egg. Actually he was worse than that, saying he laid an egg is unfair to egg layers everywhere. The 1996 World Series was the perfect capsule of what Andy Pettitte was to the Yankees in the postseason, alternately brilliant and terrible, often in the same series.

Andy Pettitte won many, many big games for the Yankees, many of his starts were of ugly, one sided affairs . Of his thirty postseason starts, six times his game score was 22 or less, that is positively Sturtzian. 20% of the time Andy Pettitte took the hill in the postseason, he was shelled, and shelled hard.

Now, I don’t think Pettitte isn’t “clutch.” He obviously can pitch in big games. Pettitte is simply a pitcher that can not be effective without his A game. There is no way I give the ball to that kind of pitcher in game 7 if I have any options not named Contreras, Weaver or Sturtze.

David Cone, mean: 51.42, median:53

1999

WS Game 2

71

1998

ALDS Game 3

69

1998

ALCS Game 2

66

1999

ALCS Game 2

58

1996

WS Game 3

57

1998

WS Game 3

57

1995

ALDS Game 1

49

1996

ALCS Game 2

49

1995

ALDS Game 5

48

1998

ALCS Game 6

37

1996

ALDS Game 1

36

1997

ALDS Game 1

20

I thought Cone’s numbers would be higher. Looking back, I think Cone suffered a little from being left in the game too long in a few games. For example, he pitched very well in Game 5 of the 1995 series with the Mariners, but Buck Showalter left him in for approximately 2,400 pitches.

I would consider giving 1997-99 Cone the ball, but he is my favorite pitcher. I have a feeling he was Joe Torre feels the same way, judging by his year 2000 season.

Roger Clemens, mean: 54.94 median: 58

2000

ALCS Game 4

93

2000

WS Game 2

83

2001

WS Game 3

70

1999

ALDS Game 3

68

2001

ALCS Game 4

67

1999

WS Game 4

66

2003

ALDS Game 3

65

2001

WS Game 7

60

2003

ALCS Game 3

58

2003

WS Game 4

51

2001

ALDS Game 5

45

2001

ALDS Game 1

44

2000

ALDS Game 1

41

2002

ALDS Game 1

38

2003

ALCS Game 7

32

2000

ALDS Game 4

31

1999

ALCS Game 3

22

Rocket’s average is boosted greatly by two incredible performances in 2000. In the 2000 ALCS against the Mariners, Rocket’s presence was announced by two high and tight pitches to ARod in the first, knocking him his backside. He struck ARod out, and 14 others that day, allowing only one hit. It was far and away the best start by a Yankee in the Torre Era. A couple weeks later, he put up an 83 against the Mets, going 8. The score would have been higher if James had included thrown bat shards into the formula.

The lowlights included two head to head starts against the Pedro Martinez. One was a complete debacle for the Yankees, the other was one of the best games in Yankee history.

There are worse options in a big game than Clemens, but the Yankees had better.

Mike Mussina mean: 52.22 median: 56

2001

ALDS Game 3

69

2001

WS Game 5

67

2003

WS Game 3

64

2001

ALCS Game 2

56

2003

ALCS Game 4

56

2003

ALDS Game 1

51

2003

ALCS Game 1

38

2002

ALDS Game 3

36

2001

WS Game 1

3

My little study isn’t really fair to Moose because it does not factor in his postseason starts with the Orioles including a brilliant postseason in 1997 (29 Innings, 11 H, 4 ER 41 K/7 BB). He was not as great in 1996, but a few of those game scores would have been at the top of any chart (84, 77 in the 97 ALCS)

As a Yankee, Mussina’s first start was his best. With the Yanks down 2-0 in the series, he shut down the A’s over 7 innings. His game score was only 69 because he only went seven innings. Joe went to a fully rested Mariano Rivera for a 2 innings save. Mussina’s other great Yankee postseason performance wasn’t a start, but a relief appearance. In 2003, ha came out of the pen for the first time in the big leagues and held Boston scoreless over 3 innings, redeeming himself for his terrible start in the season opener.

David Wells mean: 55 median: 60

1998

ALDS Game 1

76

1997

ALDS Game 3

69

1998

ALCS Game 1

67

2003

ALCS Game 5

65

2003

ALDS Game 4

61

1998

ALCS Game 5

59

2003

WS Game 5

50

2003

WS Game 1

49

1998

WS Game 1

42

2002

ALDS Game 4

12

I was never a member of the David Wells Fan Club, but I always knew if the Yankees needed a start a good start, Wells would provide it. His game scores are a touch misleading, Wells is hurt by his low strikeout totals. He was more than excellent in many of these starts.

If you discount his one inning start in 2003, he has only had 3 sub par starts, but what a sub par start in 2001. As crappy starts go, this Game 4 in 2002 was at the top of the list. I thought the Yankee outfielders were going to collapse from chasing all the balls in the gap. Oh, and those stupid thundersticks, ugh, the less said about the 2002 postseason the better.

Wells is a very good choice to take the ball in the big game, however, the last time the Yankees did that, Wells asked out after the first inning, and not even an appearance by Good Andy two nights later could save them.

Orlando Hernandez mean: 58.54 median: 60

1999

WS Game 1

76

1998

ALCS Game 4

72

1999

ALDS Game 1

72

2000

ALCS Game 2

66

1999

ALCS Game 5

65

1998

WS Game 2

62

2001

WS Game 4

60

2000

ALDS Game 3

57

1999

ALCS Game 1

56

2000

WS Game 3

50

2001

ALDS Game 4

47

2001

ALCS Game 3

40

2000

ALCS Game 6

38


My choice to start the mythical big game is El Duque. He has proven it over and over, he can and will get it done.

In my opinion, his first start with the Yankees was his fines, down 2-1 at Cleveland. The Yankees faced a juggernaut lineup with the possibility of falling down 3-1. El Duque calmly went 7 innings, allowing only 3 hits, and shutting the Indians down.

The Yankees have the opportunity to throw El Duque in a big game again this postseason. If I was Joe Torre I would not hesitate to give him the ball, I would give it to him in game 1. If the Yankees need a big start, Hernandez will provide it.

In 2001, El Duque was asked why he didn’t feel pressure in the postseason. He replied, “I always feel pressure. Anyone who says he doesn't is lying. What I never feel is fear."