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? asked in SportsBaseball · 2 months ago

Why was Andy Pettitte considered an "Ace" pitcher when...?

...half his playing career he posted an ERA of 4.00+? He also had the best run support of anyone during that stretch

2 Answers

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  • 2 months ago

    I don't know if he was ever really considered the "Ace" of the rotation as he often played "second fiddle" to guys like David Cone, Roger Clemons, Mike Mussina and CC Sabbathia.  His reputation was made in the post season where he was known to rise in big games.

    His role on the Yankees was similar to that of John Smoltz on that great Braves pitching staff of the 1990s.  Glavine and Maddux were considered the "aces" of the staff, but Smoltz was the one known to step up big in the post season.

  • 2 months ago

    Much of it was because he got the reputation early in his career, and once you get a reputation it tends to stick.

    As a rookie in 1995 he posted a 4.17 ERA and a 12-9 record in 26 starts. Not exactly spectacular but the average ERA across the American League was 4.71 so he was about a half run per 9 innings better than average and was only a rookie. Of course he got lots of national attention because he was playing for the Yankees and had one of the best offenses on his side. this was enough for him to finish 3rd in rookie of the year voting.

    His 2nd year in 1996 he took a major step forward, reduced his ERA to 3.87 while starting 34 games. His 21 wins lead the American League.

    Remember this was during the steroid era when batters were juicing up like a millennial vegan with a gift card to Jamba Juice and a coupon for a free whey grass add-on.

    In fact the AL wide ERA spiked to 4.99 that year and remains the highest ever. So Pettitte's numbers got better while league wide pitching stats were getting worse. His ERA was over 1 run per game better than average. That (combined with the media hype of being a Yank) was enough to earn an All Star appearance and 2nd place in the Cy Young voting.

    His 3rd year (1997) is really when he got the reputation of being an ace pitcher. he continued improving, dropping his ERA to 2.88 while the rest of the AL was at 4.56 - meaning he was a full 1.68 runs better than an average pitcher. He also lead the league with the lowest rate of home runs allowed per 9 innings at a mere 0.3 - during the height of the steroid era.

    At that point his reputation was set. He was above average as a rookie, improved to very good his 2nd year, and pitched like an Ace in his 3rd year while the rest of the pitching in MLB was rapidly regressing.

    He regressed a bit in his 4th year but was slightly better-than-average his whole career with a few pretty good years sprinkled in.

    I guess it just goes to show that if you wear pinstripes and get on the good side of the NY media you're set for life.

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