The Renaissance of Andy Pettitte

After posting a 14-14 record and a 4.54 ERA in 2008, many pundits wondered if Andy Pettitte was done.  He was hit hard in the second half of the season as opponents batted .302 against him and his second half ERA swelled to 5.35.  There was no way the Yanks would pay Pettitte the $16 million he made in 2008 and after some public negotiation, he re-signed for 2009 for a $5.5 million base salary (with roster bonuses).  At the all-star break, Pettitte was 8-5 with an ERA of 4.85 – a slight improvement over the end of 2008 and probably pretty close to what the Yankees expected from their fourth starter.

Since the all-star break, however, Pettitte has seemingly found the fountain of youth.  He’s 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA, including over 6 innings of perfect baseball against the Orioles on Monday.  Through 59.2 innings in the second half, he’s struck out 62 and walked only 15.  Where did the improvement come from?

Looking at his pitch type data on FanGraphs.com, his fastball is on average 89 mph this year, up .5 mph from last year and he’s throwing it more this year.  He’s not throwing a slider at all this year and Pettitte’s throwing fewer cutters.  His curveballs and and changeups are both up.

My guess is that Pettitte learned from Mike Mussina last year.  Not being able to throw the ball by people, Mussina beat batters by hitting his spots and mastering control of his pitches.  Pettitte, seemingly, has done the same.  He hasn’t left the ball over the middle of the plate and he’s fooling guys with off-speed stuff.  If he continues to pitch like this maybe he’ll come back for another season next year.

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