In Which ‘Tremendous’ Means ‘Pretty Good’

How long does it take to check assertions like this?

If Pettitte retires, it could be devastating to the Yankees. He is not only a very good pitcher, but a tremendous postseason pitcher.

How tremendous is Andy Pettitte in the postseason?

  • Andy Pettitte career ERA: 3.88.
  • Andy Pettitte career postseason ERA: 3.83.

Andy Pettitte postseason ERA compared to contemporaries:

  • John Smoltz: 2.67
  • Tom Glavine: 3.30
  • Roger Clemens: 3.75
  • Greg Maddux: 3.16
  • Curt Schilling: 2.23
  • David Wells: 3.17
  • Orlando Hernandez: 2.55
  • Pedro Martinez: 3.46

The man's a good pitcher, and he's had some great postseasons series (as well as some crappy ones) and certainly his retirement could well be "devastating" to New York. There's certainly no shame in looking at Pettitte's career and saying he's had a very good one and overall pitched the same in the playoffs, which is really all you can ask. But a "tremendous postseason pitcher"? Compared to what? And to whom?

I know it's asking a lot for Nick Cafardo to do basic research to back up his unfounded assertions, but he does work for a newspaper and gets paid for the privilege. 

Semi-retraction: Doing more in depth game-by-game research, I discovered that Pettitte actually has been "tremendous," at least by my definition of the word, since 2003, with an ERA in the postseason under 3.00 and a differential from his regular-season ERA by more than 1.5 runs. Though I doubt Cafardo was thinking in such nuanced terms, it appears that in this case he was more correct on this than I was. Carry on.

23 comments… add one

  • That would be like saying Josh beckett has been any better than ‘good’ as a red sox (ERA: 4.28) or better than “pretty good” as a Red Sox in the post season (ERA: 3.88).
    I know that if Cafardo made such a statement about him we’d see a post here from Paul disproving any such myths too.

    sam-YF December 27, 2010, 8:50 am
  • never thought i’d see you use “era” to define a pitcher’s effectiveness…what’s next, using “rbi” to evaluate a player’s [see drew, jd] run production?… ;)
    cafardo’s opening line was this:
    “…We asked 10 baseball people — managers, coaches, general managers, and scouts — to select the 10 most significant offseason moves/non-moves that could shift the balance of power. Here’s what they came up with:…”
    it appears to me anyway, that cafardo was merely reporting the opinions of the folks he spoke with, and not offering up his own “unfounded assertions” on those 10 topics…they were opinions, good or bad, unfounded/unresearched or not, but i didn’t get the sense that he agreed or disagreed with these random thoughts of others…some people do happen to think pettitte is a “tremendous” post season pitcher, but nobody called him the “best” from what i could tell…there are all kinds of ways we can nitpick that praise by cherry-picking stats…for example, his record 19 post season wins are only because he’s had so many starts and played for those power-house yankee teams…zzzzz…there were some fairly hyperbolic comments about some other players in the piece too…but i think the love for pettitte was a statement on the fact that his retirement would leave a gaping hole in an already short yankee rotation…not sure the relevance of referencing steinbrenner’s past indiscretions for the 15 billionth time with your “yankee” link…

    dc December 27, 2010, 8:58 am
  • The 3.83 ERA means to me that Pettitte has actually stepped up his game in the postseason. You might say that it’s a mere .05 difference from his regular season numbers, but isn’t the difference significantly greater when you factor in that postseason games are against top competition and usually the best offenses in the game? He faced Boston a ton, Cleveland, Texas, Minnesota. He didn’t get the putrid Royals, for instance.

    Nick-YF December 27, 2010, 9:13 am
  • That would be like saying Josh beckett has been any better than ‘good’ as a red sox (ERA: 4.28) or better than “pretty good” as a Red Sox in the post season (ERA: 3.88).
    I fail to see the point of this.
    I know that if Cafardo made such a statement about him we’d see a post here from Paul disproving any such myths too.
    Oh, I see. It’s to question my integrity. Lovely.
    never thought i’d see you use “era” to define a pitcher’s effectiveness.
    I know, the winky face, but still… ERA is pretty much still the norm for pitchers, unlike RBI for hitters. I suspect Cafardo was using an even more basic stat: wins, of which Pettitte has a ton in the postseason.
    it appears to me anyway, that cafardo was merely reporting the opinions of the folks he spoke with, and not offering up his own “unfounded assertions” on those 10 topics.
    You could be right; that’s not the sense I got though. Even if it was, then it’s still his responsibility to make sure his sources know what they’re talking about. And if we’re even having this conversation, he didn’t do a good enough job specifying what was his opinion and what was his sources’. That’s Journalism 101.
    not sure the relevance of referencing steinbrenner’s past indiscretions for the 15 billionth time with your “yankee” link.
    The link was in the original article. I’m not taking the time anymore to go into the code to edit them out when I paste into the WYSIWYG editor.
    The 3.83 ERA means to me that Pettitte has actually stepped up his game in the postseason. You might say that it’s a mere .05 difference from his regular season numbers, but isn’t the difference significantly greater when you factor in that postseason games are against top competition and usually the best offenses in the game?
    Absolutely. I agree with this, and for a brief moment had something mentioning this in my original draft. I think we can agree Pettitte did better in the postseason than in the regular season. But Pettitte is not a “tremendous” regular season pitcher, and I don’t think we can say he’s a “tremendous” postseason pitcher when compared to his many-inninged postseason aceish-reputation peers, who all performed better. We can have a discussion over which starters were “tremendous” when compared to their regular season numbers. Pettitte certainly looks good from that perspective, but I don’t think that’s the point Cafardo was making, and there’s still a question as to the relevance, given that postseason results are what matter in the postseason.

    Paul SF December 27, 2010, 4:46 pm
  • Sorry I haven’t been posting at all, or contributing to the site, life has gotten in the way a little bit.
    Just a short defense of Pettitte – he does have a 2.82 postseason ERA (in 51 IP) since he came back to the Yankees. Sure, selective endpoints and all that, but when you combine most recent performance and remembrance of all his other postseason successes, I don’t see how it’s so ridiculous for someone to call him, now, a ‘tremendous’ postseason pitcher, especially when compared to all the other options out there with a significant amount of innings pitched.
    I would agree that he’s not an all-time great, but he’s certainly an all-time very good. It’s just not that big of a misstep (seriously, it’s one word) on Cafardo’s part, and one that’s not, in my opinion, really worth grousing about, even during this slow period.

    AndrewYF December 27, 2010, 7:30 pm
  • The dictionary definition of “tremendous”, at least the first definition in Merriam Webster, is as follows:
    “being such as may excite trembling or arouse dread, awe, or terror”
    This could apply to Pettitte, for sure. Especially for Yankee fans if he continues to pitch like he has against the Sox as of late. So Cafardo is right on that front, perhaps.
    The second definition in MW is as follows:
    “notable by reason of extreme size, power, greatness, or excellence”.
    While there may be some disagreements about his “excellence” and “greatness”, based on percentile Pettitte is WAY above average size. At 225lbs, it appears that AP is in the 85th percentile, and at 6’5″ he is in the high 90s in height. So he certainly qualifies as “tremendous” — at least “tremendously tall” and also “tremendously heavy”.
    So I have to disagree with Paul here – Pettitte is tremendous, at least per several of the dictionary definitions.

    SF December 27, 2010, 8:55 pm
  • “Very good” and “tremendous” …there’s no way to prove either so it’s safe and easy. There’s no chart that says X = very good, Y = average, etc…
    In terms of what the Yankees have asked of Pettitte through his career he has certainly been very good in both the postseason and regular season. So as the point of the article seems to be Pettittes importance to the Yankees I can agree with “very good”…
    There’s really no need to attack Paul guys. He doesn’t need me to defend him but come on fellas…Paul has proven himself here ten times over to be fair and reputable. If you don’t agree fine provide your side but don’t attack his morality or what his posts are motivated by.

    John - YF December 27, 2010, 9:03 pm
  • Unfortunately, as the blog revs back to life, so has our old, serial-posting, trolling “friend.” Just a note of caution.
    It’s just not that big of a misstep (seriously, it’s one word) on Cafardo’s part, and one that’s not, in my opinion, really worth grousing about, even during this slow period.
    Maybe so. I’m not even sure why I noticed it, except that I think recent conversations have made me look more at Pettitte and realized that *I* have been overrating him a little bit. Plus I generally expect to find lazy, incompetent work in Cafardo’s columns. Fish in a barrel, I guess.
    Mostly, it’s one of those things where it’s a sportswriter taking something that seems completely correct on its face (Andy Pettitte: Awesome postseason pitcher) and propagating it, even when a five-second check of reality calls that assumption into question.

    Paul SF December 27, 2010, 11:02 pm
  • Nick’s point is the same one I was going to make.
    To the extent that ERA (as opposed to WHIP or W-L or whatever) is a key yardstick, pitching at the same or lower ERA in the Playoffs as the regular season is impressive, if not necessarily “tremendous,” since the quality of opposing batters is obviously going to be higher.
    Having a sub-4.00 postseason ERA is not too shabby, given his large number of appearances.
    Not that I’m a Pettitte fan. But the Yankees never had to feel that when they put him on the mound in the playoffs or World Series that they were rolling the dice. They could always feel confident that he’d keep then in the game, throw a respectable number of innings, and give them a good chance at winning. As a Sox fan, I was never thrilled to see him come up against Boston at any time of year.
    (Did he ever get shelled in the playoffs? Maybe so, but I’m blanking.)

    Hudson December 27, 2010, 11:40 pm
  • But I do think Nick’s point is fair: That Pettitte’s ability to outperform his regular-season stats, or at least his ERA, in the postseason is definitely a big plus for him. Here are the same names I listed with the difference between their regular and post-season ERAs.
    Hernandez: -1.58
    Schilling: -1.23
    Wells: -0.96
    Glavine: -0.24
    Pettitte: -0.05
    Maddux: +0.11
    Martinez: +0.53
    Clemens: +0.62
    Only Martinez and Clemens were what I would consider disappointing postseason pitchers, and their cases are pretty good examples of why we shouldn’t worry too much about these small sample sizes. Pedro had a career 2.65 postseason ERA entering the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS (+0.45 compared to his 1997-03 regular-season ERA, +0.07 compared to his career ERA at that point), then had a 3.89 postseason ERA in 2004 and 2009 (+0.02 compared to his regular season 2004-09 ERA); Clemens had a perfectly fine 3.17 ERA during his time in Boston (+0.11) if you take out his first start in the 1986 ALCS, which was atrocious, and a 3.24 postseason ERA in New York (-0.75). After that, however, he had a 4.78 ERA (+2.10) in nine games from 2004-07. One or two bad games, or in Pedro’s case, one bad manager, or in Clemens’ case, seeing a bunch of postseason time at the wrong point in your career can really skew the results, even among pitchers with a large body of postseason work.
    This doesn’t really have much relevance to Pettitte; I just thought it would be fun to look at. Pettitte was a very good pitcher who was able to step it up a little bit in the postseason, and more power to him for that.
    But my original point, regardless of how petty it might have been, still stands, I think; he didn’t have a massively better performance in the postseason, a la Hernandez or David Wells or Schilling (who posted an amazing 2.12 postseason ERA from 2001-07 against a 3.50 regular season ERA during that time), nor did he have the raw postseason stats, like Hernandez or Schilling or Smoltz, that I would consider “tremendous”.
    Did he ever get shelled in the playoffs? Maybe so, but I’m blanking.
    1996 World Series, 7 ER in 2.1 IP (though he followed that up with 8.1 shutout innings later in the series)
    1997 ALDS, 7 ER in 5 IP and 4 ER in 6.2 IP
    1998 ALCS, 6 ER in 4.2 IP
    1999 World Series, 5 ER in 3.2 IP
    2001 World Series, 6 ER in 2 IP
    As someone else noted above, the amazing thing about Pettitte is that he’s become a more consistent postseason starter as he’s gotten older. He has a 2.93 ERA since 2003 (compared to a regular season ERA of 3.82), with only two game scores below 40. Before then, he’d usually blow up at least once per postseason. He’s not pitching shutouts either, just being consistent in going 6-7 IP and allowing no more than 2-3 ER.
    I actually would call that tremendous. Maybe Cafardo wasn’t so far off after all…

    Paul SF December 28, 2010, 12:34 am
  • “…I actually would call that tremendous. Maybe Cafardo wasn’t so far off after all…”
    fair, enough paul…i wasn’t really looking for “tremendous” anyway…i would’ve settled for “pretty darn good”…
    “…The dictionary definition of “tremendous”, at least the first definition in Merriam Webster, is as follows:…” blah, blah
    can’t say anything sf, because i’ve quoted webster on occasion myself, but it seems far too much effort has been expended here debating the adjective used by cafardo and/or his panel of “experts”…whatever, the point is lost…see my comment for clarity…
    “…If you don’t agree fine provide your side but don’t attack his morality or what his posts are motivated by….”
    i don’t think you meant me john, but i stand by my original comments…carfardo was very clear in his intent and shouldn’t feel obligated to nitpick every opinion offered by his panel…as for paul’s motivation, i don’t really care, but you do have to wonder how an entire post gets devoted to debating the use of the word “tremendous” to describe a yankee pitcher, who just happend to have the most post season wins in history, and 240 in the regular season…

    dc December 28, 2010, 1:45 am
  • dc, my comment was a joke meant to defuse tension.

    SF December 28, 2010, 6:47 am
  • who just happend to have the most post season wins in history, and 240 in the regular season
    At the risk of reopening the argument, I question the relevance of either of these distinctions. You don’t need to be tremendous to compile tons of wins pitching for the Yankees (or the Red Sox, for that matter). Witness the Sabathia-Hernandez debate from this season.
    I don’t doubt that Cafardo may well have been using them when he wrote his column, and that he stumbled upon the truth accidentally, but I hope that the day is not far off when we will stop citing wins in any kind of meaningful way, especially in this age of the six-inning starter.

    Paul SF December 28, 2010, 7:03 am
  • The process of elimination suggests the same author who wrote the post deleted my content. I hope you and your co-proprietors recognize how pernicious this behavior is. I have only seen this type of behavior on political sites. There, the point is to stifle dissension. It seems the same is true here. The result is Palinesque where any imagined reality is “true”.
    How sad, and for a baseball blog. You’re left with shoddy work (and funny enough, after a complaint about such).

    Paul from Waltham December 28, 2010, 7:33 am
  • “…dc, my comment was a joke meant to defuse tension…”
    well dang sf, you forgot the smiley…the giveaway of course though was when you used “tremendous” to describe his height and weight…i get it…the older i get, the more tremendous i get too…funny how that works…
    “…At the risk of reopening the argument, I question the relevance of either of these distinctions….”
    of course it’s relevant…but i really just threw that out there to exaggerate the point that 1 stat in isolation, without context, is indicative of nothing…once you added that context you came up with a different answer…my reference to wins was tongue in cheek because i expected that response from someone…happened to be you…sure era is more telling than number of wins, but i’ll let you take that up with the hall of fame voters and others, who still seem to be hung up on those records…i still think wins/losses has a place in the overall discussion though, just not as pronounced maybe, because bad pitchers don’t win many games…most of the guys who’ve won 20 over the years were pretty darn good, if not tremendous…i think hernandez would agree that sabathia is tremendous by any of the webster definitions…
    “…You don’t need to be tremendous to compile tons of wins pitching for the Yankees (or the Red Sox, for that matter). …”
    javy vazquez and aj burnout do not agree…

    dc December 28, 2010, 8:40 am
  • PfW:
    You continuously violate the ToS of this site, and you also antagonize. We’ve been through this a number of times with you, and you persist on visiting the site, trashing the proprietors and the other commenters, and generally degrading the dialogue.
    It is clear that no matter what we try we can’t keep you from shifting IPs, aliases, etc., and returning to the site. So our attempts to keep you from visiting are pretty fruitless. That, however, does not change the fact that your presence here is unwelcome, that you are a divisive voice at a site that values some modicum of respect between visitors. You show no respect for this site, and absolutely no self-discipline or awareness of how little you are liked here. I am not sure why you would want to continue visiting, except to prove that you can.
    Any of us moderators can delete comments, and any one moderator deleting a comment is as if any other moderator deleted a comment – this is the rule of us authors, we are all equally responsible here.
    Openly, and honestly: we’ve had enough of you. Take that for whatever it is worth, whomever you may be.

    SF December 28, 2010, 8:41 am
  • “You continuously violate the ToS of this site, and you also antagonize.”
    I specifically asked Michael about this last night and he indicated no such thing.
    As for the rest of your claims, I’m afraid you must have me confused with someone else.

    Paul from Waltham December 28, 2010, 9:26 am
  • I also pointed out to Michael that I have never before had my content deleted on any site across the internet, including other baseball blogs like BronxBanter. I have been posting on internet forums since 1992.
    I assume this is a case of mistaken identity. It’s no surprise if you’re relying on IPs. They’re not unique identifiers. In my case, I travel a bunch and have an ISP with dynamic IPs. I have also use proxies when in countries like China. Trolls are always troublesome, but deleting content is a very bad precedent.
    Since this is all off-topic, please feel free to email me. My info should be available to you through my TypePad account or ask Michael.

    Paul from Waltham December 28, 2010, 9:34 am
  • “hope you and your co-proprietors recognize how pernicious this behavior is. I have only seen this type of behavior on political sites”
    I would say you’re correct. We may have the wrong guy here. This guy seems very honest about not being the troll that was abolished months ago.
    You must just have a political site hobby in common with the old guy.
    http://www.yfsf.org/2010/04/the-lowly-orioles-beat-the-yankees-the-red-sox-feature-a-fine-starting-performance-and-a-save-from-ramon-ramirez-and-the-me.html

    Brad December 28, 2010, 10:29 am
  • Or, I’ll just repost what SF pointed out here the last time we all got tired of your flame throwing shit.
    This is a lie, and you are a pathological liar.
    But it is funny to go back and read about how sure you were the Rays and the Yanks were both sure-ins to win over 100 games.
    They only have to play .500 ball!!
    V-Mart is not a catcher!! Ortiz is a platoon player!!

    Brad December 28, 2010, 10:50 am
  • darn…i just reviewed that post brad…can’t believe i got sucked into that pointless bullspit political discussion with that guy…what is wrong with me?…i should have been content discussing pie with you and ag…the 100 win debate is priceless though…

    dc December 28, 2010, 10:56 am
  • Yeah, it’s funny as shit to read that stuff. What an ass.
    Holy Shit…what will the Sox do with Ortiz? He’s not gonna hit 15HR this year!! All they have to do is play .500 ball to win 110 games!
    Yanks will. Rays will. Sox will not.

    Brad December 28, 2010, 11:16 am
  • > I specifically asked Michael
    I specifically answered your question that your query was irrelevant.
    I also specifically asked that the DMV change my name to Gerbil, Attack. But they told me “no, that would be silly, wouldn’t it Michael? How would your young rodents know you?”

    attackgerbil December 29, 2010, 5:38 pm

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