Realistic Expectations for Andy Pettitte’s Return

The latest news about Andy Pettitte’s rehab is that the x-rays reveal that he’s healing properly, but he’s still not able to throw off of a mound. It’s certainly good news that his leg is healing as planned and he’s on his way back. However, the season’s coming to a close and his availability for the postseason is certainly questionable.

Once he begins throwing off of a mound, Andy will likely need at least couple of weeks to regain his leg strength and shake the rust off before rejoining the rotation. Even in an absolute best case scenario, we won’t see Andy again until the middle of September. This would give him at most 4 regular season starts. In theory, this should give him enough time to prepare for the playoffs. But given Pettitte’s age, a setback would surprise nobody and would probably end his comeback altogether.

Even if everything were to go according to plan, it’s not really reasonable to assume Pettitte will pick up where he left off before his injury. For one thing, he may not be at full strength due to the injury and all of the down time. More importantly, Pettitte was most likely going to regress at some point with or without the injury. No doubt Pettitte’s 9 start stint was great and didn’t appear to be the result of good luck either. Pettitte’s 3.22 ERA was backed up by a 3.40 FIP, 2.96 xFIP, and a SIERA of 2.95. However, Pettitte was striking out more than a batter per inning which is something he had never done before. It seems unusual that a 40-year-old would suddenly turn into a strikeout pitcher.  The K’s can be explained by an increase in the rate of pitches swung at outside of the zone as well as swings and misses. However, it’s hard to envision him continuing to baffle hitters with his diminished fastball velocity.

Even if Pettitte can’t keep up the pace he was setting earlier in the year, he could still provide a potential upgrade to the playoff rotation. A fully healthy Pettitte would slot in nicely behind C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda and would hopefully reduce the post-season innings pitched by the inconsistent Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes. Plus, of course, he also has a lot of post season experience which can’t hurt.  It will be interesting to follow Pettitte’s rehab over the next few weeks as every step will be critical for the Yankees postseason plans. It’s entirely possible that we’ve seen the last of Andy Pettitte in the major leagues. At the same time, there’s still a chance we could see more post-season heroics come October. What do you expect from Pettitte the rest of the way?

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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