"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

A Work In Progress

During his post game interview following his second start back from the disabled list in Minnesota on Monday night, Andy Pettitte shook his head and laughed. “I’m definitely a work in progress,” he admitted. If you missed the game and just caught that self-deprecating response, you might’ve assumed Pettitte had struggled, something like four runs in five innings and maybe a loss. Not quite.

Pettitte threw 88 pitches over six strong innings, allowing just seven hits and a walk while striking out three. He didn’t allow a run.

Looking at those numbers on the morning after, Pettitte looks brilliant, but he struggled in the first inning. He gave up consecutive singles to open the game, walked Josh Willingham to load the bases with one out, and momentarily fell behind the dangerous Justin Morneau. But he did what we’re used to seeing from Andy Pettitte, what we saw as far back as Game 5 of the 1996 World Series. He battled. He eventually retired Morneau with a 91-MPH fastball dotted on the outside corner, then induced a ground ball from Ryan Doumit to end the inning. It had taken 22 pitches, but he had escaped.

That first inning had been tenuous, but Pettitte had actually been working with a 3-0 lead. Derek Jeter had opened the top of the first with a walk, then raced around to third on a double from the blistering hot Ichiro. Robinson Canó brought one run home with a ground out to short, but then Nick Swisher crushed a ball off the facing of the upper deck in right center field for a muscle-flexing homer and a three-run Yankee cushion. As it turned out, that would be all that Pettitte would need.

Even so, Curtis Granderson gave him another run in the fourth as he rocketed his fortieth homer high into the right field stands. Granderson has become a disturbingly one-dimensional hitter this season, but as frustrating as his all-or-nothing approach can be, it’s hard to criticize a guy who’s hit forty home runs in consecutive seasons, a feat accomplished by only four other players in the long and homer-filled history of the Bronx Bombers. There was Jason Giambi in ’02-’03, and then the three usual suspects: Mickey Mantle (’60-’61), Lou Gehrig (’30-’31), and a guy named Babe Ruth (’20-’21, ’23-’24, ’26-’32). Is it just me, or is it kind of shocking that Alex Rodríguez isn’t on that list?

Pettitte, meanwhile, was straight dealing. After that shaky start, he set down the side in order in the second, used a double play ball to to escape a two-hit inning in the third, watched as Granderson and Russell Martin combined for a phenomenal play to throw out Doumit at the plate to end the fourth, yielded a harmless single in the fifth, then set down three straight in the sixth to finish his scoreless evening. Pettitte just might be the best September call-up in Yankee history, and he definitely looks ready to assume his usual spot starting Game 3 in the playoffs.

Raúl Ibañez and Eric Chávez added solo home runs in the frame after Pettitte’s departure, giving the Yanks a 6-0 lead in the seventh inning and enough of a cushion that the rest of the game seemed unnecessary. There were really just two things of note: things got a bit messy for the bullpen as they yielded three runs in the final two innings, and Derek Jeter singled with one out in the ninth to keep his hitting streak alive at 18 straight games.

At this point in the season, any win makes for a good day, but this 6-3 win meant more than just a half game in the standings. Pettitte has thrown eleven shutout innings since his return from the disabled list, and suddenly the Yankee rotation of Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, and Hughes looks ready to carry the team through these final nine games and into the playoffs. The Yankees won’t clinch the American League East until the weekend, but I think we’ll look back on this game and realize this was the night it was won.

[Photo Credit: Jim Mone/AP Photo]

Categories:  1: Featured  Game Recap  Hank Waddles  Yankees

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1 Alex Belth   ~  Sep 25, 2012 7:39 am

Yeah, Andy has gotten good results so far even if he hasn't been great--and who could expect greatness so quickly? But who is complaining? And the win was a big one. Man,they sure did hit a couple of bombs, huh?

2 OldYanksFan   ~  Sep 25, 2012 8:33 am

The word Swisher used to describe Pettitte's on-field demeanor? "Fierce."
The secret to Pettitte's success lives less in his arm than in his head.

There is no replacing talent. Some guys are just born with it.
But I think we underestimate work ethic, approach and mental makeup.

I think there are guys who overachieve, like Andy, Jeter, Mighty Mouse (Pedroia) and even Gritner, and guys who underperform (relative for their talent).... like Cano and Granderson. We might throw BJ Upton in there too.

I think Nunez COULD be an above average SS because of his bat. His arm is quite strong. But something above his shoulders is throwing off his game. Can we give Cano a longterm contract? I fear that when his talent fades a bit due to age, he could be a real stinker. Same with Grandy.

When Granderson is hot, he is awesome. But his refused to hit the ball where it's pitched, and cut down on his swing in certain situations, lays him prone to prelonged slumps. Again, as he ages, he might be scary.

There is only so much a player can do to get more from his physical talent. But many players have prolonged their career by adjusting their approach. I don't think we give enough credit to playing 'smart'..., to doing what must be done instead of just doing what you 'normally do'.

I think we may have to trade Grandy. I think he still has some good years ahead of him, but maybe it's best to 'sell high'.

I don't know if I would give Cano more then something like 4/$72m.

3 Jon DeRosa   ~  Sep 25, 2012 10:46 am

[2] What suggests to you that Curtis Granderson underperforms his talent level?

4 RIYank   ~  Sep 25, 2012 11:27 am

I don't think there's any question of trading Granderson -- his contract is up this year. There's a $13M club option, but I doubt the Yanks would pick up his option and then trade him. I figure they pick up the option and he plays.

Who would you want to replace him? I hope not Hamilton. Torii will be a free agent, but probably too old for the purpose; maybe Angel Pagan? Michael Bourn? BJ Upton? I think I'd stick with Curtis.

5 Jon DeRosa   ~  Sep 25, 2012 11:55 am

[4] Granderson's 2013 option is up $15 million now that he finished in the top 5 in the MVP voting in 2011. Still, I agree with everything you said.

$15 million for a guy whose downside is 40 homers and 80 walks? And whose upside is a top-5 MVP finish? They cannot do better than that.

Hard choices loom about the OF w/ Swisher and Granderson and OPP, but it would take an extraordinary set of circumstnaces to make it a good plan to ditch Granderson before the end of 2013.

6 Ben   ~  Sep 25, 2012 12:13 pm

Yeah, interesting. I've been thrilled with Granderson. Not my protypical kind of player, I prefer higher contact hitters, but still nothing to be disapointed in. As for Cano, the only negative I see with his performance is he does things kind of easily- gives me the impression that he's not trying that hard. Abreu did that too. I've heard from Mets fans that Beltran was like that. Who else, that guy from the Angels all those years. Blank... blank.... Garret Anderson (thank you google). All really good players, just not Grinders.

7 OldYanksFan   ~  Sep 25, 2012 12:49 pm

Grandy has had an OPS over .900 2 years. His career OPS is .833. Maybe at .231 / .321 / .487 / .807 this is just a down year, but I feel he has the talent, if not the apporach, to be a .850 - .875 OPS guy.

The question is, after 2013, do you give him the 5 year contract he will probably command? Also, I think his D is below average now, so what happens as he ages and loses some speed and bat speed?

Of 30 teams, he is 15th is WAR (CF'ers) (although 10th-20th are realatively bunched up). Coincidentally, tied with B.J.Upton. He seems like a lot better then middle of the pack, but his D is worse then it looks, due to a very poor first step.

I think he is VERY good player, and I'm happy to have him.
The question is do you commit to 5 years at $15m+/yr?

8 OldYanksFan   ~  Sep 25, 2012 12:53 pm

[5] Isn't Gardner a CFer? Easier to find a COF then a CF. Don't we have 2 or 3 talented OFers on the farm? Not for 2013, but maybe for 2014, and hopefully certainly for 2015.

9 Jon DeRosa   ~  Sep 25, 2012 1:14 pm

[7] Beyond 2013, sure it gets tricky, sure, but that was not your question. In [2] you categorized him as a chronic "underperformer" and championed picking up his option and trading him for some unknown quantity as opposed to banking his ample production for a very reasonable price.

If all you meant by "underperformers" were guys who have OPS below career averages, isn't half of baseball underperformering at any given time? Albert Pujols has been well below his career line for two straight years. Is he an underperformer? Was Derek Jeter an underperformer in 2002 and 2004 when he hit below .300 in 2 of 3 years?

Also, the breakdown of what players you think are gritty "overachievers" and what players are talented "underperformers" in [2] is probably conveying a message you did not intend to send, but I do think we should reject that kind of thinking out of hand.

[8] Who said anything about CF? We can't put the players on the field, but there's no way the Yankees are finding 40 homers and 80 walks on the free agent market this winter for 1 year and 15 million bucks. Why on earth would they throw that away? If Girardi wises up and puts Granderson in left, all the better.

Granderson's floor for the next few years is a big home run hitter, big strike out guy. If he can add doubles and triples into the equation like in 2011, he's fantastic. But in 2 of 3 years here, he didn't do it. Give him another year, and if all he can do is homer, walk and whiff, that's enough evidence to heavily consider other options.

10 Jon DeRosa   ~  Sep 25, 2012 1:18 pm

[8] Also, these are separate considerations. There is the 2013 option, which they certainly should pick up. And there is the issue of finding an OF for 2014 and beyond. For 2014 and beyond, Granderson is merely one of many free agent options. It sounds like you think they need to make the second decision before the first.

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