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Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees Is an Outstanding Third Starter

Tom AuSenior Analyst IINovember 11, 2009

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 06:  Andy Pettitte #46 of the New York Yankees waves to the crowd after accepting his key to the city at the New York Yankees World Series Victory Celebration at City Hall on November 6, 2009 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Andy Pettitte is not the best pitcher on the Yankees' staff, but he was the winningest Yankees pitcher in the 2009 postseason.

That's because he was their No. 3 starter.

CC Sabathia is clearly the front-runner, but between A.J. Burnett, who has a slightly lower ERA, and Pettitte, who has a marginally lower FIP (sabermetric ERA), it's not clear who's really second or third.

FanGraphs valued Pettitte's worth at $1 million more than Burnett's in 2009, meaning that he is a "very qualified" No. 3.

Sabathia had to pitch against top-of-the-rotation Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies, John Lackey of the Los Angeles Angels, and Brian Duensing of the Minnesota Twins in the first game of each series.

Burnett's initial opponents were Philadelphia's Pedro Martinez, Los Angeles' Joe Saunders, and Minnesota's Nick Blackburn.

On the other hand, Pettitte faced Cole Hamels of the Phillies', Jered Weaver of the Angels, and former Yankee Carl Pavano, the weakest of the Twins' pitchers in his first games of each series.

I experienced this firsthand on my high school chess team, where I was "first board" with a middling 6-4 record.

My "lower boards" could beat me if they played exceptionally well , but other teams' lower boards could not beat their first boards (my opponents). Therefore, my lower boards were much better than their respective lower board opponents.

The three days of rest for the Yankees' rotation altered the dynamics somewhat. In the ALCS, Sabathia got to pitch against the Angel's unreliable Scott Kazmir the second time around, while Burnett was the sacrificial lamb against Lackey. Pettitte, however, beat Joe Saunders.

In the World Series, Sabathia faced Joe Blanton on his second go, while A.J. Burnett was matched against Lee. Pettitte drew Martinez, which is to say he was the only one of the Yankees' starters that did not go against Lee (2-0).

So Pettitte won both his games in the World Series, Burnett won one (against Martinez), and Sabathia earned a loss (against Lee) and a no-decision (against Blanton).

A similar thing happened to the Cleveland Indians in the 2007 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox. The winners of their three games were: the bullpen, Jake Westbrook (third starter), and Paul Byrd (fourth starter).

What of their first starter? 

It was CC Sabathia, who went 0-2.

In terms of pay, Burnett actually out-earned Sabathia (barely over CC's $16 million), while Pettitte was a bargain at $5.5 million, especially considering he was arguably the Yankees' MVP in the postseason, if not the World Series.

In this regard, Pettitte's compensation is nearly equivalent to that of Chien-Ming Wang, the former ace that's still an "apprentice" in his arbitration years.

Pettitte is nearing retirement age so the Yankees will have to offer more to keep him, which they should considering Wang is still a question mark.

With his consistency, Pettitte is easily worth $10 million, and $15 million would not be unreasonable. Between him and say, Johnny Damon for one to two years at similar pay, the Yankees should re-sign Pettitte, and make another run for the World Series.

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