By Craig Muder
Start the clock on the Hall of Fame candidacy of Andy Pettitte.
The smooth-as-silk lefty, one of the most consistent starting pitchers of the last decade and a postseason workhorse, ended months of speculation on Friday by announcing his retirement. Unless he has a change of heart and returns to the big league diamond, Pettitte will become Hall of Fame-eligible with the Class of 2016.
His final regular-season numbers: a record of 240-138, with a 3.88 earned-run average and 2,251 strikeouts in 16 seasons. Only 12 left-handers in history have won more big league games: Seven are Hall of Famers, and two – Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine – are not yet Hall of Fame-eligible.
In the postseason, Pettitte was 19-10 – no pitcher ever won more playoff games – and a 3.83 ERA. His teams advanced to the postseason in 81 percent of Pettitte’s seasons (13 of 16), and Pettitte won at least one postseason game in nine of his 13 tries.
He walks away from the game with five World Series rings.
Pettitte’s Hall of Fame credentials will be debated for years, but this much is certain: Of all the Hall of Fame pitchers with at least 240 victories, only seven have a regular-season winning percentage better than Pettitte’s .635. And of those seven, only one – Jim Palmer – began his career after World War II.
Whether it was April or October, all Andy Pettitte did was win.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.