He made his major league debut on April 29, 1995 with the New York Yankees, with whom he spent nine seasons in the starting rotation. Selected by the Yankees in the 22nd round of the 1990 draft, he opted to attend junior college; on May 25, 1991 he signed with them as an amateur free agent. Pettitte has been a part of six American League pennant-winning teams and four World Series championship teams. He is tied for a record 13 playoff wins with John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves. He is the only MLB pitcher since 1930 to win at least 12 games in each of his first nine seasons.
Pettitte has been a 20-game winner twice, in 1996 and 2003, each time with a 21-8 mark. In 1996 he was the runnerup to Pat Hentgen for the AL Cy Young Award after leading the league in wins, and in 2001 he was named the MVP of the ALCS after winning both the first and last games. He was named to the AL All-Star team in 1996 and 2001.
On December 11, 2003, Pettitte signed a 3-year, $31.5 million free agent deal with the Houston Astros. His former Yankees teammate Roger Clemens joined him a few weeks later, foregoing his planned retirement. Pettitte's 2004 season was shortened by elbow surgery, but he returned in 2005 as one of the league leaders in ERA (second to only team-mate Roger Clemens) and an important factor in the Astros contending for the wild card. Prior to the 2005 season, Pettitte had a record of 155-82, with 1,354 strikeouts and a 3.94 ERA.
When Pettitte started game two of the 2005 World Series, he was tied for second for most World Series starts. Along with Christy Mathewson and Waite Hoyt, Pettitte has started in 11 of the Fall Classics. Whitey Ford is in front with 22 starts. Pettitte has played in seven different World Series (six with the Yankees and one with the Astros) and been on the winning end of 18 postseason series - both of which are tops among active players.
Pettitte was also one of the players named in baseball's Mitchell Report. According to the report, after Pettitte was sidelined in spring 2002, his personal trainer, Brian McNamee, claimed that he injected Pettitte with HGH between two and four times. Pettitte, like most players, declined to speak with investigators for the Mitchell Report.
Pettitte is a finesse pitcher. He relies on pinpoint control and excellent pitch selection to consistently retire hitters. He's known for being an innings-eater and is often relied on by his manager to pitch into the seventh inning in his starts.
His repertoire includes several fastball variations, a big curveball and a changeup. He mostly works off his heavy sinking fastball and one of the better cut fastballs in the game, both of which sat around 91-93 MPH before his 2004 shoulder surgery. Now Pettitte's fastballs usually hover around 89-91 MPH. He uses his big hook to set up the fastballs and his changeup is mostly reserved for right-handed hitters.
Hitting and Defense
Pettitte exemplifies the idea that pitchers are automatic outs at the plate. He's built to be in the American League, as his bunting skills are poor and he doesn't run the bases well at all.
Defensively Pettitte is solid. He fields his position well and is fairly quick off the mound and sure-handed, but will never compete for a Gold Glove.
While he's known to put together seasons with high win totals, he's only had a few truly dominant regular seasons. He's not an ace-quality pitcher but can solidify the second or third spot in any team's starting rotation.
- Selected by New York Yankees in the 22nd round of the free-agent draft - did not sign (June 4, 1990).
- Signed as a non-drafted free agent by New York Yankees (May 25, 1991).
- Granted free agency (November 6, 2003).
- Signed by Houston Astros (December 16, 2003).
- Granted free agency (November 6, 2006).
- Signed by New York Yankees (December 8, 2006).