NEW YORK -- Andy Pettitte has never thought of himself as a Hall of Fame pitcher. Now that he's announced his plans to retire after this season, an interesting debate will begin.
The New York Yankees left-hander is 255-152 with a 3.86 ERA in 18 major league seasons. That makes him one of 26 pitchers -- the only one still active -- with a record at least 100 games over .500.
Eighteen of those pitchers are in the Hall of Fame, and five who aren't have not been retired long enough to appear on the ballot. According to STATS, the only exceptions are Bob Caruthers, who went 217-98 from 1884-1893, and Roger Clemens, a 354-game winner tainted by steroids allegations.
Pettitte admitted using human growth hormone years ago, saying he tried the banned substance in an effort to recover faster from an injury.
"I don't think about the Hall of Fame unless someone asks me," he said Friday, adding he's grateful just to be mentioned in that conversation with other stars such as Yankees teammates Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. "I've had the success that I've had because of so many great players that have been around me."
Players must wait five years after their final game before they are eligible to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot sent to voters who are 10-year members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
"Do I feel like I've dominated this sport as a pitcher? No," Pettitte said, smiling. "Every outing for me, I feel like has been an absolute grind, to tell you the truth. I mean, when I look at lineups and teams that I'm facing, it seems like every hitter is hitting .300 off of me. So for people to bring that up and for me to know that there's even a chance at that, it's just an honour and it's a blessing to me. And I'm not worried about that."
Pettitte holds major league records for post-season wins (19) and starts (44). A three-time All-Star, he has helped New York to seven AL pennants and five World Series championships during 15 seasons in pinstripes. He was the MVP of the 2001 AL championship series and is the franchise leader in career strikeouts with 2,009.
Those numbers probably are the best argument for Pettitte's induction. His career ERA is higher than that of any pitcher in the Hall of Fame.
"That's nothing I've ever even considered. If that was something that I really desired, I would have never retired," Pettitte said. "I would just continue to pitch, if that's what it was all about."
Pettitte is 19-11 with a 3.81 ERA in the post-season, giving him more post-season wins than eight major league teams. He also ranks first in post-season innings (276 2-3) and is second in strikeouts (183).
In 2009 with the Yankees, he became the first pitcher to start and win the clinching game of all three series in one post-season.
"Andy's a professional. He expects a lot out of himself. He beats himself up a lot. We laugh at him because he's always by himself, talking to himself," Jeter said. "It's fun watching him beat himself up, because he expects to be perfect. Nobody's perfect, but he has those expectations and that's the reason why he's had so much success."