September 19, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte (46) during the fifth inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE
Andy Pettitte is the second oldest man on the New York Yankees, 13 days younger than Raul Ibanez (we're not counting Mariano Rivera, who presently lives on the disabled list). R.A. Dickey is the eldest New York Mets player, also discounting a DL'd pitcher (Tim Byrdak). And right now, those old-timers are the best starting pitchers on each team. We could run through a list of senior-citizen-themed jokes right now, involving early-bird dinners, going to bed at 8:30, watching a Mary Pickford moving picture show and always being chilly, but we'll skip all that and head right to the subject matter at hand.
Like a wise old man walking down from a mountain, Pettitte appeared on the mound for the first time in two-and-a-half months, without a minor league rehab start to boot, and said "This is how you do it" with his five shutout innings in the win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday. In 10 starts he's now 4-3 with a 2.97 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and a .225 batting average against. That's a pretty good retirement. Pettitte brings trust, experience and stability to the Yankees, along with a feeling of calm -- "If he's on the mound everything will be all right" is the aura he gives off. With no disrespect intended to CC Sabathia (despite his excellent outing on Friday), Hiroki Kuroda or Phil Hughes, Pettitte's the surest thing the Yankees have right now in the starting rotation. Who would you want on the mound if the Yankees fall to a wild card spot and have to play a one-game showdown to get into the playoffs? Or Game 5 in the ALDS? Or Game 7 of the ALCS? Or Game 7 of the World Series? Pettitte would have to be the answer. The old man has been around the block, but he can still pitch. Sure, we don't know how long he'll last, and if he didn't injure his ankle, he could have broken down by now, but the way he's looking, he's a trustworthy arm among the sometimes shaky Yankee rotation.
As for the Mets, as they embarrass themselves to close out the season (despite Friday's win), Dickey is the last thing worth watching on that team, now that Matt Harvey has been shut down. His quest for 20 wins and a Cy Young award is the last remaining point of interest for Met fans. Of course, the only way he may earn another win is by throwing a complete-game, 1-0 shutout with Dickey himself driving in the only run. He could have easily surpassed the 20-win mark if his offense could have scored any runs in his last few starts. As things stand right now, though, he should still be the leading contender for the award.
As of Saturday morning, Dickey is first in the National League in ERA (2.67), innings pitched (212), complete games (five) and shutouts (three), second in WHIP (1.04), strikeouts (205) and wins (18) and third in BAA (.223). He would be the first-ever knuckleballer to win the award, and all of his fellow knucklers are rooting for him. Phil Niekro told the New York Post, "He's having the best season any knuckleball pitcher has ever had. Cy Young, right now, he's my vote." Tim Wakefield agrees, "I think he deserves the Cy Young. I think he has the numbers, and the credentials to do it. If R.A. wins it this year, it's really going to say something about our pitch."
The other contenders stack up like this:
Clayton Kershaw: 12-9, 2.70 ERA, 1.02 WHIP (first in NL), .212 BAA, 206.2 IP, 206 strikeouts (first in NL), two complete games, two shutouts.
Gio Gonzalez: 19(first in NL)-8, 2.95 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .207 BAA (first in NL), 186.1 IP, 196 strikeouts, two complete games, one shutout.
Johnny Cueto: 18-9, 2.84 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .254 BAA, 203 IP, 159 strikeouts, two complete games, no shutouts.
Matt Cain: 15-5, 2.86 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .224 BAA, 207.1 IP, 185 strikeouts, two complete games, two shutouts.
Craig Kimbrel: 38 saves, 1.10 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, .128 BAA, 105 strikeouts in 57.1 innings pitched.
The Mets would still be a train wreck this year without Dickey, but he's the only thing worth tuning in for these final two weeks of the season, and Pettitte has returned just in the nick of time for the Yankees. They may be old but they're the best New York has.