You say goodbye and I say hello
--John Lennon & Paul McCartney
The 2003 World Series will not only be remembered for the improbable victory by the Florida Marlins over the New York Yankees in six games but also the arrival of baseball's newest star, Josh Beckett, and the departure of its oldest star, Roger Clemens. In a touch of irony, Beckett's complete-game, five-hit shutout last night ended the career of Clemens, the player he grew up idolizing.
Beckett and Clemens have a lot of similarities. Both are Texans. Both are approximately the same height (Beckett, 6'5", and Clemens, 6'4"). Both are power pitchers, throwing fastballs in the mid- to high-90s. Both were highly touted as amateurs (Beckett, 1999 All-USA High School Baseball Player of the Year; Clemens, two-time All-America honors at the University of Texas and the winning pitcher of the 1983 College World Series). Both were drafted in the first round (Beckett, #2 in 1999, and Clemens, #19 in 1983). Both had outstanding minor league records. And both showed glimpses of stardom in their first couple of injury-plagued years in the big leagues.
Let's take a closer look at their records.
G IP H R ER BB SO ERA Beckett 43 215 142 51 42 51 295 1.76 Clemens 23 151 104 28 26 37 178 1.55Rate Stats:
H/IP WHIP K/IP K/BB Beckett 0.66 0.90 1.37 5.78 Clemens 0.69 0.93 1.18 4.81The minor league records of Beckett and Clemens are eerily similar in terms of ERA, H/IP, and WHIP. Josh and Roger also struck out well in excess of one batter per inning and their strikeout/walk ratios were both around 5:1. Beckett's superiority in strikeouts is probably more a function of the difference in the eras in which they pitched than anything else.
Totals Through Age 23:
G IP H R ER BB SO ERA Beckett 51 274 239 119 101 111 289 3.32 Clemens 36 232 229 105 100 66 200 3.88Rate Stats:
H/IP WHIP K/IP K/BB Beckett 0.87 1.28 1.05 2.60 Clemens 0.99 1.27 0.86 3.03Again, there are more similarities between Beckett and Clemens than differences. Through age 23, Beckett has generated more strikeouts per inning than Clemens did although the latter had much better control than the former. All in all, one might give a slight edge to Beckett.
Going forward, Beckett will need to step up his regular season totals next year in order to stay abreast of Clemens as far as age comparisons are concerned because The Rocket broke through the following year (1986) with one of the premier seasons of the past 20 years.
G IP H R ER BB SO ERA Clemens 33 254 179 77 70 67 238 2.48Rate Stats:
H/IP WHIP K/IP K/BB Clemens 0.70 0.97 0.94 3.55Clemens won the first of his six Cy Young Awards in 1986 and was named the American League's Most Valuable Player as well. Clemens is the only starting pitcher in either league to win the MVP since Vida Blue captured the A.L. MVP in 1971.
Does Beckett have it in him to put up a 1986 Clemens-type year in 2004? The answer is a definitive "yes" based on his postseason performance.
G IP H R ER BB SO ERA Beckett 6 42.2 21 10 10 12 47 2.11Rate Stats:
H/IP WHIP K/IP K/BB Beckett 0.49 0.77 1.10 3.92Whether Beckett comes through or not is an entirely different question. He certainly has the talent and the makeup to take the next big step, but he will need to remain healthy over the course of a full season to have a chance. Skeptics may point out that Beckett has never started more than 23 games or thrown more than 142 innings in a year. However, it should be noted that Clemens had never started more than 20 games or pitched more than 133 innings prior to his breakthrough season in 1986.
Given Beckett's meteoric rise during the postseason, I would not want to bet against him. To wit, Beckett entered the playoffs with 89 professional starts and no complete games. Less than a month later and the big righthander has two, both shutouts.
When Clemens took the mound in Game Four, he became the third oldest pitcher ever to start a World Series game. The Rocket was 41 years, 2 months, and 18 days old. Only Jack Quinn (45 years) and Grover Cleveland Alexander (41 yrs., 7 mos., 13 days) were older when they started World Series games. Clemens was also only the sixth pitcher with 300 or more wins to start a World Series game. In fact, Clemens and Steve Carlton are the only two pitchers to have 300 wins at the time of a World Series start in the past 80 years.
Pitcher Team 300th Win World Series Cy Young Boston (A.L.) 7/6/1901 1903 Christy Mathewson New York (N.L.) 7/5/1912 1912, 1913 Walter Johnson Washington (A.L.) 5/29/1920 1924, 1925 Grover Alexander St. Louis (N.L.) 9/20/1924 1926, 1928 Steve Carlton Philadelphia (N.L.) 9/23/1983 1983 Roger Clemens New York (A.L.) 6/13/2003 2003
Prior to The Rocket's start in Game Four, only nine members of the Hall of Fame appeared in their final game as an active player in the World Series. The only pitcher to accomplish that feat was Sandy Koufax, the starting and losing pitcher in Game Two of the 1966 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles.
Player Team Year Frank Baker New York (A.L.) 1922 Travis Jackson New York (N.L.) 1936 Bill Terry New York (N.L.) 1936 Joe DiMaggio New York (A.L.) 1951 Johnny Mize New York (A.L.) 1953 Jackie Robinson Brooklyn (N.L.) 1956 Sandy Koufax Los Angeles (N.L.) 1966 Eddie Mathews Detroit (A.L.) 1968 Willie Mays New York (N.L.) 1973No Joshing
>From a Josh Beckett questionnaire in 1999:
Major leaguer I admire most: "Curt Schilling (Philadelphia Phillies) and Roger Clemens (New York Yankees). I know we are in different leagues, but we're the same kind of pitchers. I don't consider myself them yet, but I think I can get there."