Clemens Rocketing Up the All-Time Charts
The Rocket is 23 RSAA behind
RUNS SAVED ABOVE AVERAGE, 1900-2004
1 Lefty Grove 668 2 Roger Clemens 645 3 Walter Johnson 643 4 Greg Maddux 553 5 Grover C Alexander 524 6 Randy Johnson 511 7 Pedro Martinez 477 8 Christy Mathewson 405 9 Tom Seaver 404 10 Carl Hubbell 355
Clemens is fourth all-time (including the 19th century), behind
In any event, it just so happened that Lee also reported that Clemens had 645 RSAA in 640 games. That made me wonder how many pitchers had averaged at least one RSAA per game. Using the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia, I sorted all the pitchers (including those from the 19th century) with 200 or more games to determine just who and how many qualified for this feat.
TOP TEN ALL-TIME, RSAA/GAME
Pitcher RSAA GAMES RSAA/G 1 Pedro Martinez 477 388 1.23 2 Kid Nichols 678 620 1.09 3 Lefty Grove 668 616 1.08 4 Randy Johnson 511 489 1.04 5 Roger Clemens 645 640 1.01 6 John Clarkson 508 531 0.96 7 Greg Maddux 553 608 0.91 8 Cy Young 813 906 0.90 9 Walter Johnson 643 802 0.80 10 Amos Rusie 370 462 0.80
The answer is five. As shown, Clemens ranks fifth -- behind
Speaking of Sinins' ATM reports, Lee also reported last week when Carlos Zambrano signed with the Chicago Cubs that the big right-hander ranked 12th in RSAA through the age of 23 over the past half century.
CAREER RSAA, AGE <= 23
RSAA 1 Bert Blyleven 137 2 Don Drysdale 122 3 Dwight Gooden 110 4 Frank Tanana 96 5 Bret Saberhagen 78 6 Gary Nolan 74 7 Herb Score 72 8 Dennis Eckersley 70 9 Dean Chance 68 10 Mark Buehrle 65 11 Dave Rozema 64 12 Carlos Zambrano 63 13 John Candelaria 61 14 Roger Clemens 59 15 Mark Prior 58
Damn, there's that Blyleven guy again. This list would suggest that young Bert was the best pitcher in the post-World War II era through the age of 23. And therein lies one of his problems when it comes to the Hall of Fame. I believe it is human nature for voters to discount a player's record from the early years of his career and place too large a premium on the tail end of one's career. (Fred McGriff will be hurt and Rafael Palmeiro will be helped by this phenomenon, in my opinion.)
And while we're on the subject of ATM reports and Blyleven, how about Lee's latest RSAA table? When reporting Johan Santana had signed a four-year, $40 million contract with the Minnesota Twins, Lee pointed out that the Cy Young Award winner ranked fourth on the Senators/Twins single season RSAA list.
SENATORS/TWINS, SINGLE-SEASON RSAA LEADERS
YEAR RSAA 1 Walter Johnson 1913 75 2 Walter Johnson 1912 74 3 Walter Johnson 1918 56 4 Johan Santana 2004 54 5 Bert Blyleven 1973 53 6 Walter Johnson 1919 52 T7 Walter Johnson 1910 49 T7 Walter Johnson 1911 49 T7 Walter Johnson 1915 49 10 Frank Viola 1988 45
I find it amazing that Johnson, as great as he was, only had three years in which he had more RSAA than Blyleven had in 1973 in what was and still remains one of the most underappreciated seasons ever. Bert, in fact, finished second in the A.L. in RSAA that year (one behind
As I explained in Answering the Naysayers, Blyleven "might have been the best pitcher in all of baseball that year. He led the A.L. in K/BB (3.85), SHO (9), ERA+ (158), and -- for 'cybergeeks' like me -- neutral wins* (26); was 2nd in ERA (2.52), K (258), WHIP (1.12), and RSAA (53); 3rd in CG (25); 4th in IP (325); and 7th in W (20)."
*a projection of the number of wins the pitcher would have been credited with if he was given average run support.
Blyleven's 1973 season was essentially on par with Santana's 2004 campaign. However, the modern-day Twin was a unanimous Cy Young Award winner whereas Bert garnered one third-place vote out of 24 ballots.
I apologize, folks. I didn't mean for this to be an article about Blyleven. But, gosh, it's just difficult writing about the best pitchers in the history of baseball without running across Blyleven's name more often than not.
[Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]