A National Treasure
Do we realize just what is taking place here, folks?
Roger Clemens vs. the Washington Nationals, July 22, 2005, at RFK Stadium.
IP H R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA
Clemens (W, 8-4) 6.0 3 0 0 3 10 0 102-70 1.40
Season and Career Statistics:
IP H R ER HR BB SO W L ERA
2005 135 90 25 21 5 39 123 8 4 1.40
Career 4628 3936 1773 1609 341 1497 4440 336 168 3.13
I mean, these results are incredible for anyone--much less a pitcher who will turn 43 in two weeks. Bob Gibson's
ERA, in the Year of the Pitcher, was only 0.28 runs per nine innings better. In fact, other than Gibson, no pitcher in the live-ball era finished the season with a lower ERA than what Clemens has fashioned thus far.
Oh, Clemens' ERA in nine road starts this year? 0.31.
Here's a deconstruction of Roger's latest outing, batter by batter and inning by inning.
Washington - Bottom of 1st:
J Carroll lined out to second.
J Vidro lined out to second.
J Guillen singled to right.
R Church struck out swinging.
The Nats get a runner on base and Clemens buckles down and strikes out their clean-up hitter.
Washington - Bottom of 2nd:
P Wilson struck out looking.
B Wilkerson struck out looking.
B Schneider grounded out to second.
Sit down. Sit down. (Brad Wilkerson didn't take his bat off his shoulder. I'm sure glad I took him this year for my fantasy team.) Ground out.
Washington - Bottom of 3rd:
C Guzman walked.
R Drese sacrificed to first, C Guzman to second.
J Carroll struck out swinging.
J Vidro walked.
J Guillen struck out swinging.
How could Clemens walk Cristian Guzman to open the inning? The Washington shortstop is on pace to post the fourth-lowest OPS (.500) since 1920. Is he really making $4.2 million this year? O Barry, O Barry! Wherefore art thou, Barry?
Quite simply, Guzman has been as bad this year as Clemens has been good. Take a look at Guzman's stats vs. those allowed by Clemens:
AVG OBP SLG
Guzman .188 .227 .273
Clemens .197 .261 .269
In other words, Guzman makes all pitchers look like Clemens, and Clemens reduces all hitters into nothing more than a bunch of Guzmans. As far as I am concerned, that says it all.
Back to the action. Great at-bat by Jose Vidro in the third inning: strike one looking, strike two looking, foul, ball one, ball two, foul, foul, ball three, ball four. Vidro draws a walk. Down 0-2, Vidro worked Clemens for seven more pitches to earn a base on balls, allowing the Nationals' best hitter, Jose Guillen, to get a shot at hitting a home run to tie the score at three. Power vs. power. Clemens reaches back and strikes out Guillen to end the inning.
Washington - Bottom of 4th:
R Church singled to right.
P Wilson struck out looking, R Church stole second.
B Wilkerson struck out swinging.
B Schneider struck out swinging.
Another runner makes it as far as second base and how does Clemens respond? He blows down Wilkerson (hey, he swung at all three strikes this time) and Brian Schneider.
Washington - Bottom of 5th:
C Guzman struck out swinging.
R Drese fouled out to shortstop.
J Carroll walked.
J Vidro lined out to right.
Not sure how Clemens could walk Jamey Carroll on five pitches in that situation (nobody on and two outs). Carroll has no power whatsoever. As my high school baseball coach, John Herbold, would yell, "Throw it down the middle and see how far he can hit it." Oh well, I guess Roger's human after all.
Washington - Bottom of 6th:
J Guillen doubled to deep left.
R Church hit by pitch.
P Wilson struck out swinging.
B Wilkerson flied out to left.
B Schneider flied out to left.
Clemens made a mistake to Guillen with no balls and two strikes. Clemens then hit Ryan Church on an 0-2 pitch. First and second, nobody out. Having thrown 94 pitches to this point, Roger realizes the sixth inning is going to be his last one way or the other. Herbold was also fond of saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner rises to the occasion and gets the fifth, sixth, and seventh hitters on eight pitches, leaving both runners stranded. The Astros score four more in the top of the seventh, giving Clemens an 8-0 cushion. Chad Qualls enters the game as the first of four relievers asked to get the final nine outs.
Houston adds four in the eighth and two more runs in the ninth to put up a 14-spot on the scoreboard, the team's highest output of the season. The Astros beat the Nationals, 14-1.
On a night when Jon Garland picked up his 15th win of the season, it is hard to believe that Clemens has only won eight games. How could that be? Well, the White Sox are averaging 6.24 runs per game for Garland (13th best in the majors), while the Astros are backing Clemens with just 3.53 runs per game (12th lowest in the majors). Chicago scored six or more runs in each of Garland's first half dozen starts. Houston didn't even score five runs in any game started by Clemens until his 12th. The Astros were shutout four times during this period and have been whitewashed a total of five times with Roger on the mound.
As well as Clemens has pitched this year, would you believe that his OPS allowed was even lower back in 1986 (the year of his first Cy Young Award)?
AVG OBP SLG OPS
1986 .195 .252 .264 .515
2005 .197 .261 .269 .526
Although Clemens led the A.L. in ERA in 1986, his 2.48 mark was more than a full run higher than this year. The Rocket gave up more home runs 19 years ago (21 or 0.74 HR/9) vs. 2005 (5 or 0.33 HR/9), but the two slugging averages are almost identical so that's not it. No, the real difference between the two years is the fact that Clemens has only allowed one HR with a runner on base in 2005 (vs. eight in 1986) and has been lights out with runners in scoring position.
Clemens w/ RISP:
AVG OBP SLG OPS
1986 .188 .238 .253 .491
2005 .108 .198 .151 .349
Clemens proved just how tough he has been with runners in scoring position vs. the Nats Friday night. Washington batters were 0-7 in such situations with a walk and a hit by pitch. He didn't allow any base runners to reach third. But pitching success is not about how many get to third. Instead, it's all about how many--or how few--get to home.
In the case of Roger Clemens vs. Major League Baseball, let the facts show that he has allowed only 25 runners to score all year long or about half as many as Garland in almost the identical number of innings. If you like Jon Garland, you loved Bob Welch in 1990. Me? I'll take my chances of winning with Roger Clemens, thank you.
[Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]