Why Roger Clemens
In 2004, Roger Clemens made his debut in the National League, 20 years into his acclaimed career. And he truly had an amazing season, one that was befitting to his reputation. He went 18-4, and had the best winning percentage among all the pitchers in the league, at the age of 40.
But then, he was the Rocket. He had always been so fabulous, always been so good.
Meh. People weren’t too shocked. (And let’s try not to think about how he was able to achieve that while reading this; this was when we all thought Clemens was a stand-up guy, or a jackass but a helluva pitcher.)
At the age of 40, Clemens came in 5th in ERA with 2.98. 5th in strikeouts, but then, he was in the same league with Randy Johnson, so he was practically ranked 4th among the pitchers who were not born to strike people out (and who are capable of putting up realistic K figures.)
- Ranked 8th in Innings Pitched (214.1)
- Ranked 5th in ERA (2.98)
- Ranked 5th in Strikeouts (218)
- Ranked 7th in K/9 (9.154)
- Ranked 5th in Adjusted ERA (146)
- Ranked 8th in Whip (1.157)
- Ranked 2nd in Wins (18)
- Ranked 1st in Win. Pct (0.818)
While undoubtedly the right-hander had a terrific year, it is very difficult to pin down the argument that he was the best pitcher this year by any standard. Was he the most likely pitcher to get the winning decision in each game? Probably so, with his remarkable winning percentage. But that says nothing about his ability to give his team the chance to win a game. By just comparing simply where he was ranked in comparison to other pitchers in the league (namely Ben Sheets, Roy Oswalt, Jason Schmidt, and Randy Johnson), one can see that he had his place in the top tier, but not at the apex.
Who should have won?
Johnson, coming off an injury-plagued season in 2003, had the record of 16-14, which a lot of people thought was the kind of record that simply “doesn’t cut” for the Cy Young award. I do think “Win” is an important factor despite the recent trend to put progressively less and less weight on the category. It shows how many game the pitcher successfully led the team to win during the season, though it does not show how he did so. I do think that 20 game-winner and 15 game-winner have some differences, but they have to be weighed carefully while factoring the other categories as well. But in this case, Johnson had 16 while Clemens had 18. The gap was only 2 wins, and it wasn’t as if Clemens was the league leader in wins. It was Roy Oswalt who won 20 games and the title.
- Ranked 1st in WHIP (0.900)
- Ranked 1st in ERA (2.60)
- Ranked 1st in Hits/9 (6.484)
- Ranked 1st in Strikeouts (290)
- Ranked 1st in Adjusted ERA (178)
- Ranked 1st in WAR for Pitchers (7.4)
- Ranked 2nd in K/9 (10.624)
- Ranked 2nd in Innings Pitched( 245.7)Ranked 5th in Wins (16)
Not only did Randy Johnson outperform Roger Clemens in virtually every category that matters when determining the Cy Young recipient, he also outperformed almost all the pitchers in the same league. Hmm…I wonder why he didn’t get the Cy Young.
14 Losses Just Don’t Cut It?
Here is how my logic goes.
Since there isn’t a single category in which Clemens proved himself better than the Big Unit except in Wins and Winning percentages, it must be those two things that got him voted over Johnson, by surprisingly and upsettingly large margin (See below). For the maintenance of my own sanity here, I’m going to go ahead and assume that the culprit was the “winning percentage” category, because, honestly, had Clemens’ 18 wins meant THAT much more than Johnson’s 16 (just the wins, not taking the losses into account), then I am going to have to reconsider my perspective towards those with voting rights.
Really? 2 wins? That’s all it takes?
The only inference I can extract out of this logic is that, it must have been Johnson’s 14 losses that really meant so much to the voters, since it really couldn’t have been the whole 18 vs 16 thing. It is much more convincing that way. They just couldn’t hand it to the guy who had the number 14 engraved in the latter half of his shameful win-loss record. The mere notion must have been so repellent to them, since only 8 of them chose Johnson to be superior.
|Rank||Tm||Vote Pts||1st Place||Share||WAR|
Defending 14 Losses
To oversimplify things, Johnson had tough luck winning games. Often he battled late into the game and had his team in the game, and D-Backs managed to lose eventually. There’s nothing a pitcher can do about that other than keeping the team in the game as long as he could, usually into 7th, 8th and 9th inning as pitchers of Johnson’s caliber are expected to. Johnson did what he was supposed to do, and he accomplished it at high quality. Following is the breakdown of the games in which he pitched well and did not get the win.
(For the lack of better stats, I used “Quality Start” as a filter first. It is very much inadequate, I know, needless to mention its innate controversy. But for now it is enough to demonstrate that Johnson had his reasons for his 14 losses, a lot of which were inadvertent on his part.)
Among 14 losses that Johnson took in 2004, he pitched a QS in 9 of them. Also, out of 5 times he didn’t get any decision (ND), he delivered a quality start 4 times. In other words, he should have been given a fair chance to obtain a win in these 13 games, and he ended up getting the following record.
May 7 vs. PHI, 6.1IP 10K 2R, Game Score 65
(D-Backs lost 4:1)
May 12 vs. NYM, 7IP 7K 1R, Game Score 72.
(D-Backs lost 1:0, Tom Glavine pitched 7.2IP 0ER)
Jun 29 vs. SDP, 8IP 8K 4H 3R 2ER, Game Score 72
(D-Backs lost 3:2, deciding run scored on error by Alex Cintron)
Jul 15 vs. LAD, 7IP 4H 0R, Game Score 77.
(D-Backs lost 4:3, blowing 3:0 lead in the 8th)
Jul 25 vs. COL, 8IP 6H 0R 14K, Game Score 84
(D-Backs lost 3:2, blowing 1:0 lead in the 9th again by Randy Choate)
Aug 20 vs. CIN, 7.2IP 4H 2R 1ER 14K, Game Score 76
(D-Backs lost 2:0, deciding run scored on error by Shea Hillenbrand)
Aug 25 vs. PIT, 8IP 3H 2R 11K, Game Score 79
(D-Backs lost 2:1, Johnson completes the game)
Aug 31 vs. LAD, 8IP 3H 1R 15K, Game Score 86
(D-Backs lost 4:1 in 13th inning)
Sep 22 vs. COL, 7IP 3R 1ER 4K, Game Score 55
(D-Backs lost 4:2, deciding run scored on error by Shea Hillenbrand)
Games ERA Result IP H R ER BB SO 13 2.03 0-9 93 64 26 21 17 116
That’s not to say he should have won 9 more games; it is unreasonable to expect your team to win every time the starting pitcher allows 3 or less runs in 6 or more innings, and it is especially more lunatic notion when your team is D-backs ’04. Plus, the expectations on pitchers like Johnson or Clemens go way beyond the so-called “Quality Start” line. So we raise the bar to High Quality Start “HQS,” 7 or more innings and 2 or fewer runs(earned or unearned!).
Games ERA Result IP H R ER BB SO 6 0.98 0-3 45 2/3 23 6 5 7 70
This is almost ridiculous. ‘Nuff said.
Addendum: Clemens’ Tendency to Avoid Charges
Since every pitcher begins the game with the default score of 50 points, I figured it would be fair to conclude that the games in which Clemens displayed Game Score below 50 point should be graded “below average,” thus disqualifying him from really “earning” the victory on his own.
- Out of 33 games Clemens started, he scored less than 50 on nine different occasions, which was roughly 27% of all the starts he had. In other words, it was a fairly accurate mathematical assumption that Clemens would be sub-par in every 4 game he started. I do not think this fact alone dishonors other 24 games that Clemens pitched well, but I do think such ratio is a little too high a number for a guy recognized as the best pitcher of the year.
- His ERA was 8.14 in these 9 games, averaging 5 1/3 inning per game, and the Astros went 4-5 while Clemens went 3-2. This record was, to say the least, not representative of the performance he showed in those 9 games. The gist is that Clemens posted a winning 3-2 record in the worst 9 games he pitched all year.
- Johnson had seven below-50 games in ‘04, including the one he scored exactly 50 (I felt compelled to include it for unbiased comparison.) That is 7 out of 35 games he started, which would be 20%, not too awesome to my standard, but still far better than the guy who was voted as the Cy Young winner (as in most of other categories). He went 2-4 (I was shocked by the result, because I was expecting something like 0-5), and the team went 2-5. Johnson posted 6.64 and averaged 6 innings per game in 7 worst games of his season.