Thursday, June 28, 2007

Clemens...a year too long?

Throughout his career Roger Clemens has been an impact player. He has averaged just under 15 wins per year over his 24 seasons (including this one) and only 7.5 losses. Only twice in his career has he finished a season with a losing record, both times with Boston.

He has been one of the most dominating pitchers for the better part of the last three decades. Sure, he's had problems coming up big in the post season. But his wins will help you get there.

He has also been implicated by Jose Canseco and Jason Grimsley in baseball's sordid performance enhancing drug use story. When looked at, one can guess where this might even have started if it is indeed true...

In 1993, Clemens, then 30 and about to turn 31, started a three season stretch where he threw for fewer than 200 innings for the first time since 1986 - throwing 191 2/3's, 170 2/3's, and 140 innings respectively, starting 29, 24, and 23 games in each of those seasons.

During that stretch he had garnered a reputation in Boston for coming into spring training fat and out of shape and garnered a reputation as fragile. A long cry from his current reputation as a workout warrior.

Jose Canseco joined Boston in 1995. Clemens pitched 242 2/3's innings in 1996 before moving on to the Blue Jays.

As bad a rap as Dan Duquette gets, the writing was on the wall in 1995, and it wasn't that hard to read. Clemens was on his way out. He spent significant time on the disabled list in all three of those seasons leading up to 1996, and one healthy season after three straight seasons of decline...that was just too much of a gamble for a general manager with some sense.

Somehow at the age of 34, a year after meeting Canseco, Clemens began a career renaissance. Over the course of a ten season period, when other pitchers are on the decline, Clemens went on a tear during which he pitched fewer than 200 innings only twice, and never pitched fewer than 180.

This season, the Rocket has touched down in the middle of the Bronx, and while still early, is sporting a 1-3 record with a 5.32 ERA and with opponents batting .284 against him. Maybe he's trying to do this without the help he may have had in past years due to more stringent testing in MLB, maybe his age finally has caught up with him, maybe its the difference between pitching in the American League as opposed to the National League.

Either way, it's looking more and more like the Savior of the Yankees has hung on for a
year too long. At the end of last year, Clemens walked away from Houston with a 2.30 ERA, and hitters only accounting for a .214 batting average.

If the season keeps going like this, that's a lot of aging during one off season.

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