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Roger Clemens- The Greatest Pitcher Ever?

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  • Roger Clemens- The Greatest Pitcher Ever?

    Someone awhile back mentioned their disdain for the type of baseball fandom that only espouse "legends" to be guys in sepia-toned photographs wearing big baggy uniforms. That overly nostalgic feeling seems to prevail amongst many of us, but I think we're watching one of the greatest "legends" of them all- still pitching today. Had Bonds not ruined it with steroids, I would personally feel the same way about him.

    Clemens, age 42, threw seven more shutout innings tonight to extend his scoreless streak to 23 consecutive innings- incredibly, the Astros have failed to score a run in 25 of his 28 innings pitched, so his record is 1-0 with a 0.32 ERA and 32Ks vs. 6 walks. Ironically, the last time Clemens had any run support at all was when he drove in his own runs, with a two-run single on April 8.

    Clemens is in uncharted waters- this is a man who pitched under the 5 man rotation, and has 329 wins- with some luck and continued excellence, he could end up around 342 wins (tied with Tim Keefe, good enough for 8th all-time). Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it a fact that ALL of the guys ahead of him pitched (for the most part) under a 3-man rotation, with the exception of Spahn?

    The question- is Clemens the greatest pitcher of all time? And if not, where do you guys rank him among the echelon of all-timers?

    -------------Roger Clemens, Red Sox' P, 1984-89------------------------1984-89 ---BB Reference

    ----------------------1990-1994, Road

    ----------------------------------------------------------Houston Astros, 2004-06

    111
    Yes
    24.32%
    27
    No, others are still greater
    75.68%
    84
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-14-2009, 05:22 PM.

  • #2
    I still have Grove, Pete, and Randy above him. I think I have him above Walter, or a spot behind him. I could be more exact but I still am trying to recover my ranking files of my old hard drive.
    AL East Champions: 1981 1982
    AL Pennant: 1982
    NL Central Champions: 2011
    NL Wild Card: 2008

    "It was like coming this close to your dreams and then watching them brush past you like a stranger in a crowd. At the time you don't think much of it; you know, we just don't recognize the significant moments of our lives while they're happening. Back then I thought, 'Well, there'll be other days.' I didn't realize that that was the only day." - Moonlight Graham

    Comment


    • #3
      Chris,

      I have to disagree. Although some hard stats would indicate so, other factors I will tend to take into serious consideration.

      Needless to say, I think Nolan is up there on the list (despite what some may think). Why? Again, b/c of other factors - longevity, hard luck seasons due to crappy offensive teams, and the fact that he could still strike out a guy with a 95-mph heater in his last season.

      Clemens is amazing, yes...but I cannot say he's the greatest ever.

      I really don't know if I could pick just one pitcher as the greatest ever. You'd have to cut it down into decades for accurate answers, IMO. The game has just changed too much to NOT do that.
      -David
      Please read the Baseball Fever Policy and FAQ Section before posting.
      "Some mistakes I guess we never stop paying for." -Roy Hobbs, The Natural

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      • #4
        Yes. Clemens will never match Walter Johnson for dominance over contemporaries. But with a proper timeline boost, I think he comes out at the head of the pack.
        "The numbers are what brought me here; as it appears they brought you."
        - Danielle Rousseau

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Dudecar00
          I still have Grove, Pete, and Randy above him. I think I have him above Walter, or a spot behind him.
          Could you explain why?

          Note- I'd really like to hear Metal Ed's input here.

          Comment


          • #6
            I still have The Big Train ahead of Clemens. I don't think I'll ever change my opinion, but Clemens was a truly, truly great pitcher historically.

            Comment


            • #7
              --No modern pitcher will ever match the records of Walter Johnson or Cy Young, but that doesn't mean they aren't better. The five man rotation and disappearing complete game are going to mean fewer decisions and fewer wins for all pitchers. Clemens' 300 wins now are at least as impressive as Johnson's 400 in his day. Perhaps not as impressive as Young's 500, but I think all of us realize wins are the best way to judge pitchers anyway. You don't often here Young called the best pitcher ever. He is in fact one of the more underrated greats, but that isn't the argument I want to make here.
              --Clemens has been voted the best pitcher in his league 7 times in 3 different decades. You might argue that he didn't deserve all 7 (last year may be exhibit A), but it would be just as easy to argue he should have won some that he didn't. He emerged as an elite pitcher in 1986 and remains one 20 years later, with only a slight blip in mid-career where he wasn't one of the 3-4 best pitchers in the game. He has accomplished that feat against a much deeper and more evolved field than Johnson, Young, Grove, Alexander, Paige or Mathewson.
              --Amoung modern pitchers, Clemens has excelled much longer than Johnson, Martinez or Koufax. Spahn was never as dominating. His advantage over Maddux and Seaver is more that he aged better, but you expect there to be some close battles at the very top of the heap. My revised rankings:
              1) Clemens
              2) Grove
              3) WJohnson
              4) Maddux
              5) Young
              6) Seaver
              7) Alexander
              8) Paige
              9) Mathewson
              10) you pick Spahn's consistency or RJohnson's dominance. I don't want to leave either out of my top 10 (but if I have to, its Spahn 10A and RJ 10B).
              --There are alot of compromises in that ranking. Its different from my past list and my next one could be shuffled again. However, these 11 are generally going to make up my top 10 and Clemens is solidifying his spot at the top with every outing.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by leecemark
                --No modern pitcher will ever match the records of Walter Johnson or Cy Young, but that doesn't mean they aren't better. The five man rotation and disappearing complete game are going to mean fewer decisions and fewer wins for all pitchers. Clemens' 300 wins now are at least as impressive as Johnson's 400 in his day. Perhaps not as impressive as Young's 500, but I think all of us realize wins are the best way to judge pitchers anyway. You don't often here Young called the best pitcher ever. He is in fact one of the more underrated greats, but that isn't the argument I want to make here.
                I’m hoping to be able to delve into this in appropriate detail after next week, when finals and practicum are finally finished, but these are my off the cuff feelings/thoughts-essentially the impetus that's changing my mind...

                -Big Train was facing monolithic players- only Caucasian Americans, and drawn from a smaller talent pool. This has to factor into the discussion, of course- how much different the overall level of competition is completely up for debate.

                -He was also pitching in much bigger parks and with the deadball for 2/3rds of his career (not that he needed trick pitches, but still). I know this is somewhat factored into mean adjusted statistics, but much of it may not be encapsulated by any formula.

                -Most disquieting, though, is the fact that Johnson was able to dominate for well over 10 years (and be a truly great pitcher for over 15 years) with basically one pitch (and the changeup to offset it). Only in the 20's did he develop a good curve after his arm had lost a bit of its zip). Does this strike anyone else as odd? Even is his fastball was over 100 in his prime (which it very well might have been) it surprises me that he didn't need more variety to be so utterly dominating. Clemens throws a fastball, change, slider, and possibly the best splitter in history.

                Possible counter arguments-

                -However, could Clemens pitch 6000 innings like Walter Johnson, or 7000+ like Young? This is analogous to Pedro vs. Clemens- Pedro is relatively fragile, and I seriously doubt he even could possibly pitch 4500 innings, period. Pitch counts may have been much lower in the deadball era (and until 1927 when Johnson retired), so the raw innings might be misleading...but a great enough disparity in pitches per inning to cover 1500 (or nearly 3000) innings pitched and 400 (Johnson) or 600 (Young) more complete games?

                -Transporting Clemens back to an era where he had to finish every game and pitch every 3 days would likely destroy his arm. Not only that, but he would also be asked to pitch in relief- Johnson finished 129 games in his career and had 34 saves, sometimes coming in for 3-6 innings the day after a complete game). It isn't that Clemens has been babied, but consider that Clemens has only had to throw THREE complete games in his last 194 games pitched (1244 innings pitched over 7 seasons)! What if the greats of the past (particularly those from the 1960's-70's and pre 1930) had been able to so lucky, massively cutting down on arm wear and tear and overall toll taken? I have no reason to believe that pitch counts were lower during the 60's and 70's, given what Hitchedtoaspark has shown.

                -Probably a vast majority will still pick Big Train (or Grove) over Clemens- I'm interested as to what combination of these factors (and others) will factor into the discussion.
                Last edited by Bill Burgess; 08-21-2006, 04:00 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The Rocket just edges The Big Train & Lefty because of the modern day adjustment.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    --Not only were deadball era pitchers throwing less pitches to complete a game than most guys do in 7 innings now, they weren't required to exert themselves as much per pitch. There are two points made in Christy Mathewson's "Pitching in the Pinches" (IMO the best reference on deadball pitching) that illustrate this.
                    --Christy mentions that young pitchers need to learn to pace themselves because they would sometimes need to throw as many as 100 pitches in a game. The obvious inference is that most games were completed with fewer than 100 pitches thrown. This is easily explained by the much lower numbers of walks and strikeouts.
                    --Mathewson also advises young pitchers that they need to save their best stuff for the key situations in the game. He said he only threw his famous fadeaway a half dozen times a game because it took too much out of his arm. There are many other accounts of deadball pitchers saying they only bore down when men got in scoring position. This was possible, of course, because it was extremely unlikely that a batter was going to score a run or runs with one swing of the bat.
                    --You'll see extreme dropoffs in IP for deadball pitchers, even those in their prime, immediately upon the arrival of the live ball. There is no reason to believe that a pitcher who is a workhorse under the conditions faced today would not also be a workhorse under those conditions. Clemens would no more be limited to 250 IP in 1915 than Johnson would be able to toss 350 in 1995.
                    --I think Johnson was able to dominate with only a fastball because his everyday fastball was faster than anybody else. Johnson probably could throw in the low 90s all day and crank it up to the high 90s (or even 100) when he needed it. Other fastballers may have been able to approach (or even match) his best fastball on occasion, but their everyday fastball was probably several ticks slower. Walter was a huge man for his day and that medium fastball wouldn't wear him down like a smaller man.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      It's a shame how he left Boston. It's also a shame that he doesn't want to go in the Hall of Fame with the team where his greatest accomplishments came, but I have to recognize him for what he is. The greatest pitcher of all-time. If you can take any pitcher of all-time for one season, it may not be Clemens. You may not even take him for one season or one game out of every pitcher of his own era (Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson) but he's been great. Not as great as Pedro at his best, but he has been consistently great. Here are the translated stats from www.baseballprospectus.com, the pitchers listed are the top 20 (21 actually, Carlton and Koufax tied) pitchers from the Baseball-Fever voting and are listed, obviously, by their ERA's.
                      Code:
                      Pitcher              W   L    IP    ERA   H/9  BB/9  K/9
                      Sandy Koufax        184  61 2231.0  2.70  6.1   2.1 10.6
                      Bob Gibson          278 121 3626.0  2.89  7.2   2.8  8.4
                      Satchel Paige        37  19  478.7  2.90  7.3   2.4  8.4
                      Roger Clemens       413 162 5310.3  2.91  7.4   2.4  8.9
                      Pedro Martinez      235  97 3018.0  2.93  6.5   2.0  9.5
                      Tom Seaver          361 153 4706.0  2.99  6.9   2.3  7.6
                      Lefty Grove         303 132 3886.7  2.99  8.0   2.1  8.7
                      Randy Johnson       320 131 4112.7  3.01  6.4   2.5 10.5
                      Walter Johnson      394 198 5195.7  3.08  7.4   2.0  8.2
                      Juan Marichal       247 113 5195.7  3.13  7.6   1.5  6.4
                      Warren Spahn        386 202 5194.0  3.18  7.9   2.1  5.7
                      Greg Maddux         373 188 5044.0  3.21  8.5   1.4  6.0
                      Cy Young            396 205 5378.3  3.22  8.2   1.2  6.6
                      Bob Feller          382 147 3851.3  3.31  7.2   3.4  8.7
                      Pete Alexander      339 179 4641.0  3.34  8.4   1.5  6.7
                      Carl Hubbell        245 147 3494.3  3.37  7.9   1.6  7.3
                      Kid Nichols         245 141 3442.0  3.39  7.8   1.9  7.0
                      Steve Carlton       364 203 5158.0  3.45  7.6   2.8  8.2
                      Christy Mathewson   280 170 3938.3  3.58  8.4   1.6  7.0
                      Miner Brown         174 126 2634.3  3.86  8.9   2.0  5.6
                      Interesting to look at. Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens are struggling this year according to translated stats, which brought them from 1 & 3 respectively in terms of ERA to where they are now, so it will be interesting to see where they rank at the end of the season. I based my vote on their real stats, but this is just another way to look at things.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by leecemark
                        --Not only were deadball era pitchers throwing less pitches to complete a game than most guys do in 7 innings now, they weren't required to exert themselves as much per pitch. There are two points made in Christy Mathewson's "Pitching in the Pinches" (IMO the best reference on deadball pitching) that illustrate this.
                        --Christy mentions that young pitchers need to learn to pace themselves because they would sometimes need to throw as many as 100 pitches in a game. The obvious inference is that most games were completed with fewer than 100 pitches thrown. This is easily explained by the much lower numbers of walks and strikeouts.
                        --Mathewson also advises young pitchers that they need to save their best stuff for the key situations in the game. He said he only threw his famous fadeaway a half dozen times a game because it took too much out of his arm. There are many other accounts of deadball pitchers saying they only bore down when men got in scoring position. This was possible, of course, because it was extremely unlikely that a batter was going to score a run or runs with one swing of the bat.
                        --You'll see extreme dropoffs in IP for deadball pitchers, even those in their prime, immediately upon the arrival of the live ball. There is no reason to believe that a pitcher who is a workhorse under the conditions faced today would not also be a workhorse under those conditions. Clemens would no more be limited to 250 IP in 1915 than Johnson would be able to toss 350 in 1995.
                        --I think Johnson was able to dominate with only a fastball because his everyday fastball was faster than anybody else. Johnson probably could throw in the low 90s all day and crank it up to the high 90s (or even 100) when he needed it. Other fastballers may have been able to approach (or even match) his best fastball on occasion, but their everyday fastball was probably several ticks slower. Walter was a huge man for his day and that medium fastball wouldn't wear him down like a smaller man.

                        Alot of points have a counterpoint

                        Yes some may have to throw 100 pitches in one game, but also ALOT of the time...it could be 150...because games went into Xtra innings and Straters stayed in...alot of Pitchers had doubleheaders and pitched BOTH the same day

                        For every bear down moment, if the game was out of reach, Pitchers also gave away gifts to batters when the win was a lock, disregarding the stats we would use to rank them nowadays...Walter Johnson is famous for that and Jack Chesboro never wanted to throw a Shutout because he felt it was bad luck...imagine if he didn't?

                        If you feel we can evolve in a matter of 2 generations and that a 100 mph fastball was not possible, well that's you perogative. I think Johnson threw quite hard, Billy wagner hard, but he could do it for a very long time...it's just genetics...how can Cy Young pitch all those innings, curveball after curveball and NOT ever have a sore arm, while today 22 year olds have Tommy John surgery? Plus we may think we have better techniques in teaching all Pitcher show to pitch and all batters how to bat, but every body is different...so to me that doesn't come into play

                        As for Johnson couldn't pitch as much...look at Livian Hernandez...who BTW never has had a major injury despite his IP and CG...Walter Johnson would lead the league in IP every year

                        Clemens is a great pitcher in this era, and his only knock is that he seems to become too predictable in later innings, which has been rectified with 7 IP and out that he has been doing since 1999..Roger has only 3 CG from 1999 to now In 1987 he had 18 CG and a 2.97 ERA against much better talent then nowadays. His K's have increased with age not due to his overpowering stuff, but because batters lack fundementals nowadays

                        So with all that said, Cy Young will be my #1, Walter Johnson my #2, Lefty Grove my #3, but Roger Clemens will probably go #4 before all is said and done...and that is quite a feat

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Oh and another thing

                          Many statheadzz that I cannot stand always say Pedro is King, yet 3 more years of his last he won't be atop that ERA+ board anymore...and then they will change theri stance and say he is not a good pitcher

                          Sometimes we overcomplicate things with stats...

                          Clemens is a great pitcher, but even he will tell you that he cannot match the aura and dominance of Young, Johnson, Grove and Koufax

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            It would be nearly impossbile for Pedro not to retire as the ERA+ leader.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I am much less a stathead than most members here, but I just can't see how Roger, good as he is, can be rated the best ever.

                              I have Walter Johnson, Mathewson, Alexander ahead of him at the very least. And in addition, I also have Spahn, "Smokey Joe" Williams, Paige, Young, and probably Grove ahead of him too. I have Randy Johnson on a par with Roger. And I don't think that anything I've expressed is criticism of Roger.

                              Bill Burgess
                              Last edited by Bill Burgess; 04-24-2005, 04:52 PM.

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