Roger Clemens and his place in history

So in a discussion with a baseball pal today (I was celebrating a potential Nevin-to-the-AL deal) we got around to discussing Roger Clemens. So I opened up baseball-reference.com and just had it roll over me again.

Christ, if he keeps up his numbers this year he could potentially win his EIGHTH Cy Young Award this year! Good God awmighty!

So where do you all think he’ll end up ranking? Top 10 all time? Top 5? Top 2?

Woof, what a career.

If we’re talking pitchers, I’d currently rank Clemens 4th all-time, behind Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, and Cy Young. I think that with his dominance in 2005, he passes both Christy Mathewson and Pete Alexander on that list.

Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Greg Maddux - four pitchers that might ALL be top ten by the time they retire. If you like masterful pitching, it’s a great time to be a baseball fan.

Yeah, he survived that stint on Monty Burns’s softball team o’ ringers pretty well, didn’t he? :slight_smile:

("…with Roger Clemens clucking all the while…")

I believe Clemens is the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball.

I think he is certainly better than Cy Young. Young was great and all but he pitched much of his career in a time when professional baseball was not exceptionally well organized and the leagues were drifting in and out of existence. If you want to make the argument that Young was better I can’t prove you’re wrong but I just don’t think it’s comparable to be a dominant pitcher in the relatively bush 1892 National League, which was basically an East Coast league, with no scouting or farm system, for white guys, with a modern professional sports league.

Clemens vs. Grove or Johnson is a more interesting case. Grove was slightly better inning for inning but Clemens’s career is now a good 650 innings longer. Johnson beats Clemens in both departments - again, though, he’s pitching against an all-white league before modern farm systems.

Clemens, Grove and Johnson all have arguments to being Numero Uno, but if I could pickj any of the three, I’d have to take Clemens. You can’t go wrong with any of them.

I would say Grove, then Clemens. I can’t imagine that anybody could reasonably defend putting him below third.

If your keeping score at home, Clemens pitched 6 shutout innings on Friday, lowering his ERA for the season to 1.40. :eek:

Not only that, but he’s batting .237 (9 hits for 38 at bats), which isn’t too shabby for a pitcher, especially one who spent 20 years in the American League.

I’ve seen a number of commentators offer “Best right-handed pitcher since World War II” as the most modest praise one can positively bestow on Clemens.

And leaving aside his baseball career, I think his efforts in the Middle Eastern peace talks will guarantee his place in history.

I think Clemens is right up there with the greatest, and gets a little more credit than many others because

  1. He spent a huge part of his career in Fenway Park, the quintessential hitter’s park.

  2. Unlike National leaguers and pre-1973 stars, he didn’t get to throw to pitchers, who are usually automatic outs.

That’s why I put Clemens a little bit ahead of Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton (who played primarily in pitcher’s parks, and who got to pad their strikeout totals by throwing to National League pitchers).

I disagree on Pedro, at least right now. I think this stint with the Mets will be what puts Pedro either with the greats or just below them. Yes, he had a great run with the Red Sox, but he’s almost too injury-prone, and his “Pedro=God” dominance is gone.

Also, Pedro doesn’t pitch a lot of innings any more. Last year, Randy Johnson made only two more starts than Pedro but had almost 30 IP more. Clemens and Maddux had similar IP and starts, but they also are a lot older than Pedro.

I think it’s safe to say that Pedro was THE pitcher of the late 90’s, but he won’t get 250 wins, I don’t think, and 300 is probably never going to happen.

Yeah, but look at his career ERA + again.

Pedro’s ERA+ is amazing. Post-1900 leaders (counting Cy as post 1900) with at least 2000 IP:

Pedro: 167
Lefty: 148

Hoyt Wilhelm: 146
Quiz: 146
Ed Walsh: 145
Big Train: 146
Big Unit: 144
Addie Joss: 142
Roger: 141 (actually about 142-143; I don’t have 2005 figured in)
Maddux: 141

Despite that, I don’t think PEdro is yet even in a league with Clemens, MAddux et al, for the simple reason that he’s only pitched 2296 innings going into 2005, as opposed neary twice that many or more for any of the other guys we’ve been seriously discussing. ERA+ is only meaningful in context of career length. Comparing Martinez to Clemens is sort of like comparing Tom Henke to Martinez. After all, Henke had an ERA+ of 156, why not discuss him? Because he didn’t pitch enough. Why not Hoyt Wilhelm?

Consider how these pitchers stack up by measuring Win Shares (thru 2004):

Cy Young - 511
Big Train - 388
Clemens - 374
Grove - 363
Maddux - 323
Big Unit - 295
Pedro - 234

I think that’s a reasonable approximation of their relative merits, save Young’s number being inflated by the vagarities of 19th century baseball.

And here I was expecting to be roundly insulted for my post.

So now I’ll introduce another name into the discussion: Tom Glavine. If he manages to get his 300 wins, where does he rank all-time?

He’s off to North Korea when the season is over to tell them to stop with the nuclear program or he’ll throw a broken graphite rod at Kim Jong Il.

Clemens loses a couple of points for giving all of his kids names starting with the same letter. I don’t care if he had a fairly imaginative reason (using the letter “K” because it refers to strikeouts); parents getting overly cutesy with their kids’ names irritates me.

Hey, it could be worse: they could have been BACKWARDS Ks.

In the Hall of Fame, anyway.

Actually, I’d vote him in tomorrow even without 300 wins.

Sure, a lot of his 511 wins were in the mid-1890s. I notice there are a lot of mid-1890s pitchers at the top of the all-time win list. Young won 211 games in the first nine years of the American League. He would have been a great pitcher in any era.