Monday, January 28, 2008

Do Clemens' Stats Prove Anything?

Randy Hendricks, Roger Clemens' agent attempted to use his statistics to prove that he did not use steroids. He claims that Clemens' longevity is due to his ability to adjust, not due to steroids. When Clemens was first implicated, I thought that the stronger piece of evidence was that fact that he declined in his last four years in Boston, then had a career revival in Toronto. Plenty of pitchers pitch for a while: Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Curt Schilling, David Wells, etc. Some guys just get lucky. Today, after Randy Hendricks' report came out, I looked a little more closely at the statistics, and now I feel that they may not be so incriminating.

In Clemens' last four years in Boston (1993-96), when he allegedly declined, he really was not that bad. Actually, in two of those years he was downright good. In 1993, he had a 4.46 ERA (104 ERA+). This was his worst of those four years, but there is a logical explanation. In the two years previous to that one, he pitched 271.1 and 246.2 innings respectively. This down year could have been due to fatigue. Another possibility is bad luck. FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) takes the luck out of ERA, and his 1993 FIP was 3.90- not bad at all.

The next year, '94, Rocket posted a 2.85 ERA (177 ERA+ 3.69 FIP). Not a down year.

In 1995, Clemens posted a 4.18 ERA (116 ERA+ 4.29 FIP). Not a very good year, but Clemens made just 23 starts due to injury.

In 1996, Clemens had a good year again, with a 3.63 ERA (139 ERA+ 3.46 FIP). So his last four years in Boston were not bad years at all, though maybe not as good as earlier in his career, but that can be expected of someone who threw so many innings at young age.

It's true that in 1997 and 1998 Clemens was legitimately great in Toronto. He was not overly lucky, he was just dominant. Then his next two years in New York were not great, possibly because of the 499.2 IP in his two years in Toronto. Pitchers generally are not consistent year to year, which is probably a better explanation for Clemens' Boston-Toronto transition than steroids or other PEDs. There is still the issue of his longevity and of Andy Pettitte's admission, but the numbers do not incriminate him. That is not to say that he is not guilty, though.