I had a post a couple of days ago about the comeback of Roger Clemens and I mentioned that I thought he might be one of the best three pitchers ever. I got a couple of comments from people that seemed to disagree. The more I thought about it, the more I think that he is a top 3 all-time pitcher and he may even be the best ever. Here are some arguments that support that claim:
- 7 Cy Young Awards. This is more than anyone else. The next closest is Randy Johnson with 5 Cy’s to his name. The award started in 1956, so this obviously can only be used to compare Roger to pitchers from the last 50 years.
- ERA Leader 7 Times. The only pitcher better than him in this category is Lefty Grove, who led his league in ERA 9 times.
- Other Statistical Greatness:
- .662 career winning percentage. Of Hall of Fame or guaranteed future HOF pitchers, he ranks 5th in this category (6th if you include Babe Ruth).
- 348 career wins puts him in 8th place all-time.
- 4,604 career strikeouts is 2nd all-time.
- 8th in adjusted ERA, which compares the pitchers ERA to the league average for that year.
It gets very difficult to compare modern pitchers to those that pitched 40-50+ years ago. First off, we are in the steroids era, or the “live ball” era. Its hard to say how big this factor is, but its certainly a factor. Second, we are now in the age of the 5-man rotation. Of course, back in the day the norm was the 4-man rotation, which meant more starts and therefore more wins, K’s, etc. Third, all of the old greats like Cy Young and Walter Johnson played during the days of segregation, so they didn’t have to face all of the great black players of that time. I wonder how much better Clemens’ numbers would be if he didn’t have to face great players like Ken Griffey Jr., Albert Belle, Cecil Fielder, Joe Carter, and Kirby Puckett? Thank goodness he’s had to face these guys.
There are definitely other pitchers that could be considered the greatest of all time: Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Christy Matthewson, Tom Seaver and others, but I think an objective look at Clemens’ career puts him at or very near the top of the list. Who knows, maybe in 10 years we’ll be talking about Johan Santana being the greatest.