May 8, 2007

Pinning Your Hopes On A 45-Year-Old Pitcher

There is little question that if Roger Clemens stays healthy (no ill-timed "hamstring" issues), he will make the Yankees' starting rotation better, but the important thing is that he doesn't make the Red Sox worse.

As long as the Sox keep doing what they are doing -- winning 2 out of every 3 games even with some offensive setbacks -- William will be watching the playoffs back home in Texas with Kody, Kacy, Kodak and Kleenex.

Clemens needs to eat innings to give Joe Torre's bullpen a break. Can he do that if he gives them only about 100 pitches a start (his average for Houston last year)? It's questionable. Here are his ERA+s since using his illegal side deal to force a trade from Toronto to New York:
     AGE       IP    ERA+
1999 36 NYY 187.7 97
2000 37 NYY 204.3 137
2001 38 NYY 220.3 128
2002 39 NYY 180.0 101
2003 40 NYY 211.7 112

2004 41 HOU 214.3 145
2005 42 HOU 211.3 221
2006 43 HOU 113.3 197
Clemens was a bit better than league average in his last two seasons in the Bronx. His stats were helped quite a bit with a move to the NL.

The Yankees are already trying to dampen fans' expectations:
Several Yankees remained cautious yesterday. Although injuries have forced Clemens to miss only a few starts the past few seasons — a pesky groin has troubled him occasionally since his days with the Yankees — he has become a five- or six-inning pitcher. Despite often breezing through National League lineups, Clemens pitched into the seventh inning only six times in 19 starts last season and has not thrown into an eighth inning since August 2005.

Manager Joe Torre will still need three or four innings from his increasingly worn relievers to preserve the leads Clemens may bequeath. ... According to Inside Edge, a statistical scouting service used by many major league clubs, Clemens's fastball has slowed to 91 miles an hour from about 93.5 m.p.h. five years ago.
Everyone is writing that Clemens will likely face the Red Sox in the June 1-2-3 series at Fenway. But I wonder. After the weekend series in Boston, the Yankees play four in Chicago before interleague games begin. I would not be at all surprised if William missed the Red Sox series (a fictional hamstring problem delaying his return?) and make his grand reentrance against Pittsburgh.

Someone on Baseball Tonight said that with the luxury tax implications, William will cost the Yankees $6.3 million a month. I read something (where?) that estimated his starts/pitch count for this season and figured he would be getting about $8,000 per pitch.

SoSHer The Gray Eagle:
How long should his next standing ovation be in Fenway? He's only had a couple of those in a Yankees uniform, so he should probably get another one. Maybe the Red Sox should put together another video for him, wishing him well with his new team.
Ken Rosenthal:
Clemens wasn't going to save the Red Sox, who already boast a rotation of right-handers Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka — not to mention righty Tim Wakefield, who currently is second in the AL in ERA, and lefty Jon Lester, who is expected to become the No. 5 starter soon. In fact, Clemens might have gotten lost in that group — a potential turnoff, considering how much he likes being the center of attention.
Meanwhile, in Houston:
No one was surprised when Clemens re-signed with the Astros last year, and no one was at all shocked that he's headed to the Yankees this time.

"There are two kinds of people," Lance Berkman said. "Those people who aren't surprised, and morons."

As soon as Andy Pettitte signed with the Yankees last December, Berkman said, Clemens was as good as gone. "I've been calling it loud and clear," Berkman said.

Asked if he thought the Yankees' desperation for more pitching played into it, Berkman said, "Even if they had a set rotation, that's where he was going -- there's no doubt about that."

The rest of the players approached on the topic were a bit less forceful with their responses, but nonetheless, it was clear that the overwhelming majority of uniformed personnel were: a) not at all surprised Clemens signed with the Yankees, and b) not all that upset that he's gone.


L-girl said...

William will be watching the playoffs back home in Texas with Kody, Kacy, Kodak and Kleenex.

Nice touch. :)

Stefan said...

Clemens needs to eat innings to give Joe Torre's bullpen a break.

And he won't. This is a key point; what's the net effect of getting 20 starts from Roger but putting an extra 20-40 innings of work on your (already struggling) bullpen? I bet some SABR type could work up a nice analysis on this... signing Roger makes the starting rotation better, but it will undoubtedly make the bullpen worse over the long haul, which affects every game, not just every fifth.

I could see September getting real ugly, with both Roger and the Yanks' bullpen getting awful tired.

About that starting rotation, though: so far most of the "the Clemens signing is worth X wins for the Yankees" (with X being between 2 and 7) have been based on Clemens replacing Igawa in the rotation. But as we know Igawa's down in single A, and would be whether or not Clemens signed with the Yanks. The actual rotation going forward until Roger shows up will be some combination of Pettitte, Wang, Mussina, Hughes, DeSalvo, and Rasner... and you know, that's not half bad. Sample size is real small on the last three but they seem at least decent.

Obviously adding Clemens to your team makes you better, but I think they're paying a tremendous amount of money for what could be a fairly minor upgrade in performance. The boilterplate rebuttal to this is: they're the Yankees, they've got the money, why not spend it? To which I'd say, well, instead you could get an extra year out of one of your high upside young pitchers. And spend the money on a high-end relief pitcher or two, which you probably need more desperately than Rog.

redsock said...

Stefan: Isn't Hughes going to be out for at least another month? Fathead could return before Hughes does.

He'll likely pitch 5+ innings more often than whatever warm body they would have plugged into the 5th spot without him -- or rather be shelled in the 4th or earlier less often. Which is good for a team that was last in starter innings per game.

Stefan said...

Oops - totally forgot about the Hughes injury, yeah.

Andrew said...

Meh, every pitcher needs to 'eat innings', it seems, to be worth something to the Yankees. If they aren't guaranteed to go 7 innings every time out I guess they're completely not worth it.

Clemens in the rotation just means the Yankees don't have to go to guys like Darrell Rasner or Chase Wright every fifth day, who are nearly guaranteed not to eat innings. Roger also gives you a much much better chance to win than those wannabe major league starters. How is that not huge?

Saying Clemens will cost the bullpen is logical fallacy, it was already being costed by guys like Rasner who can only give you 80 pitches a game, max.

Also - Hughes won't be out till July. He has a grade 1 hamstring tear, and he's already been throwing off flat ground. His hamstring is probably already mostly healed. He'll probably be back mid-June, at the latest.