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The Only Three Pitchers That Matter

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Clemens, Schlemens.

Say what you want,. I can't get enough of him.

After yesterday's uncritically unacclaimed excursion into the third-order realms of conistency in regards the pitching of Andy Pettitte, I took the opportunity to take a stroll through the extended and sabermetric versions of the pitching stats at ESPN.com this morning. And Rogér Clemens is at the top of many, many of the lists there, let me tell you.

For example, now that Dontrelle has been in ESPN's clever words, D-railed, Clemens leads the National League and indeed the majors in earned run average. But you may not have known that Clemens is also first in percentage of quality starts at 1.00. In other words, Clemens has gone out there eight times; each time he has responded with a quality start of 6 IP, 3 ER or better. In the NL, only Pittsburgh's Mark Redman (whom I very foolishly predicted the Astros would rock earlier on) has done so well with as many starting nods.

And great pitchers don't need no stinking defense: not only is Clemens number one in ERA, he is number one in DIPS ERA, or defense-independent ERA. And with a ridiculous average of 70.3, Clemens leads in that oh-so-very-elegant statistic, average game score.

So I continued taking my tour, trolling for stats, and basically found that if Clemens wasn't leading in any one particular stat (aside from wins, of course), he was second or third after Pedro Martinez and Willis. Martinez leads in some categories as well: try Component ERA, WHIP, and K's per nine to start. Martinez is second to Clemens in DIPS and also second among qualifiers in K/BB.

Dontrelle is third in WHIP after Martinez and Clemens, and third in component ERA after the same duo.

OK. OK.

Big deal, you're saying, maybe Martinez has pitched better than I've noticed, but otherwise, so what? The fact that Dontrelle and Clemens sit atop most of the pitching lists is not news.

And I'd say you're right, but someone needs to tell Rob Neyer and maybe Bill James. I had known that since the publication of The Neyer-James Guide to Pitchers that ESPN had been featuring a statistic called The Cy Young Predictor, but I had never 'til today taken a look to see what it might say.

And they kinda had it right. Willis was at the top, and no-one would argue with that, and Clemens was fourth, which, given the poor support he's endured (can you believe the Nats have supported Loiaza even less?) seems fair enough. But instead of getting Martinez into the mix, Josh Beckett was second, and Adam Eaton was third.

Adam Eaton? He's not even the best pitcher on the Padres, and for that matter, Beckett's not the best pitcher on the Marlins. I mean, Bill James and Rob Neyer, they're pretty smart guys, but where does James 1) get off saying that he can replicate the tortured reasoning of a Cy Young voter
or 2) come up with a formula that ignores or underconsiders half the most important pitching metrics?

This is worse than Mark Davis over Mike Scott . . .

Let me pick on Eaton some more vis a vis Clemens:

  • Eaton's ERA is 3.35, while Clemens comes in at 1.11. Advantage: Clemens
  • Eaton's Component ERA is 4.01. Clemens' is more than twice as good at 1.51. Advantage: Clemens
  • Eaton's DIPS ERA is 4.05; Clemens is 2.39. Advantage Clemens.
  • Eaton's K/9IP is 6.54; Clemens is 9.47. Advantage: Clemens
  • Eaton's WHIP is 1.34; Clemens is .91. Advantage: Clemens
  • Eaton's K/BB is 2.29. Clemens is at 3.75 Advantage: Clemens
  • Eaton's Average Game Score is 51.7. Clemens blows away the field at 70.6. Advantage: Way Clemens
I mean I expect this stuff from Fox Sports or something, but I gotta believe Neyer and James can do better. I'm left with no choice but to think that James formula boils down to two things, where Eaton does have Clemens sussed:
  • Eaton has six wins, Clemens has three. Advantage Eaton.
  • Eaton has received 6.54 runs in support, Clemens has received 2.21. Advantage Eaton.
Ahh, now I get it.

I'm not saying that Rogér should be leading right now in any kind of Cy Young metric, but I am saying that there are three pitchers right now, no more no less, who deserve to be considered. They are Dontrelle Willis, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens. The Neyer James list missed on one totally and underrated another.

The Numbers

PLAYER TEAM           ERA  QS QS% 
Roger Clemens Hou   1.11    8 1.00 
Mark Redman Pit         2.44    8 1.00
Willis                                          7  .875
Eaton                                         5  .555

RK PLAYER TEAM        ERA ERC ERC%
1 Pedro Martinez NYM 3.38 1.13 0.34 
2 Roger Clemens Hou 1.11  1.51 1.36 
3 Dontrelle Willis Fla    1.45  1.69 1.17 
    Eaton                           4.01

RK PLAYER TEAM        ERA ERC ERC%
1 Roger Clemens Hou 1.11 1.51 1.36 
2 Shawn Chacon Col    3.16 4.06 1.28 
3 Jeff Suppan      StL    4.27 5.38 1.26 
   Eaton                                           1.19
   Willis                                            1.17

RK PLAYER TEAM       ERA   ERC ERC% DIPS DIP% 
1 Roger Clemens Hou 1.11   1.51   1.36   2.39    2.16 
2 Pedro Martinez NYM 3.38  1.13   0.34   2.55    0.76 
3 Jake Peavy SD           2.57   2.32   0.90   2.60   1.01 
    Eaton                                                        4.05    
    Willis                                                         2.62

RK PLAYER      TEAM ERA  ERC ERC% DIPS DIP% 
1 Mike Hampton  Atl      1.96 2.27 1.16      4.32 2.20
2 Roger Clemens Hou  1.11 1.51 1.36      2.39 2.16 
3 Dontrelle Willis Fla     1.45 1.69 1.17      2.62 1.81 
   Eaton                                                                 1.21

K/9  
1. Pedro Martinez NYM 10.77 
2 Mark Prior ChC 10.17 
3 Brett Myers Phi  10.08 
4 Jake Peavy SD     9.80 
5 Roger Clemens Hou  9.47 
   Willis                             7.39
   Eaton                            6.54

WHIP
1 Pedro Martinez 0.73 
2 Roger Clemens  0.91 
3 Dontrelle Willis 0.93 
   Eaton                  1.34


RK PLAYER TEAM    K/BB 
1 Javier Vazquez Ari 7.00 
2 Pedro Martinez NYM 6.09 
3 Jake Peavy SD 5.55
4 Brett Myers Phi 4.43 
5 Dontrelle Willis Fla 4.18 
6 Roger Clemens Hou 3.75 
    Eaton 2.29


Average Game Score
1 Roger Clemens Hou 70.6 
2 Brett Myers Phi        67.3 
3 Dontrelle Willis Fla  66.1 
   Eaton                         51.7

Run Support
Loiaza 1.91
Clemens 2.21
Redman 2.28
Tomko 2.35
Lawrence 2.53

RK PLAYER               CYP   G GS IP ER K SV SHO W-L ERA          VB 
1 Dontrelle Willis, Fla   70.4 8 8   56.0  9  46  0 2        7-1  1.45             2 
2 Josh Beckett,    Fla    53.2 9 9  54.2 15  57 0 1        6-3   2.47            2 
3 Adam Eaton, SD         49.3 9 9  53.2 20  39  0 0        6-1  3.35             3 
4 Roger Clemens, Hou 47.4 8 8  57.0  7  60  0 0        3-1  1.11             2