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Matchup/Game Thread Game # 151 vs. Reds

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Bronson Arroyo Roger Clemens
14 - 9, 3.17 6 - 5 2.52

My, how the time flies. Today will be Roger Clemens's 82nd regular season start for the Houston Astros, and odds are, there will be only two more of them after today.

Instead of going to sleep right after last night's game like I should have, I took the time to get caught up with Larry Dierker's blog for The Chronicle, and was reminded again that Dierker is a very sharp, and very cool, character.

But one piece in particular grabbed me. In it, Dirk tells us how he was invited to a birthday party at some bar or restaurant on a night Clemens was scheduled to pitch. And because he knew the establishment had TV's, he decided to go. But then when he got there, instead of seeing the Astros--and Rocket--up there on the screens, he saw some preseason football game.

I'll let Larry take it from here:

If it had been the Texans, I would have understood. But c'mon. Houston's own, Roger Clemens, may be pitching the last few games of his Hall of Fame career. How can you show two out-of-town teams playing a practice game and not show Roger pitching a regular season game for the Astros?

I know the team has been disappointing this season. And I know fans are fickle and usually jump to the next sport if the current one is unsatisfying. But this is Roger Clemens. Am I crazy? Or is the preparation for the future more interesting than something that is happening now and is of monumental significance?

You go, Larry.

Point is, I sometimes wonder whether exactly what Roger Clemens has accomplished in a Houston Astros uniform may not have escaped some people. Everyone knows Roger's been good, but I wonder if people comprehend just how good.

To argue that Clemens has become the greatest pitcher in team history, though tempting, is probably untenable. After all, the Rocket has only pitched for the Astros for 2-1/2 years. Dierker himself pitched in Houston for 14, and though Roy Oswalt is still comparatively young, even he has been in Houston for six years now.

But it is not an exaggeration to say regarding Clemens that no-one who has thrown as much for the Astros has been as good.

As he enters today's start, Clemens is 37 - 17 as a Houston Astro, with a 2.45 ERA, an 8.40 K/9IP, and a 2.93 K/BB ratio. The won/loss record is probably most amazing. Despite the famous lack of support, Clemens still is one of only eight pitchers in team history who has managed to win 20 more than he's lost.

Pitcher W L Pct
Roger Clemens 37 17 .685
Roy Oswalt 97 47 .674
Mark Portugal 52 30 .634
Mike Hampton 69 40 .633
J.R. Richard 107 71 .601
Mike Scott 110 81 .576
Joe Niekro 144 116 .554
Larry Dierker 137 117 .539

Not a bad group, and Clemens leads them all in winning percentage.

Or how about that ERA? Clemens' 2.45 earned run average is the best by a starter on this planet since he came home to Houston, so it should be no surprise that it leads any and all starters of significance in Houston's major league history. Here are the two Houston pitchers who have started more than 50 games for the club, and kept their career ERA under 3.00:

Pitcher GS ERA
Roger Clemens 81 2.45
Mike Cuellar 88 2.74

Mike Cuellar had a nasty screwball, but he did his work when the Astrodome was at its most cavernous, and when pitchers had their greatest advantage.

And still Clemens has the better number.

Four pitchers with more than 50 starts in team history have compiled a career strikeout to walk ratio of greater than 2.50, while striking out more than 7 men per nine innings. Anyone surprised that Clemens is on this list, or that he heads it?

Pitcher K/BB K/9IP
Roger Clemens 2.93 8.40
Roy Oswalt 3.88 7.60
Shane Reynolds 3.66 7.27
Mike Cuellar 3.08 7.15

All this from an old man whose career was thought to be over before he ever threw a pitch for us.

Superlatives get thrown around cheaply these days. You'll hear someone tell you that The Raconteurs are "mind-blowing" or that Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl was "incredible." Lunch at McDonald's is astonishing and the hack working the Sports Desk at the local daily is legendary.

OK; if you say so.

But there are no other words to be used: the work that Roger Clemens has done for the Houston Astros has been literally amazing.

***

As an aside, Clemens is 4 - 2 against the Reds with a 2.49, meaning that he has a lower ERA vs. Cincinnati than Roy Oswalt does. But then again, Clemens' ERA against everybody is better than Roy's ERA against Cincinnati.