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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Clemens having a Cy Young season

Sometimes conventional wisdom is a dangerous thing, especially in sports.

‘#160;’#160;’#160;’#160;People become infected with false notions that are repeated in sound bite form for so long that they are treated as gospel. Many times it is harmless coach-speak like, ‘We just have to take it one game at a time,’ and ‘He just straight-up plays the game.’

‘#160;’#160;’#160;’#160;Sometimes though, it is not harmless, like the classic line, ‘All he knows how to do is win.’

‘#160;’#160;’#160;’#160;Don’t get me wrong, winning is important. You can’t win a championship without winning the last game of the year. In baseball though, wins aren’t all they are cracked up to be.

‘#160;’#160;’#160;’#160;Take this year’s NL’s Cy Young award race, for instance. The two leading candidates are the St. Louis Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter and Houston Astros’ Roger Clemens.

‘#160;’#160;’#160;’#160;Many people have already called for the award to be engraved with Carpenter’s name on it. The reason he is having a great season and leads the majors with 19 wins. And what of Roger Clemens? Well, he only has 11 wins. Oh, and he happens to be having, perhaps, the best season a pitcher has had in nearly 40 years.

‘#160;’#160;’#160;’#160;How can it be that someone with eight fewer wins is having a better season? It all boils down to the fundamental problem with rating pitchers based on wins and losses.

‘#160;’#160;’#160;’#160;Wins are team-dependent stats. A win not only depends on your pitching, but also the amount of runs your team can score for you. If you only give up one run, but your team scores zero, then you get a loss.

‘#160;’#160;’#160;’#160;Conversely, if you give up seven runs but your team scores eight, you get a win. You cannot blame a pitcher for getting lousy run support.

‘#160;’#160;’#160;’#160;Unfortunately, Roger Clemens knows a lot more about the first hypothetical situation. Clemens has gotten zero run support from his team eight times this season. It is the most times that has happened in over 30 years.

‘#160;’#160;’#160;’#160;The esteemed Jay Mariotti, a talking head of ESPN, noted that Carpenter is on pace to have more quality starts (pitching at least six innings and giving up three or fewer earned runs) than any pitcher since Greg Maddux in his prime of the mid-90s.

‘#160;’#160;’#160;’#160;Perhaps Mr. Mariotti would like to know that Clemens is on pace to have the lowest ERA since Bob Gibson in 1968, also known as ‘the year of the pitcher.’

‘#160;’#160;’#160;’#160;Have I mentioned that Clemens is doing this at the age of 41, long after most Hall-of-Fame pitchers have experienced sharp declines or already retired?

‘#160;’#160;’#160;’#160;Have I mentioned that Clemens is doing this while pitching in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the major leagues?

‘#160;’#160;’#160;’#160;Don’#39;t misunderstand. Chris Carpenter is having a great season, even a Cy Young-caliber season.

‘#160;’#160;’#160;’#160;But Clemens is doing something that has never been done in history. Being a 20-game winner doesn’t mean that you are the best pitcher of the year. Even if conventional wisdom says so.

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