Sports Outside the Beltway

Rocket Roger Watches the Yankees

The AP has the story.

Roger Clemens hugged Joe Torre, spoke to George Steinbrenner and cheered for Andy Pettitte.

More than 10,000 people turned out to watch the Yankees play Cincinnati on Wednesday night. Only one of those fans, however, might actually help New York win the World Series this year, which is why it created such a stir when Clemens showed up.

The Rocket posed for pictures, signed autographs and worked an inning on the Yankees’ telecast. He skipped answering the question that everyone is asking: Will he play again this season?

“To totally be honest, I hear everybody. I understand. It’s very flattering,” he said. “There’s days where I’m excited about it, maybe I should try it, and then three days later I’m thinking that there’s no way. I don’t know that I can put my body through that again.

“It’s a huge commitment because as you get older, you want to continue to be able to stay injury-free and still you have a high expectation of playing,” he said.

He doesn’t know whether he will play, but the evidence is focusing clearly as to where he will play.

Examining Clemens record last season shows the probable location for a Rocket Recovery. Clemens made 19 starts for the Astros after appearing in the World Baseball Classic for team USA. In those starts he pitched a total of 119 and one-third innings, and average of just under six innings per game.

In those innings he gave up an average of 7.1 hits per nine innings, 2.3 walks per nine innings, 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings and an ERA of 2.30. But he did not give any Astro team a full nine innings. At best he gave them seven. Remarkable, Houston proved to be less than capable of supporting Clemens, and went 9-10 in his starts. They scored a total of 75 runs in Clemens’ starts. Clemens yielded 34 and the Astros bullpen yielded 28 more in those games. Based on Bill James’ Pythagorean theorem of baseball records, the Astros should have won 11 of the 19 games at a bare minimum.

Houston’s anemic offense average under four runs a game in games started by Clemens was the primary culprit. Houston’s bullpen pitched league average innings in games started by Clemens. A run average of 4.70 is fairly good for bullpen pitchers in the National League. The run average in the NL was 4.88. Houston has hopes for an improved offense in 2007, welcoming Carlos Lee to Houston. They also hope for Morgan Ensberg to return to his 2005 form. If Luke Scott and Chris Burke can produce in full seasons what they put up in parts of seasons last year hitting in the second and the sixth slots in the lineup, the Astros could have one of the top five offenses in the National League.

Houston clearly remains the most likely destination. In the American League, the designated hitter replaces the pitcher. His advantage of getting two and sometimes three turns against the typically light hitting pitchers is reversed. Three David Ortiz or Jason Giambi plate appearances are not an ideal development for a 44 year old six inning starter. The more challenging American League lineups would turn a six inning pitcher into a five and a half or five inning pitcher. At a million per start, a team needs more than five innings.

In addition, Clemens could expect an negative adjustment of his peripheral statistics. His Hits/9 would probably increase to 7.5, his walks/9 to 2.5 and his K/9 would probably drop to something more like 7.6. Those are still rather good numbers, but the difference changes the calculus of success. Also a factor: those better offenses have a tendency to make mince meat out of the AL bullpens.

Boston and New York will play along. But Clemens is either headed off into the sunset or back to Houston.

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