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2017 Hall of Fame Election, BBWAA

An Open Letter to Jon Heyman

roger-clemens-1998

Roger Clemens a Hall of Famer before he got to Toronto, eh?

Dear John,

I know you get a lot of flak from baseball stat heads. They’re sometimes right, but often mean. Yet, you’ve found it in your heart/soul/brain to adapt. You listen to the arguments, and you make informed decisions. Consider me a fan.

I’m writing to you today because I think I can help you with your 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. I see that you voted for Barry Bonds and not Roger Clemens again this year. On one level, I must admit, I find this problematic. However, you’ve explained your logic! Thank you for that explanation. If I understand you correctly, you vote for Bonds because he was a Hall of Famer before he began using PEDs. And you don’t vote for Clemens because he was in the twilight of his career when he left Boston – until he wasn’t.

Sir, if your premise is right, I can completely understand your decision. However, I’m here to argue that Roger Clemens was a fully formed Hall of Famer just including his years in Boston.

Let me start with the easy stuff. He led the league in wins twice and reached 20+ three times. He also won four ERA titles, three strikeout titles, led the league in shutouts five times, won three Cy Youngs, and took home the 1986 AL MVP. By itself, perhaps that’s enough. Right?

If not, let me offer some stat head stats. Red Sox Roger led the AL in ERA+ five times and FIP on six occasions. Four times he had the best K/BB ratio in the league too. But here’s the real kicker. By WAR, Roger was the best pitcher in the AL four times in his 13 campaigns. He was second best three more times. And he was in the top-four a total of nine times in the 11 years he topped 20 starts.

Let me make a couple of comparisons, just using Roger’s Boston years and my adjusted WAR.

Since Clemens only played 13 seasons in Boston, let me start with five old time, short career guys. Below you’ll see my adjusted WAR by year, best to worst, only including Clemens’ time in New England. And I’m not cherry-picking here, Jon. These guys are all Hall of Famers, and I’m including their entire careers.

       Roger     John      Ed       Amos     Old Hoss   Iron Man Joe
       Clemens   Clarkson  Walsh    Rusie    Radbourn   McGinnity
====================================================================
1      10.7      13.7      12.2     14.3     16.5       11.3
2       9.5      12.8      11.5     11.8      9.3        9.5
3       9.4      11.0      10.5      8.8      7.4        8.5
4       8.9       8.4       9.1      8.0      6.1        8.0
5       8.0       7.7       7.6      7.6      4.9        7.2
6       7.8       5.5       6.6      6.6      4.2        5.1
7       7.2       4.4       4.7      6.2      3.9        3.2
8       6.1       3.6       1.4      4.2      2.2        2.6
9       5.7       2.6       1.4     -0.7      1.7        2.1
10      2.7       1.7       0.5     -0.9      1.3        0.7
11      2.5       1.0       0.4               0.4
12      2.0      -0.3       0.2               0.0
13      1.9                -0.1
14                         -0.2
Total  82.4      72.0      65.8     65.8     57.7       58.0

Clemens certainly looks good among this group, right? He’s the very best among them if you look at all 13 seasons. Sure, you might prefer the peak of Clarkson or Walsh, but at worst you’d say that Clemens holds his own here.

Okay, maybe you don’t trust my adjustments from a century ago. I can appreciate that. Let me look at a more contemporary group of pitchers, stars from the 1970s. For this group, I’ll take Clemens’ entire Boston career and just the best 13 seasons from the careers of these great 1970s pitchers.

       Roger     Steve     Fergie   Jim      Gaylord  Nolan  
       Clemens   Carlton   Jenkins  Palmer   Perry    Ryan
====================================================================
1      10.7      12.5      12.0      8.5     11.2     7.9     
2       9.5      10.6       7.8      7.6      8.6     7.8
3       9.4       7.3       7.0      6.8      7.9     6.3
4       8.9       7.1       6.9      6.6      7.1     6.0
5       8.0       6.2       6.6      6.6      6.3     5.3
6       7.8       6.1       5.9      6.4      5.8     5.2
7       7.2       5.7       5.6      6.2      5.8     5.1
8       6.1       4.9       5.2      4.8      5.3     4.8
9       5.7       4.4       4.1      4.8      5.1     3.9
10      2.7       4.4       3.6      4.6      5.1     3.6
11      2.5       4.2       3.5      2.5      4.8     3.6
12      2.0       4.1       3.5      2.1      3.8     3.1
13      1.9       3.0       3.2      1.7      3.0     2.6
Total  82.4      91.9      84.9     71.3     91.2    82.7

No, Roger Clemens isn’t the best of this group. He does look good against Palmer though. And he holds up quite nicely against Ryan and Jenkins too.

Overall, I’m just trying to put Clemens’ career, the part you believe to be authentic, into perspective. No, he’s not the inner-circle guy we’d think if we counted all of his numbers. But put up against the careers of some all-time greats, he does quite well. And put up against only the best 13 seasons of some other immortals, he looks like he fits right in.

All of which is to say that Roger Clemens, the Boston years, is a fully qualified Hall of Famer.

I hope he receives your vote next seasons.

Sincerely,

Miller

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Discussion

7 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Jon Heyman

  1. Starting with your comment “He led the league in wins twice” that paragraph (without reference to the paragraph that follows) indicates Clemens record at Boston is enough to make a Hall of Famer although you qualify it with a “perhaps”. Except for the five times leading in shutouts that describes Sandy Koufax, who you put in your Hall, but admitted to doing so reluctantly. Surely the shutouts aren’t that big a distinction?
    I really liked the chart comparing Clemens to the big hurlers of the ’70s. I have to admit having forgotten just how good Fergie Jenkins was.
    v

    Posted by verdun2 | January 6, 2017, 8:43 am
  2. Darn!

    I would blame your bit of confusion on my poor (or unclear) writing.

    I absolutely shouldn’t and don’t rely on the counting stats. I was trying to suggest that someone like Heyman would – and that for him those numbers would be enough. Yes, Koufax has those numbers and more. And I believe those numbers are enough for Heyman, though they aren’t for me.

    I should have done a better job referring the reader to the WAR numbers and comparisons that followed.

    If Mr. Heyman reads, I’ll do my best to help him out.

    Thanks!

    Posted by Miller | January 6, 2017, 9:55 am
  3. Great stuff Miller, Eric introduced me to the site (I’m a Hall of Merit voter)…keep up the fun and good work!

    Posted by Ryan | January 16, 2017, 6:29 pm

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  1. Pingback: Hall Logic: Troubling PED Voting | the Hall of Miller and Eric - February 15, 2017

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