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Friday, October 21, 2005

Why the Astros Will Win the World Series

The Houston Astros have climbed to the top of the National League by using powerful starting pitching and late inning heroics.  Both of those things are what make World champions.  As long as the Astros keep it up, they will find themselves to be the 2005 World Champions.

The Astros won 89 games; the third most in the National League this season.  They won those games on the strength of great starting pitching.  As a team, the Astros posted a 3.51 ERA, the second lowest in the league.  The Astros offense was mediocre, and they weren’t a particularly clutch hitting team.  What they were was a great pitching team. 

Teams change over the course of the season - players get better and worse.  Newcomers produce.  Starters and bullpens tire.  Injuries happen.  The Astros key to success hasn’t wavered.

The Astros are bringing their strongest feature to the World Series in high gear.

The Astros top three starters, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt, combined for 675 IP, a 2.43 ERA and 540 strikeouts.  That will spell trouble for any lineup.

Roger Clemens, the greatest pitcher in the history of MLB, led the National League and the majors with a 1.89 ERA.  He went 13 starts covering 87 innings allowing just five runs on the road.  Until September, where Clemens gave up nine earned runs in 8 2/3 IP.  Roger got his rest and rediscovered his form for the playoffs, and he is likely to be too tough on the White Sox at Comiskey II.  Clemens is familiar with the park and the atmosphere, and should dominate in his appearances.

Andy Pettitte turned on the afterburners after his June 14 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.  Pettitte lost 6-1, allowing six runs in 7 2/3 innings, raising his ERA to 3.77 and dropping his record to 3-7.  Pettitte dominated from there on out.  He drove his ERA down to 2.39 and went 14-2 the rest of the season.  Pettitte won a handful of Championships with the New York Yankees.  His postseason experience and his experience with the AL will only help his strong pitching performance.

Roy Oswalt looks like a number three pitcher behind stars like Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, but Roy isn’t a number two pitcher behind anyone.  Oswalt eats innings, he throw hard and wins games.  Oswalt went 20-12 and threw 241 innings.  He was the NLCS MVP with two outstanding performances against a top offense.  Oswalt is at the top of his game.

Having three pitchers of this caliber will make any team a favorite, but can the offense get the three runs they need to win games?

The offense is weak - relatively.  They didn’t hit a lot of home runs.  They didn’t excel late in the game.  They did hit well with men on base and they are scrappy, just like the manager.

The Astros offense will probably struggle.  The White Sox staff is strong against right-handed hitters, and the Astro lineup is full of them.  However, the best hitter, Lance Berkman, is not and he is going to be the difference.

Even as the Astros offense may struggle, what will put the Astros over the top in the Series are the White Sox struggles against right-handed pitchers.  The White Sox hit much worse against RHPs in general, and now they will be facing two of the toughest in the majors.

The games will be low scoring, with the White Sox beating Pettitte and getting handcuffed by Clemens and Oswalt, with Lidge closing the door.

I am not a big fan of the saying “Pitching wins championships”, but this year, great pitching is going to win the championship.

Astros in 7.

Chris Dial Posted: October 21, 2005 at 03:56 AM | 70 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Anthony Giacalone Posted: October 21, 2005 at 04:09 AM (#1695763)
Chris Dial is on vacation this week. Filling for him will be Harold Reynolds.
   2. strong silence Posted: October 21, 2005 at 04:17 AM (#1695765)
great pitching is going to win the championship

Which of the great pitchers will lose the 3 games you predict?

It seems that the Bullpen is stronger than the starting pitching. I don't expect the bullpen to lose three games.
   3. Spivey Posted: October 21, 2005 at 04:20 AM (#1695769)
The Astros are really a team that I think is better than their record would indicate. The bullpen didn't seem to be well setup. Wheeler wasn't the go-to setup man, and Lidge was walking a lot of guys early. Berkman missed the first month, and rushed back (and was awful) the second month. So their total offensive numbers will be worse than the actual talent, and even though the starting pitchers have pitched better than their peripherals would indicate, they're still outstanding.

Lidge needs to stop being so afraid to throw his fastball, or he could experience more trouble like he did in the STL series. I figure him, Wheeler, and Qualls (the non-game blowing version of the second half) will all be very good though.

I think Backe should only have to pitch 1 game, if at all now. That is big for Houston, even though he pitched well in the NLCS.

In conclusion, I agree. I look for Houston to win in 6 or 7. It should be a great series.
   4. strong silence Posted: October 21, 2005 at 04:52 AM (#1695777)
I'm sticking with my prediction and saying the White Sox will in in 5 games.

strong silence Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:57 PM (#1669511)

I will go out on a limb and say the White Sox will be least affected by luck this postseason. IOW, luck will least likely be a factor in their victories and losses.
   5. Boots Day Posted: October 21, 2005 at 05:04 AM (#1695782)
Chris points out that Clemens wasn't all that effective in September. This has been a pattern for Clemens for a while now; I checked into it a couple years ago and found that he nearly always posts a higher ERA in September than he does from April to August. I suspect that a lot of the "Clemens is a choker" phenomenon is simply Clemens wearing down at the end of the season.

The Astros will need a peak Clemens to win -- if he gives up three or four runs apiece in his starts, they're in real trouble. It's hard to see this team scoring more than four runs or so against the White Sox starters and defense.

White Sox in six.
   6. Maury Brown Posted: October 21, 2005 at 06:32 AM (#1695828)
Agree with Chris 100% on the pitching. Great stuff. The problem that bit them for a good chunk of the NLCS was hitting with runners in scoring position. I haven't found the totals for the entire series, but as of Game 4 they were .065 (2-for-31) RIS.

Which team shows up? The Game 6 team, or the team in Games 1-4?

If the Game 6 team shows up, I take the Astros in 6.
   7. Dr. Vaux Posted: October 21, 2005 at 06:36 AM (#1695833)
The Astros will win because they're playing the White Sox. Players don't matter at a time like this...
   8. Robert S. Posted: October 21, 2005 at 07:51 AM (#1695895)
I refuse to believe that Garner won't Pete Munro his way out of this opportunity.
   9. Jack Keefe Posted: October 21, 2005 at 12:37 PM (#1696035)
Now there is a wrider who says that Houston will win the Serious I do not agree. Now all the wriders are saying that with their pitchers Roger Clemens Lee Oswald Andy Petit and Bringem Back that the Astros will easily beat the Sox I say this is balsamic horse vinegar Al. The Sox have four pitchers who will match them Contrary Burly Garland and Keefe. I looked at the Astros lineup and they is mostly scrounged from AAAA teams who are these guys Mike Lane Edmund Burke Wily Mo Taverns and Jason Lamb when he was in the AL Freddy Garcia says his nick name was Sacrificial. No Al when you get to the big dance it is the clutchy players who will beat you like Joe Creed not some 1 you never heard of like Edward Everett.
   10. The Bones McCoy of THT Posted: October 21, 2005 at 01:04 PM (#1696049)
   11. alio intuito Posted: October 21, 2005 at 01:17 PM (#1696061)
Chris Dial is on vacation this week. Filling for him will be Harold Reynolds.

More likely, "Chris Dial is too busy to write this article now because of work, family, etc.; he will get to it on November 1st".
   12. HMS Moses Taylor Posted: October 21, 2005 at 01:25 PM (#1696073)
You know what? Since everybody is predicting this series to be total pitching duals to be decided mostly by the top 3 starts (I'm looking at you for the moment, John), I'm going to say that the Offenses will take center stage.

There's enough good (and hot) hitters on both of these teams that they should get to the pitchers. The White Sox offense has looked pretty good this postseason (except when they're busy running into outs). I predict at least 2 offense slug-fest type games, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Konerko hit 4 or 5 homers at Ten-Run field.

Sox in 6 (too many predictions for the series to go 7 also).
   13. Chris Dial Posted: October 21, 2005 at 01:45 PM (#1696104)
Which of the great pitchers will lose the 3 games you predict?


Pettitte. The Sox will rough up Pettitte a little. Plus he'll match up against the Sox best pitcher.
   14. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 21, 2005 at 01:53 PM (#1696112)
These are two well-matched teams, IMO. To me, there are a couple of tipping points that make me lean toward the Sox:

1. Defense. Chicago's defense is better than Houston's, especially in the outfield.
2. Offensive depth. Houston's offense is concentrated in a couple of key hitters; the White Sox get production from more lineup slots.
3. Power. The White Sox have a bit more power than do the Astros, and can sustain a short offensive sequence better. In a relatively low-offense environment, the ability to put runs on the board quickly becomes important.

I think the Sox will win, and I think the Series will go at least six games.

-- MWE
   15. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: October 21, 2005 at 01:55 PM (#1696115)
To read this, you'd think the Astros weren't really playing anybody in the WS, just some other anonymous team. The Sox did go through two pretty good (superior?) teams like a hot knife through butter.
   16. The Bones McCoy of THT Posted: October 21, 2005 at 02:02 PM (#1696132)
I'm looking at you for the moment, John


Looking? More like leering. Cut it out--you're making me nervous. ;-)

Best Regards

John
   17. Scoriano Flitcraft Posted: October 21, 2005 at 02:03 PM (#1696133)
I predict Sox in 7 because that is what I would like to see. I'd love to see as many well-played games as possible.

Happy baseball.
   18. 1k5v3L Posted: October 21, 2005 at 02:03 PM (#1696135)
Meh... Sox in 6. More power, deeper rotation, "intaginble" (OK, kidding)

Seriously, the difference in offense (which is big) will help the Sox.
   19. 1k5v3L Posted: October 21, 2005 at 02:04 PM (#1696137)
That, and meathead will get his head knocked in...
   20. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 21, 2005 at 02:21 PM (#1696167)
I am rooting for the Astros, and think it's close enough to go either way. But I kind of agree with MWE that the White Sox advantage in offensive depth make them the favorite. The Astros probably have the 2 best hitters in this series but the White Sox have a more evenly distributed offense.
   21. fuzzycopper Posted: October 21, 2005 at 02:27 PM (#1696186)
I don't care who wins. I am however rooting for:

- a seven game series
- that neither manager turns in a performance that my eight year old could outperform
- that Mike Piazza is allowed one more turn in the booth to inform the viewers about "El Dookie"
   22. 1k5v3L Posted: October 21, 2005 at 02:28 PM (#1696187)
Oh, now Dayn Perry thinks the Sox are going to win it.

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/5009824

Thanks for jinxing them, paper-pusher. I'm sure the White Sox fit your description of how "good teams become great" to the last man in the pen. And I am sure you'll devote 3 chapters to Scotty Pods. How he's a god.

Now excuse while I go barf.
   23. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: October 21, 2005 at 02:58 PM (#1696231)
Astros in 5. ClemensPettiteOswalt much > ContrerasBuehrleGarland. Lidge > Jenks. Shove the numbers. Lay it in on the dog.
   24. kthejoker Posted: October 21, 2005 at 02:58 PM (#1696235)
I'd just like to point out that despite Minute Maid's bandbox reputation, it posted a 98/98 PF this year. This is probably a result of the 118 team ERA+ (and 97 team OPS+) of the Astros, but that still suggests that dominant pitching can overcome a park's dimensions i.e. I wouldn't necessarily expect major fireworks there or at Comiskey Dos.
   25. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 21, 2005 at 03:14 PM (#1696268)
I'd just like to point out that despite Minute Maid's bandbox reputation, it posted a 98/98 PF this year. This is probably a result of the 118 team ERA+ (and 97 team OPS+) of the Astros, but that still suggests that dominant pitching can overcome a park's dimensions i.e. I wouldn't necessarily expect major fireworks there or at Comiskey Dos.

The fact that the Astros' pitching was superior to the Astros' hitting should have no impact on MM's Park Factor unless it was more better at home than it was on the road. Right?
   26. HMS Moses Taylor Posted: October 21, 2005 at 03:17 PM (#1696276)
I wouldn't necessarily expect major fireworks there or at Comiskey Dos.

That's not why I'm expecting it though, I'm expecting it because it's unexpected and goes against common opinion. Absolutely no basis in fact whatsoever.
   27. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: October 21, 2005 at 03:20 PM (#1696280)
Since four of my six predictions so far have been exactly right, I'll stick with my prediction of Astyros in 6. The Pale Hose have amazing pitching which surprised everyone by being amazing. The Astyros have amazing pitching which everybody knew would be coming, but nobody can do anything about.

Also, much like Jeff Kent, I refuse to believe that any team with Carl Everett can win the World Series.
   28. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: October 21, 2005 at 03:26 PM (#1696302)
I hate predicting the future, because I'm terrible at it.

I just say that it should be a fun series. Unless the White Sox lie down and take a beating, I'll take it as a win.

I'm flying out to Chicago tonight - there's about a .001% chance that I'll go to either game, but it'll be worth it just to hang out with old friends and watch the games.
   29. Boots Day Posted: October 21, 2005 at 03:27 PM (#1696303)
It's not just that the White Sox have more power, but most of their power is right-handed. As we've seen, those left-field boxes at Enron are pretty tasty. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sox hit six or eight homers during the three games in Houston.
   30. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 21, 2005 at 03:59 PM (#1696384)
The White Sox hit much worse against RHPs in general, and now they will be facing two of the toughest in the majors.

The WS hit almost exactly what the Astros hit against RHP:

Chicago: .259/.318/.417/.735
Houston: .259/.322/.414/.736

-- MWE
   31. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: October 21, 2005 at 04:05 PM (#1696403)
I do remember the "White Sox can't hit righties" argument coming up before the ALDS, so I looked up the discrepancy.

The biggest reason for the platoon split is the bottom of the lineup - Rowand, Uribe, and Crede were all much better against lefties than against righties this season.

However, the two bats the White Sox will really be counting on (Konerko and Dye) had no significant platoon splits.

I don't doubt that they'll struggle against Oswalt, at least, and probably Clemens, but the fact that they're right-handed won't have much to do with it.
   32. Chris Dial Posted: October 21, 2005 at 04:34 PM (#1696477)
The WS hit almost exactly what the Astros hit against RHP:

Chicago: .259/.318/.417/.735
Houston: .259/.322/.414/.736


I know. With a DH instead of a pitcher.
   33. Chris Dial Posted: October 21, 2005 at 04:35 PM (#1696479)
The biggest reason for the platoon split is the bottom of the lineup - Rowand, Uribe, and Crede were all much better against lefties than against righties this season.

However, the two bats the White Sox will really be counting on (Konerko and Dye) had no significant platoon splits.


And Crede and Rowand will be the difference makers. If they happen to hit well this week against RHP (the crapshoot part of all this), then the ChiSox will score more.
   34. Buddha Posted: October 21, 2005 at 04:48 PM (#1696512)
White Sox score by hitting home runs. Astros pitchers are pretty good at not giving up home runs.

Astros win.
   35. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: October 21, 2005 at 05:09 PM (#1696563)
White Sox score by hitting home runs. Astros pitchers are pretty good at not giving up home runs.

Astros win.


Astros score by putting the ball in play and putting pressure on the defense. The White Sox defenders are pretty good at catching the ball.

White Sox win.

Seriously, this series could go either way.

Predicting one team to win in 7 games is essentially saying "pick 'em".
   36. Buddha Posted: October 21, 2005 at 05:18 PM (#1696602)
Seriously, this series could go either way.


Well du'h. But don't let that stop you from taking all the fun out of predictions... : )
   37. KJOK Posted: October 21, 2005 at 05:19 PM (#1696610)
How soon we forget - remember Red Sox SWEEPING the Cardinals? This series could be anything from a sweep by Chicago to a sweep by Houston.

I would point out:

1. Garcia vs. Backe should be the one game where one team is heavily favored, and that would be in favor of the White Sox. All the other games are practically toss-ups.

2. White Sox have home field advantage. Houston was not good on the road all season.

3. Clemens had a hamstring problem. He seemed to be laboring after the first few innings in his last start, perhaps because of it?

4. The White Sox do seem to hit LH'ers well, and Andy P. is left-handed.
   38. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: October 21, 2005 at 07:26 PM (#1696946)
Roger Clemens, the greatest pitcher in the history of MLB

Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson, Warren Spahn and Tom Seaver say hi.
   39. Rear Admiral Piazza Posted: October 21, 2005 at 07:31 PM (#1696960)
John Kruk thinks the White Sox will win, so may I be the first to extend my congratulations to the Astros
   40. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: October 21, 2005 at 07:41 PM (#1696975)
Well, I heard that the White Sox would have trouble with Boston's strong right-handed pitching (Clement/Wakefield/Schilling/Bradford/Timlin).

Then I heard that the White Sox would have trouble with LAofA's strong right-handed pitching (Lackey/Byrd/Santana/Escobar/Shields/Rodriguez).

Not that the point isn't valid, but it's a short series. Anything can happen.
   41. shaftr Posted: October 21, 2005 at 08:03 PM (#1697004)
Chicago has won 12 of their last 13 games. 10 of those victorie were against teams with 93+ wins on the season. I think they take this series as well.
   42. Chris Dial Posted: October 21, 2005 at 08:42 PM (#1697122)
JRE,
None of those pitchers is close to the calibre of Clemens and Oswalt. Not even close.

You only have to lose to Clemens and Oswalt twice and you're out.
   43. Anthony Giacalone Posted: October 21, 2005 at 08:46 PM (#1697129)
I don't know if it means anything, since he hasn't faced either pitcher since at least 2003, but Konerko has just killed Pettitte and Clemens in his career.

This doesn't take anything away from the Astros, but what the White Sox pitching and defense has done over the last three weeks is just stunning. Since getting bombed at home by Cleveland, they have given up 4,1,1 and 1 runs to Minnesota; 4,3,2 and 2 runs to Detroit; 2,3 and 1 runs to Cleveland; 2, 4 and 3 runs to Boston; and then 3,1,2,2 and 3 runs to Los Angeles. Say what you will about the offenses of the Tigers, Twins and Angels but that's 44 runs in 19 games (without allowing a single opponent to score five runs in a single game), when they needed it. That's just amazing.
   44. Guapo Posted: October 21, 2005 at 09:12 PM (#1697176)
Sox in 4
   45. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: October 21, 2005 at 09:23 PM (#1697197)
JRE,
None of those pitchers is close to the calibre of Clemens and Oswalt. Not even close.

You only have to lose to Clemens and Oswalt twice and you're out.


Of course, the Astros are dangerous. Nothing is set in stone.

It's just that pretty much any analysis goes out the window when it comes to looking at a short series.

The White Sox might lose to Oswalt 7 times out of 10 that they face him, but they're not facing him 10 times, they're facing him (at most) twice. All it takes is a misplay by one of his fielders behind him or a mistake that gets killed, and he loses.

The same codicil is true on the other side - the White Sox might beat Clemens and Oswalt three games out of four and still lose the series, if Buehrle gives up homers at the wrong time and Backe gets hot.

Anything at all can happen over the next four-to-seven games.
   46. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: October 21, 2005 at 09:56 PM (#1697295)
Sure, JRE, it's all about probablities.
   47. Boogie Nights Powell Posted: October 21, 2005 at 10:00 PM (#1697301)
I believe it will be interesting to watch Brad Lidge's performance in the Series in the aftermath of Pujols' homer.

It may help that the Pujols homer did not lose the series for Houston. They were, however, only one out away from going to the Series.

Some guys seem to recover and go on to nice careers (Ralph Terry, Armando Benitez). Some do not (Mitch Williams, Donnie Moore.)

Most likely I'm making something out of nothing. Just thought it worth watching.

Go Sox!!!!
   48. OCF Posted: October 21, 2005 at 10:41 PM (#1697358)
Some guys seem to recover and go on to nice careers (Ralph Terry, Armando Benitez).

Dennis Eckersley

Some do not (Mitch Williams, Donnie Moore.)

Tom Niedenfuer
   49. dcsmyth1 Posted: October 21, 2005 at 10:41 PM (#1697359)
It's interesting to see all of these posts. Most of the points are valid, but the bottom line in this closely-matched series is: Whoever happens to play better now will win. The random component, IMHO, greatly outweighs any slight math probability one way or the other.
   50. stubbyc Posted: October 22, 2005 at 01:00 AM (#1697486)
I fail to see how the White Sox have such a huge advantage offensively. I think Clemens' lack of run support painted the Astros as the worst offense in baseball when that's clearly not true. The White Sox scored a grand total of 48 more runs with a DH and in arguably a better hitter's environment. The White Sox were 9th out of 14 teams in runs scored in the AL and the Astros were 11th out of 16 teams in runs scored in the NL. A lot of it depends on Bagwell. He doesn't have the power right now, but he can hit for some average and he can work a walk.

I'll take the Astros' starting pitching and I think the bullpens are close as long as the Astros starters go relatively deep into the games. The White Sox clearly have better pitching depth.

After all that though, I wouldn't be surprised with any outcome in this series.
   51. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 22, 2005 at 01:16 AM (#1697494)
I fail to see how the White Sox have such a huge advantage offensively.

In a low-run scoring environment - which this series is likely to be - the ability to score runs *quickly*, without the need for a long offensive sequence, is important. The White Sox out-homered the Astros by 39 during the regular season, with eight guys who will be playing in double-digits to the Astros' 6 (one of whom, Mike Lamb, will likely be sitting against Buehrle). That's where Chicago's offensive advantage resides.

-- MWE
   52. sunnyday2 Posted: October 22, 2005 at 01:32 AM (#1697503)
How in the world are the Astros going to lose 3 games if they're so damn good? Especially since, according to the article, they don't have an opponent?
   53. AstrosFan Posted: October 22, 2005 at 03:04 AM (#1697554)
I'd just like to point out that despite Minute Maid's bandbox reputation, it posted a 98/98 PF this year.

That's actually the 3 year PF, not this years. MM is just a quirky park. Arguably the smallest park in baseball from foul pole to power alley and the largest park in baseball between the alleys (except maybe Denver).

Of course the Astros are likely to have a significant HFA in such unique park, but my random theory as to the PF is that our pitchers (using CF) and defenders (esp in left field) have taken better advantage of those quirks than our hitters. Makes some sense as pitchers initiate the action and hitters react. That would also explain why the PF has gone down every year as the pitchers (all around the league) have learned the park. Also, perhaps opposing hitters get taken out of their game by trying to pull everything to left.

Garcia vs. Backe should be the one game where one team is heavily favored, and that would be in favor of the White Sox. All the other games are practically toss-ups.

In terms of the vegas line I would expect a pick 'em at worst for Backe at MMP. I guess if someone actually remembers the lines against Thompson and Suppan it would probably be right in between those. The Astros were 0-3 (the small sample is part of the point) in cold weather games this year and are sending out a 43 year old with hamstring problems. Also they are generally very similar to the Angels offensively in style in that they really swing away. I'm more worried about those angles than Backe.

21 hours....
   54. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: October 22, 2005 at 12:28 PM (#1697732)
The Astros were 0-3 (the small sample is part of the point) in cold weather games this year and are sending out a 43 year old with hamstring problems.

He'll be swarthed in those Ben-Gay stick ons that will keep him loose.
   55. Spahn Insane Posted: October 23, 2005 at 12:19 PM (#1699071)
Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson, Warren Spahn and Tom Seaver say hi.

Clemens is better than any of them.

Warren Spahn?! Give me a frickin' break.
   56. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: October 23, 2005 at 12:37 PM (#1699077)
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sox hit six or eight homers during the <strike>three </strike>two games in Houston.

Fixed that for you.

Nearly everything said about the Astros could be said about the Sox. The Astros had a staff ERA+ of 118, which is mighty impressive. The Sox had 123.

With game 1 in the bag, and Clemens possibly out or at best, much less effective, the Sox have to be huge favorites now.

They've gotten lucky for sure, especially with injuries to the other team's key players. But their pitching is still lights out, Cotts and Jenks showed no rust (5 of 6 outs by K), the D is phenomenal, and they get just enough offense.
   57. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: October 23, 2005 at 07:29 PM (#1699618)
Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson, Warren Spahn and Tom Seaver say hi.

Clemens is better than any of them.


Really? I'll give you Spahn and Mathewson (even though they both won more games than Roger), but:

Johnson: 417 W, 5914 IP, 146 ERA+
Young: 511 W, 7354 IP, 138 ERA+
Grove: 300 W, 3940 IP, 148 ERA+
Clemens: 341 W, 4704 IP, 143 ERA+

You could maybe argue Rocket is better than one of them, but all three? Come on.

Clemens is (was? I sure hope he's not done) a great, great pitcher, one of the best ever. But to be in Johnson/Young's class he'll need about five more years like 2005...
   58. Chris Dial Posted: October 25, 2005 at 02:51 AM (#1702305)
But to be in Johnson/Young's class he'll need about five more years like 2005...

Or pitch against blacks and during a much higher talented era. Oh.
   59. Scoriano Flitcraft Posted: October 25, 2005 at 04:03 PM (#1703066)
Or pitch against blacks....

Blacks also play defense and pitch, and would have been opponents and teammates of these players. I'll grant the eras are hard to compare, but the absence of blacks does not mean either that the numbers are bath water or that modern numbers get an automatic boost for the absence of a color line.
   60. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: October 25, 2005 at 04:14 PM (#1703092)
Or pitch against blacks and during a much higher talented era.

ERA+ is already an era-adjusted stat.

Another thing to consider is that Walter Johnson completed 80% of his starts and had over 130 career regular-season relief appearances. Roger Clemens has completed 17.5% of his starts and has one career regular-season relief appearances. The simple fact is that Johnson and Young were worked much harder than they'd ever dream of working Clemens, and they still dominated just as much as he did.

It's really hard to compare players, particularly pitchers, across eras - the game is completely different now. I'd say that just mentioning Clemens in the same breath with Johnson and Young is enough. There's no need to try to figure out if he's better.
   61. Bruno Turnslab Posted: October 25, 2005 at 06:10 PM (#1703331)
In terms of value to their teams, Johnson, Matty & Young were all much more valuable simply because of the way pitchers were used in their day. Walter and Matty averaged something like 100 more innings per season in their peak than pitchers of today do, and Cy had a bunch of seasons where he threw over 400 innings. And if you back to 19th century pitchers, the gap widens.

If you want to acknowledge that pitchers are used much differently today, and that there are good reasons for this, then I would say Roger is the greatest ever for some of the reasons listed (integration) and some that haven't been mentioned (the MUCH livlier HR era.) But you have to admit that pitchers of today are in no way as valuable as pitchers from the early part of the 20th century.
   62. Chris Dial Posted: October 25, 2005 at 06:20 PM (#1703346)
I'll grant the eras are hard to compare, but the absence of blacks does not mean either that the numbers are bath water or that modern numbers get an automatic boost for the absence of a color line.

Yes, they do get an automatic boost. The talent level - *the baseline* is higher.
   63. Chris Dial Posted: October 25, 2005 at 06:23 PM (#1703355)
ERA+ is already an era-adjusted stat.

No, it isn't. Not in the manner I am describing. For Johnson to dominate AAA with a 240 ERA+ is *NOT* equivalent to Clemens posting a 240+ in MLB.

The variability of players was much larger in the 1910s than it is today. It is easier to dominate under those circumstances.

Another thing to consider is that Walter Johnson completed 80% of his starts and had over 130 career regular-season relief appearances. Roger Clemens has completed 17.5% of his starts and has one career regular-season relief appearances. The simple fact is that Johnson and Young were worked much harder than they'd ever dream of working Clemens, and they still dominated just as much as he did.

No they didn't work as hard. They faced notably weaker hitters.
   64. Chris Dial Posted: October 25, 2005 at 06:24 PM (#1703358)
But you have to admit that pitchers of today are in no way as valuable as pitchers from the early part of the 20th century.

No, I don't. Of course they are valuable today. The game is harder.

Please note - I am only refering to the pre-1930s.
   65. Bruno Turnslab Posted: October 25, 2005 at 07:18 PM (#1703493)
But you have to admit that pitchers of today are in no way as valuable as pitchers from the early part of the 20th century.
But you have to admit that pitchers of today are in no way as valuable as pitchers from the early part of the 20th century.

No, I don't. Of course they are valuable today. The game is harder.

Please note - I am only refering to the pre-1930s.


Maybe I better define what I mean by value. How much influence on winning and losing does a given player have? Pitchers who throw 100 to 150 more innings than whoever you are comparing them to, make a much larger contribution to their team's winning and/or losing.

That's all I meant by valuable.
   66. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: October 25, 2005 at 07:36 PM (#1703523)
No they didn't work as hard. They faced notably weaker hitters.

Okay, but the extra 100+ innings they worked per season at least clouds the issue, doesn't it?

I think Clemens has a strong argument for the honor of "Best Pitcher Ever", but it's not as straightforward as you're making it out to be.
   67. Chris Dial Posted: October 25, 2005 at 07:46 PM (#1703551)
The extra 100 innings has some value, certainly, but if Clemens got to pitch against significantly inferior opponents everyday, he'd throw a lot more innings.

Also, I'm not convinced he is "the greatest" - but the arguemtn for him is strong. Is Bonds better than Williams? Does hte quality of opponent matter?
   68. Scoriano Flitcraft Posted: October 25, 2005 at 07:55 PM (#1703575)
Yes, they do get an automatic boost. The talent level - *the baseline* is higher.

Different point. I don't have an informed opinion on the better level of play point. I recall you wrote a piece on it, right? With better baseline of defense, maybe Johnson pitches as well. Maybe his own level of performance is enhanced by modern advances in health, training, competition, etc.

I wonder what the impact of the racial composition point could be. If blacks improve the level of play, that's better offense, pitching and defense? The net impact on a great pitcher such as Johnson in terms of his greatness within his own context is unclear.
   69. Bruno Turnslab Posted: October 25, 2005 at 08:02 PM (#1703588)
Pitchers from the dead ball era faced weaker hitters- hitters who weren't going to change the game with one swing of the bat, so they definitely did not have to work as hard as pitchers from the lively ball era. The number of hitters who can crank ball out of the park increased AGAIN in the early 90's, so this aspect is even stronger today than it previously was. This is the primary reason why pitcher usage patterns have changed so dramatically. It is also the reason why comparing pitchers from different eras is so difficult.

When Koufax or Carlton pitched well over 300 innings, they could do so because they always had at least one Hal Lanier and the opposing pitcher who they could ease up on. This does not change the fact that a team that gets 330 innings of Koufax quality pitching is getting a contribution to winning from their pitcher that is greater than the contribution the '98 Blue Jays got from Clemens when he threw 80 or 90 innings less.

This doesn't make Koufax the superior pitcher in my eyes just as it doesn't make Cy Young the superior pitcher because he trumped them all with over 400 innings a season.

But a man who throws 100 more innings over the course of a season is the more valuable to his team in that given season. Would Koufax be Koufax throwing 325 innings in 1997 or 2002? I say hell no! That is why the argument for Clemens being the greatest pitcher ever is a sound one, but you have to accept the caveat that no pitcher of today has the influence on winning and losing over the course of a full season that pitchers from the past had.

I still pick the Big Train as the greatest ever, but I wouldn't argue that it's not Roger. Roger is a very sound choice.
   70. Chris Dial Posted: October 25, 2005 at 08:19 PM (#1703625)
With better baseline of defense, maybe Johnson pitches as well. Maybe his own level of performance is enhanced by modern advances in health, training, competition, etc.

I assume you are arguing a different point. What Johnson did is easier to do under his circumstances than what Clemens did under his circumstances.

That Johnson may or may not have been just as great is teh different point. What Johnson did do, while all he could, simply wasn't as difficult to do.

Pete Maravich's scoring vs college players simply isn't as great Wilt's in the pros.

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