In 1996, Roger Clemens had an offseason by his standards, off enough that it may have been the spur to get him on steroids. It certainly earned him a ticket out of Boston, off to a new team and a career rebirth in Toronto, and at the time, his departure might not have seemed unwarranted. By traditional metrics, 1996 was but a mediocre prelude for Clemens to winning back-to-back Cy Young awards and going 41-13 with a 2.33 ERA over 1997 and 1998. Clemens went 10-13 with a 3.63 ERA for the Red Sox in 1996, walking the most batters of his career with 106. Pushing 35, he looked to be on the decline, a shell of his once-dominant self.
Clemens did lead the American League in strikeouts in 1996 with 257. And in hindsight, we also know that he led the AL in strikeouts per nine innings with 9.5 and finished second in WAR with 7.7. In fact, it’s one of the best losing seasons for a starting pitcher in baseball history.
One of my colleagues here, Doug, did a post a few days ago on if Matt Cain was the unluckiest pitcher ever. The post got me thinking. Doug looked at Cain’s career numbers compared to other unlucky hurlers, so I decided to take another look and compile some of unluckiest seasons for pitchers in baseball history.