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Wednesday, April 04, 2001

Five Days Rest

Chris Dial tries to give George Steinbrenner some advice.

Delaying the Launch

Roger Clemens is no spring chicken.? Now 38, his   last four seasons he has started 34, 33, 30, 32 games.? He?s been on the DL   each of the last two seasons, and that will probably be the case this season   unless the Yankees take measures to prevent it.? What are their options?

What I?m about to suggest will seem odd, and won?t,   at first glance, appear to be strongly supported by the data.? I propose that   38-year old pitchers decrease their pitching loads.? I think the Yankees would   be better served pitching Roger Clemens every sixth day, rather than every fifth   day.? As you all reach for your Player Profiles, I?ll let you know: Clemens?   ERA in 2000 on 5+ days rest was 4.24, compared to 3.43 on 4 days rest.? Over   the last five years, the numbers are: 4 days - 3.25; 5+ days - 3.19.? These   numbers seem to say the extra day?s rest isn?t particularly beneficial.? The   problem with this data sets is that Clemens? starts are often pushed back a   day as he tries to work through an injury.? He then makes two or three starts on five or more days of rest, only to pitch poorly before succumbing to the injury and take the inevitable trip to the DL.? If he were to go to an every 6th day rotation,   his aging body would have more time to recover, decreasing the assorted injuries that come   with age: strained groins and hamstrings or a lethargic arm.

Last season, Clemens made 36 starts (including the   post-season).?Here are the results (missing one start with short rest).

  Starts 6+ IP, 2 or fewer ER
Long Rest (5+ days) 13 9
4 days rest 22 12
Total 35 21

  Yes, in 9 of his 13 starts with long rest he went 6 or more innings and allowed 2   runs or fewer.? That?s putting the hammer down.? Two of those 5+ starts, June   starts against Atlanta and New York, were just before he went on the DL for   his strained groin.? He took himself out of the next game, against Boston, after   one inning.?

From USA Today Game Story:
  "I felt it a bit in Atlanta and I tweaked it on a swinging bunt against   the Mets," Clemens said of the groin injury. "I don’t know if I have   to be disabled, we’ll check with the doctors. I couldn’t push off at all today.   What can you do? You just have to get treated and get back out there."

In 1999, Clemens threw 4 shutouts - 3 on 5 days rest.? He only had 10 starts   of 6+ innings and 2 ER or less.? Of those, 6 were on 5+ days? rest.? He made   30 starts: 16 on 4 days? rest and 14 on 5+ days? rest.

Clemens? dominance in these starts tells me that he should   cut back his starts.? He would decrease his ?nagging? aches and pains, and he may not see a drop in innings.  He should be able to go longer in the games   he does start (he?d have to increase from 6.2 IP to 7.1 IP), and he should be able to pitch   more efficiently with a better fastball.?

Would replacing his missed starts with a less effective pitcher hurt the Yankees?  The Yankees? winning percentage in games where they allow two runs or fewer is probably very high.? Clemens could move from winning 58% of his games to winning 70% of his games.? That would be worth about three wins more ? in three less starts.

I am not calling for this type of scale-back for the other Yankee starters.? Pettitte, Mussina and El Duque can go at their regular pace.? The Yankees would need a ?sixth? starter to fill in for 3-5 starts, but they likely would anyway when Clemens went on the DL (he was out for 18 days in 2000 and 25 days in 1999).?As a tradeoff, the Yankees would receive more dominant performances like the ones Clemens in his last two post-season starts.

Where would the extra starter come from?  The standard AL roster doesn?t need most of the chaff it carries.? Eleven or twelve pitchers, eight regulars, a Luis Sojo, a catcher, and three spare OF/DH/1B-3Bs fill out the roster.?

So listen up, Boss, try running the Rocket out there   a little less often, and you?ll get more mileage out of him this season and the next and the next and maybe even the next.


Chris Dial Posted: April 04, 2001 at 06:00 AM | 1 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Darren Posted: April 06, 2001 at 12:03 AM (#603625)
Interesting theory, but I don't think you've quite made your case. What you've shown is that Clemens is more effective on 5 days rest than Clemens is on 4 days rest. What you haven't shown is whether giving Clemens an extra day of rest will be likely to eliminate his annual trip to the disabled list. If he pitches every 6th day and hits the DL, now we're taking about him making 25-27 starts.

There are two other questions your story doesn't answer: Who will start those extra games for the Yankees? and Is this phenomenon that strictly related to being 38? First, the question of the other starter. Simply stating that teams have lots of useless baggage does not create a 6th starter for the Yanks, who are already pressed to find a 5th starter. Second, as the above poster notes, Pedro Martinez has been handled in much the way you suggest and has been pretty darn effective. Perhaps this extra day of rest is beneficial to pitchers young and old.

Lastly, some notes on the statistics in this piece. Clemens pitched one shutout in 1999, not three. You state that Clemens could move from winning 58 percent of his starts to 70 percent. That may be, but I don't know where you get that number. It seems rather arbitrary.

I think the best way to get Clemens healthy is to have him wear Mo Vaughn body armor on the mound. It seems like half his injuries result from batted balls hitting him.

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