Sunday, February 17, 2008

How Well Has Roger Clemens Aged? (Part 5)

To see what I have already done, Part 4. It has links to the earlier parts. This time I found all the pitcher seasons from ages 33-44 with 100+ IP (except age 44, I dropped it down to 99 to keep Clemens in the mix). Then I looked at how much they improved going from age 33 to 34, 34 to 35, etc., all the way up to 44. The 3 stats they were ranked on were RSAA per 9 IP, strikeout-to-walk ratio relative to the league average and wins above replacement level. These stats are explained in the earlier parts. Then I calculated how much each pitcher changed as he aged 1 year. Then I ranked the pitchers from best to worst change. The top ranked pitcher got 20 points (meaning he improved more in that stat than any other pitcher as he aged 1 year), the 2nd got 19, the 3rd got 18 and so on. Then I added up all the points each pitcher got for all the one year changes. Here are the leaders in each stat. First is RSAA per 9 IP

Roger Clemens 88
Cy Young 70
Nolan Ryan 68
Jack Quinn 65
Charlie Hough 64
Jamie Moyer 61
Phil Niekro 52
Warren Spahn 52
Sad Sam Jones 48
Ted Lyons 46

Recall that Clemens age 44 was included even though he had only 99 IP. All other 44 years olds had well over 100. Clemens had the 3rd best improvement. That gave him 18 points. Take that away, and he falls into a tie with Cy Young. But his performance here is still pretty good. Clemens was in the top 20 six times for improvement.

Now strikeout-to-walk ratio relative to the league average.

Nolan Ryan 73
Phil Niekro 72
Jack Quinn 71
Gaylord Perry 64
Roger Clemens 58
Grov Alexander 56
Cy Young 53
David Wells 53
Jamie Moyer 51
Bob Smith 44

Clemens is only 5th here and this stat is controlled by the pitcher, whereas runs are also affected by the fielders. Also, Clemens got 17 points here for age 44. Take that away and his point total drops to 41 and he ranks 10th at best.

Now for wins above replacement level.

Roger Clemens 94
Charlie Hough 82
Cy Young 82
Jack Quinn 68
Jamie Moyer 67
Nolan Ryan 67
Warren Spahn 64
Phil Niekro 59
Dazzy Vance 50
Ted Lyons 46

Although he is number 1 here, if I kept to the 100 IP level, Clemens would lose his 20 points and fall to 74 or 3rd place.

UPDATE Feb. 25: The graph below shows strikeouts per 9 IP relative to the league average. Notice that age 35 is not his best year. He had two years at much younger ages that were better. Then there is another graph that shows Cy Young.

Now the graph for Young, same stat. He has some spikes late in his career. So somehow he became a much better strikeout pitcher in his later years. He did switch to the AL in 1901 at age 34 (his career best ratio of 1.49) and maybe the AL was inferior to the NL, so that was the reason for the improvement. But he was already trending upward and he had what was his second best season (up to that time) at age 33 (a ratio of 1.31) nearly as good as his best ratio of 1.32 at age 29 and alot better than anything before age 29. But he also was trending down then had another spike up at age 38 (1.40) which was much better than what he had at age 36 (1.20) or 37 (1.16).


Minus said...

I think what makes people raise their eyebrows is the different path his career took after showing signs of a decline phase with Boston. Clemens had already established a high level of pitching from 1986-1989, however 1990-1992 seems to be his true peak, which is from the ages of 27-29, which I believe studies conclude is usually when a player peaks. He then starts to deal with injuries, and starts becoming less durable and effective. Sure, he had a fantastic ERA+ in 94, but ina strike shortened season. Anything could happen if the season didn't end. He also didn't finish in the top six in innings pitched like he almost regulary did from 86-92. Now matter how you slice it, 93-96 was clearly a period of decline. Yes, he did show some glimpse's of brillance at the end of 96 ( most notably his last ten starts, which included a second 20 strikeout game), however that's too small of a sample size to say that he was officially Roger of the old.


Minus said...

What's eye-popping is the transition from decline in 93-96 to the to historic monster we would see in 97-98. Add both 97-98 together he would win two straight cyyoung awards, two triple crowns, and boast an ERA+ of 198 combined for both years. That's flat out eye popping dominance, and this is a man in his mid 30's. Both seasons he would establish career highs in so/9. This is back 2 back. I think this is probably the greatest back 2 back stretch of his career. 1999 he would get injured, which would hurt his effectiveness. Im not going to speculate as to why he got injured, but it could of prompted him to dabble with HGH. His yankee years don't scream steroid use to me, but it doesn't mean he wasn't on them. Houston is more suspicious, though less innings played a part in his high rate stats. Perhaps moving to the NL did too. Still, a 226 ERA+ at age 42 is eye-popping, but MLB was testing for steroids then. Still, he could of been on HGH for recovery. I don't believe HGH alone does anything to enhance performance, so maybe his usage in his 40's (assuming he used them in the first place), was just to keep him recovering from his workouts. Now, you may find a pitcher or two who had fantastic seasons at an advanced age, however, could you find a pitcher who showed signed signs of a decline in durability, quality, and was becoming more injury prone that would have the best back 2 back stretch in his era? what about in the pre intergration era?

Anyway, Clemens better pitching during that stretch, or any of his success as an older pitcher can be attributed to merely hardwork and talent, but with the allegations of his trainer, and pettitte and knoblauch corroborating mcnamee, as well as his wife's own usage, I don't think it's wrong for people to be suspicious that at least some of his later career can be drug fueled.

Minus said...

"would have the best back 2 back stretch in his era?"

When I typed this I meant to say " best back 2 back stretch in his mid 30's", "era" was a mistake. sorry.

Cyril Morong said...

One thing I think you are asking me to do is look at two-year performances instead of one-year performances. I will have to think about how to do that. It might be harder getting everything set up. But this part shows that if you put all of his improvements together at these "older" ages, he does not seem to be way ahead of anyone else.

I believe also that I have already responded to his over 40 performances by showing that Lyons and Young had some pretty big improvements close to that age.

But take Dazzy Vance. Here are his ERA+s and IP from age 31 on


Perhaps he was hurt at age 35. But he has a very strong comeback at age 36 with his ERA+ being better than at ages 31, 32 or 34 with more IP than 2 of those years. Then age 37 is his best season with a tie for his 2nd highest IP total. Then be drops off at age 38. But age 39 he has his 2nd best ERA+ (almost equal to his career high) and he has 27 more IP than the previous year. So I see Vance with some big ERA+ improvements while pitching alot of innings at some old ages.

Clemens did jump up to an ERA+ of 221 in 1997 but the previous year he had a very good 139 (which was better than the previous year's 116, so he was not in decline in 1996). In 1998, at age 35, it was 174, but he had a 213 at age 27 in 1990 and a 175 at age 29 in 1992. So, to me, the year that stands out is 1997. He was 34. But we have Vance with his best season at age 37, a big improvement over the previous year (which itself was a big improvement). I think if Vance had done all this in the last 10-15 years, people would be suspicious, but he did it in the 1920s and 1930s.

Cyril Morong said...

Here is another way to look at it. At ages 34-35, Vance had an ERA+ of 110 (weighted average by IP of the two years). From 36-37, it was 169. Then 169/110 = 1.53, a 53% improvement.

For Clemens, at ages 32-33, his ERA+ was 131. Then from ages 34-35, it was 199. Then 199/131 is 1.52. He improved by 52%. Not any different than Vance, who we are actually putting 2 years older. Again, not an unprecedented change for Clemens.

Minus said...

"In 1998, at age 35, it was 174, but he had a 213 at age 27 in 1990 and a 175 at age 29 in 1992."

Well see, that's the problem Cyril. You are finding that some of his best seasons are occuring at an advanced age after a 4 year decline in quality and durability (93-96). I don't think many people, including Clemens himself, would think he would have such a great back 2 back stretch in his mid 30's.

With Dazzy, was he striking out more batters per game in his 30's? It seems to me that Clemens also became a slightly better strikeout pitcher per game starting at the age of 34 (or maybe 33). His career highs at age 34-35 stand out as interesting, though not unprecedented.

Cyril Morong said...

No, Vance has no big increases in strikeouts per 9 IP. But Cy Young does. Below are his rates at certain ages


He starts climbing at age 36. Big peak at age 38. Then ages 38-40 are all better than 35, with 40 & 41 much better than age 35. The 5.89 was his career high at age 38

Cyril Morong said...

I have added a couple of graphs to the end of the original post. Clemens later career does not look that suspicious.

Minus said...
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Minus said...
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Minus said...

What exactly is Clemens relative so/9 from 97-07, as oppposed to 84-96? Do you have that info, or am i asking too much?

Minus said...

Also, what about ERA relative to the league average? What are Clemens best seasons?

Cyril Morong said...

You could go to Baseball Reference to figure out the ERA+ in those periods. But how much he improved or declined in the later period would have to be compared to how other pitchers did in the second half of their careers compared to their first half. The question would be, as in the other stuff I have done, is the change we see in Clemens' performances that much different than anyone else? If I get around to it, I will do this. But based on what I have done before, I doubt he will stand out.

For strikeouts, just look at his graph. Relative to the league average, the 2nd half of his career does not look better than the first. But again, the change has to be compared to everyone else. But like I said above, I doubt I would find anything unusual there. You can also look at a graph in one of my earlier posts to see his ERA+ year by year. Does not look like the 2nd half of his career is better than the first.

Minus said...

From what I've looked at, using ERA vs the league average, Clemens best seasons occured in 1997 (age 34), 2005(age 42), 1998 (age 35), and 2006 (age 43). It seems using that stat that his best seasons occurred when he was older. I'll have to take a look at more pitchers to see if he's the only one or not.

Cyril Morong said...

I don't know if anyone else had their 4 best seasons aftter 33. But if you look at some of the things I have written in this part and others, Vance, Young and Lyons all had some very good seasons in their later years. They look suspicious. Young, for example, as I have already mentioned, did much better at age 40 than 39 and much better at age 41 than 40. Also, Clemens only pitched 113 IP at age 43.

Minus said...

I've read them all cyril.