Roger Clemens: Greatest Pitcher Ever?

added 11/19/2004 by Trevor Williams

As the Astros wait to see if Roger Clemens will return for a second season with the club, the debate can begin on where he stands in baseball history. Was he the greatest pitcher of the 1990’s? Greatest pitcher ever? When Clemens finally retires, I believe he will go down as the best pitcher of the designated hitter era.

The greatest pitcher ever to grace the mound has been and will always remain Cy Young. Even when playing in the deadball era against non-specialized white-only batters, Young’s career performance is unparalleled. His career records in wins with 511, innings pitched with 7,354, and complete games with 749 are likely never to be broken. With a career ERA of 2.63, Young was a one man pitching staff. Despite Clemens impressive career, he is no match for Young.

However if we analyze pitchers who played since the inception of the designated hitter, Clemens is one of the elite. The DH era includes such greats as Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Greg Maddux, and Randy Johnson. Even then, Carlton, Ryan, and Seaver each played portions of their career before the DH. Each pitcher holds a special place in baseball history. Analyzing their careers, we can determine why Clemens should be deserving of best pitcher in the DH era.

Of this group, Clemens is second most in wins and second most in strikeouts. He has seven Cy Youngs, ten All-Star appearances, one MVP, led the league with lowest ERA six times, and two World Series rings.

Steve Carlton has one more win than Clemens, four Cy Youngs, ten All-Star appearances, one Gold Glove, two World Series rings, led the league with lowest ERA once, but has fewer strikeouts and a higher ERA than Clemens.

Nolan Ryan has eight All-Star appearances, one World Series ring, led the league with lowest ERA twice, 1400 more strikeouts than Clemens, but 1300 more walks, fewer wins, and a higher ERA than Clemens.

Tom Seaver has the lowest ERA of the group, three Cy Youngs, twelve All-Star appearances, one World Series Ring, won Rookie of the Year, and led the league with the lowest ERA three times, but has fewer strikeouts and fewer wins.

Greg Maddux has four Cy Youngs, fourteen Gold Gloves, eight All-Star appearances, one World Series ring, led the league with lowest ERA four times, a lower ERA than Clemens, but has fewer strikeouts and fewer wins.

Randy Johnson has five Cy Youngs, ten All-Star appearances, one World Series ring, led the league with lowest ERA four times, a lower ERA than Clemens, but fewer strikeouts and fewer wins.

Looking at each pitcher’s playoff performance, it’s a tossup. Every pitcher of this group has had success and failure in the playoffs. Randy Johnson is the only member of this group to win a World Series MVP.

With this impressive group of pitchers, Clemens is still able to stand out. He has more Cy Young’s, led the league in lowest ERA more times, tied for most World Series rings, second most in wins, and second most in strikeouts. Clemens is part of Red Sox, Yankees, and Astros lore. He is known as one of the game’s ultimate competitors and has seen success no matter where he has pitched.

Now Clemens must make a decision whether to saddle up for another season or ride off into the Texas sunset. No matter what his decision, he goes down as one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history and the best pitcher of the DH era.

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