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The Best Pitcher In Baseball History

We can argue about the logic of it all, but it’s pretty obvious that different sorts of cheating in sports inspires different levels of rage. For instance, as alluded to in yesterday’s post, the Los Angeles Dodgers pretty openly cheated during the 1960s when they built up the pitching mound at Dodger Stadium higher than the 15-inch height allowed at the time (the limit was lowered to 10 inches in 1969). Nobody seems to care too much about this kind of cheating, though it might have been a difference-maker in two Hall of Fame careers:

Sandy Koufax

At Dodger Stadium: 57-15 (.791), 1.37 ERA, 754 Ks, 142 walks .221 SLG, 34 homers in 715 innings.

Away from Dodger Stadium: 108-72 (.600), 3.39 ERA, 1,642 Ks, 675 walks, .350 SLG, 170 homers in 1,606 innings.

Don Drysdale

At Dodger Stadium: 65-43 (.602), 2.19 ERA, 773 Ks, 204 walks, .304 SLG, 51 homers in 1,107 innings.

Away from Dodger Stadium: 144-123 (.539), 3.32 ERA, 1,713 Ks, 651 walks, .374 slugging, 229 homers in 2.321 innings.

Now, it is true, a pitcher will generally pitch better at home than on the road. But you would have to say that these are extreme differences. And because the Dodgers moved to Dodger Stadium in the middle of Koufax’s and Drysdale’s career, you can see how they pitched at home before that. Koufax had 17-23 record with a 4.33 ERA at the LA Coliseum. True, he was younger and had not harnessed his talents yet, but that’s still quite mediocre. Drysdale was 36-25 with a 3.14 ERA at the LA Coliseum, and he was 12-5 with a 3.13 ERA at Ebbetts Field. Those fit more easily with the rest of his career.

Would Koufax have been Koufax if not for the high mound at Dodger Stadium? Would Drysdale have been voted into the Hall of Fame? These are questions without definitive answers, but the point here is that the Dodgers’ blatant cheating did not — and does not — inspire much outrage. Baseball let it happen. It is generally filed in the “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying” drawer.

Also filed in that drawer: Corking bats, throwing spitballs, all forms of play acting to fool the umpire.

The same is generally true about amphetamines. Everyone knows that greenies were an open secret in baseball for many years; players would talk about how they were just available in the clubhouse along with bubble gum and sunflower seeds. The very best players — and some of the most beloved players in baseball history — admitted using the illegal drug, which has since been banned by Major League Baseball. Every now and again, people will bring up the greenies usage of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, but usually as a way to point out that people are being inconsistent with their outpouring of anger at steroid users. As for actual rage against greenies users … I don’t really sense it.

Beyond that,  there is a clear absence of rage against steroid users … in football. And it’s not like football fans are all level-headed or happily willing to overlook all manner of cheating. Football fans will go absolutely ballistic about the possibility that Tom Brady had a ballboy let out a little air on the ball to make it easier to grip. They will add “gate” to just about any word in order to turn cheating into a major controversy, especially if Bill Belichick is involved.

*By the way, what the heck ever happened to that deflate thing? I assume the NFL is working around the clock investigating. I thought at the time, and I think even more now: That just might be the stupidest controversy in the history of professional sports.

But steroids in football? Eh. I’m sure nobody wants it in there. The outrage toward steroid use in football is like the outrage toward someone who drives 10 mph over the speed limit or someone who chomps a few grapes in the supermarket. It’s clearly wrong, but you know — football is a violent game, the players are faced with almost inhuman challenges and grotesque pain. Most people seem willing to accept that players will probably use steroids just so they can work out hard enough to survive. Of course, fans don’t want any players getting CAUGHT. That means suspension. That hurts the ballclub. But if football players quietly use steroids, most people seem perfectly content to look the other way.

Of course, if you look at it another way, steroids in football is much, much worse than in baseball because in football the steroid user isn’t only a danger to himself. He’s also a bulked-up danger to the players he hits. But, the point here isn’t to deconstruct the logic. The point is that steroids in football simply does not inspire the levels of anger that steroids in baseball inspire. In fact, almost no form of cheating in sports seems to rise up to the level of anger that PEDs in baseball inspire.

But we can take yet another step. Even within that somewhat focused category — performance enhancing drugs in baseball — there are different levels of rage. We all know that certain players inspire more of it than others do. Nobody really seems to care that Jason Giambi used. Nobody really seems to care that Andy Pettitte used. Some players who have never tested positive and have declared they never used are assumed cheats by a large percentage of people, while other players who never tested positive and have declared they never used are assumed clean.

Finally: Even within that more focused category — players who inspire extreme anger because of PED use — I think Roger Clemens stands apart. If I had to list the players who have the most hate-arrows pointing at them because of presumed PED use, the list would probably look like this:

1. Barry Bonds
2. Alex Rodriguez
3. Roger Clemens
4. Ryan Braun
5. Mark McGwire

Based on this, you would think that it is Bonds who stands apart … and he does. But the thing about Bonds is that he is the cause celebre of steroid use and because of that there is a backlash against some of the sanctimony and criticism. Also, he has a lot of fans. Also, even the biggest Bonds haters concede — or have to concede — that he was an otherworldly player. The years he put up in the early 2000s are simply unmatched in baseball history. Nobody, not even Ruth of Williams, put up seasons like those. And the guy won three MVPs, hit 400 homers, stole 400 bases before any of that. Bonds may not get into the Hall of Fame for a long time. But there is no chance that he will be forgotten.

Clemens, on the other hand, people already forget.

As it stands on the books, in my opinion, Roger Clemens is the greatest pitcher in baseball history. The only pitchers in baseball history with more wins above replacement are Cy Young and Walter Johnson, and they pitched more than 100 years ago, in an era called Deadball, when countless things were different. How good was Roger Clemens? Well, yesterday I pointed out that his career is better than Sandy Koufax and Johan Santana.

But Matthew Namee — who was once Bill James’ research assistant — does me one better. He sent Tom Tango a comparison that shows that Roger Clemens is, basically, Sandy Koufax PLUS Pedro Martinez, the two greatest short-career pitchers in the game’s history.

How does he figure that? Start with Pedro:

Clemens in Boston: 81 WAR, 56 Wins Above Average, 2776 innings.
Pedro career: 86 WAR, 61 WAA, 2,827 innings.

Yes, Pedro’s career is a LITTLE better than Clemens in Boston. But this is very close. This doesn’t seem possible. But it is. You can look at more familiar numbers if you like:

Clemens in Boston: 192-111, 3.06 ERA, 144 ERA+, 1 MVP, 2 Cy Youngs.
Pedro Martinez: 219-100, 2.94 ERA, 154 ERA+, 3 Cy Youngs.

Pedro’s five best years were his absurd 2000 season, his almost as absurd 1999 season, his Cy Young year in 1997, his very good but somewhat clipped 2003 season and his solid 1998 season. Those five years, he had a combined 45.6 WAR.

Roger Clemens’ five best years in Boston were his MVP 1986 season, his about as good 1987 season, his amazing 1990 season, and his superb 1991 and 1992 seasons Total? Yep: 45.6 WAR.

Now, let’s bring in Koufax.

Clemens after Boston: 58 WAR, 39 WAA, 2,141 innings.
Koufax career: 53 WAR, 31 WAA, 2,324 innings.

Again, is this possible? Is this some sort of advanced statistical trickery? Well, look again at the basic numbers and decide:

Clemens after Boston: 162-73, 3.21 ERA, 140 ERA+, 4 Cy Youngs.
Sandy Koufax: 165-87, 2.76 ERA, 131 ERA+, 1 MVP, 3 Cy Youngs.

Now let’s put Pedro and Koufax together and put them up against Roger Clemens (Totals from Namee):

Pedro and Koufax: 384-187.
Clemens: 354-187.

Pedro and Koufax: 144.
Clemens: 143

Pedro and Koufax: 139
Clemens: 139

Pedro and Koufax: 92
Clemens: 95

Innings pitched
Pedro and Koufax: 5,152
Clemens: 4,917

Pedro and Koufax: 5,550
Clemens: 4,672

ERA Titles
Pedro and Koufax: 10
Clemens: 7

Cy Youngs
Pedro and Koufax: 6
Clemens: 7

Pretty staggering stuff. But I suspect a healthy percentage of people  tuned out on this long ago because Clemens was named 10 trillion times in the Mitchell Report and was involved in those seemly and unpleasant trials.

I guess it comes down to this: Everyone gets that, whatever role PEDs played in it, Barry Bonds played baseball at a level that would put him in the conversation with Ruth, Mays, Charleston and the rest for greatest player ever. Whether he deserves to be in that conversation  — whether his performance was, in Bob Costas’ word, “authentic” — is opinion, but nobody doubts that Bonds really was that good.

What people will miss is that Clemens — whatever role PEDs played in his success — is not only in the conversation for greatest pitcher ever. He IS the conversation. He played in a time with some of the greatest pitchers ever — Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson and Pedro. He trumped them. He played after the era of 300-game winners — Tom Seaver the best of them but also Steve Carlton and Gaylord Perry and Phil Niekro and the lot. He trumped them. He is two generations from Koufax’s era, Bob Gibson’s era, and before that there was Bob Feller’s era and Lefty Grove’s era. His career trumps all of them too. Then it’s back to Deadball and a different form of baseball.

Roger Clemens, by the numbers and context of his time and place, is the greatest pitcher who ever played baseball. The steroid fog is what makes that hard to see.

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158 Responses to The Best Pitcher In Baseball History

  1. bubblescreen says:

    Is this a joke? Without steroids, Clemens’ career ends after he leaves Boston. I mean, you MUST know that, right?

    • bubblescreen says:

      “whatever role PEDs played in his success” <– You cannot be serious! He was a washed-up pitcher in 1997 that got another TEN YEARS in the big leagues because he was cheating. PEDs was ALL HIS SUCCESS after that.

      Compare Koufax & Pedro to Clemens 84-96. Everything past 96 doesn't happen without steroids.

      • Mike Schutt says:

        bingo. very broad strokes you are painting with Joe. How many pitchers have EVER pitched like that after the age of 35? It “might” be because of steroids? pfft

        • Jeff Schnakenberg says:

          Randy Johnson won the Cy Young award at age 35, 36, 37, and 38.

        • Pat says:

          AL Era (1901 to 1915), at least 1,000 IP post 35 will give you Hoyt Wilhelm, Lefty Grove, the aforementioned Randy Johnson, and Cy Young. If you just look at ERA+, you’ll also get Schilling, Ted Lyons, Eddie Plank, Dazzy Vance, and Pete Alexander. If you look at WAR or WAA, Jack Quinn and Phil Niekro join the list.

        • John says:

          Saying that we should completely discount the last 10 years of his career is a pretty broad stroke indeed. And dude’s ERA+ was 139 in 1996. I wish all my team’s pitchers were that washed up.

      • “He was a washed-up pitcher in 1997 . . . ”

        That is simply inaccurate. Clemens’s 1997 was spectucular, and there’s nothing I’ve seen in the Mitchell Report or anywhere else to indicate that Clemens was using steroids until 1998 when Canseco was his teammate. In fact, the clear implication from the Report is that Canseco was the one who turned Clemens onto them, so 1997 was all Rocket. According to the Report, Clemens first started using in June 1998 when he and Canseco were on the Jays, and I don’t think anyone would argue that he’d see results in performance from steroid use quickly enough to be reflected in his ’98 stats (at the very least, he gets credited for stats up to June, which I’m not looking up).

        Although Clemens’s W-L record was under .500 for ’93-’96, it looks like that’s attributable more to bad luck than to his performance–2 of those years were shortened by strike, and his ERA for those 4 years was just 3.78, which was around 34% better than the league’s ERA for those years (based on a simple average of his ERA+ for those years, which is at least in the ballpark and is all I’m willing to calculate for a comment).

        I apologize if you are being sarcastic, and I’m not sufficiently observant to realize it.

        • dfj79 says:

          His ERA+ from ’93 to ’96 was 130. It was above 100 all four of those years, and in ’94 he led the league at 176. In ’96, he was the third best pitcher in baseball by both b-ref WAR and fangraphs WAR, and was among the league leaders in just about every pitching category except for W-L. And yet some people continue to say that he was “washed up” or “done” by then.

          Heck, even if you take his 40-39 record from those years at face value (and we should all know better by now than to judge a pitcher solely by W-L)–even then, that’s still a league average pitcher! A far cry from “washed up” or “done” or whatever other negative hyperbole people like to make about Clemens at that point in his career.

          It’s one thing if people want to say that steroids helped turn him into the best pitcher in baseball again. I’m not going to argue against that. But it’s absurd for anyone to suggest that they were why he was still playing at all, when by every reasonable measure he was still an above-average pitcher. I mean, good grief, he’d just thrown over 240 innings with a top-ten ERA and a league-leading strikeout rate! If that’s “washed up,” what does “good” or even “average” look like?

        • Johnny B says:

          I agree with this – he wasn’t washed up, and battled injuries for a coupla years.

      • Pat says:

        Cheating? You mean he was breaking the rules of baseball to gain an advantage? So, when did MLB decide using AAS was cheating? 2004. Well, looks like he gets 1998 to 2003 at least.

      • Zac Schmitt says:

        Do you have any real, actual reason to believe that Clemens’s career was lengthened to that extent by steroid use? I’m not saying it wasn’t – but do you have any evidence to back up your assertion that it clearly was?
        In fact, is there any real evidence that anyone, anywhere’s career was lengthened significantly by steroids and not strength training, conditioning, cortisone shots and other pain killers, therapy, and a host of other stuff?

      • Aaron says:

        Was Clemens washed up after 1996? He had an ERA+ of 139 and led the league in SO and SO/9 in 1996. Something tells me he had a few good years left, steroids or no…

      • Platinum says:

        bubblescreen, I think you might have missed the part where Poz compared Pedro to Clemens 84-96. Those are his Boston years, inclusive.

        To repeat:
        Clemens in Boston: 81 WAR, 56 Wins Above Average, 2776 innings.
        Pedro career: 86 WAR, 61 WAA, 2,827 innings.
        Koufax career: 53 WAR, 31 WAA, 2,324 innings.

        So in other words, Clemens “pre-PEDs” still had a better career than Koufax, and was nearly as good as Pedro.

        I also don’t see him as being “washed up” in 1996. His W/L record was bad and his ERA was not visually exciting, but he threw 242.2 innings, led the league in strikeouts, and still had an ERA+ of 139. He also had 7.7 WAR, if you care about that. That’s a $20 million pitcher these days. (Max Scherzer’s career best WAR is 6.7, and he just signed a $210 million contract.)

    • Doug says:

      We don’t know that. We suspect it – I think it’s probably true – but we don’t KNOW it. (And anyway he was a Hall of Famer by 1997 even if he’d retired then)

      • Mr Fresh says:

        I think all people that bash Clemens or dispute his performance after leaving Boston should be required to disclaim their rooting interests. I suspect a lot of the Clemens haters are jilted Red Sox fans

        • Doug says:

          In all fairness, you could certainly apply the same to the other side.

          I like to believe that I’d have the same views about steroids no matter what. At the same time, I can’t refute the possibility that my views might have something to do with being a Giants fan whose favorite player is Barry Bonds.

        • Johnny B says:

          THIS GUY! No, I actually cursed the Sox for letting him get away to Toronto.

    • Joe says:

      BS. One of the biggest misconceptions of Roger Clemens’ career is the idea that he was washed up during his last days in Boston. He had an argument for being the best pitcher in the AL in 1994 prior to the strike, and he had a similar argument in 1996 when he led the league in strikeouts. Then he went to Toronto and a season thst compared to his best in Boston… and steadily declined from there, at least until his first yesr on Houston.

    • Seriously. This blog post takes his steroid apologist stance to another level. Also, would Bonds be compared to Willie Mays hitting 450-500 HRs and continued his original career trajectory? Or, would he have declined normally or sooner than normal? So, I don’t see why Joe says that Bonds would be compared to Mays even if he didn’t use. How could we know that?

      • Doug says:

        Bonds had 411 home runs at the end of the 1998 season. He’d hit 37 that year, at the age of 33. You think he only hits 39 more in his career? Really? That would be a meteoric decline – certainly an abnormal one, even if Bonds hadn’t already shown himself to be an extraordinary player. Obviously we can’t know either way, but that’s not evidence for discrediting him any more than it’s an argument for crediting him. We simply can’t know what would have happened in that counterfactual universe (personally I think he would have easily hit 550 and had a very real shot at 600 – but I’m an admitted Giants homer). But we can say that he was a great player before he took anything.

        • Joe says:

          I will do you one better and say that Bonds without steroids still makes a strong run at the career home run record.

          Many people do not realize that home runs was not the only stat affected by Bonds’ steroid usage. He set ridiculous walk and IBB records during that time, which almost certainly would not have happened without roids but instead would give him more opportunities to hit the ball.

          Assuming the same number of plate appearances, Bonds’ career rates (and eventual decline) suggest a career HR total somewhere between 720 and 730 by the end of the 2007 season. Not the record, but also not necessarily blackballed out of the game, either.

        • MCD says:

          “Meteoric decline” sounds goofy, but now that I think about it, I guess the normal idiomatic expression, “meteoric rise” is actually an oxymoron.

    • lordrasputin says:

      Nonsense. In his last years in Boston, Clemens was still a good pitcher. For his last four years in Boston, Clemens was 40-39 in 745 innings with a 3.77 ERA (130 ERA+), 8.7 K/9, 18.2 WAR. That isn’t loaded early in that; Clemens had a 3.63 ERA (139 ERA+) in 1996. He led the league in ERA+ in 1994. He led the league in K/9 in 1996. He was 5th in WAR for pitchers in both 1994 and 1996. Anyone who thinks Clemens was finished at that point doesn’t know baseball. Nobody in 1996 thought Clemens was done, I can remember that. Folks might have thought he would never be as good as he was; I sure was in that group. But done? Ludicrous.

      Clemens didn’t pitch badly his last years in Boston. Instead, he:

      * Didn’t pitch as much due to injury and labor strife. He threw 745 innings in 110 starts. In the time from 1989-1992, Clemens threw 999.2 innings in 133 starts.
      * While Clemens was still one of the best pitchers in baseball, he didn’t pitch as well as he had before. From 1989-1992, Clemens went 74-38 with a 2.54 ERA (165 ERA+), 8.0 K/9, 33.0 WAR.
      * The strikeouts are a bit of a red herring, since the league K rate was going up, as well as the league ERA. But the league runs scoring going up made Clemens’s decline look worse than it really was.
      * The Red Sox didn’t help here. In 1989-1992, the Red Sox scored 4.4 runs per start when Clemens started. In 1993-1996, the Red Sox scored 4.2 runs per Clemens start—despite the league runs per game going up.

      The idea that the guy who lead the league in K/9 winning the Cy Young Award the next year isn’t preposterous in the slightest.

    • Johnny B says:

      That’s it right there. Rocket takes his game to the next level at age 34. Bonds becomes impossible to get out, leads the league in everything from ages 35-39. Heck, I have no idea what happened, they could just be genetic outliers. But the perception is that it doesn’t fit. Doesn’t seem natural.

      As far as other cheating, I think Joe got it spot on. I dunno about the corked bats, but we do look the other way on a lot of that stuff. I hate steroids in baseball in part because I believe it ruined the numbers. But I saw Koufax pitch. Whitey Ford, Seaver, Gibson, and Pedro. Feed them modern vitamins in their mid-30s and watch the show…. I suppose you can choose to shrug it off or not.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        But the problem with your analysis is that conditions always change. Even if PEDs never existed, conditioning techniques advanced, nutrition, playing conditions, rules, etc. Players would be better today even if all they did was legal (non-steroid) stuff. I have a problem with the notion (or assumption) that everything these players did, at least later in their careers, was purely steroid driven. We have no proof of that and I don’t see why we should assume that there was a single cause for their performance.

      • JRoth95 says:

        Yeah, inclusion of corked bats is a weird one on that list, because it’s never been treated as OK. I guess it’s not treated as EVIL, but I was a 15-y.o. Mets fan when the Cubs (?) accused Howard Johnson of corking, and it was a total “Say it ain’t so” moment for me (IIRC, there was never any proof).

        Of course, on top of that, they’ve now proven that corked bats don’t actually help (and slightly hinder) batters, so it’s really weird to equate them with PEDs, which, whatever they did for e.g. Clemens, clearly did something.

        On the original subject of the LA mound, I do wonder how much higher it was; all you ever get is hyperbole, but it matters a lot if it was, say, 17″ or 20″. Why? Because every ballpark is different – even the horrible concrete donuts played differently from each other, and different Astroturf installations varied. So, while an elevated mound is bullshit and I’d have been furious if I’d known (and been alive) at the time, I don’t know that an inch or two makes any more difference than how the fences are laid out.

        Oh, and PS – did they lower the mounds for the bottoms of the innings, or did pitchers of both teams in every game get the benefit? Kind of like how Bonds made sure that the visiting clubhouse was supplied with plenty of cream and clear to keep things fair.

    • nevyn49 says:

      Which would make him only Pedro Martinez instead of Pedro + Koufax.

      What a loser, huh?

    • Raul says:

      And you know that because…

    • rtallia says:

      Bubblescreen: the question is, how do YOU know that Clemens’ career would have ended without steroids? Local palm reader? Ouija Board?

    • Stephen Amodt says:

      Great posting and I agree with you 100%! Originally, I was a fan of Clemens, bonds, big Mac and others who, over time, saw their numbers reflect disbelief and became “otherworldly”. I am dead set that those steroid boys defrauded baseball and its true fans. Baseball was a connection between sons and dads. It was pure and most special to see. In the older days, 60 and back, players played as Yogi said….”:we would have played for free!” We loved Mickey, Whitey, Ted, the big Klu, Mays, Henry Aaron and so many more. Would Mr. Aaron, Ted, Mantle, etc., have done steroids back then? I think not for they valued their integrity and accepted the fact that kids like me hero worshipped them and they accepted the role model thing seriously. The Gehrigs, Ripkens, Younts, DiMaggios, Spahn’s, Kaline, the three Robbie’s. Frank, Jackie and Brooks, Killebrew, Mr. Aaron, among others stand out for their integrity, something the druggies could not even spell, let alone understand what it means. While players like bonds, whose pre-steroid numbers would have granted him HOF credentials most noteworthy that they chose to cheat, there is a permanent haze, or foul scented smog over major league baseball. The druggies do not nor should they EVER be eligible for HOF selection. I cannot accept that anyone but Roger Maris, a truly talented and a great team player and the unparalleled Henry Aaron,respectively hold, the single season and career home records. I have met Pete Rose and know him as a proud man whose love of baseball can never be exceeded, has been duly punished however, if the druggies are ever allowed entrance into this game’s sacred halls, Mr. Rose and one, “shoeless” Joe Jackson better be at the door to let them in. The druggies don’t match up with those who loved the game. I AM ONE MARINE WHO DOES NOT ACCEPT CHEATERS IN ANY FORM. THEY ARE NOT TEAM PLAYERS. THEY DO NOT SACRIFICE FOR THE TEAM. THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE LEADERSHIP TRAITS NOR DO THEY CARE. THEY DO NOT VALUE THEIR INTEGRITY AND CERTAINLY NOT THE INTEGRITY OF BASEBALL. LET’S AT LEAST TRY TO HELP THIS SPORT REGAIN SOME OF WHAT IT ONCE HAD. MY LATE FATHER WOULD BE PLEASED WITH MY PLEA FOR HE RAISED ME TO BE HONEST, BE HUMBLE, BE PROUD, DON’T TAKE YOUR HEALTH FOR GRANTED AND ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST IN EVERY ENDEAVOR

  2. Player ERA G W-L% IP R SO ERA+
    1 Ed Walsh 1.82 430 .607 2964.1 873 1736 145
    2 Addie Joss 1.89 286 .623 2327.0 730 920 142
    3 Smoky Joe Wood 2.03 225 .672 1434.1 497 989 147
    4 Mordecai Brown 2.06 481 .648 3172.1 1044 1375 139
    5 Rube Waddell 2.11 366 .584 2659.2 923 2137 133
    6 Christy Mathewson 2.11 630 .668 4755.0 1588 2492 137
    7 Cy Young 2.12 401 .606 3312.1 1119 1563 137

    Table of Baseball Reference

    Great again Joe!!!
    But, we have Ed Walsh with a 1.82 ERA, Addie Joss 1.89 or Christy Mathewson with 4755 IP and 2.11 ERA…
    The Best Pitcher In Baseball History? Difficult Answer

    • Mike says:

      Angel, I hope you understand that Clemens ERA compared to the average ERA of his time is around as good or better than any of the guys you named.

      Ed Walsh had a 1.82 ERA , but the league average over the years he pitched was a 2.64. Let me say that again. The AVERAGE pitcher in Walsh’s time had a 2.64 ERA.

      Clemens had a 3.12 ERA, but the league average over the years he pitched was a 4.46.

      They are actually about the same for how well above average (by percent better than the league) they had in ERA … except Clemens took care of the things 100% under his control better than Walsh (i.e., BB, K, HR) … and of course had about a 70% longer career.

      • Hi Mike
        Clemens with the league average of 4.46 and ERA of 3.12, is the .6995
        Walsh with the league average of 2.64 and ERA of 1.18, is the 0.6893
        More or less the same, the numbers in ERA+ are similar, and, of course Clemens had a longer career.
        If we talk about the best, it is usually and easier to talk about the players we’ve seen play, the numbers add to the memories.

        • chasfh says:

          Ed Walsh pitched during an erawhen the level of play was far, far below what it is today because back then, the best athletres were not tracked into professional sports careers. So the general level of talent relative to Walsh himself is far, far below the level of talent Clemens faced relative to himself.

          • NevadaMark says:

            Giving up 23 home runs in a 14 year career will certainly help the ol’ ERA.

          • But, the question is, what will happen if Walsh have the same professionalism that Clemens? If Clemens play in 1904-1917, Clemens will be the greatest pitcher in history? We never now what’ll happen with Walsh against great hitters, I think he will play at a high level, the best? Who knows.

          • But, the question is, what will happen if Walsh have the same professionalism that Clemens? If Clemens play in 1904-1917, Clemens will be the greatest pitcher in history? We never now what’ll happen with Walsh against great hitters, I think he will play at a high level, the best? Who knows.

  3. Greg Chernack says:

    Clemens won 3 Cys in Boston (’86, ’87, and ’91). Good piece.

  4. agmonaco says:

    Um, everyone is aware that both Bonds and Clemens put up unbelievable numbers in their later years. That’s kinda the whole point.

    • Doug says:

      They also put up pretty unbelievable numbers in their earlier years. Being, as they were, two all-time greats.

  5. Wouldn’t the higher mound at Dodger Stadium equally benefit whoever was pitching against Koufax and Drysdale?

    • Mike says:

      Yes and no. First, Koufax and Drysdale’s non-park-adjusted numbers would benefit more in retrospect, because they played about half their games there versus just one or two. But I think you also mean that in terms of wins and losses that it would equally benefit. Sort of, but two caveats … first, the Dodgers pitchers would be used to it and would handle the benefit in terms of effectiveness of use better … second, the Dodgers were built to win low scoring games, and other teams may not have been.

    • BobDD says:

      It did not equally benefit the hitters.

    • chasfh says:

      Possibly, but even so, whoever was pitching against Koufax and Drysdale did not pitch nearly as many games at Dodger Stadium as Koufax or Drysdale did.

    • Pete Ridges says:

      Well, everything affects everyone differently. But yes, you would expect it to benefit opposing pitchers as well. So it’s a park effect! And we know how to adjust for park effects. Taking them into account (for WAR, or Win Shares, or ERA+, or whatever) then Koufax still looks amazing from 1963 to 1966. But maybe four years is not enough to be the “greatest ever”: you decide. Of course, you could apply the “automatic disqualification for cheaters” principle to Koufax, as people do for steroid cheaters. But they are very different kinds of cheating.

      • blank says:

        This sounds right to me. Corked bats, PEDs, spitballs, etc, give an advantage to a player over his opponents. I guess you could say that the Dodgers were cheating, but they were also cheating their own hitters too. So, yeah, this is a park effect, even if it was against the rules.

  6. August 13, 2015 Dodger stadium Sandy Koufax bobble head promotion, I’ll be there, will you?

    • Rick Crouthamel says:

      I assume the head will be higher than normal bobble heads, correct?

      • And with all the revisionists on this blog, they’ll probably have disclaimers on the bobblehead about high mounds, big parks, bad splits (weren’t even bad or abnormal) and short careers.

        • Too Honest says:

          And by that token, everybody who insists that Clemens wasn’t a great pitcher because he used steroids is a revisionist. Clemens’s record is one of the greatest of all pitchers ever. If you want to say that he wasn’t a great pitcher because he used steroids, that’s revisionist.

  7. Rick Crouthamel says:

    Without PED’s there is no fog, but without PED’s there is also no conversation. Clemens hangs on for another couple of mediocre years, keeps his neck size and is probably in the Hall of Fame right now. He sacrificed his acknowledged greatness for a shot at immortality.

    • Aaron says:

      Rick, aside from the assertion that the years would be “mediocre” (Clemens was still one of the game’s best pitchers in 1996) I think you are right. He is a HOF pitcher and in the discussion for TOP 5 best if he has a normal decline phase. He probably challenges for 280-300 Ws, 4,000Ks and no steroids taint. I don’t know that his Houston years never happen w/o steroids, but they did happen, and he was on steroids so thay are suspect. There is just no way of actually knowing what a non-steroids end-of-career looks like for Clemens, or Bonds.
      What we do know is that a vast majority of MLB players were juicing, A LOT of numbers were inflated, but, still, virtually no one came anywhere close to the numbers Bonds and Clemens put up.

  8. Doug says:

    I think, in a lot of ways, when you compare baseball to football, a lot of the difference is just bad luck. Baseball (and maybe a few other sports, like cycling, which I don’t follow nearly as closely) had the bad luck to be one of the first sports where steroids became an object of controversy. And no one knew how much people would care and no one knew how to handle it. Whereas football, where any revelation came later – first, people were all steroided out. They were tired of it.

    Second, football, institutionally, knew that it was a big deal, and they figured out ways to handle it. Instead of having a huge controversy and having investigations and congressional hearings, they instituted a policy for punishing people – what I would regard as a fig leaf policy, but it’s a policy – so that they could say, “Look, it’s under control.” And the way that the league talks about it is totally different – where you don’t have to be specific about what you were named for, so everyone always just says it’s Aderall, and there’s a method for damage control that just isn’t present in the case of baseball.

    It’s frustrating, because it is absolutely a double standard, but that’s how it is, I guess.

    • Matt says:

      I think your timeline on football is wrong. Football addressed steroids 15-20 years before baseball, not after. The first NFL policy banning steroids was put in place in 1987, and Lyle Alzado famously died of steroid complications in 1992, galvanizing anti-steroid support within the sport.

      • Doug says:

        I stand corrected!

      • I won’t argue your overall point, Matt, but there is no competent evidence to prove that Lyle Alzado’s brain tumor was caused by steroid use. Alzado famously blamed it on steroid complications, but I don’t believe that any doctor ever substantiated his claim.

        • lordrasputin says:

          1) Alzado’s doctors outright said Alzado’s brain tumor had nothing to do with steroid use.
          2) Anyone who thinks NFL players aren’t still all on steroids, other than maybe a kicker or two, hasn’t turned on an NFL game in the last 20 years.

  9. rog says:

    Wow. Looking at these comments, maybe one thing becomes a bit clearer regarding the distinction between steroids-in-football and steroids-in-baseball.

    Both extend careers, but in football, it’s likely the average benefit is something like a difference between a career of 1.5 years and a career of 5 years. Which is basically invisible to the casual fan.

    But if (and I am not sure this is actually the case, but it is perceived), the average benefit is a difference between a career of 5 years and a career of 15 years, then that’s much more visible. And given that really good baseball players get paid those salaries that cause apoplectic resentment among some fans when they are in career years 7 and 15 or so, you have this convergence that lights up the class warfare.

    • Aaron says:

      I agree with your main point, but I don’t think it is the longevity in baseball that is the perceived benefit, but the EXCELLENT longevity. 15 years is a typical career for a very good baseball player, but the last 5 of those years are normally below average – good. When those 5 years (and any tacked on) are, instead, good – great the antenna go up. It isn’t unprecedented in baseball’s history, the very best players played that long and were still very good late in their careers. But we are talking about the top 2% or so. In the 90’s and 2000’s it seemed more like the top 15%.

    • Spencer says:

      What a wonderful observation. I think this really drills down to the heart of the issue.

  10. Mark says:

    Joe, I’ve been reading your articles on steroid users for years. And as much as you accuse others of being lost in the steroid fog, you seem to have your own blind spot–in which you refuse to consider steroid use at all in evaluating players. Like you, I would vote Clemens into the Hall. Without hesitation. I’m not a fan of his, but his accomplishments are undeniable, even if we only consider his Boston years. But in talking about the “best ever,” I can’t avoid considering his entirely unnatural aging curve. After his age 33 season, his career looked very similar to Seaver’s (with almost the same WAA). But Clemens added another decent career’s worth of WAA after age 33 (Bonds’ late career results are even more extreme). I refuse to give him anything near full credit for that. You have written much (mostly regarding Tiger Woods) about how the athlete can’t escape the effects of age. Clemens artificially limited those effects, which is one of the reasons that his numbers trump those of other all-time greats who had similar careers into their 30s. So yes, their is fog. We don’t know exactly what role steroids played in those numbers (I believe it had a substantial effect). But Clemens helped create this fog, which is why I refuse to throw up my hands and declare him the best ever.

    • Thank you. All this going on about high mounds, greenies, corked bats, et al completely misses the point. Instead of ending their careers with 5-7 decent, but declining years, they broke records, and won MVPs and Cy Youngs. Missing that point is kind of like not noticing a big pile of elephant dung on your kitchen table.

      • Doug says:

        The problem is that point – whatever validity it has – doesn’t actually fit that well in the debate as it actually exists.

        If what you really care about is the numbers, then yes – we should question the numbers of many players from that generation. Just as we should question the numbers of players from early generations who cheated. At the same time, if what’s important here is the numbers, I welcome your support for the HoF campaign of Bonds and Clemens who are clearly Hall of Fame candidates even adjusting the numbers for steroids use (just as many other cheaters are clear HoF members even adjusting for their cheating).

        If what you care about is breaking the rules, on the other hand, then I welcome your support in my campaign to get Hank Aaron and Mike Schmidt expelled from the Hall of Fame as the dirty dirty cheaters they are.

    • Chris Hill says:

      Wouldn’t this same argument apply with equal or greater force to Nolan Ryan’s career? Talk about an unnatural aging curve.

      • roundeye11 says:

        I’ve often wondered how Nolan Ryan got away without PED accusations. It stands to reason he would be a user based on his highly unnatural career trajectory.

    • nevyn49 says:

      He lays it out pretty clearly here.

      Its not that he doesn’t consider steroid use at all. He gives it the same weight he gives all other forms of cheating.

      FWIW, steroids were actually a much greyer area in terms of the rules than some of the things other HoF players did.

      My view on this is pretty simple. Catch someone cheating, and suspend them or kick them out. But if you don’t catch them whatever they did HAPPENED. Barry Bonds has hit the most home runs. Rogers Clemens was the best pitcher.

      WHY he was the best pitcher or IF he still would be without help are separate conversations, and also unknowable projections.

  11. Dr. Baseball says:

    What Joe is saying, and what many seem to be missing, is the argument that Koufax wouldn’t be “KOUFAX” without the fact that the “circumstances” in Dodgers Stadium in the early 1960’s contributed to his success.

    If we discount Clemens because he cheated, that is fine. But, if we discount Clemens because of cheating, doesn’t the cheating in Los Angeles with the height of the mound also have to put into question the authenticity of at least some of Koufax’s achievements/dominance?

    Joe is pointing out that there is selective outrage over the types of cheating. He makes a very fair point.

    Here are the tough questions to answer. If Roger Clemens at his prime, before steroids, pitched in Dodgers Stadium from 1961-1966, would his numbers be similar to Koufax’s?


    Would Sandy Koufax, in his prime, have put up Clemens like numbers if he pitched in Fenway Park in the mid-to-late 1980’s?


    If the pitcher’s mound at Dodgers Stadium during Koufax’s peak was at regulation height, would Sandy Koufax have been as dominant?


    Did the cheating regarding the height of the mound for Koufax play a larger percentage in his success then then PED’s did for Clemens?

    I think these are the questions Joe is making us ask.

    I don’t have the answers.

    I, also, am a traditionalist. I hate what steroids did to baseball. I hate that every discussion of players from the 1990’s on is clouded with steroid talk.

    I hate that the sacred numbers we grew up loving 61, 755, etc… have been eclipsed by players from the steroid era.

    I think steroids changed the game – and not for the good.

    As baseball fans, we can’t have any meaningful discussion about the greatest player of all time because of the steroids cloud. Every discussion ends up falling into this trap. We can’t get away from it.

    All of this has taken away from my enjoyment of the game on a very real level. I still love baseball, but not in the same way I did before all of this steroid talk. So, please know that I am not making excuses for Clemens, Bonds, or anyone.

    But I think Joe’s argument is sound, balanced, and reasonable.

    Clemens’ record may not be pure, but, it seems neither was Koufax’s.

    • wogggs says:

      Well said. The other question Joe is asking is, why is one form of cheating worse than another form? If a large percentage of players are cheating, is it providing an unfair advantage? If steroid Clemens pitches to steroid Bonds who has the advantage? Who is worse? Does it matter if the outfielders are all on ‘roids, so they can run faster and track down more flyballs?

      • I think the mound height is very different. There was no attempt to hide it. The umpires were looking right at it every game. If the mound was as high as claimed, there’s no way the umpires could miss it. Koufax (and Drysdale) & every other player home & away were standing atop of it staring down at hitters for several years. For whatever reason, there was no attempt to enforce the rule. You could argue that baseball wasn’t enforcing the steroids prohibition too. But then, if everyone really thought it was OK, then why did every single player deny taking steroids and make every attempt to hide their usage? The difference is in the attempt to conceal the “cheating”. If you don’t conceal it, then it’s up to the umps to call it. Much like someone who holds up a ball when they didn’t really catch it. Is that cheating? Or is it up to the umpire to make the call? I say the latter. The Dodger stadium field crew, I’m sure at the behest of the team, just raised the mound & left it up to the umps to call it. Eventually, the league cracked down on the high mounds, slanted baselines, watered down fields, etc. and the behavior stopped. Comparing high mounds to steroid use is complete nonsense. Possibly the most ridiculous thing Joe has ever written in any of his pro-steroids rants.

        • Aaron says:

          So cheating is only cheating if it isn’t blatant? Cheating is only cheating if someone calls you on it? That is an interesting assertion…normally blatant cheating is called arrogance.

          • What I’m saying is Koufax didn’t cheat. He used the mound he was given, just like every player in the NL who pitched in Dodger stadium. The culture at the time allowed the teams to alter their fields in many different ways. Many teams did it. If you want to rule out the era because of that, then great. It’s silly, but you can say what you want. Though technically against the rules, umpires saw it and didn’t ever call it. Anyway, Koufax can’t be blamed for pitching on the mound he was given, and as another poster pointed out, at that point it becomes a park effect & is factored into the advanced stats. So, as some have done, you can point to the park effects lowering the advanced metrics in comparing Koufax to other pitchers (i.e. ERA+). What you end up with, essentially, is a pitcher who is still a HOFer, that compares less favorably to many other HOFers. With a Clemens, you see a clear career arc and an abnormal second peak late in his career. Instead of three Cy Youngs, he ended up with seven. That is clearly attributable to steroids. If you want to say that it wasn’t, that his late second peak was attributable to Clemens eating more Wheaties every morning, then have at it. It’s delusional to think it wasn’t steroids, but OK. You’re entitled to your delusion.

            So, you have two pitchers that won Cy Youngs after 40. Gaylord Perry and Clemens. Both were known cheaters.

        • wogggs says:

          The point is not whether taking steroids is cheating or not (it is, assuming cheating means violating the rules), it’s whether it provided an advantage and whether obtaining that advantage should disqualify a player from HOF consideration.

          As I said in my original post, if steroid Clemens pitches to steroid Bonds and the whole outfield is on steroids, has anyone really gained an advantage? I don’t think so.

          The people who should be upset about this are the clean players in AAA who never got a chance because the 25th guy on the bench was blocking them by being on steroids and the steroids helped keep him in the majors. Damn FP Santangelo, if you must, but the idea that Bonds and Clemens are not HOFers is ludicrous.

      • Mark Daniel says:

        Why is one form of cheating worse than others? Because some forms of cheating ARE worse than others. Saying they are equal is a rhetorical device known as false equivalency, which is often used by lawyers and politicians whose jobs are to win arguments. Winning an argument is not necessarily the same as determining the truth.

        • JRoth95 says:


          When I was 7, I pocketed a toy car from a five and dime*. Me and Jesse James, notorious thieves.

          *my sister caught me and made me take it back

  12. oilcan23 says:

    Unless it’s the playoffs and Dave Stewart is pitching for the other team, you’ve made a strong choice.

  13. thedistrictattorney says:

    You missed Joe’s point. He isn’t insisting that you take Clemens’ stats at face value. He’s saying that people don’t appreciate that, if you took the stats at face value, Clemens is the greatest pitcher ever. (As opposed to Bonds, where people do appreciate that his raw stats make him the best or second-best hitter ever.)

    Now, is Joe right about that? I’m not sure he is. I mean, he’s disqualifying Cy Young and Walter Johnson as candidates (by the way, where’s Satchel Paige?) I think that if you asked people who is the best post-deadball pitcher, without considering PED, a whole lot of them would cite Clemens. Koufax is his own weird thing, and Joe is right to point out that that really doesn’t hold up scrutiny. Otherwise, I think most people would say either Clemens or Maddux. And the case for Maddux is not exactly crazy.

    But anyway, that’s Joe’s argument, essentially, that people don’t realize how good Clemens’s statline is.

    • Mark says:

      Who are these people, that don’t realize that Clemens won over 350 games and had a 3.12 career ERA pitching mostly in the AL East during a hitters era?

      In any event, I don’t think that was Joe’s sole point. He went further: “Roger Clemens, by the numbers and context of his time and place, is the greatest pitcher who ever played baseball. The steroid fog is what makes that hard to see.”

      • thedistrictattorney says:

        Yeah, “by the numbers.” You might not think the numbers are authentic, but, by the numbers. It’s not going any further.

    • Brian says:

      Clemens as the greatest pitcher ever defies common sense. He would have been done years earlier or at least vastly less effective for years without PEDs. So…by definition, the stats for Clemens are inflated to a significant degree. If Joe wants to debate that Clemens with ~300 wins (shorter, less effective career) is better than Maddux, I’d like to see that. Otherwise Clemens’ stat line is partially fiction, because of the drugs, when comparing it to Johnson, Maddux, Seaver, etc..

      Selig and the PED abusers ruined a generation of baseball and now they want a get out of jail free card. Sorry, too bad. There are consequences to their actions and extreme skepticism is one of these along with HOF issues.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        You could make the same argument for a host of different factors in many sports. As Joe noted, you could discount Koufax’s numbers for pitching at Dodger Stadium. You could-and I think should-discount the TD pass records by Brady and Manning because of the vastly different rules they play under. Yankee Stadium was built to help the left-handed hitting Babe Ruth. Conditioning, even discounting PEDs, is much better today and the playing conditions and equipment are better so that current players have an advantage. That’s not even to mention the difference in playing pre-integration vs. post-integration. The point is, all records are contextual and if you start discounting for one factor, you need to discount for others. I understand that PEDs create a different moral dilemma, but they are really no different than the other factors that I mentioned. Obviously, you could argue that PEDs have more of an effect than better equipment or something but it’s still a matter of weight. Moreover, I keep seeing these comments saying-or at least implying-that Clemens’ late season numbers are PURELY fiction because of steroids. I don’t know how you can possibly know that. A lot of it is based on the notion that Clemens was already in decline when he began taking the PEDs but, as others have pointed out, that is far from clear. I’m not going to say that the PEDs had no effect, but I’m also not ready to say they caused 100% of the improved performance.

        • Brian says:

          Perhaps I didn’t make my point clearly enough or you didn’t want to believe it. Either way, I never said Clemens’ improved performance was 100% PEDs. It’s beyond all common sense that it’s 0% either. So…while we don’t know the exact amount of benefit he (and many others) received, I said it was “significant”. At a certain point, it’s unlikely for players to continue due to declines in performance and/or injuries. That shuts down stat accumulation completely. Prior to that point, since Clemens was using PEDs, it’s a certainty that “some” of his improved performance was due to PEDs. While we don’t know the exact details, would you be surprised if over ~5-10 years of PED use, he gained an incremental 50 wins? 30? 100? No one knows. Still, it goes against all common sense to believe that none of his awards and stats are tainted by PEDs. If you don’t see that, no big deal, but I and many others do. Steroids have been around for a long time, even at youth levels. In the 80’s some kids used PEDs in my school. For what it’s worth, I do discount Koufax’s numbers, recent NFL passing figures and a bunch of others because of the uneven comparisons with other player’s context.

          The issue with PEDs when compared to other “advantages” is we get into moral relativism. Sure…there are a bunch of ways players (and teams) have “cheated” over the history of sports. There are also players (and teams) who have made every effort to maximize their potential through 100% legal (and some less so) means. Just like in cycling, if you didn’t use PEDs many players didn’t stand a chance to compete, win, or get paid. In baseball, because of PEDs, the marginal (or even excellent) player had overwhelming pressure to compete against PED users and this (often in my opinion) caused rampant PED cheating. Selig, the player’s union, agents, players, team management, media, even some fans, all had some influence and responsibility for this generation of cheating and false records. I’ll take Seaver, Johnson, Maddux, Mays, Mantle, and Ruth over Clemens and Bonds. PED abusers are tainted. Sure, there are issues with other eras and other players, but that in no way absolves PED abusers.

          • Doug says:

            The history of baseball is tainted.

            PED abusers aren’t absolved by that, sure. But they fit perfectly comfortably in the history of baseball.

  14. BobDD says:

    You’re a brave man Joe (and/or foolish) for saying ‘Shibboleth’ aloud.

  15. Shagster says:

    Interesting blog nurturing campaign you’ve got going on here. Put up another top 100. You’ll feel better.

    Didn’t Clemens throw a sharp wooden object at someone on national TV in a steroid rage? There’s your next book. A deeper look at steroids and its effects. Bf someone comes along and writes players into the Hall simply to fit a script about how –according to steroid inflated numbers– their careers have been unjustifiably impugned. Old harmless all timers. Poor Roger. Poor Barry. Saw them on the corner busking. With tin cups.

    G … is there a campaign to put G in the Hall? His numbers don’t add up? Why’s that?

    Football. Is it ok for them to use steroids? According to who? Talk about evidence of homicidal steroid rages.

    Root the crap out of sports.

    • PhilM says:

      Seriously, when are we going to put the “shattered bat ‘roid rage incident” fallacy out to pasture? As I was prepping a baseball class I teach, I saw a clip from July 16, 2011 – Nationals at Braves. Pitcher Eric O’Flaherty lunged with his glove at the shattered barrel of the bat hurtling toward him. Here’s the swing, though not the aftermath:
      Watching it live (or even on wrap-up shows), as the catcher went out to give him a breather, you could see O’Flaherty smile and say, “I thought it was the ball!” From the stands or on TV we have NO IDEA how fast the game is moving on the field. It’s reasonable to assume that any pitcher would have thought Piazza’s bat was the ball, and reasonable to assume that any competitor as fierce as Clemens (Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Bob Gibson, et al.) would have flung the bat-head in anger, not even noticing or caring where Piazza was on the baseline. We love to twist the facts to fit our narratives, I know, but sometimes facts are stubborn things.

      • Hamster Huey says:

        OK, if we accept that Clemens thought the bat was the ball, did he also think he was playing kickball? Else why wouldn’t he have hurled the bat fragment at his first baseman to get the forceout, rather than at the runner (or, as I recall, slightly behind the runner but still at the middle of the baseline)? Not to say it was roid rage, but without a doubt it was bizarre and the explanation he gave in the press (that he thought it was the ball) holds absolutely no water.

        I will note that this is quite a tangent from Joe’s original post, but it has bothered me ever since I saw the press conference that nobody called Clemens out on this.

  16. jalabar says:

    For my money, Clemens is the third best pitcher ever (making no steroid-based judgments), though I suppose based strictly on statistical numbers you could make a case for Roger. You did name two pitchers that had more WAR than Clemens. Cy Young has the pitching award named after him, and is of course iconic, but he was not THAT great a pitcher, his biggest attribute being that he pitched a lot. But that other guy you named is, for my money, the greatest pitcher who ever player pro baseball. Walter Johnson pitched for mostly rather mediocre Senators teams, but I believe he was the greatest major league pitcher. The other guy I give the edge to over Clemens, who can’t prove it statistically, is Satchell Paige.

  17. Jim N says:

    Hey, Joe, I eagerly await your next entry in the top 100.

  18. DjangoZ says:

    Boy, Joe is really leaning into it this week.

    The two biggest blind spots (PEDs and Paterno) of someone who is otherwise my pick for greatest living sportswriter, and he chose to write about both of them in the same week.

  19. BadHand says:

    PED users saved baseball. Unfortunate but true. Never forget ’94.

    Son, we live in a sports world that has a hall of fame, and that hall of fame has to be guarded by men with pens. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Tom Verducci?

    I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for “The Right Way” and you curse Bonds and Clemens. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that Bonds’ career, while tragic, probably saved baseball. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saved baseball!

    You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me in that hall. You need me in that hall.

    We use words like “WAR”, “WAA”, “ERA+”. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline.

    I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “thank you”, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a glove, and stand by a base. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!

  20. tim says:

    Did clemens develop the split finger fastbAll when he went to toronto

  21. Richard Aronson says:

    Re: Koufax. When he came up, Ebbets Field was perhaps the worst park for a left handed pitcher in the National League. Then the L.A. Coliseum was the worst park for lefties in baseball. Koufax is to pitching what Jose Cruz would have been if he’d been traded to the Red Sox halfway through his career.

    • Ebbets Field was 357′ to left-center. Even shorter to right, though right had a high fence. The Coliseum was 250′ down the left field line. I can’t find the dimensions, but it was very small.

  22. Jared S. says:

    My problem with Bonds and Clemens is not so much that they used steroids, but with all the dishonesty involved–Bonds going to such lengths not to get caught, and Clemens going on that embarrassing denial campaign after he was fingered by the Mitchell Report. As far as I know, neither of them to this day have admitted to juicing. I’m not necessarily saying they need to be contrite about it, but I wish they would just come clean. After all, if they didn’t really do anything wrong when they took steroids, why not just admit?

    • lordrasputin says:

      What if Clemens didn’t do it? Being named in the Mitchell Report doesn’t automatically mean Clemens is guilty. (Or anyone else, for that matter.) Clemens was acquitted on the perjury charges. While that doesn’t mean he didn’t juice either, shouldn’t that have as much weight as the Mitchell Report?

      • Are you saying you believe that Clemens didn’t use? If you are, you’re a rare bird. The usual argument for Clemens is that his steroid use didn’t matter. Because baseball was looking the other way, or because everyone was doing it, or because of Bud Selig or because calling it cheating is moralizing (those terrible moralizers! This is baseball!), or because there was other cheating going on & if all cheating isn’t punished equally then it’s not fair and all cheating should therefore be OK…. except greenies because Hank Aaron and Willie Mays did it…. and if they’re in the HOF then Bonds and Clemens should be there. And Gaylord Perry. And Koufax, that cheater, who pitched 5 seasons of home games on a super high mound that no umpire noticed. And Drysdale too…. and I just realized Don Sutton too. And every visiting pitcher too, Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson…. Oh, and it was really expansion, or juiced baseballs, or small parks…. heck all of that…. steroids didn’t really help. Sorry if I missed an excuse. There are a lot to keep track of.

        • Doug says:

          I have no problems with you rejecting any excuses for Bonds and Clemens. I don’t agree, but it’s a perfectly valid stance.

          Where I have a problem is when you accept (or make) the same excuses for other players, but not for steroid users.

          • This is because of impact. Steroids had an immense and measurable impact on the game that gave a disproportionate advantage to INDIVIDUAL users, and it was something that was illegal across sports & against the law. There are other examples that are similar, but I reject the idea that high mounds are the equivalent. The idea of “home field” advantage used to include all kinds of maneuvering. Watering down fields to make them slow, slanting the lines to make bunts roll fair/foul, higher mounds, movable outfield fences, etc. This was considered, at the time, part of the game. Eventually baseball came around on the idea & fixed it. But the players themselves were not responsible for it and everyone in the game played under the same conditions. The mound wasn’t a different height for Koufax & for everyone else who played at Dodger stadium. I don’t make excuses for others who cheated in other ways. I just don’t believe the advantage gained for some types of cheating were that great. Having used amphetamines myself, there were some advantages. But the amphetamines back in the day had also lots of negative side effects that were performance degrading. That’s why I didn’t use them for long, and probably why Henry Aaron said he used them once and didn’t like them. We don’t have any evidence that users were that much better than non users. Steroids are quite different. To me, it’s denial to think Barry Bonds would have hit anything close to the number of HRs that he hit without steroids. MAYBE he does have a long career without steroids and gets to 600 HRs. More likely, not, but even if he gets to 600, the extra almost 200 HRs he got was a measurable effect of steroids…. and 73 HRs? Please. He’s the best case study, but Sosa and McGwire also have excellent before/after case studies. Brady Anderson is another. I have yet to see anybody make that kind of case about greenies. Make that case, using examples and data and I buy in. It’s all very nebulous to me. Other players, Gaylord Perry for instance, gained significant and measurable gains from his cheating. He even admitted so in his book. So, I put Perry in the same camp as Bonds. But high mounds? Please.

          • Doug says:

            @ bellweather22

            Okay. I think those are mostly pretty reasonable points. I might not agree with all of them but it’s a reasonable position. However – from the way that you’re talking here, it sounds like most of your concern with steroids is about their effects – how much of an advantage they provided, and how much we can trust the numbers of steroid users. Now, if that’s the case, and the thing that’s important about steroids is their effects, do you think that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens should be in the Hall of Fame? And if not, why not – is it because you think that they would not have had Hall of Fame worthy careers without steroids, or is it for some other reason?

          • wogggs says:

            @bellweather 22:

            “This is because of impact. Steroids had an immense and measurable impact on the game that gave a disproportionate advantage to INDIVIDUAL users…” I have yet to see anyone provide a measurement of the effect of steroid use. Indeed everything I have read says no one can measure it. If steroid Bonds hits a 450 foot homerun, how far would it have gone without steroids? Would it have been an out? Would he have made contact? Let me know when you’ve got this figured out.

            Why are steroids worse than greenies, which were illegal, also (at least as used by baseball players)?

    • Chris Hill says:

      One reason for loudly denying you did steroids would be that you didn’t do steroids. You know that he did because he was named in the Mitchell report? It seems likely to me that he did, but I’m not that sure.

  23. NevadaMark says:

    Re: Football Is the reason no one cares about steroids in the NFL is that no cares about records in the NFL?

    • Brett Alan says:

      Yeah, I think that’s the biggest thing. People didn’t really get upset about steroids until it came to be that Ruth, Aaron, and Maris were all getting passed on the all-time record lists by guys who were juicing. Those records are a huge part of baseball lore. it would be hard, to this day, to find a baseball fan who doesn’t know the significance of the numbers 60, 61, 714, and 755. Whereas I think you could find a lot of NFL fans who couldn’t tell you who holds any of the major NFL records.

  24. jflegault says:

    Bingo NevadaMark!

    Football records are not long standing like in baseball because the NFL changes the rules a lot…

    That’s the only reason

  25. Chris McClinch says:

    Actually, the impact of steroids on baseball is in no way measurable. It’s clear that many players were taking them, and that in an era when many players were taking them, offensive numbers were through the roof. It’s also clear that during that era, the ball was juiced, bandbox parks were replacing larger parks, weight training and proper nutrition really took off in the sport, the ability to study video improved, legal recovery methods improved, and strikeouts came to be seen as less of a negative for hitters, allowing more to swing hard in case they made contact. Yes, numbers are back down after PEDs have been banned, but it’s hard to say how much of that is the removal of steroids, how much of it is the removal of amphetamines (more players have been suspended for amphetamine use than for steroids), and how much of it is unrelated factors.

  26. John Leavy says:

    At times like this, I wish I’d written more complimentary comments about Joe’s many wonderful columns. As it is, I tend to post comments mainly when I think he’s dead wrong, which means I probably come across as a Posnanski hater rather than the admirer I truly am.

    Sigh… I’m still compelled to write the following critique. There are two subjects on which Joe continually tries and fails to make excuses for bad people. One of those topics is Pete Rose, and the other is steroids. And in both cases, Joe (like most Rose apologists) is not very choosy about which arguments he makes. He’ll use ANY argument in support of Rose and/or steroid users, even if those arguments are incompatible or contradictory.

    One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the conjunction “besides” actually means “Everything I just said a moment ago is BS and I know it.” The words “and anyway” mean “The last two things I said are BS and I know it.” Finally, the words “and hey,” mean “the next argument I make is BS too, but I don’t care- I’m just throwing everything I have at you, and hoping something sticks.”

    Remember that next time you hear a Pete Rose fan say (as so many do!), “Pete Rose never bet on baseball. Besides, he only bet on the Reds to win. And anyway, there’s nothing wrong with gambling. And hey, Ty Cobb was a racist, and Babe Ruth was a drunk, and THEY’RE in the Hall of Fame! And even though Pete didn’t do anything wrong, why can’t you show compassion and forgiveness for the sins he never committed?”

    In his never-ending quest to make the issue of steroids go away forever, Joe makes the same kinds of incongruous and mutually exclusive arguments regularly. “There’s no proof that Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens ever used steroids. Besides, they were already Hall of Famers before they started using steroids. And anyway, steroids weren’t illegal when they used them. Besides, steroids probably don’t really help very much. And hey, Hank Aaron used greenies and Koufax had a high mound!”

    It’s pathetic, Joe. It’s beneath you. Please, PLEASE stop.

    • Chris McClinch says:

      There really is no cogent argument to be made for steroids being worse than greenies. Either it’s a bad thing to ingest illegal chemicals to produce a higher level of play than you would have been capable of without them, or it isn’t. The real point is that we’ve been generally okay with that behavior for 50 years, but somehow steroids are different.

      • I know you’re stuck in your position. But, I can show you the career arcs of players like Clemens, Bonds, Sosa and McGwire and demonstrate how their performance picked up dramatically when they started using. Show me the same with greenies and I’ll be right there with you. I don’t think you can. You might complain that not enough was known about when they used and how much they used, like we have with steroids. Exactly. There is a pattern with steroids that we can use to establish a significant benefit with specific players. If that pattern can’t be shown with greenies, then there’s no evidence it helped in any quantifiable way. That’s one big difference.

        • Chris McClinch says:

          Actually, you can’t. You don’t have direct evidence for when they started using, which means that you can’t really point to specific points in their career arcs and say “Clean here, tainted there.” But I’m going to take the other side of the equation and look at the potential effects in the numbers of amphetamines. There are 15 pre-steroid members of the 500 home run club. 11 of them played in the greenie era. The 300 win club is basically a bunch of guys from the deadball era and a bunch of guys from the greenie era, with nothing in between. Aaron kept hitting like a Hall of Famer through age 40. Mays kept hitting like a Hall of Famer through 41. You’re conflating the fact that dudes are taking PEDs with the fact that all-time greats have careers that are statistical outliers.

        • Austin says:

          Even if you can pinpoint exactly when those players started taking steroids, you still can’t demonstrate that steroids impacted their performance. Correlation is not the same as causation. Those players all played when steroids were common, but they also played in a time with a small strike zone, a ton of new small ballparks, and in the age of better nutrition and weight training. Steroids likely had some impact on their performance, but the fact of the matter is nobody knows how much. To my knowledge there is no study that has conclusively linked steroid usage to improved baseball ability.

          On the flip side, there are plenty of players you didn’t name who had strange career arcs – Jamie Moyer and Jose Bautista come to mind. Moyer was a pretty bad pitcher until he turned 30, then was above average for 10 of the next 30 years (by ERA+) right in the heart of the steroid era. Was he juicing? Bautista was a journeyman until his age 29 season – right around when normal players start declining – and then turned into one of the best hitters in the game. Was he juicing (and don’t forget he plays in the time of steroid testing).

          • Austin says:

            That should say 10 of the next 13 for Moyer. Sorry.

          • kehnn13 says:

            It is clear that steroid testing is not catching all users (note that A-rod never failed a test since the Mitchell Report and yet was banned and ultimately admitted his usage). So I have a tendancy not to trust the simple fact that users have not failed any tests.
            And yes, i do find myself a bit skeptical about Bautista- and even more skeptical about Nelson Cruz (who has not failed a test).
            Moyer, I do not find myself as skeptical about, because he was a junk ball pitcher, but perhaps that is just me being naive.

    • gray whale says:


  27. John Leavy says:

    Now, to the question of why fans seem to take steroid use more seriously in baseball than they do in football.

    Players in the both the NFL and in Major League Baseball are much, much bigger, stronger and more athletic than they were when I first started following sports in the late Sixties and early Seventies. The NFL had plenty of 240 or 250 pound offensive linemen when I was a kid, while the American League had skinny guys, fat guys, even tiny guys (remember Freddie Patek) in addition to a handful of big, muscular brutes.

    But while the NFL’s offensive linemen are now 80-100 pounds heavier than their predecessors, there was NEVER a time when fans looked at Larry Little, Ed Budde, Bob Kuechenberg, Forrest Gregg or Ron Yary and thought “That could be ME out there.” Even when football players were smaller, they were still mighty big compared to the average fan. By contrast, MANY fans looked at scrawny Mark Belanger smoking a cigarette in the dugout and thought, “Shoot, I’M bigger, stronger and faster than HIM! I’m a LOT healthier than HIM! That really COULD be me out there!”

    In my lifetime, the NFL’s huge guys became enormous, while MLB’s little guys got big. The latter is MUCH more noticeable.

    To put it another way, my son and I have both gained 25 pounds in the last few years. But whose growth is more noticeable? Which of us is going to inspire relatives to marvel, “Look how big you’ve gotten”?

  28. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    The question here, of course, is not whether using steroids is cheating (I assume we all agree on that), but, rather, whether using steroids was a type of cheating that warped the game in a way that no other type of cheating ever did. I think you can make a pretty decent argument that steroids played havoc with power numbers, though 1) there were clearly other factors involved; and 2) Barry Bonds (who only hit 50+ homers once in his career) is hardly Exhibit A; Sammy Sosa would seem to be the more obvious poster child.

    While home run totals went crazy, so did other types of offense, though not to the same historical degree. Nobody, after all, hit .400. Regardless, I don’t know of anyone who argues that steroids improve the batting eye or reflexes in general. But maybe I haven’t been paying attention.

    On the pitching side, Roger Clemens seems to be Exhibit Only, since nobody else did what Clemens did for as long as he did it, other than Randy Johnson, whose body mass seems to exempt his from these discussions. It’s not like we suddenly had pitchers throwing 110 mph. Therefore, the evidence that steroids affected pitching success is remarkably subtle in the statistical record.

    The other claim on behalf of steroids is that they help athletes recover from injury sooner and, therefore, play more games at a higher level. The same, of course, could be said about greenies, but let’s leave that to the side. Other than a few freaks like Clemens and Bonds (and Randy again), most players in the steroid era aged in the normal fashion. And old-age success did not begin in 1990: Henry Aaron was a great player deep into his late 30s, and Niekro, Spahn, and others were still highly effective at a similar age. Gaylord Perry (another cheater!) won a Cy Young at 39.

    It just seems to me that, other than the long ball, the evidence of the transformative effects of steroids remains mostly anecdotal. That doesn’t mean that Clemens wasn’t aided by them, perhaps enormously, but beyond the Rocket, the evidence just seems a little underwhelming, at least relative to the outrage the issue generates.

    There was real greatness in the steroid era, just as in every other tainted era (because every other era was, indeed, tainted). So let’s discount power numbers however we’d like, mentally shave a few years off the longest careers (though I do think that’s more questionable), and then put the best players in the Hall of Fame. And let’s leave the asterisks buried with Ford Frick.

  29. tombando says:

    Wow this makes the Koufax article look good. Really its Rocket at #1 with the roids and shaddap everyone did it so its all good?! That’s sad even under your tortured logic.

  30. Dcott says:

    Just look at the Clemens from 95-96 to 97. It was shocking how much he improved at the time and the numbers bear it out now. SOMETHING HAPPENED. He was at the end of his career in 96 and then poof he was 25 again up in Toronto.

    • Brett Alan says:

      As others have pointed out, though, he most definitely was NOT at the end of his career in 1996. He had an ERA+ of 139 and a WAR of 7.7, and led the league in strikeouts (whether you go by total or per 9). His numbers were off in 1995 (although his W-L record was actually very good), but it’s hard not to see that as an anomaly. That’s not to say that you would have expected him to come back as strongly as he did or to keep pitching at a high level into his forties, but to say that he seemed done is just wrong.

  31. JMAC8 says:

    Let’s hold our noses and ignore PEDs for the moment.
    As much as I enjoy Joe’s columns, he does at times cherry pick numbers to validate his, like opinion (gratuitous sly reference to the Big Lebowski there).
    He ignores, for example, that as notorious headhunters both Pedro & Roger inflated their stats because a lot of batters didn’t want to dig in against them.
    You could say the same about Randy Johnson, but his case is different as he wasn’t known to throw at people deliberately, he just had less control.
    Can’t objectively measure this, of course, but Joe will take subjective numbers when they fit the narrative.Some stats are at least indicative: Career IP/HBP
    Clemens – 30.93
    Martinez – 20.05

    • PhilM says:

      Wait, so Pedro hit batters at a 50% higher clip (roughly 3 batters every 60 IP vs. 2 batters for Clemens)? How is that even in the same ballpark as the Clemens ratio? Here’s a better comparison: Walter Johnson – 28.85 IP/HBP
      No one would call the Big Train a “notorious headhunter,” but there’s the “indicative” number, nearly the same as Clemens. So what are you saying?

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Why is that inflating their stats? Assuming that they were “headhunters” that’s been pretty much an accepted part of baseball for a hundred years. If the hitters were afraid to dig in, that’s part of the arsenal.

  32. JMAC8 says:

    Johnson is #4 all-time in HBP, so where there’s smoke there’s smoke:

    Clemens hit 159 batters in just over 4,900 IP; Nolan Ryan hit 158 in just under 5,400, and I remember damn few batters crowding the plate against him. Clemens hit twice the number of batters in close to the same IP as Tom Seaver. Yes, he qualifies as a headhunter — bonus points for the bat. Maybe not quite in Pedro’s league but more than Ryan, or how about Sal (The Barber) Maglie if you want another comparison: 39.16 IP/HBP

    I’m as much a fan of stats, old or advanced, as Joe or anyone else. But WAR doesn’t tell the whole story anymore than Wins or ERA or RBI, and all the stats in the world don’t make Clemens the GOAT (except to Joe; and that’s like, his opinion, man!)

  33. roundeye11 says:

    Why this assumption that steroids were invented in 1997 or so?
    Anabolic steroids have been around since the 1930s (!).
    Somewhere between that time and when players were finally getting busted for using, there were probably other players using. A motivated athlete could have found them long before the 1990s.
    What if Roger Maris suddenly discovered these things back in the day?
    It is possible.
    They did exist back then.
    And to say Canseco introduced Clemens to PEDs
    casts Clemens as some naive simple-minded rube.
    Clemens had ready access to PEDs long before Canseco allegedly introduced
    the impressionable, innocent greenhorn Clemens to them.

    They’ve been in existence for generations and generations.
    Let’s not be to accepting of things here.
    And by the way,
    the most tested athlete in sporting history was Lance Armstrong.

  34. Raff says:


    Appreciate the article. A suggestion: the various comparisons would be better if they were in rates (e.g., K/9, BB/9) and shown relative to league and/or park levels (e.g., ERA+, FIP+). For example, Koufax’s K/9 rate was barely higher in Dodger Stadium than on the road, but his BB/9 and HR/9 rate were both halved. (Drysdale’s K/9 rate was actually lower in Dodger Stadium.) I enjoy reading these sorts of cross-era comparisons — Does that make me a GOAT junky? Yes, yes it does. — but the more context you can provide (whether in the article itself or through links), the better.


  35. Jason says:

    I admittedly hate Clemens. When he hit Piazza in the head, that bordered on criminal assault. But Koufax is unfairly treated in that comparison because park factors already take Koufax’s “cheating” into account by normalizing his Dodger Stadium stats. The results of Clemens’ cheating, his unnatural aging curve, are not normalized. If you were to normalize that performance to typical aging curves, then you won’t be able to make the Koufax + Pedro argument (although he is still a HOF pitcher). Otherwise, if you are ignoring all “cheating”, then compare Koufax’s raw stats to Clemens.

  36. Mark says:

    Because all comparative of Clemens vs Koufax or Pedro or Koufax+Pedro is damaged because we’ll never know how much of post-1996 numbers would have existed if Clemens never used PED, I REALLY would have preferred Joe Posnanski had made the same comparative but using Greg Maddux instead of Clemens. Because Maddux career AND peak was so great and because Maddux had numbers without controversy, it would have been a lot more useful.
    Probably if Joe had done that, it would have concluded that Maddux is the best pitcher in baseball history whose numbers are reallistically credible.

    • wjones58 says:

      Some random thoughts:
      1. Clemens is thought widely to have used steroids, though he never failed a test, nothing has ever been proven, and he has consistently denied using them, same as Frank Thomas.
      2. Clemens is cited for having great numbers late in his career as an indictment of steroid use, though not for Randy Johnson. Clemens, due to his workout regimen, fits the ‘profile’ more than Johnson, who was skinnier and much uglier. Maddux was not a workout freak, looked like an accountant, and though he didn’t spike late in career he had a good long career during a comparable time frame.
      3. Sosa has been cited, though he never failed a test, and much of his negatives seems to come from having an interpreter in Congress, and of course guilt by association with Mark McGwire.
      4. If Roger Maris played in the 90’s, what would we have thought of his big season?
      5. Many have called for Pete Rose to be forgiven and placed in the Hall, and these people cite that what Pete did was not as bad a steroids (I don’t understand the logic, but YMMV). The irony there is that Pete played way past the normal age, given that he was a player/manager, and at the time of his arrest for tax evasion which also coincided with his “lifetime ban”, he was living with a steroid dealer.

      Carry on.

      • “4. If Roger Maris played in the 90’s, what would we have thought of his big season?”

        well, his hair fell out in clumps, which proves it was just good old-fashioned stress, and not drugs at all.

    • Jay Essman says:

      Was Maddux any better than Randy Johnson? Just asking.

  37. Yeager says:

    We all love Joe, but certain topics for posts are best avoided with him. Add Clemens now to the same list with Joe Paterno and Bruce Springsteen. 🙂

  38. […] Posnanski on the Best Pitcher in Baseball History, and also some discussion on […]

  39. Jay Essman says:

    The weird thing about our collective outrage about PEDs is: what fan, if told that he could shoot up some steroids with no risk of getting caught and play in MLB, wouldn’t have done so? I know I’d have done it in a heartbeat. I think it must be like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett taking advantage of tax loopholes: when you have as much talent and glory as Bonds and Clemens, it seems piggish to cheat to get more.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Well, it depends on how much value you place on the future. I wouldn’t do it if I knew the risks apparently associated with PEDs. Of course, athletes, being young, tend to be now-oriented and don’t worry about the future. But to say that “any” fan would take steroids to play in MLB I just don’t think is right. I wouldn’t do it because playing MLB isn’t important enough to risk my health. I guess a lot of people would since they did.

  40. Jay Essman says:

    One other interesting (to me) thing: Seaver had more WAR through his age 33 season than Clemens. That’s when Clemens presumably started juicing. He was 34 when he moved to Toronto and took up with McNamee. I wonder if Seaver would have taken PEDs given the opportunity to have Clemens late-career numbers.

  41. edfromyumaaz says:

    Thank you for some sense, Joe. Barry Bonds pre and post steriods was the best position player I ever saw. Bonds deserves credit for ending the PED era. Basically he said (non verbally), I am the greatest player around but juicing mediocrities like . . . , . . . ., and . . . . are treated like Bud Selig’s best buddies. Let me show them what happens when the best player uses PEDs. His performance was so otherworldly that baseball had to do something. I like Roger Clemons less as a person, but c’mon a HOF without him is a joke.

  42. NevadaMark says:

    Clemons of course denied ever using steroids. Is that a credible denial? The reason I ask is there was a situation earlier in his career where his truthfulness came into question. Perhaps a rabid Red Sox fan can help me here.
    Clemons came out of the infamous Game 6 against the Mets, reportedly due to a blister. Clemons said the manager took him out; McNamara, the manager, claimed Clemons ASKED out. Which one told the truth? If not for the Buckner error it may have been a huge story.

  43. Alan Hamel says:

    Honestly, all players who have used steriods should be struck from any and all record books. They cheated and therefore DO NOT DESERVE TO HOLD ANY RECORDS.

  44. […] Considerado el mejor pitcher de la historia, posee el tercer mejor WAR de todos los tiempos, tras Cy Young y Walter Johnson, pero estos lanzaron hace más de 100 años cuando la competitividad no era tan alta como en los tiempos de Roger Clemens. El mejor ERA, 3.12, de los pitchers de los años recientes. El tercero que más strikeouts ha lanzado en toda la historia, tras Nolan Ryan y Randy Johnson. […]

  45. Jerry D. says:

    I have to laugh whenever I read the rare story about Sandy Koufax and the “O” word. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I would much rather hear the Very Best Ballplayers that played the game rate Sandy, not people like us who never played in MLB. I am not just talking about former major leaguers. I am talking about perennial All-Stars, Hall of Fame Greats.

    HoF-Willie Mays said “Sandy would strike me out all the time, and I knew, as did the whole NL, every pitch he was going to throw. I still couldn’t hit him”. That’s WILLIE MAYS saying this. Not anyone on this site. That is what makes Sandy so special. Every ML team that he faced knew every pitch he was about to throw. They still hit only .205 against him for his career. How many other pitchers held hitters to a lower life-time batting average? Only one, Nolan Ryan.

    Name any other pitcher in ML history that could have accomplished that, hold hitters to a batting average of .205 when the hitters knew every pitch he was going to throw.

    HoF-Orlando Cepeda said when Sandy threw his hard curveball, estimated by HoF-Joe Morgan to be about 90 miles an hour, that “Sandy’s curveball made a loud noise and it scared me”. That’s a 90 mph curve ball from Sandy Koufax that Orlando Cepeda told people the noise from it scared him.

    Remember Mickey Mantle walking away immediately after Sandy dropped one of his famous curve balls for Strike 3 saying to John Roseboro,“How in the bleep are you supposed to hit that bleep?”

    Mgr Gene Mauch called Koufax the best lefthander and righthander he ever saw. HoF Richie Ashburn said “Koufax either threw the fastest pitch he ever saw, or he was going blind”. HoF – Willie Stargell, “Hitting against Koufax is like drinking coffee with a spoon”. Whitey Ford – “I found Sandy Koufax’s weakness, he can’t hit”. HoF-Pee Wee Reese said “he never saw anyone throw as hard as Koufax”, ditto all-time hits leader Pete Rose. The list goes on and on of former All-Stars and other major leaguers who name Koufax as the Best or One of the Very Best Ever.

    I have the names of 11 Hall of Famers who have called Koufax the Greatest pitcher they ever saw. Guys like Ernie Banks, Don Drysdale, Joe Morgan, Juan Marichal, Warren Spahn, Duke Snider, Bob Feller, Casey Stengel, Pee Wee Reese, and Leo Durocher. How many HoF names do you have for your top pitcher?

    When 363 game winner Warren Spahn was asked to name the Best pitcher he ever saw, he immediately said Koufax, he then quickly added “What do you think I am, Stupid”. Bob Feller called him the very Best pitcher with the Best Live fastball he ever saw.

    Casey Stengel saw all of the greatest pitcher the game has ever had from the early 1900’s until the 1970’s starting with Cy Young and Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove, Dizzy Dean, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Bob Feller, Carl Hubbell, to Dizzy Dean, Whitey Ford, Gibson, Marichal, Seaver, Carlton all of them. He said “the kid from Brooklyn might be the best of them all”

    It’s also been said that a gentleman by the name of Jackie Robinson also saw greatness in Sandy. If only Sandy was allowed to pitch more when he was younger.

  46. Jim Jensen says:

    To my mind, if a pitcher doesn’t have at least 300 career wins he shouldn’t be in the discussion. That eliminates a few of the pitchers discussed above. As for Walter “The Big Train” Johnson pitching in the “dead ball” era, I would remind readers that Babe Ruth hit 60 dingers in 1927, which is included in that era. My top 5, in no particular order are Roger Clemens, Christy Matthewson, Walter Johnson, Cy Young and Nolan Ryan.

  47. […] I’ve broken this down before, but if you want it quickly: Clemens in Boston went 192-111 with a 144 ERA+, two Cy Young awards, and an MVP. It’s not QUITE the Pedro Martinez career, but it’s very, very close. […]

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