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Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday January 29, 2008 11:57AM; Updated: Tuesday January 29, 2008 2:22PM
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For instance, I looked at Clemens' gamelogs as they relate to McNamee's version of events. McNamee claims he injected Clemens after the Blue Jays' trip to Florida in June 1998, in the middle of the 2000 season and around August of 2001. Here are the before and after breakdowns for 1998 (using the Florida trip as the delineation), 2000 (All-Star break) and 2001 (August 1):

1998 GS W-L ERA K/9 OPS
Before 13 6-6 3.27 9.18 .592
After 20 14-0 2.29 11.11 .561
2000 GS W-L ERA K/9 OPS
Before 16 6-6 4.33 8.47 .738
After 16 7-2 3.15 8.17 .667
2001 GS W-L ERA K/9 OPS
Before 22 15-1 3.58 8.92 .689
After 11 5-2 3.38 8.25 .671

In every case Clemens improved his ERA and was tougher to hit after McNamee claimed he injected him. What does it prove? Nothing for certain. It depends what you want to see in the numbers.

For instance, Team Clemens looked at the amazing stretch in July and August of 1998 as just one of what it identified as 24 "peaks" in the Rocket's career, "therefore well within the normal range for Clemens."

But Team McNamee could look at those same numbers and see it like this: Of those 24 peaks, only five were defined by Team Clemens as lasting longer than 10 starts. And of those five, his best ERA (1.25) just happened to occur in the July/August stretch of 1998, just after McNamee said he injected Clemens with testosterone.

Then there are the comparisons to Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, who, like Clemens, have pitched some of their best baseball in their middle- and late-30s. Take the seven best ERA+ marks for each pitcher, and Johnson (five times), Clemens (four) and Schilling (three) have done much of their best work after turning 34. Great. But what happens if you select, say, Greg Maddux and Tom Seaver? Between them they have only one such season, by Seaver at age 36. Maddux and Seaver did not make the Clemens Report.

The most clarity in the analysis referenced a period before Clemens knew McNamee. A myth has developed that Clemens was nearly finished when the Red Sox let him walk as a free agent after the 1996 season, a legend fueled by the infamous "twilight" quote from Boston GM Dan Duquette. Maybe Clemens, turning 34, needed to be fitter back then. And his 10-13 record would look bad to the untrained eye. But Clemens could still pitch. The dude was the AL strikeout champion that year, was second in the league in fewest hits per nine innings, fourth in complete games and shutouts, fifth in innings and sixth in ERA.

But I'm not sure the 1996 season matters to Congress. The manifesto seems to be just another brick from Team Clemens. Not one piece by itself is convincing, but the effect of all these strategies stacked upon one another is cumulative, designed to make you think Clemens is doing everything he can to clear his name.

But Team Clemens left out one important brick from the wall. When former Senator Mitchell asked to speak to Clemens three times last year, and told him he wanted to ask him about events from 1998, 2000 and 2001, Clemens knew Mitchell wasn't calling about some unpaid fines for overdue library books. Clemens has surrounded himself with very smart people. They knew Mitchell was calling about steroids, even though they didn't know what McNamee told him. It was the time for an innocent man to tell Mitchell, "I'll be there tomorrow morning." It is when the fight should have begun.

Instead, playing the good union man, Clemens stonewalled Mitchell. Oakland's Jack Cust, who also kept to the party line and now claims innocence, revealed the union strategy recently when he told San Francisco reporters, "I had nothing to hide. But they [union officials] advised me not to talk, because then they try to get something on other guys you've played with.''

Nonsense. Three active players talked to Mitchell: Jason Giambi, Frank Thomas and an anonymous player who convinced Mitchell to leave his name out of the report for a lack of credible evidence. Mitchell didn't "get" squat from any of them about other players. He had no authority, no waterboarding tactics, to coerce names out of them.

So Clemens waived his right to defend himself and let McNamee's version go unchallenged in the Mitchell Report. It was the equivalent of taking the mound unprepared, of skipping a bullpen warmup and getting hammered for a 9-0 deficit in the first inning, only this time with your entire life's work on the line. And ever since, Clemens is finding out just how difficult it is to play from that far behind.

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