December 31, 2002

Rocket and Starbury

The Yankees signed Roger Clemens to a 1 year deal worth about $10 million bucks yesterday.

Right now it looks as though the Yanks will be going with some sort of a 100-man rotation with Clemens, Pettitte, Contreras, Weaver, Mussina, Wells, Hitchcock, Hernandez, Guidry, Hunter, Ford, Gomez, Stottlemyre and Ruffing.

I am not sure how their rotation will shake out, but I assume someone will be traded and Sterling Hitchcock may simply get released.

As for Clemens in particular, I think New York did well to re-sign him.

Roger Clemens is already 40 years old and you can never really expect a pitcher in their 40s to be successful, but if anyone can do it, it is Roger Clemens.

When I evaluate pitchers, there are 4 things that I look:

1) Strike outs

2) Walks

3) Homers allowed

4) Innings pitched

Because of Voros McCracken's great work on the subject, we know that pitchers have very little control over anything besides how many they strike out, how many they walk and how many homers they give up.

That is to say that most everything else is determined by the defense behind the pitcher.

Another thing we know is that strike outs are a great indicator for sustained success.

Bill James wrote about this many years ago.

Basically, the lower a guy's K rate is, the less chance of a long and successful career he has.

There are obviously quite a few exceptions, but is still a very accurate general rule.

And finally, innings pitched may be the most important stat of all, simply because all the Ks and walks and homers don't do any good if the pitcher can't pitch.

All that said, let's take a look at Clemen's #s in those 4 areas recently:

Year      IP     K/9     W/9     HR/9

1999 188 7.8 4.3 0.96
2000 204 8.3 3.7 1.15
2001 220 8.7 2.9 0.78
2002 180 9.6 3.2 0.90

Believe it or not, as Clemens gets older, he is actually increasing his strike out numbers.

And that is the #1 reason why I think Clemens can be a successful pitcher for several more seasons.

The one area where Clemens is vulnerable is home runs.

Early in his career he rarely gave up homers, but as he has aged they have flown out of ballparks more frequently.

Other than that, I don't see any signs of him letting up performance wise.

But, everything rests on whether or not he can stay healthy.

I don't think counting on him for 220+ innings again is a good idea, but I think Clemens will be able to pitch 180-200 and as long as he can keep striking out 8-9 guys a game, he will be a very good pitcher.

His strike out rate is even more important because of the quality of the Yankee defense, which quite simply is not very good.

I won't get into this again, but the Yankees are below average defensively at a lot of positions and they don't convert balls in play into outs all that well.

The more guys Clemens can strike out will mean less balls put into play that the fielders are responsible for turning into outs and that's a good thing for Clemens and the Yankees.

I think Rocket can be a very good pitcher for a couple more years - at least.

Even at 40, I would be more willing to bet on him being successful in 3 years than I would Tom Glavine, but it all depends on how many Ks he can rack up.

In non-baseball news...

As you all know, I try to stick strictly to baseball on this website, but sometimes I can't help myself.

Last night the Minnesota Timberwolves played the Phoenix Suns.

The Suns' point guard is Stephon Marbury, who was originally a Wolves draft pick and formed a 1-2 punch with Kevin Garnett that appeared headed toward Stockton/Malone type heights.

The Wolves won last night and, after the game, Marbury (who shot 6-17 and committed 5 turnovers) had some things to say in regard to Kevin Garnett, a former high school draft pick, and Amare Stoudemire, who Phoenix drafted out of high school this season and who was awesome in last night's game.

Here is an excerpt from the AP strory:

After the game Marbury was asked to compare the 20-year-old Stoudemire to Garnett at the same age.

"It's not even close," Marbury said. "He doesn't even compare to Amare. Two different people. It's like Michael Jordan and Mario Elie."

When Marbury's comments were played back for Garnett, the Wolves star said: "This is Steph being jealous. I'm still on his mind. He used the young fellow to come at me."

"You all know this. From New Jersey. From him leaving here, which was a great situation, and him never recouping from that. . . . What is this going to gain? He want some more air time on ESPN or something?"

Marbury and Garnett were close as teammates during Marbury's first two seasons in Minnesota, but grew apart. Marbury demanded a trade from the Wolves in 1999 and has had a chilly relationship with Garnett ever since.

"I won tonight," Garnett said. "Since he left, I've been in the playoffs. [Stuff] speaks for itself. I guess he wants to be me."

"He's got three kids, a wife, a family, bills, all sorts of things. But I'm still on his mind, like a girl," Garnett said.

For whatever reason, Stephon Marbury has a knack for being able to get me upset anytime he feels like it.

There is not a doubt in my mind that Stephon Marbury is supremely jealous of Kevin Garnett.

Marbury is a kid from New York who was the bigshot basketball prodigy his whole life.

He and Garnett formed a friendship when they were both in high school and eventually they became teammates with the Timberwolves.

Marbury is a phenomenal talent and he and Garnett brought the Wolves to the playoffs for the first time in their history and it looked as though they were headed towards many years together and many playoff runs.

Then Garnett got his gigantic contract and suddenly things weren't so good.

On the outside Marbury talked about wanting to "get paid" just like Garnett did.

But on the inside, I believe he was simply jealous of Garnett and it had very little to do with money.

Just like Stephon, Kevin had always been the bigshot basketball prodigy, but he has been just a little bit bigger at every step of the way.

They are the same age, but consider:

While Marbury was going to Georgia Tech, Garnett was in the NBA.

When Marbury finally made the NBA, he was joining the Timberwolves, which was already Garnett's team.

Garnett got the big contract first (mostly because he was in the NBA first and eligible for a new contract before Stephon) and made the All-Star game first.

Garnett was simply a bigger star than Marbury - he had a better "story," he was a better interview and he was much more likeable as a person.

And Stephon Marbury became completely overwhelmed with jealousy for the man that considered him a great friend.

Marbury then tore apart the entire franchise by forcing a trade to the East coast.

He once again talked about getting paid and talked about "going home" to New York.

The Wolves searched for the best possible deal and ended up trading Stephon to New Jersey in a 3-way deal with the Bucks.

They received Terrell Brandon and the #6 pick in the draft.

It was a fairly reasonable deal, as they ended up choosing Wally Szczerbiak with the pick and he has turned into a very good player.

But Stephon Marbury was more than a very good player - he was a special player that was the perfect compliment for Kevin Garnett.

Garnett is the solid, all-around player that plays defense and rebounds and score 20 a game.

Marbury is the flashy point guard with brass balls and a knack for taking - and making - the last second shot.

Marbury's time in New Jersey lasted a little over 2 seasons before the Nets got sick of him and dealt him to the Suns - for Jason Kidd no less.

I admire Stephon Marbury's abilities immensely, but there are few people in this world that I feel such hatred towards.

His actions are despicable and they ruined an entire franchise and a pretty good friendship.

So, the following goes out to Stephon Marbury:

You will never be as good as Kevin Garnett.

Kevin starts in the All-Star game every single season and you are lucky to get chosen for the last man on the bench.

When your careers are over, Kevin will be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and the people of Minnesota will remember his greatness forever.

People in Minnesota and New Jersey and Phoenix and wherever else you end up will talk about you not as a player, but as a jerk with a lot of talent.

And more importantly than anything on the court, Kevin Garnett is a class-act, one of the most liked and admired athletes in sports today.

You are a guy that has trouble with teammates and coaches, forces trades, ends friendships and generally acts like an a-hole.

Good luck in Phoenix Stephon and I really do hope that Amare Stoudemire turns out better than Kevin Garnett.

I am a fan of basketball and I would love to see Stoudemire became a superstar.

Plus, maybe then you might have a chance at winning something one day.

Stoudemire could develop into your very own Kevin Garnett and then you would have what you already had 5 years ago.

Okay, rant over.

I always try to examine why Marbury riles me up so much every single time and I am not 100% sure.

I think it is two major things:

1) I believe Kevin Garnett is a great player and an even better person.

Everything I have ever seen from Kevin indicates that he is simply a great guy and I respect and admire him greatly on and off the court.

2) Being a Wolves fan and Minnesota resident, I believe Marbury robbed me of many years of championship-caliber basketball.

Not only did he remove himself, the star point guard that gelled perfectly with Garnett, from the team, but he was also behind Tom Gugliotta leaving as a free agent.

It was general thought that part of Gugliotta's exit was caused by his dislike for Marbury.

Gugliotta has gone through some injuries and is no longer a star player, but while he was with the Wolves he was great and the perfect #3 option behind KG and Steph.

Ironically, Gugliotta signed with Phoenix when he left the Wolves and a little bit later, Mr. Marbury got traded to Phoenix, so Steph and Googs have been teammates for several years now.

Basically, Marbury took basketball greatness away from me as a fan and away from the basketball player I most admire, Kevin Garnett.

And if this whole rant sounds really bitter, it's because it is.

For whatever reason, I hate Stephon Marbury and if someday he should suffer a career-ending injury of some sort, I wouldn't exactly feel really bad about it.

Finally, Stephon - Kevin will always be a better player than you and a better human being than you.

There is nothing you can do about that, it's just the way it is.

You can compare him to Mario Elie or do whatever you feel like you need to do, but you will always remain jealous of another man, a man that considered you a friend, and you will always been just a little bit less than Kevin Garnett.

And on that cheerful note, HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Don't do anything I wouldn't do tonight!

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