January 17, 2012

The Freak vs. The Rocket

Never has there been a pitcher as good as Lincecum this early in his career. I hate when people say that. Don't get me wrong, I love the Giants and Lincecum and think he's one of the top 5 pitchers in the league. But when people say that it makes me think that they didn't know who Roger Clemens was.

Clemens was a 1st round pick (18th overall) of the Red Sox in the 1983 draft. At the time of the draft Clemens was only 20 while Lincecum was 21 when he was drafted. But like Lincecum, Clemens was drafted as a JR. out of college. Clemens started his pro career that same year by pitching 81 innings in the minors. Lincecum had 31.2 innings after he signed. The next year Clemens only needed 46.2 IP in the minors before getting called up to the majors. He ended the year 9-4 with 126 strikeouts and 29 walks while maintaining a 4.32 era and 2.84 FIP in 133.1 innings. As a comparison, Lincecum only needed 31 innings in the minors before he was called up. He finished the year 7-5 with 150 strikeouts and 64 walks with an era of 4.00 and FIP of 3.63 in 146.1 innings.

In 1985, Clemens' 2nd year in the majors, he had surgery to remove a cartilage in his shoulder so he was only able to pitch 98.1 innings that year. For the sake of this comparison we're just going to throw out that year even though Clemens pitched rather well in those 98.1 innings (7-5 3.29 era 3.06 FIP). Here we're going to look at each pitchers first 4 full seasons.

While Clemens did throw 171.1 more innings, pitchers back then were different. Throwing 250+ innings was normal. If you look closely at their numbers, they were very similar players.

Clemens vs. Lincecum

ERA - 2.88 vs. 2.81

FIP - 2.77 vs. 2.82

ERA+ - 148 vs. 144

WHIP - 1.105 vs. 1.173

K/9 - 8.7 vs. 10.0

BB/9 - 2.6 vs. 3.2

H/9 - 7.3

HR/9 - 0.6 vs 0.7

LOB% - 75.8 vs. 77.2

And don't forget, both won 2 Cy Young's in their first 2 full seasons, with Clemens even winning the MVP in 1986. So next time you hear someone say, "Man there has never been a pitcher as good as Lincecum this early in their career" all you need to say is, "The Rocket."


  1. I agree that Clemens is just a bit better than Lincecum. But Lincecum also could have more wins if his team had any run support for him. Also, Clemens is involved with steroids which drops him in my ranks of top pitchers all time

    1. I hate wins for that exact reason. Some players are just drafted into crappy offensive teams that can't provide runs for them. I'll write up something tomorrow about that.
      And regarding Clemens and steroids, I doubt that Clemens was using Steroids that early in his career. It was reported that he got steroids from a former trainer named Brian McNamee, whom he hired in 1998 after he left the Red Sox.