Roger Clemens flatly denied allegations of HGH or steroid use on Twitter yesterday after news was released of his impending indictment for lying to Congress.
"I never took HGH or Steroids. And I did not lie to Congress. I look forward to challenging the Governments accusations, and hope people will keep an open mind until trial. I appreciate all the support I have been getting. I am happy to finally have my day in court," said the Rocket.
Clemens already had his day in court, back in 2008 when he voluntarily participated in a House committee hearing. He denied steroid use then and, despite an FBI investigation that suggests otherwise, Clemens is stubbornly upholding his claim today.
The court documents say he's lying. But what do the numbers say?
Clemens, whether he's being truthful or not, was unquestionably one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history.
Over the course of 13 seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Clemens went a remarkable 192-111 in 383 starts. His ERA while with Boston was 3.06 and he struck out 2590 batters, at a rate of 8.4 SO/9 IP.
He won three Cy Young's and an MVP over that period en route to establishing himself as one of baseball's premier pitchers.
In his last season with the Red Sox in 1996 while 33 years old, Clemens' ERA dropped to a still respectable 3.63 and his WHIP rose to 1.33. He went 10-13 and struck out 257 batters in 242.2 innings. While his numbers were still very good, they paled in comparison to the seasons he had in his prime years (1986—1992).
Then in 1997 Clemens signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and had one of the best seasons of his career. He went 21-7 with a 2.05 ERA (career high 222 ERA+) and he struck out a career high 292 batters, while pitching in the same division no less.
Clemens won his fourth Cy Young that year as he lowered his ERA by over a point and a half, and lowered his WHIP by three-tenths of a point from 1.33 to 1.03.
A career year at the age of 34? Seems fishy.
Then Clemens did it all over again.
In 1998 during his second season with Toronto, Clemens went 20-6 with a 2.65 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, and 271 strikeouts in 234.2 innings. It was good enough for another Cy Young award.
There are some pitchers who get better with age. But after throwing almost 3000 innings while in Boston, it seemed unlikely that Clemens would be able to improve on his craft, let alone maintain it.
Brian McNamee, Clemens' trainer at the time, would be inclined to agree. According to reports, McNamee injected Clemens more than a dozen times with steroids and HGH from 1998—2001.
Indeed, Clemens went on to have several more excellent seasons with the New York Yankees through 2001.
After a somewhat shaky 1999 season, Clemens pitched over 200 innings in 2000 while sporting a 3.70 ERA and helping lead the Yankees to another World Series title.
In 2001 Clemens was brilliant again, at the age of 38. He went 20-3 with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP and struck out almost a batter per inning. He won his sixth Cy Young award.
After that season, the drop off in Clemens' production was noticeable. In his final two seasons with the Yankees Clemens' ERA ballooned to 4.95 (2002) and 3.91 (2003). His strikeout numbers went down and he surrendered an unsightly 42 home runs over those two years.
Clemens retired after 2003 at the age of 40. He un-retired a year later to sign a one-year deal with his hometown Houston Astros and had three more excellent seasons, winning his seventh and final Cy Young in 2004.
However, the difference in leagues is probably the best explanation for the upwards trend in performance in his final years.
We may never know for sure during what periods Clemens was juicing. But for a pitcher to enjoy career years in his late 30's after over a decade of pitching is not just unprecedented, it's illogical.
Clemens may continue to deny that he used steroids or HGH until he's old and decrepit, but there's one thing we will always know for sure.
The numbers don't lie.
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