Monday, May 07, 2007

Commencing Countdown, Engines On

The Yankees and Roger Clemens pulled a fast one on everyone by announcing his return to the club during Sunday's game. Roger addressed the crowd from the owners box during the seventh inning stretch. His announcement whipped the crowd into a frenzy and was a fitting cap to the Yankees first shutout of the season. By the way, I don't mean to toot my own horn, but here's what I wrote back on December 28th,

It's being reported that Roger signed for a pro-rated $28 million dollars, which will work out to just about the $20 million that I predicted.

So can the Yankees expect from the now 44 year old Clemens? They can expect Clemens to immediately become the hardest worker on their staff. His workouts are legendary and that will certainly not change when he comes to the Bronx. He will be a great influence on the younger pitchers. Phillip Hughes especially can learn a lot from the Rocket. If Roger were to spend the year teaching Hughes the nuances of the split finger, his influence could last a lot longer than just the last four months of the season. As far as what the Yankees can expect on the mound for their approximately $1 million per start, that's a little more muddled. Roger's average ERA in his final three seasons in the Bronx was 3.92. His average ERA in the last three seasons in Houston was 2.38. That difference is partly explainable by the difference in the leagues and perhaps by the fact that Roger had a shortened season. Moving back to the American League will cause his ERA to rise by at least a run a game. I'm expecting him to pitch to an ERA of about 3.5o, which would probably be enough to lead the Yankees starting staff. He can certainly still be dominant, but I'm not really expecting any 15 strikeout games. I'm expecting him to give the Yankees a solid 6-7 innings almost every time out.

The biggest problem with signing a 44 year old (He turns 45 in August) is that they are basically pitching on borrowed time. Nolan Ryan had the most remarkable pitching arm I have ever seen. He could basically dominate hitters with his fastball until the day he retired at age 46. Nolan would probably still be pitching if his legs didn't give out. The same can be said of Roger Clemens. He has never had any serious arm problems and will probably be able to pitch until his legs give out. When will that be? No one knows, including Roger. He will get himself into great pitching shape, but there comes a time when although the heart is willing the body is not. Roger wont' be felled by arm problems, but his demise will probably come through a series of lingering hamstring and groin pulls. We've already seen what hamstring problems have done to the Yankees pitching staff this season and Roger is certainly not immune to those issues.

All that being said though, I do look forward to having Roger on the mound for the Yankees again. He certainly brings the right kind of attitude to the team and will hopefully serve to mentor and inspire the Yankees younger pitchers. What can we expect from his 20 or so starts (provided he stays healthy)? I'm thinking he goes 9-5 with an ERA somewhere north of 3.50. However if he brings stability to the rotation and some fire to the clubhouse, then it will probably be worth the million dollars per start that the Yankees will be shelling out.

By the way, signing Clemens is going to cost the team an additional $7-$8 million for luxury taxes, so the deal will end up costing somewhere in the $28 million dollar range. It must be nice to have an unlimited payroll. I'm pretty sure that the Royals, Devil Rays and Pirates combined don't pay their starting staff $28 million. Oh well, such is life in the Bronx.



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