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Just The Sports: The Rocket Is Back

Just The Sports

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Rocket Is Back

And leave it to Mike Celizic to misunderstand basically everything surrounding Roger Clemens' return.

It [Clemens' outing] wasn’t even what passes for a quality start, failing by one inning of reaching the six necessary for that tepid distinction.

This so-called "tepid distinction" is a pretty good indicator for how good and how efficiently a pitcher performs in his starts. Any pitcher who consistently fails to achieve quality starts is no pitcher a team wants in its rotation because for every unquality start he has, the bullpen is taxed since the onus to complete the game falls on it and the chances of a team winning the game are lowered because the relievers asked to make the long relief outings are usually the worst relievers in the bullpen.

Clemens will get another 18 or so starts the rest of the year, and if he pitches as he did in his first one, the team will have a chance to win most of them.

Actually, if Clemens can only manage 5 innings of work in the rest of his starts, the Astros won't have a chance to win most of them for the reason I listed above.

And still he went five innings against the Twins, throwing 100 pitches, fanning four, walking two, allowing six hits and two runs. He had one dicey inning, the third, when he gave up the only two runs he allowed, but other than that 38-pitch ordeal, he was sharp and efficient.

A stop really must be put to the whole "if you take out so-and-so, then so-and-so was great" movement. Unfortunately for Clemens, the third-inning was a part of his outing and must also be a part of his evaluation. A poor stretch during a game cannot be discounted just because it does not help you in your argument.

It's like saying that besides someone not being able to walk, he/she is doing great.

What was also obvious was just how much Clemens lusts for the game that has defined him and the competition it provides. The proof of that came in the fifth inning when he got to first base to finish a crisp 3-6-3 double play.

Congratulations to Roger Clemens for fielding his position correctly.

If he really lusted for the game, he would have fielded the ball, run to second base, and then run back to first base for the double play.

The throw beat the runner by a gnat’s eyelash, and after taking the throw, Clemens looked at the first-base ump and pointed, all but demanding the call.

Please do not act like such behavior is exclusive to Clemens. Player point to the umpires all the time after close calls. Almost every check-swing results in a catcher either point to the first base umpire or the third base one to see if the hitter's bat went all the way. Clemens' pointing was not an indication of him being a more fierce competitor than everyone else. It's just what baseball players do.

The team still needs to find more offense, but if Clemens can give them an extra four or five wins while everyone else steps it up just a smidgen, it could be enough to get into the postseason again. He gives them a chance, and that’s all anyone can ask.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Astros offense isn't the only problem of the team. They had an anemic offense last year and they still won the wild card, albeit as a result of a ridiculously weak NL West.

Like I mentioned in a previous post, whether or not the Astros can repeat as the NL wild card will come down to how well Andy Pettitte pitches. And if he doesn't start pitching better, the Astros will be home in October.


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