The season is just going to end too soon for the Houston Astros. Down 7.5 games heading into a pivotal weekend series against the Cardinals, the Astros, powered by Roger Clemens’ potentially final home start in Houston, swept St. Louis to leave Deadspin’s Will Leitch cowering in the corner and Houston fans hoping and praying that their team can overcome a 3.5 game deficit with seven left to play.
Roger Clemens last night was the hero of Houston. He received a warm send-off from a crowd that believes, barring a miracle, Clemens will not pitch again in Houston for the Astros. Will he retire? Who knows. But it’s hard to imagine the Astros shelling out another $20 million for the Rocket’s services.
But around the Internet, an interesting theme has arisen. As Travis Nelson wrote on Double Play Depth, maybe the Astros’ eventual elimination for postseason contention is the Rocket’s fault. He compellingly argues:
If Clemens had decided what he wanted to do in say, January, like the rest of the 700 or so guys who have played in the major leagues this season, the Astros could have had him starting games in April and May, and early June. they could have gotten roughly another 100 or so innings out of him in that span, which would have kept 24-year old rookie RHP Taylor Buchholz in the minors, where he clearly belonged.
Nelson argues that Clemens would have replaced 14 bad starts with Roger Clemens-like outings:
That makes 14 starts, 81 innings, and 52 earned runs. Clemens, with a more or less typical Rocket-esque performance in those starts, could probably have amassed something like 100 innings, allowing half as many earned runs, about 26, which could have netted the team three more wins.
Three more wins for the Astros right now would have been the difference between life and death. Instead of 3.5 out with 7 left to play, they could be potentially just 0.5 games out with 7 left to play. In my opinion though, Nelson underestimated Clemens’ importance. I think Clemens could have meant five more wins for the team, and a view from the top heading into the homestretch. I have no scientific evidence for that, but it’s just a hunch taking a look at how poorly the Astros’ number five starters performed.
However – and this is a big however – let’s not forget about 2005. Roger Clemens, not a young man, broke down in 2005. He couldn’t make it through the regular season and postseason. So if the Astros bring back Clemens in April instead of June, does he break down again? The blame might not fall on his shoulders.
Rather, I would like to blame the Astros’ management for wasting Clemens’ rehab starts. After his first two Minor League outings, it was clear that Clemens still had it. Why not just bring him up to the Big Leagues then? Give him one extra start, one more shot at a win. That could end up being the difference in the NL Central.
Of course, what’s funny about this situation is that if the Astros do overcome the very long odds, Clemens will have a chance to once again be a postseason hero. Hey, you never know.