|Let us imagine a less controversial ending to Roger Clemens' career. (Getty Images)|
Let's start with some assumptions. First, let's assume that when Brian McNamee said he injected Roger Clemens with steroids starting in 1998, he was telling the truth. Second, let's assume that Clemens' (alleged) use of those substances so altered his post-1997 career that wholesale dismissal of those numbers is warranted. (These are two hugely unjustified assumptions, but let's go with it for now.)
The question all of this raises: If we discount Clemens's post-McNamee career, is he still a Hall of Famer on the merits? Well, he'd still have four Cy Youngs on his mantel, and he'd still be a six-time All-Star. But of the numbers? Let's take a look at what Clemens' digits would look like if we end his career after the 1997 season ...
|Roger Clemens' career, 1984-1997|
|213-118 (87th in wins)||3,040||2.97||2,882 (16th)||3.12 (38th)||1.147 (62nd)||8.5 (20th)||149 (2nd)*|
|* Among pitchers with at least 2,000 innings pitched|
As you can see, Clemens, even after lopping off the last decade of his career, fares very well in a number of key categories. Most impressive is that, among pitchers with at least 2,000 innings, pre-1998 Clemens ranks second all-time in ERA+. That deeply impressive figure along with the lofty K total and 200-plus wins would give him a strong Cooperstown case.
But what about Clemens' 1984-1997 bWAR and JAWS, the two stats we've been using prominently in our Hall of Fame evaluations? His career bWAR over the innocent-as-a-cherub span in question checks in at 89.3, his seven-year peak bWAR (i.e., his seven best seasonal bWARs added together) totals 63.1, and his JAWS is 76.2. By way of comparison, the average Hall of Fame starting pitcher has a career bWAR of 67.9, a seven-year peak bWAR of 47.7 and a JAWS of 57.8.
In other words, take away those final 10 seasons, and Clemens still surpasses the established Hall of Fame standards for starting pitchers by a healthy margin. Throw in some "leaving on a high note" points (in his "final" season of 1997, Clemens went 21-7 with a 2.05 ERA and 292 strikeouts for the Blue Jays and was the easy choice for the AL Cy Young), and enshrinement seems all but certain.
Personally, I don't advocate such an approach to evaluating a player's Cooperstown merits (if you do believe Clemens took and materially benefitted from PEDs, that's still not cause to completely dimiss his numbers from those disputed years), but even if you are such an absolutist then you should know that Clemens is still a worthy Hall of Famer.