OCTOBER 10, 2003
Flipping Tomorrow's Fenway Tarots
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com
Tomorrow, in Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS, Roger "Rocket" Clemens of the New York Yankees is slated to face Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Clemens is the former Boston Red Sox modern day pitching deity and Martinez is the man who the Red Sox hand picked to fill the void created when Clemens was allowed to leave Boston. Today, both pitchers are still considered among the best in the game. Just how good have both these pitchers been in recent history? From 1997 through 2003, they have won four of the seven NetShrine Pitcher of the Year Awards in that time span - two each.
To say there is much anticipation and hype around this imminent pairing would be the same as saying that, thanks to the modern marvels of cosmetic surgery, former "Baywatch" siren Pamela Anderson will never have to worry about slipping completely through an open man hole. Stating the obvious? Just a tad.
In a recent ESPN.com article, current Red Sox pitcher John Burkett was quoted as saying: ""I don't think we'll really be able to appreciate it until 10 years from now when we're retired and looking back on our careers. We'll be able to watch the highlight video and I'll be able to tell my kids, I was at that game. That's when Pedro struck out 17 and Clemens struck out 16."
Some others, in attempting to forecast tomorrow, may reflect back to the last time these two pitchers faced each other in an ALCS game. Ironically, that was also a Game 3 - on October 16, 1999 - in Fenway Park. That day, Pedro was the clear victor - allowing no runs in seven inning pitched, while striking out 12 - whereas Clemens was battered - going only two innings, allowing 6 hits and 5 earned runs.
The interjection to be made here is that, in spite of all the personal wish list and past ALCS driven speculation, our expectations of this game should be tempered.
First of all, 1999 was a long time ago, baseball-wise. How long ago? Put it this way: Back in 1999, Jack McDowell, Jim Abbott, Willie McGee, and Jeff King were still active players. It is unfair to look at that 1999 ALCS Game 3 and expect the same in 2003. There has been too much time elapsed since that time. Neither Martinez or Clemens is the same pitcher today that they were four years ago. Rocket had what many consider to be his worst season in 1999. And, Pedro, while a great pitcher today, was pitching like Walter Johnson and Lefty Grove (in their prime) in 1999.
What happened in 1999, in Game 3 of the ALCS, has to be thrown out of the window with respect to how tomorrow's game may play out.
Secondly, nothing beats examining recent results under specific conditions to anticipate what we may see under the (as close to as possible) identical conditions now. Since this is a post-season game in Fenway Park, we should look at how each pitcher faired pitching in Fenway Park in 2003 and how they have performed so far in the 2003 post-season. Most likely, this is the true baseline for what to expect tomorrow.
This season, in his 12 regular season starts at Fenway Park, Pedro Martinez compiled an ERA of 3.13 and averaged 6.4 IP per start. Roger Clemens, in the 2003 regular season, made 2 starts at Fenway, averaging 6.1 IP per game and had an ERA of 4.26.
In the 2003 ALDS, Martinez went seven innings in both his starts (10/1/03 and 10/6/03) allowing 3 earned runs in each game. In the 2003 ALDS, Clemens went seven innings versus Minnesota (on 10/4/03) in his only appearance allowing one earned run.
Factoring in the above data, it would be unreasonable to expect either Clemens or Martinez to pitch much further into the game tomorrow beyond the 7th inning. Additionally, again, based on recent results at Fenway and in the post-season, it would be reasonable to expect both pitchers to allow at least one run and as many as three runs (or possibly more) in their start.
Granted, if both pitchers went 7 innings and allowed three or less runs in their turn tomorrow, that would be a very good and interesting game to watch. However, such a result would hardly match the buzz preceding this match-up and qualify this one as the game of the century, decade, year, or - perhaps - even the 2003 post-season. It would be a closely contested match with the game outcome most likely determined by the bullpens. Standard good game post-season type stuff - not "where were you when" stuff.
Now, if this game were to be played in Yankee Stadium, it could be more interesting. Pedro had an ERA of 1.57 on the road during the 2003 regular season. And, Clemens' 2003 regular season home ERA was 5.22. Food for thought considering that Martinez and Clemens could very well face each other in Yankee Stadium should the 2003 ALCS go to a deciding seventh game.
Strike that - and make the last point "feast" for thought. The disparity in those numbers allows for about seven courses of mulling and crunching - if that game becomes a reality. In the interim, enjoy the game tomorrow - just don't expect to see a double shutout going into the ninth inning.
Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com. Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season. Steve can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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