Filed under: Scouting | Tags: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Chris Young, Daniel Cabrera, Derek Lowe, Doug Brocail, Greg Maddux, Heath Bell, Jake Peavy, Los Angeles Dodgers, Matt Clement, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers, Tim Stauffer
Matt Clement supposedly wants to return to the Padres, according to the Union Tribune. Clement broke in with the Pads in 1998, throwing in four games down the stretch for the National League Champions.
Looking at Clement’s year-by-year lines, the strongest constant has to be his high walk rate. In his rookie year, Clement walked 125 batters over 205 innings; his rate has declined since that point except for a blip in 2004. Matt’s hit rates have never been extremely high; thus, Matt’s WHIP and ERA have correlated pretty closely over his career. In Matt’s last 4 fully healthy seasons, he has posted an ERA right around the league average; for his career, Matt’s ERA is .17 higher than the league’s. Additionally, Matt is not particularly homer prone, with a career high of 23 in 2004. That would seem to bode well for him in Petco if recent history is any indication.
Stuff-wise, Clement isn’t going to blow anybody away, but he has a decent arsenal at his disposal. I watched a couple of his 2006 starts on MLB.TV to get a feel for his approach. His four-seam fastball clocks in around 90 MPH, and is quite straight; he does not seem to throw it that often. The sinker is probably his best pitch; it is consistently 83-85 MPH with good downward bite, a lot like Derek Lowe without the velocity. He also throws a change in the low 80′s as well as a slurve in the mid 70′s that he will use as an out pitch. The latter pitch looks somewhat like Chris Young‘s slider, although with a little flatter break. To me, it looks like Clement throws at least 60% sinkers; the trick for him is to locate it on the corners to induce swings. When Clement falls behind, he often tries too hard to get the ball in the zone, which often ends up burning him. When he can throw the sinker for strikes early in the count, Clement is able to dictate the at-bat and usually can induce a grounder or popout to get himself out of trouble. With Matt’s stuff and delivery, it doesn’t look like there’s a lot to be fixed; Clement is already a pretty polished pitcher in that regard.
As far as statistical tendencies, Clement seems to struggle mightily when he falls behind a hitter. When Clement goes 1-0 to a hitter, his WHIP jumps from his 1.40 career rate to 1.94, a jump of .54; additionally, his K/BB ratio falls below 1:1. Now, most pitchers struggle when they get behind a hitter, but Clement seems to do so even worse than some of his contemporaries. Super-stingy Greg Maddux‘s line goes from 1.14 to 1.51, .37 above his normal rate. Jake Peavy goes from 1.19 to 1.48, a .29 lift. Clement’s numbers are more in line with walkaholic Oriole Daniel Cabrera, whose WHIP jumps from 1.53 to 2.09, a .56 difference. Unfortunately, I do not have access to leaguewide numbers for these situations; anybody know where I can find that info?
Clement also has trouble early in games, much like our own Tim Stauffer. His ERA over his first 15 pitches of an appearance is 6.10, 1.63 above his career line of 4.47. No current Padre starter has a disparity that large, the closest being Young at 1.48. The aforementioned Mr. Stauffer is the only other Padre starter with a difference greater than 1, at 1.22.
In any case, those numbers could easily improve in Petco, where he can pitch more aggressively in the zone due to the big outfield swallowing many potential extra-base hits. That should knock down both his hit and walk rates, as we’ve seen with recent imports Young (WHIP dropped .12 from 2005 with Texas), Heath Bell (down .71) and Doug Brocail (down .46). As those numbers dip, so should his ERA.
One wild card is Clement’s health. Clement had surgery on his rotator cuff and labrum in September of 2006 and has not thrown in a game since June of that year. He threw a simulated game in mid-September at Fenway, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. If he’s healthy, he should put up solid, middle-of-the-rotation numbers with Petco and a solid defense behind him. If he’s not healthy, all bets are off. Thus, the Pads will need to be careful when judging how much money to throw at Clement; given the market, I would not be surprised to see the price hit $4M or $5M, depending on how many teams get involved. I think 1 year at $2M-$3M would be a reasonable risk for the Friars; anything more than that would be asking for trouble given the health risk involved.