Matt Clement

Dave · October 11, 2004 at 4:24 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

One thing that became evident after the trade of Freddy Garcia was that the Mariners were going to have to spend some money to replace the 200 innings he gave them every year. During the second half of the season, the rotation was the weakest link in the sea of weak links, and if the Mariners are going to contend, they must add a pitcher capable of providing consistent, reliable work late in to ballgames.

Of all the free agent starters on the market, my choice would be Matt Clement. Clement isn’t viewed as the top option for most clubs, in part due to his 9-13 W-L record with the Cubs this year and a reputation as a bit of an underachiever. He was a top prospect coming up through the Padres system, ranking #16 on Baseball America’s Top 100 list in 1998. After several disappointing seasons with San Diego, he was dealt to Florida, and then moved on to Chicago after just one year. His raw career numbers don’t look inspiring; 69 wins, 75 losses, and 4.34 ERA. With his stuff, people have always expected more from him, and the view of him as someone who has not lived up to expectations will likely keep his price down.

However, Clement has been a valuable pitcher the past three seasons, if not the dominating ace everyone expected. He posted a VORP of 36.9 this year, which isn’t spectacular, but is higher than Freddy Garcia’s 35.1, and just barely behind Mark Mulder’s 37.2. He posted a VORP of 27.6 in 2003 and 41.3 in 2002. The past three years, Clement has established a level of performance that puts him solidly in the class of #2/#3 starters, showing both quality and consistency. If he was able to maintain the level of performance that he had in Chicago the past three seasons, he’d be a solid signing for $6 million per year.

However, there are many reasons to believe that Clement is actually on the verge of improving. He posted the 6th best strikeout rate in baseball this year (9.45 K/9). He still had command issues (3.8 BB/9), but did a fair job at keeping the ball in the park (1.1 HR/9) thanks to his groundball tendancies (1.55 Groundball/Flyball rate). In fact, his skillset is fairly reminiscent of the last free agent pitcher the Mariners pursued, Jason Schmidt. Here is a side by side comparison of the 2004 Clement and 2001 Schmidt:

Schmidt: 8.28 H/9, 3.66 BB/9, 8.52 K/9, .78 HR/9, 4.07 ERA
Clement: 7.71 H/9, 3.81 BB/9, 9.45 K/9, 1.10 HR/9, 3.68 ERA

2001 Schmidt was actually slightly worse than 2004 Clement and was coming off his first full season of pitching in three years. Clement has a stronger profile, establishing good stuff, solid performance, reasonable expectation of improvement, and a clean bill of health.

I’m not implying that, like Schmidt did, Clement is going to evolve into one of the three or four best pitchers in the game. However, the potential is certainly there, and Clement is the rare free agent pitcher who can actually be projected to pitch above the value of his contract. If he doesn’t improve at all, he’s a solid addition to the staff, a pitcher in the class of Freddy Garcia and a step ahead of Joel Pineiro. If he does follow historical trends and adds better command to his repertoire, he’s a potential #1 starter, a front-line ace that could be the steal of the offseason.

Like any free agent pitcher, Clement is a risk, especially with a contract of more than 3 years. However, fewer pitchers have been commanding long term contracts as teams recognize this risk, and with Pedro Martinez and Carl Pavano drawing a lot of eyes this winter, Clement will not be at the top of many shopping lists for owners looking to overspend on a pitcher.

If the Mariners decide to attempt to contend in 2005, they need to add at least one starting pitcher to the rotation. As long as the bidding stays within a 3 year, $24-$27 million range, Matt Clement should be that guy.


27 Responses to “Matt Clement”

  1. U.S.S. Mariner » Free Agent Writeups on November 16th, 2004 4:22 pm
    […] ons. For those who may have missed them, here are the ones I’ve completed to date: Matt Clement Carl Pavano Brad Radke Richie Sexson Troy Glaus Corey Koskie Carlos Delgado Adrian Beltre Ho […]

  2. eponymous coward on October 11th, 2004 4:35 pm

    Any concerns on your part that he was much less effective in September (11 IP, no starts after a 2 1/3rds inning start on September 20) after his neck and back strain?

  3. PositivePaul on October 11th, 2004 4:54 pm

    Health rumors abated, I’d like him, too. Imagine what some time with Moyer and Price (if he’s still around — Chaves if Price isn’t) would do working a nasty change-up into his repertoire! I agree, too, 3-4 years $7 million/per tops.

    It’s these diamond-in-the-rough type deals that indeed are risky, but some are less-risky than others. My main concern, with any free agent pitcher really, is health, though.

    What about Matt Morris or Brad Radke???

  4. Patrick R. on October 11th, 2004 5:04 pm

    Radke isn’t bad, however, he is a year older than Clement, and already makes 10 million. I’m of the opinion he’s likely to resign with the Twinkies in any case. Further, he’s only an average groundball/flyball pitcher, which isn’t what the M’s need in the rotation. They got burned heavily by giving up too many flyballs (witness the tateriffic-ness of Moyer and Franklin), and they really need an extreme groundballer like Clement (who the last 3 years has a G/F ratio of 1.75).

  5. The Ancient Mariner on October 11th, 2004 5:05 pm

    Good point on adding a changeup; Lou’s insistence that M’s pitchers had to have a usable change was one of his rare contributions to our staff. I’d probably go somewhat higher than that on Clement, myself, for two reasons: 1) he’s the best health risk out there of the pitchers, and 2) groundball/strikeout pitchers are a rare and highly valuable breed. Count me as someone who thinks Clement has one more big step forward in him.

  6. Paul Covert on October 11th, 2004 5:30 pm

    Minor technicality, but Freddy’s 35.1 VORP was just while with Seattle. Adding in his Chicago numbers brings him to 53.4.

    As for Clement: Yes, $8-9M/year sounds reasonable, given the upside potential. I’d prefer to see them go hard after Beltre first, of course, but if they get Clement I won’t be too cynical about the offseason.

  7. djw on October 11th, 2004 5:41 pm

    Morris has managed to decline ever-so-slightly each year the last four years, which makes me a little twitchy about signing him. I agree wholeheartedly on Clement.

  8. Alex on October 11th, 2004 6:10 pm

    Amen to that, I think Clement along with Odalis Perez will be the most underrated FA starting pitchers. A staff of Moyer, Piniero, Meche, Madritch, and Clement would look mighty nice and I think it’s very realistic to think it might happen.

  9. John on October 11th, 2004 7:05 pm

    Re: Positive Paul’s (# 3) “Imagine what some time with Moyer and Price (if he’s still around – Chaves if Price isn’t) would do working a nasty change-up into his repertoire!”
    When GARCIA was being shopped around, “Imagine what OUR pitching coach could do with him” was a common utterance on one newsgroup after another.
    What is it that causes fans to think that their pitching coach is among the elite?
    Are PRICE and CHAVEZ that highly regarded among baseball followers outside of Puget Sound?

  10. stan on October 11th, 2004 9:52 pm

    Dave, assuming the Mariners get Clement, I would think that would result in a rotation of Madritsch, Meche, Piniero, Clement and with a question mark for #5. Would you go out and get another free agent or let Moyer, Franklin, or some unknown pitchers battle it out for the final spot in the rotation.

  11. Sub_mariner Al on October 11th, 2004 9:55 pm

    I think you are right on with Clement. We need to do something to get franklin either to the bullpen or to another team. Great writeup. As posted in #7 what about Odalis Perez??? I would take him if we couldnt get clement… it would give us 3 lefty’s in the rotation.

  12. Jerry on October 11th, 2004 10:12 pm

    I also like Clement. His perhipheral numbers are good, and suggest he could take the next step and become a legit ace. He has also been pitching in a pretty good hitters park (at least I always have thought of Wrigley as a good hitters park), and with a bullpen that blew a load of saves. These issues undoubtedly hurt his stats.

    He makes a lot of sense. Good risk/reward, not a ton of competition, and good upside. I would hope that the M’s would force him to remove that hedgehog from his chin though.

  13. jc on October 11th, 2004 11:10 pm

    Tell me why everyone thinks pinero will be back healthy?I think the powers to be are hiding this injury…maybe im a fool but i think we are all getting played for fools on this elbow blowout!!!

  14. tyler on October 11th, 2004 11:18 pm

    naw… that’s why he IS seattle. that grungy old-school goat is AWESOME! aside from that, i can tell you that he had unreal fantasy numbers early in the year (he was on my team) and remained, up till the final month of the season, my top non-Oswalt pitcher. (wish he were available… and he is their number 4 if everyone was healthy!)

    i’m going to stray a little from the Clement topic, but towards the Price comment from John. I do have to think that John in post 8 has a good point, about whether our coaching is a strength…

    but then, so much of coaching/teaching is finding the right mix. we can write till our fingers get calloused about who we should bring in as the manager… but we truly have no idea. I’ve had kids work very hard for me and not hard for another coach, and vice versa.

    With that in mind, remember that the truth of Price’s coaching ability probably lies somewhere between the hero of 2001 and the goat of 2004.

    4 years ago i went 16-4 in my first year of coaching baseball, and 17-3 in my hoops year. This last year I was 9-11 and 11-9. So does that make me a worse coach this year than last? i certainly hope not. And in fact, i felt it was more of an accomplishment with the 11-9 hoops team. They easily could have been 4-16.

    remember that… and know that it is being reported that if Melvin gets a job, Price goes with him… sometimes we need to apply the old adage (and i don’t know if this is a time), “be careful what you wish for.”

  15. tim on October 12th, 2004 12:27 am

    i like clement, too, but what do you guys think about Matsuzaka, the guy will carrol mentioned in UTK who throws the gyroball?

  16. Paul Molitor Cocktail on October 12th, 2004 12:28 am

    I don’t understand why Brian Price would follow Melvin. Even if he is fed up with Ms management, he has a good reputation (last year excepted) and could do better.

    My understanding is that Chris Bosio is not currently a pitching coach… I’ve heard positive things about him in the past. You could also try to talk Jamie into retiring 🙂

  17. Jim on October 12th, 2004 5:23 am

    While in Chicago this summer… I watched Clement pitch against Morris. The ball just jumps out of his hand. I would like to see him as a Mariner. By the way… the Cubs beat the Cards 6-5 that summer evening.

  18. Bela Txadux on October 12th, 2004 8:21 am

    Yo Dave,

    I’m with you %110 on Clement, and you state the case very succinctly and in detail. He won’t draw super high bidding; the Ms can be top dollar here without being nuts. As of today, Clement is slightly _better_ than Freddy, particularly because he keeps the ball in the park, unlike Garcia. But even better, Clement’s best three years are the last three, whereas Garcia’s best were his first three—I look for big declines for Garcia over the course of his deal, I’d have been extremely reluctant to sign him, and was tremendously relieved to see him dealt. Clement by contrast has a better than even chance to get _better_. He is the kind of pitcher I mentioned in another post, power pitcher on the wild side, especially a sinkerballer like Clement, but slowly sharpening control. Even a small improvement in his control at this point will pay major dividends. I hope the Ms sign the guy.

  19. PaulP on October 12th, 2004 9:14 am

    Back to the pitching coach thing. I think it’s as much Moyer as Price in teaching the changeup. Mostly from the standpoint of who is the best person in the majors to teach you a changeup? Probably Moyer. You might not listen to most people, but since the only reason Moyer succeeds is his changeup, you might actually try something new….

  20. Evan on October 12th, 2004 9:18 am

    After the success of Akinori Otsuka this year (he got my top IBA vote for NL RoY), Japanese relievers are likely to become very popular. Sure, Sasaki was good before, and Takastu is already here, but Otsuka wasn’t a guy with hype. I think everyone now knows that there are many great pitchers in Japan.

    I’d love to see Matsuzaka in an M’s uniform.

  21. James on October 12th, 2004 9:44 am

    I’m just gonna throw this out there as a bitter Cubs fan, who went to plenty of Matt Clement starts this year…

    He probably would have won 15 games this year if the Cubs could have scored for him at all.

    What makes you guys think the Mariners can do any better for him?

    If he’s smart, he’ll head for greener offensive pastures.

  22. John in NV on October 12th, 2004 10:21 am

    You’re right BUT our “pasture” is pretty green for pitching stats, too, though. FA pitchers have to look at Franklin and Co. and love the possibilities.

  23. Matt on October 12th, 2004 1:01 pm

    A player combination that would be interesting is Derek Lowe and Omar Visquel. Now, I stress AND, since Lowe is a ground ball pitcher, and having Jose “Let’s play catch with the nosebleed section” Lopez still playing short would be a BAD combination. I’ve heard Omar is quite willing to come back to Seattle, and he had quite a good year, proving our health concerns a bit paranoidal (why is that always only with free agents and never with our own staff?) He is getting older, but a year or two contract until Lobbing Lopez can mature a bit…

  24. The Ancient Mariner on October 12th, 2004 1:24 pm

    Omar was quoted recently as saying that now that Seattle’s in a rebuilding mode, he doesn’t want to come back anymore, since “I’ve done that once already.”

  25. Matt on October 12th, 2004 4:40 pm

    Hey, We’re not in rebuilding moHAHAHAHAHA! sorry, couldn’t even finish it. Oh well, I’ve been an M’s fan since 1985, so I’ve seen worse (though not at this price).

  26. James on October 12th, 2004 9:39 pm

    John… yeah, I know that. I’ve been to quite a few games at SafeCo.

    But I also saw Clement lose a ton of games last year where SafeCo Field wouldn’t have helped him at all.

    There were six-straight starts in June and July where his team didn’t score more than two runs for him.

    The Cubs were held to zero or one run in six of his 30 starts this year.

    Seven of his 12 losses came when he gave up three earned runs or less.

    SafeCo Field wouldn’t have done anything for him this year. Damn… I wish it were as simple as park effects… then the Cubs might still be playing right now.

    And since the Mariners had (have) an extremely worse offense, worse defense (though not by much) and just-as-unsettled bullpen, why would Clement go to the Mariners? Especially when there are better options out there, and teams that actually spend money.

    Besides, do you really want Bavasi overspending to get Clement to accept such a risk on his part?

    It’s fun to speculate about rotation possibilities, but the Mariners need to focus on getting some prime hitters (Beltran, Beltre, Drew) into the fold before Clement is even thought of.

  27. Adam S on October 13th, 2004 2:27 pm

    Having watched many Cubs games (40) and even more Mariners games, the Mariners have a much better defense than the Cubs. The Ms defense gets a bad rap because it isn’t as good as it was in 2003.

    I hope Clement does well where ever he signs. He seems to have this knack for pitching well and finding a way to lose. I’m not sure that his poor run support is random.