Clement’s Position

Dave · August 12, 2008 at 8:33 am · Filed Under Mariners 

For years, the question of whether Jeff Clement would stay behind the plate or move to 1B/DH has hung over his head. To his credit, he’s worked extremely hard to improve on his defensive issues, spending countless hours putting in as much work as he could. There’s no one who will ever accuse Clement of not putting in the effort to try and make himself a major league catcher.

It might be time to pull the plug, however. For all of his work, he’s still a really bad defender behind the plate. In 231 major league innings behind the plate, he’s allowed 4 passed balls, 15 wild pitches, and runners have been successful on 15 of 17 stolen base attempts. This is almost all due to the fact that he doesn’t have good footwork, so he struggles to get his body in front of balls in the dirt and he doesn’t get out of the crouch as fast as he needs to.

He’s spent years trying to improve, and he has to an extent, but at some point, you just have to say that he’s still got too far to go, and his time might be best served working on his offense. As a 1B/DH, he could take his work ethic to the batting cage or studying pitchers, rather than trying to make incremental improvements to become a passable major league defender behind the plate. Obviously, if Clement could catch, you’d want him to, because the bat would be far more valuable there. But, at some point, we’ll need to admit that “if” isn’t a realistic option, much like we don’t talk about moving Ibanez back behind the plate to increase the value of his bat.

Thanks to the depth at catcher in the organization, and the complete of lack of a major league ready first baseman, the blow to the M’s wouldn’t be as large as it might otherwise be.

Johjima is obviously here for the next few years, and even with his struggles this year, he’s not this bad. He’s probably a true talent .700 OPS guy, which makes him an okay part-time catcher, even if he’s now really overpaid for that role.

Rob Johnson, always a favorite of the organization for his work with pitchers and his attitude, is finally hitting the baseball down in Tacoma. He’s still got a long swing and he’s never going to be a good hitter, but his offense has improved to acceptable, which makes him a realistic option next year.

Then, there’s Adam Moore, a big kid with defensive question marks who can hit, even though he’s not in Clement’s company as an offensive prospect. He has more gap power than long ball power, and like every Mariner prospect, he swings at too many bad pitches, but there’s some potential there for him to be an offensive minded part-time catcher.

Future all-stars? No, but there’s several options that could be decent behind the plate.

Obviously, we’d all prefer that Clement be good enough defensively to stick behind the plate. But, at some point, we have to decide if that’s realistic. This will be a decision for the next GM, but right now, I have to say that I’m leaning towards moving him out from behind the plate. The M’s need his bat, and I’m not sure he needs the extra pressure of grinding against his naturally poor footwork slowing down his offensive development.

Comments

60 Responses to “Clement’s Position”

  1. diderot on August 12th, 2008 8:46 am

    Agree totally. Is there a franchise with fewer prospects at first base?
    By now it’s pretty clear that free agents simply aren’t going to come to Seattle at any price, unless they have no other offer. So let’s put the Teixiera love to rest, accept Clement at 1b for the foreseeable future and move on.

  2. DMZ on August 12th, 2008 8:51 am

    Except that the free agent thing isn’t at all true.

  3. msb on August 12th, 2008 8:59 am

    just out of curiosity, how many of those passed balls/wild pitches came catching Dickey?

  4. Evan on August 12th, 2008 9:07 am

    By now it’s pretty clear that free agents simply aren’t going to come to Seattle at any price, unless they have no other offer.

    You have no credible evidence of this at all. The M’s, for the most part, don’t offer the big free agents the money they want, and the team isn’t good.

  5. Safeco Hobo on August 12th, 2008 9:10 am

    In the past people have pointed out that his bat is far more valuable behind the plate than put into an easier position to fill like 1st or DH. But now that the orginization is finally realizing that they are more than just a few pieces away from being playoff contenders they have time to let some of these younger guys go for a season or two at different positions (ie: starting Morrow, moving Clement to 1st, and (ugh) trying Wlad in Center).

    Ignoring his defense at first (since we don’t know how he’ll do until they put him out there), what would be his upside and downside at that position? With his bat and onbase skills in the line-up a few more games a year, and a less beat up body could we be looking at like a 2008 Giambi (high on base, good power, high strike out, and kinda low average) for a possible upside?

    And finally, if a switch would be necessary for him to be the opening day 1st Baseman, what would the course of action be? Start getting some reps during infield this september, then some winter ball, and all of Spring Training? Would he be ready?

  6. robbbbbb on August 12th, 2008 9:10 am

    Not to mention that free agency isn’t the best way to build a team, anyway.

  7. eponymous coward on August 12th, 2008 9:49 am

    Johjima is obviously here for the next few years, and even with his struggles this year, he’s not this bad. He’s probably a true talent .700 OPS guy, which makes him an okay part-time catcher, even if he’s now really overpaid for that role.

    Really? He’s been awful pretty much the entire season (DMZ notes he’s been .188/.238/.265 since June 1). Has he just been incredibly unlucky ala Miguel Olivo circa 2005 (who pretty clearly was better than he seemed in Seattle), or is it possible he’s pulling a full Sexson and collapsing into uselessness?

  8. RaoulDuke37 on August 12th, 2008 9:50 am

    Can you give us a few historical, and modern, comparisons for your expectations of Clement as a 1B/DH.

    Are there many historical examples of a player improving offensively when moving from C to 1B/DH? (It was mentioned that he could focus more on hitting, and less on defense with such a move.)

  9. Dave on August 12th, 2008 9:51 am

    .228 batting average on balls in play with a 19.9% LD%. That’s not a collapse – that’s sample size variation.

  10. Jeff Sullivan on August 12th, 2008 10:00 am

    10% 06/07 HR/FB% –> 3.7% 08 HR/FB%. It’s kind of a collapse. Just not the thorough sort.

  11. Dave on August 12th, 2008 10:10 am

    It’s a regression, not a collapse. He lost some power as he got older, which isn’t a shock, but he’s not a .216 hitter.

  12. TotallyNotWilly on August 12th, 2008 10:13 am

    Clement had 3 passed balls, 1 error and 2 stolen bases against him in his last game. I don’t think it’s fair to bring up stats so badly skewed by one game…a game pitched by a knuckleballer…to make this point. I’m not able to judge Clement’s footwork, but he only had one PB in 28 games prior to Sunday this season. He also hit much better at C than at DH (.756 OPS vs.488). Unless he projects to be at least an average-hitting 1B, and his problems at DH are sample size, I think we need to keep working with Jeff at catcher.

  13. abender20 on August 12th, 2008 10:15 am

    I have no doubt that Clement at first makes sense for this organizatoin, but would that actually happen?

  14. Dave on August 12th, 2008 10:15 am

    As for catcher to first base conversions that have worked, there’s Carlos Delgado, Mike Sweeney, Phil Nevin, Dave Nilsson, Todd Zeile, Scott Hatteberg…

    Sweeney’s probably the best example of a guy who moved from catcher and saw his offensive level jump dramatically. Up through 1998, he’d struggled quite a bit, but a full time move to 1B/DH in 1999 saw him turn into an all-star overnight.

  15. edgar for mayor on August 12th, 2008 10:16 am

    Poor Clement. Its always sad to see some one try so hard and no succeed. But on the plus side, keeping Clement out of the catcher position should dramatically extend his career and that is always a good thing.

    I am for the move, but I also wouldn’t mind waiting one more year to decide.

  16. NBarnes on August 12th, 2008 10:28 am

    First basemen and DHs that can hit like Clement are really just not that hard to find, no matter how hard it’s been for the Mariners to realize that the solution is not named Sexson and Vidro. Clement as a catcher may, someday, be a real asset to a playoff team. Clement as a first baseman is a useful but expendable part on a team with other playoff-caliber players. The Mariners need the former in the long term much much more than they need the latter in the short term.

    That said, I am not a scout or a player development expert, so Dave may be entirely correct and I quite wrong about the various costs and benefits of the issue. But I just can’t see trading Clement the C for Clement the 1b as worthwhile.

    For another perspective… if Bavasi had traded Clement for Matt LaPorta in February (assuming that Sexson had been dumped on the Giants) would that have been a good trade? I’m… not actually sure.

  17. Evan on August 12th, 2008 10:34 am

    I always forget about Carlos Delgado’s conversion beacuse he went by Angel Delgado when he first came up (which was funny, because the Canadian broadcasters never pronounce hispanic names correctly, so they kept calling him angel).

  18. Evan on August 12th, 2008 10:35 am

    Clement as a first baseman is a useful but expendable part on a team with other playoff-caliber players. The Mariners need the former in the long term much much more than they need the latter in the short term.

    As long as he’s cheap, Clement at first base is still pretty valuable.

  19. hoser on August 12th, 2008 10:36 am

    The leaning toward may eventually fall into conclusion.

    On the other hand, with 3 of the 4 passed balls in the last game with a knuckleballer and what at least some observers saying there should have been another caught stealing in the same game, it seems like we have a small sample size opportunity. With Lopez catching the runner on Sunday, Clement would have 3 CS out of 17. I assume the minimum you would really want is 25%, but that doesn’t seem out of reach.

    The question seems to be: can we give him another year to work on his defensive catching skills when his bat doesn’t seem to need any more AAA honing?

    I personally hope they will be competitive next year, but don’t expect them to be in contention. So I could live with another year of data, particularly when there doesn’t seem to be anyone in the pipeline with anywhere near the offensive skills.

  20. eponymous coward on August 12th, 2008 10:50 am

    Well, 8 million for a backup C is much better than 8 million for a complete disaster, I guess. Of course, the problem is that he might be a true talent .700 OPS player in 2008, but it’s an open question what he’ll be by 2011.

    We can only hope that Johjima decides to do what Kaz did, and return to Japan before he gets all 24 million in paychecks…

    Anyway, yeah, I think Clement should be moved to 1B, because a) it’s just not looking like he’s taking hold at C, and b) if the Mariners are to have ANY shot of contending in the next couple of years, they are going to have to find some reasonable options for their many roster holes that don’t involve handing multi-zillion dollar contracts to free agents in their decline phase. It would be easier for them to have good options for LF/DH if they didn’t have to patch 1B as well.

  21. milquetoast on August 12th, 2008 11:21 am

    Would it be possible for us to trade our young athletic, sweet-hitting “catcher” to a team lacking one for their young and less-athletic but hard-hitting first basemen? Or: is Clement as a 1B any better than other, more “traditional” 1B prospects? And, is it obvious to other organizations that Clement won’t make it as a catcher?

  22. okobojicat on August 12th, 2008 12:01 pm

    Dave:

    As for catcher to first base conversions that have worked, there’s Carlos Delgado, Mike Sweeney, Phil Nevin, Dave Nilsson, Todd Zeile, Scott Hatteberg…

    You forgot Morneau, who was a C in the minor leagues. Still not sure what talent they had sitting there for moving him.

    And maybe more importantly for me, you included Nevin and Zeile, who moved to 3B. I understand that Beltre is down there, but I believe that Clement is athletic enough to fit in over there. He will never ever be great defensively, but he might eventually be average, as Zeile was.

  23. mjw on August 12th, 2008 12:33 pm

    First time poster here, with a comment on Catcher development.

    I recently re-read an early 80’s Bill James Abstract where he looked at aging patterns of Catchers. His results, if I remember correctly, were that catchers who hit as well as good outfielders and first basemen when they come up, had shorter careers, with less value per year as a batter than the other hitters. The catchers who hit as well as bad outfielders had longer careers than the outfielders. His conclusion was that you should take your good hitting/poor fielding catcher and put him in the field – it would help his development as a hitter. The good hitting/good fielding catcher becomes an all star/MVP candidate, and the poor hitting/good fielding catcher can always find a job.

    With Clement, he has 2-4 more years of development as a hitter, and moving him now might add some top end to his projection.

  24. dnc on August 12th, 2008 1:12 pm

    22 – I can’t see Clement at third base. At all.

  25. cody on August 12th, 2008 1:14 pm

    You forgot Morneau, who was a C in the minor leagues. Still not sure what talent they had sitting there for moving him.

    Uh… Joe Mauer?

    As for Clement at third, that kinda makes sense. A lot of catchers have 3B as their second position. But Clement doesn’t have a great arm, and he probably doesn’t have outstanding range, so that probably won’t work out.

    But than again there’s no real point in trying it, seeing as we have Beltre over there and we have a gaping hole at first base/DH.

  26. JMB on August 12th, 2008 1:38 pm

    Uh… Joe Mauer?

    Wooooosh…

  27. Bretticus on August 12th, 2008 1:49 pm

    Is it possible that his PB and WP numbers are artificially inflated from having to catch R.A. Dickey when he starts? I mean even good catchers have trouble with the knuckleball.

  28. Benne on August 12th, 2008 1:53 pm

    You don’t replace Beltre with a Todd Zeile clone at 3B. You just don’t.

  29. Five Number Ones on August 12th, 2008 2:14 pm

    How many negative runs is a passed ball, wild pitch or stolen base worth? Catchers don’t field hit balls nearly as much as any other position, so outside of calling the game(whatever that actually entails), catching pitches, fielding the occasional bunt or foul ball, and throwing out basestealers a catcher doesn’t really do all that much defensively.

    My point is that Clement might be twice as bad as an average catcher, but if catchers’ defensive contributions are very small compared to other position players who cover way more ground and see way more balls it might not make enough of a difference to take Clement’s bat out from behind the plate, where a big bat is much more valuable.

  30. eponymous coward on August 12th, 2008 2:14 pm

    You might if Beltre tells you it will be a cold day in hell if he resigns with the Mariners, and you think you’d get more immediate return from a trade than the draft picks you’d get from him declining arbitration.

    Otherwise, your in-house option is probably Tuiasosopo. Uh, no.

  31. hoser on August 12th, 2008 2:15 pm

    Benne – Right, I mean that would be almost as bad as replacing Edgar at DH with Vidro – just wrong.

  32. Dave on August 12th, 2008 2:16 pm

    Actually, your in house option is to move Lopez to 3rd.

  33. JMHawkins on August 12th, 2008 2:53 pm

    Actually, your in house option is to move Lopez to 3rd.

    And fill 2B with OHud or Ellis on the FA market. (but of course, they’ll never come here, just like Sexson, Beltre, Wilkerson and J. Guillen didn’t, so why bother…)

    If the M’s had to fill 2B from inside in 2009, hmm. The Tugster? Chen? Can Tui play 2B? Would Triunfel be ready next year? Dave has him arriving in 2009 in the Future Forty, but I’m not sure if that means out of Spring Training, or a September Cup O’ Joe.

  34. dchappelle on August 12th, 2008 2:55 pm

    I can’t say I agree at this point. I still think he might work out as a catcher, and I’m not convinced he has a 1B/DH bat. Sure, much better than anything else we have, but compared to other bats around the minors?

    Afterall, he did catch 6 of 27 attempts in Tacoma, which while still paltry, isn’t the current disaster. Likewise he had 22 PBs in 173 minor league games (3 in 30 this year). Or about Jorge Posada like minors numbers.

    More than anything, I think his current stats just say he should’ve been left in the minors longer if we really wanted him to be a catcher.

  35. terry on August 12th, 2008 3:00 pm

    I’d take .280/.350/.480 from my DH/1b and that’s probably not out of line with what we should expect from Clement.

    Hatteberg busted his tail late in the twilight of his career to become a neutral to a slightly plus defender at first base. A younger fellow with similar work ethic ought to be able to do the same thing.

  36. seattleslew on August 12th, 2008 3:06 pm

    Speaking of hoping guys develop: [ot]

  37. Karen on August 12th, 2008 3:23 pm

    Clement has been jerked around by the organization this season with 11 games at DH and 3 DNP in April/May, with only 3 games as starting catcher in that period of time, and spent time in Tacoma the latter half of May and first half of June.

    In June he caught 7 games — Bedard twice, Silva twice, Hernandez and RA Dickey once, and Batista once. Dickey was a problem, and both Batista and Hernandez uncorked WPs and did the usual pitcher’s part towards SBs. Relief pitchers Lowe and Green were also difficult re: SBs and WPs.

    This pattern of matchups with certain pitchers, and the attendant problems, was nearly identical in both July and August.

    My conclusion: I don’t agree with Dave’s conclusion, at this point in time. Considering what disarray the team and the entire organization has been in this whole season, I’m not surprised to see such floundering by a rookie catcher, and I think he should have some one-on-one tutoring during the offseason by a defensively-skilled retired veteran catcher (Valle? Wilson?).

    I think Jeff Clement hasn’t gotten a whole lot of help from his pitchers in reducing the number of stolen bases, nor have most of the pitchers he’s caught — starters and relievers alike — had a whole lot of control over the pitches they uncork at high speed in the dirt resulting in WPs — and of course, those WP/PBs with RA Dickey (he’s caught about 1/3 of Dickey’s games)

    After Monday’s game Clement probably needed a tranquilizer.

  38. Jeff Nye on August 12th, 2008 3:24 pm

    Honestly, the idea of moving Clement away from catcher pains me, because he could be such a wonderful asset there for the team if he could improve his defense.

    But Dave’s right about the catching depth in the organization; it’s one of the few places where the Mariners could actually leverage a strength right now and avoid another free-agent first baseman disaster like Sexson.

    We need Clement’s bat, and if his bat could improve even more by moving him to a less demanding defensive position, I think you have to do it if he hasn’t made a huge leap defensively by the end of this year (which I don’t really expect).

  39. TomG on August 12th, 2008 3:49 pm

    Then, there’s Adam Moore, a big kid with defensive question marks

    Really? I’ve heard nothing but good things about his defense. I think the worst assessment I’ve read is that he’s already an average (by major league standards) defensive catcher.

  40. eponymous coward on August 12th, 2008 3:53 pm

    Actually, your in house option is to move Lopez to 3rd.

    Fair enough (I’ve argued for this in the past, myself).

  41. galaxieboi on August 12th, 2008 3:55 pm

    This may be one of those situations where we look beyond the numbers and look to the scouting reports and our own eyes. If Clement looks that bad trying to field his position than a move would seem to be a forgone conclusion. I’d probably give him at least the off season to work on it with instructors, but at some point, like previously mentioned his development as a hitter may be stunted.

  42. gwangung on August 12th, 2008 4:04 pm

    I’ll make a guess and predict the organization will dither about this. They are going to wait, wait, wait until way past the last possible moment to decide, and thus forego any options or improvements.

    (Another organizational flaw: there has to be consensus to decide, which means a) they aren’t nimble in decision making, b) they wait far too long and c) there are too many cooks in the kitchen).

  43. Breadbaker on August 12th, 2008 4:23 pm

    Is it impossible to consider him in LF? It’s not like we have a lot of OF options right now.

  44. certaindoom on August 12th, 2008 4:23 pm

    I am pretty much annoyed at everyone that keeps wanting to change this guys job around before he even has one.

    Can he have please a full season catching before we judge what he can and cannot do?

    That won’t happen, cause it would make too much sense.

    Meanwhile keep jacking around a young guy’s career, and what ever you do, don’t let him get settled into a regular position.

    I think Bill James wrote that this is a hallmark of losing organizations.

  45. Jim_H on August 12th, 2008 4:44 pm

    I like Clement at Catcher. I think he’ll settle down behind the plate and be an adequate defender, with an offensive plus at the position.

  46. scraps on August 12th, 2008 4:53 pm

    I think he’ll settle down behind the plate and be an adequate defender

    Okay; but based on what?

    Can he have please a full season catching before we judge what he can and cannot do?

    Clement has caught 173 games thus far. Can we start judging, or do you want to move the bar?

    Meanwhile keep jacking around a young guy’s career, and what ever you do, don’t let him get settled into a regular position. I think Bill James wrote that this is a hallmark of losing organizations.

    “Don’t let him get settled in”? They haven’t changed his position once! Bill James wasn’t writing about organizations that gave a guy a shot at a position when he was young and then moved him to an easier one. Tons of players get moved when they’re young; organizations try to get them to play the toughest position they can, in full knowledge that they might have to move them. Dale Murphy was a catcher. Gary Sheffield was a shortstop.

  47. Edgar For Pres on August 12th, 2008 5:48 pm

    I don’t know where to look it up how many of his passed balls are knuckleball related but it would be interesting if much of his problems are Dickey-related? The SB/CS is worrying but that hopefully can be improved upon. At least SB aren’t that valuable right…

    Also, I have a little bit of a tough time really seeing him sticking at 1B/DH. Do you really think his bat will be good enough for those positions? I think we might all be a little optimistic on his offensive projections. I think you’ve got to try to get him to work on his defense and hopefully become a passable catcher.

    Side question… Keeping Piazza at catcher was a good or a bad move?

  48. Jim_H on August 12th, 2008 6:29 pm

    I think he’ll settle down behind the plate and be an adequate defender

    Okay; but based on what?

    Rocket Science?

    Jeebus, do you have to have a statistic to back everything up around here?

    It’s just an opinion.. a gut feeling? Based on personal observation? Do I fail?

  49. Karen on August 12th, 2008 6:43 pm

    Edgar for Pres, from what I could see looking at Clement’s game log this season, his SB/CS problems are specific-pitcher related, namely Hernandez, Silva, and Batista, and a handful of the relievers (Lowe, Batista again, for example). Those pitchers uncork an inordinate number of WPs compared to anyone else on the staff.

    As I said in a previous comment, Clement’s caught about 1/3 of Dickey’s games this season (the latter part of the season, obviously), and in some games he has absolutely no problem, and in others….well, I guess Dickey’s knuckleball is practically uncatchable…which doesn’t bode well for PBs or WPs, or SBs for that matter.

  50. Paul B on August 12th, 2008 6:44 pm

    Maybe Clement needs help catching Dickey. Or maybe Burke should be a designated catcher for Dickey.

  51. G-Man on August 12th, 2008 8:42 pm

    I think I like the 1B idea. Working with the catching depth makes sense, especially since this org seems to have a high probability of botching any trade. True, I am not giving any slack to the improvement a new GM should (I pray) bring.

    But my real question is, whither Johjima? I have been hoping for the Sasaki-type retirement like someone else mentioned. I just can’t see him sitting on the bench for two more years.

  52. John in L.A. on August 12th, 2008 10:12 pm

    Jeebus, do you have to have a statistic to back everything up around here?

    He didn’t ask for a statistic. He asked for a reason.

    The fact that that seems unreasonable to you says a lot, doesn’t it?

    It’s just an opinion.. a gut feeling? Based on personal observation? Do I fail?

    I think what your missing is… why should your gut feeling mean anything to anyone else? Not to be offensive, same thing goes for me.

    If it is based on personal observation… cool. What personal observations? What did you observe that made you think that? Did he remind you of a specific player in a specific way or something?

    Do you see how it would be a little frustrating for someone to come in with a well-supported opinion, but you just say “Nah” without either supporting your argument or refuting his? That’s useless to everybody.

  53. Jim_H on August 13th, 2008 1:22 am

    If it is based on personal observation… cool. What personal observations?

    The same personal observations we all make watching the games every day?

    What did you observe that made you think that? Did he remind you of a specific player in a specific way or something?

    No

    Do you see how it would be a little frustrating for someone to come in with a well-supported opinion, but you just say “Nah” without either supporting your argument or refuting his? That’s useless to everybody

    Nope.. it doesn’t frustrate me one bit when someone expresses an opinion that differs from mine. I don’t see why it should bother you so much either.

    I’m not trying to win a debate here. Short of having a crystal ball that shows varying versions of the future, no-one here or anywhere else knows how Clement will do at Catcher, 1B, DH or anywhere else, regardless of what other player he might look like, or smell like or any other statistic you can throw out there. Not without letting him live a little bit more of the experience.

    Wait, lets try this.

    I think we need a larger statistical sample size before we make the determination that he is unsuitable for playing Catcher (or more suited to play 1B, or whatever the assertion is…)

    Additionally, I like the idea of having a catcher with his offensive potential. It leaves 1B open to (hopefully) bring in someone (in free agency) with some power.

  54. CMC_Stags on August 13th, 2008 5:42 am

    Here’s what I can find on Baseball-Reference for Clement’s Defensive stats…

    Year Age Tm Lg Lvl Aff Pos G PO A E DP FP RFg PB
    +—-+—-+—+—+—+—+—+—-+—-+—-+—-+—-+—–+—–+—+
    2005 21 WIS MWL A SEA C 20 148 13 2 4 .988 8.05 5
    2006 22 SAN TEX AA SEA C 12 82 4 2 0 .977 7.17 1
    2006 22 TAC PCL AAA SEA C 37 273 11 2 4 .993 7.68 0
    2007 23 TAC PCL AAA SEA C 74 484 29 3 4 .994 6.93 13
    2008 24 TAC PCL AAA SEA C 30 206 11 2 1 .991 7.23 3 6 of 27 CS
    +—-+—-+—+—+—+—+—+—-+—-+—-+—-+—-+—–+—–+—+
    Level Totals A C 20 148 13 2 4 .988 8.05 5
    AA C 12 82 4 2 0 .977 7.17 1
    AAA C 141 963 51 7 9 .993 7.19 16
    +—————–+—+——-+—-+—-+—-+—-+—-+—–+—–+—+
    Position Totals C 173 1193 68 11 13 .991 7.29 22

    And here are Clement’s stats as a C in the Show…

    Year Ag Tm Lg Pos G PO A E DP FP GS Inn PB WP SB CS
    +————–+—+—-+——+—-+—-+—-+—–+—-+——+—+—+—-+—+
    2008 24 SEA AL C 30 154 6 1 0 .994 27 231.0 4 14 15 2

    And Rob Johnson’s defensive stats as a catcher, who is “a favorite of the organization for his work with pitchers and his attitude.”

    Year Age Tm Lg Lvl Aff Pos G PO A E DP FP RFg PB
    +—-+—-+—+—+—+—+—+—-+—-+—-+—-+—-+—–+—–+—+
    2005 21 WIS MWL A SEA C 75 489 65 8 4 .986 7.39 11
    2005 21 INL CAL A+ SEA C 19 131 19 0 1 1.000 7.89 1
    2006 22 TAC PCL AAA SEA C 74 466 48 6 2 .988 6.95 11
    2007 23 TAC PCL AAA SEA C 69 430 34 6 5 .987 6.72 8
    2008 24 TAC PCL AAA SEA C 76 473 41 8 4 .985 6.76 18 25 of 69 CS
    +—-+—-+—+—+—+—+—+—-+—-+—-+—-+—-+—–+—–+—+
    Level Totals A C 75 489 65 8 4 .986 7.39 11
    A+ C 19 131 19 0 1 1.000 7.89 1
    AAA C 219 1369 123 20 11 .987 6.81 37
    +—————–+—+——-+—-+—-+—-+—-+—-+—–+—–+—+
    Position Totals C 313 1989 207 28 16 .987 7.02 49

    So Clement has a total of 203 games catching professionally and has allowed 26 passed balls and in 2008 has caught 9 of 34 attempts at a stolen base. Johnson has caught 313 games and has allowed 49 passed balls and in 2008 has caught 25 of 69 attempts at a stolen base. I don’t know where to get a good source of Catcher ERA which would be useful as Clement and Johnson spent most of 2005-2008 as teammates so it would be a useful tool in the comparitive analysis of their catching skills.

    Based on these statistics, Clement is a more effective catcher than Johnson with regards to errors and passed balls with (in 2008) Johnson having the stronger arm when it comes to throwing out base-runners. As Clement has out-hit Johnson every stop of the way, I think the organization owes it to itself to give Clement the rest of this year and the first half of next year to try to leave Clement at catcher as he has so much more value there.

    Assuming Clement sticks at catcher, the M’s should be able to find a trade partner who will take Johnson in return for a hitter with a higher ceiling than Clement that will play LF, 1B, and/or DH.

    And before I finish, here are Adam Moore’s stats from B-R:

    Year Age Tm Lg Lvl Aff Pos G PO A E DP FP RFg PB
    +—-+—-+—+—+—+—+—+—-+—-+—-+—-+—-+—–+—–+—+
    2006 22 EVR NWL A- SEA C 10 80 8 1 0 .989 8.80 2
    2006 22 WIS MWL A SEA C 31 252 26 2 3 .993 8.97 4
    2007 23 HDT CAL A+ SEA C 101 683 64 8 5 .989 7.40 21

  55. wsm on August 13th, 2008 6:52 am

    I’m not even close to being ready to give up on Clement as a catcher. The same sample that says he’s a bad major league catcher also says he’s a bad major league hitter. I don’t believe either is the case. I love the numbers CMC put up there. Clement doesn’t look so bad at all in the minors.

    Catching for RA Dickey has definitely skewed Clement’s stats. Most catchers don’t have a prayer at throwing out a guy stealing on a 70 mph pitch. The pop-to-pop time there is just too long.

    If Clement is even remotely adequate behind the plate, he should stay there. Catching is a natural platoon position and when your starter is a lefty and your backup is a righty, you can really make an impact offensively.

    The difference between Johjima’s offensive output and a decent first baseman is huge. Sacrificing a little defense to get that extra offense is worth it. Really, I’m not even sure Clement is that much worse than Joh. If Clement’s your DH and Joh’s your cather, how much better are you defensively? Not much, I’d say. Probably not at all if you factor in pitcher-catcher rapport. Now compare the offense of those two with, say, the offense of Clement and Adam Dunn. I’ll take that any day of the week.

  56. scraps on August 13th, 2008 7:29 am

    I’m not even close to being ready to give up on Clement as a catcher. The same sample that says he’s a bad major league catcher also says he’s a bad major league hitter. I don’t believe either is the case.

    Except his minor league record and observation tell us he’s a good hitter who just needs time, while his minor league record and observation tell us he’s struggling to learn very slowly to be a catcher and isn’t yet close to being adequate. There’s reason to think he’ll make the leap as a hitter, but there’s no reason to think he’ll make the leap as a catcher: just hope.

    I thought we were all tired of this organization making decisions based on hope, based on the best possible outcome.

  57. CMC_Stags on August 13th, 2008 8:18 am

    Scraps-

    Where does “his minor league record and observation tell us he’s struggling to learn very slowly to be a catcher?” In looking at the numbers, Clement has fewer Passed Balls per Game and a higher fielding percentage (.991 in the minors and .994 in the majors compared to .987 in the minors)* than Johnson. Johnson has a higher throw out rate this year – 25 of 69 for 36% – compared to Clement’s combined 2008 line of 8 for 44 (2-17 in the majors and 6-27 in Tacoma. I couldn’t do math in my post above) for 18%. If the team leaves him at a Catcher, it’s isn’t based on hope, it’s based on the fact that they think he can be at least an average MLB catcher with a well above average bat. That would result in a player who can add wins to the team every year.

    I’m not sure how much above average his bat will be at DH or 1B. A good team would try to leave him at the most difficult defensive position he can handle and it’s not statistically clear to me that he can’t handle catching as well as Joh/Johnson or anyone else the M’s have in their system.

    Dave/Scraps/all – where are you finding other data that shows that Clement is a below average catcher? In looking through Clement’s MiLB profile, he had a 27% throw out rate in 2007 on 74 attempts. Beyond that I can’t find much else without digging through game logs. There must be some place to find data backing up the assertion that Clement is a poor defensive catcher.

    * Fielding percentage in this case is not anti-knowledge, it’s one of the few empirical metrics we have for him in the minors. I would argue that it’s also very useful when comparing him to Rob Johnson as they have – by and large – played for the same team at the same time throughout their careers so they should have similar team/park/official scorer biases paying into their numbers. The only thing it doesn’t control for is if they caught specific pitchers (with Clement getting the “easier” assignments), but I’m willing to live with that for the time being.

  58. scraps on August 13th, 2008 9:47 am

    I shouldn’t have said “minor league record,” and stuck with “observation”.

    That said, a 27% throwout rate on 74 attempts in 74 games — is that right? I have 74 games, but I can’t verify the attempts — at AAA is not good. That means they’re running on him a lot, and doing pretty well at it, at a level of ball where, if he’s promising, he ought to be doing well. Instead, it seems that AAA teams are confident they can run off him.

  59. CMC_Stags on August 13th, 2008 10:15 am

    From Clement’s MiLB 2007 Highlights:

    “spent the [2007] season with AAA Tacoma, appearing in 74 games at catcher and 51 at DH…threw out 27% of baserunners (54 SB, 74 ATT), 7th among all catchers in the PCL with at least 72 games…had .994 fielding percentage (3 E, 516 TC)…”

    His 2005 and 2006 highlights don’t mention his defense at all.

  60. eponymous coward on August 14th, 2008 10:02 am

    I don’t know where to get a good source of Catcher ERA which would be useful as Clement and Johnson spent most of 2005-2008 as teammates so it would be a useful tool in the comparitive analysis of their catching skills.

    Catcher ERA is a USELESS tool in comparing catching skills. It’s based a) on ERA, which has problems because it mixes team defensive ability + pitcher ability (plz see sidebar link on “Evaluating Defense”, kthxbye), and b) doesn’t show up as a repeatable skill for catchers (meaning that low CERA one year doesn’t repeat any more often in subsequent years than random chance would dictate).

    Clement’s ability as a C right now is actually pretty easy to figure out. Clement has thrown out 8 of 50 stealing attempts so far this year between his time in AAA and MLB- an 84% success rate against. Tim Raines, one of the best base stealers of all time, had an 85% success rate. Rickey Henderson’s lifetime success rate was 81%. If the average AAA and MLB lineup is getting HOF-caliber success rates off of your C, he’s a defensive liability. Now, his AAA rates in 2007 were better, but “7th in the PCL” does not suggest that he’s particularly GOOD, especially since mid-level in AAA probably means not-so-good in MLB.

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