How Important Is Matt Clement?

The Boston Globe ran an article on Matt Clement today, the various points I want to emphasize being highlighted below:

Clement long has been a perplexing case, someone with the tools of a No. 1, the execution of a No. 2 or 3, and the win total of a No. 4 or 5. He averaged fewer than 12 wins in three seasons in Chicago despite ERAs of 3.60, 4.11, and 3.68.

Clement’s 2004 season, his third in Chicago, could be viewed as a three-act play.
Act 1, character introduction and setup: Clement, healthy and at ease, began the season 5-1 with a 2.29 ERA.
Act 2, complications, conflict, reversal of fortune: In 16 starts between May 12 and July 31, Clement went just 3-9 despite a 3.31 ERA. In seven of those 16 games the Cubs scored two or fewer runs, including four shutouts.
“Then he had a couple bad outings down the stretch and everybody said he’s kind of lost it,” said Chicago righthander Mark Prior, who along with Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, Greg Maddux, and Clement formed one of baseball’s elite rotations.
Act 3, resolution: Between Aug. 1 and the end of the season, Clement — under the stress of meager offensive help, a near trade, an again-pregnant wife, the approaching expiration of his contract, and a pennant race — went 1-3 with a 6.10 ERA in eight appearances. He couldn’t make it out of the third inning Sept. 7 against Montreal or Sept. 20 vs. Florida.
He’d strained a trapezius muscle — the one that runs between the neck and shoulder — and attempted to pitch through it. In his six-year professional career, he’d missed just one start — in September 2001 when struck on the wrist by a Brian Jordan line drive. He wasn’t about to sit now.

The Cubs averaged 3.97 runs in his starts. Conversely, the Sox gave Curt Schilling an American League-best 7.54, and Lowe the league’s next-highest total at 7.29.
In 16 of Clement’s 30 starts, the Cubs scored three runs or fewer. They plated 27 total runs in those 16 games, in which he went 1-13 with a 4.24 ERA.
In 14 starts in which the club managed more than three runs, he was 8-0 with a 3.08 ERA.

“Matt Clement has probably the most electric stuff on our staff, period,” said Kevin Millar, Clement’s teammate in 2001 in Florida. “He has, for a righthander, as nasty of a sinker as you’re going to find. And probably one of the best sliders in baseball. That’s the honest-to-God truth.
“Now, you’ve got to take that to the next level. You’re coming here, and this is East Coast baseball now. You’re not pitching for the Padres, you’re not pitching for the Marlins, you’re not pitching for the Lovable Losers. [Chicago] is a great place to play, a great city. You’re coming here and you’ve got to win and you’ve got to beat the Yankees. That’s what it’s about when you put on a Red Sox uniform.”

Matt Clement has a very good chance to be our ace the entire season. What with Curt Schilling not getting any younger and currently being brought along slow because of his injury and the flu, even if he returns to pitch all season, he could concievably put up an ERA around 3.50 while not horrible is not ace status. Then you have David Wells, into his 40s, who his last year in the AL in 2003, had a 4.14 ERA. While I would take that from him this year, that’s not ace status.
You then have Wade Miller who could be an ace, but will miss at least April and could miss up to half the season before returning and throwing up goose eggs, but aces don’t last just half a season. Then you have Tim Wakefield who is not an ace. A starter, but not an ace. Bronson Arroyo has the chance to be an ace but right now best case scenario we are looking and a solid #3 and ace reliever for Arroyo.
That leaves Matt Clement who has the most stuff out of anyone in the rotation and if Jason Varitek can work his magic and he can sustain Act One of his 2004 Cubs season for the Red Sox, we’re talking Cy Young. We’re talking 25 wins. Now that’s an ace.
Matt Clement‘s WHIP fell all the way from 1.65 to 1.20 in 2002 but has risen ever since then to 1.23 and 1.28. If he can stay in the 1.25 range, we’re happy. He has had two K/9 seasons over 9.00 in his career – 2002 and 2004. Those two seasons happen to be the only ones with ERA’s under 4.00, so it’s imperative he keeps that K rate high. His W/9 has been under 4.00 for three years running, so we can be comfortable that he won’t walk a ton for us.
Clement’s ERA before the All-Star break of 2004 was a scintillating 2.91 while it rose to not-quite Derek Lowe status of 5.09 post All-Star break. Can you imagine a 2.91 ERA on the Red Sox? With our offense? Goodness. As for the 5.09 ERA after, we can help that out by not keeping him in games so long like Dusty Baker loves, nor will he have that nagging injury that was described in the Globe article. While Clement’s season could swing either way, if it swings the right way, we’ve got a possible Cy Young winner on our hands, and that’s certainly not a bad thing to have.
I apologize for the lateness of this article. I always try to make myself post every other day, and I skipped yesterday. I also own MVN and MVN just acquired All-Baseball so most of my waking and non-class time has been spent on that. If anyone would like to submit a guest column (you can of course promote your website if you have one) just shoot me an e-mail with the article, and your name. My e-mail is found in the “About/Contact Evan” up on the left.