Oh, My Darling Clement

The Red Sox are going to sign Matt Clement to a 3-year contract worth 25.5 million. Clement chose the Sox over the Angels in part because the family resides in Pennsylvania (he lives in Butler, PA). Clement is 30-years of age and while he never reached his full potential that he had as a Padre (his potential was so high the Padres turned down a Clement for Randy Johnson deal) he has evolved into a solid starter and his last three years offer great optimism that he can improve on those years with the Cubs.
Ever since leaving the Padres and sojourning in Florida for a year, Clement has gotten better as a Cub. You can’t cry out that the home park helped Clement’s statistics because the Cubs in 2004 had a Park Factor of 1.123, while the Red Sox had a Factor of 1.120, and keep in mind this is with the Red Sox’s vaunted Fenway offense, while the Cubs had a middling offense. Park Factor compares the rate of stats at home vs. the rate of stats on the road. A rate higher than 1.000 favors the hitter. Below 1.000 favors the pitcher. Park Factor = ((home Runs Scored + home Runs Against)/(home Games)) / ((road Runs Scored + road Runs Against)/(road Games)).
The following is Clement’s career statistics.


YEAR AGE  W  L  ERA GS  CG  IP     H
1998  24   2  0 4.61 2   0  13.2    15
1999  25  10 12 4.48 31  0  180.2  190
2000  26  13 17 5.14 34  0  205.0  194
2001  27  9  10 5.05 31  0  169.1  172
2002  28  12 11 3.60 32  3  205.0  162
2003  29  14 12 4.11 32  2  201.2  169
2004  30  9  13 3.68 30  0  181.2  155
TOT. 7yr. 69 75 4.34 192 5 1156.0  1057 
R   ER  HR  BB  SO   H/9  W/9  K/9  WHIP
8   7    0   7  13   9.9  4.6  8.6  1.65
106 90  18  86  135  9.5  4.3  6.7  1.53
131 11  22 125  170  8.5  5.5  7.5  1.56
102 95  15  85  134  9.1  4.5  7.1  1.52
84  82  18  85  215  7.1  3.7  9.4  1.20
100 92  22  79  171  7.5  3.5  7.6  1.23
79  74  23  77  190  7.7  3.8  9.5  1.28
610 557 118 544 1028 8.2  4.2  8.0  1.38

Clement’s sub-.500 record has some Sox fans wondering what all the fuss is about. Here are a few reasons why the Sox liked him: Clement was ninth in the majors last season in hits per nine innings at 7.71, ahead of Martinez (8.00) and Schilling (8.18). He was sixth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.45), just ahead of Martinez (9.41) and Schilling (8.06). His walks per nine innings (3.83) was 12th best in the league. Command and control, not stuff, have kept Clement from achieving greatness, and at age 30, he may well be a late bloomer. (Boston Globe)

Most people are saying that Clement will never succeed because of his walk-rate. Well, it hasn’t been a problem for the last three years, and he was twelfth in the NL in walk rate this past year. So let’s not worry about his control. We’d definitely be worrying if it was 2001, because in 2000, Clement walked an astounding 125 batters. Pure insanity. But he’s much better, as is evidenced. His strikeout rate, as was said, was better than Pedro’s this past year. Better than Schilling, and his average hits per nine innings, too! Now this is not to say that he will transfer this success to the AL. On the contrary, because now Clement will deal with a DH and while he won’t have Adam Dunn, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, etc. to worry about, the NL may be the Big Thumper League, but the AL is the Solid Offensive Depth league. Those 7-8-9 hitters will not be a cakewalk anymore. So while I expect his hits to rise and his strikeouts to dip slightly, I wouldn’t be so rash as to say he will implode. He is extremely durable and over his career as a full-time starter, has not made less than 30 starts.
Here is a snippet from Exile in Wrigleyville‘s ‘How to spend the money‘ in which he tries to make a case for the White Sox signing Matt Clement.

1. Clement has been reasonably durable. He is fourth among the 10 pitchers on the list in innings pitched. Two of them (Lieber and Milton) have missed an entire season. Another (Wright) threw just 261 innings during this period because of both injuries and effectiveness. Clement did miss a few starts down the stretch in 2004 because of pain in his upper back and neck, but his shoulder reportedly checked out OK. Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus ranks Clement a “yellow” for health on a traffic light standard (Magglio Ordo