What does Matt Clement Need To Do?

The below quote was by a Sons of Sam Horn poster. I e-mailed Sam Killay to get his take on the quote. His opinion is below. If you ever want to speak your opinion, just comment or e-mail me!
“If Clement had started like he’d ended and ended like he’d started, we’d be talking about him as the ace of the staff, the guy who was going to be our #1 starter. The worst thing that could have happened to him was starting out 9-0 (or whatever it was); when he hit a rough patch, everyone panicked. The dude was hit in the head with a screaming line drive. He struggled a bit after that. But there’s no reason not to think the next two years will produce something like a slightly better than .500 record with a decent number of strikeouts, some fluctuating wildness, and ERA a bit better than league average.”
Despite the bile that I unleashed on Matt Clement late into the season, I think this poster is basically right.
Clement started off lucky. We knew it at the time, but we preferred to see stars. And he probably should not have been an All-Star, but what the hell. It makes no difference now.
But I do quibble with one thing. This SoSH poster makes his case based on season-long peripherals. Which is deceptive, as a method. Because it incorporates Clement’s great 1st half. And in my opinion, as far as that goes, the question isn’t whether Clement can ever again be the guy he was in the 1st half of the season. I mean, it’d be nice, but that’s superfluous. From our point of view, the only question is whether Clement can be better than he was in the 2nd half. Whether he can be league-average.
In other words, just tell me that the pitcher he morphed into after the ASB isn’t a permanent change.
So from that point of view, the SoSH poster probably should have broken Clement’s peripherals into pre- and post-All Star Break, or 1st and 2nd half, or pre- and post-injury, something like that. Because as much as Clement’s peripherals were better than expected across the board in the 1st half, they were equally worse than expected across the board in the 2nd half. Abysmal, really. Which you’d expect, given the outcomes (in terms of ERA) that he was experiencing.
But personally, I’m still curious to see what happens next year. It’s really easy to point to that Crawford liner as the turning point in Clement’s season, but it’s also probably (to some degree) inaccurate. Look at his gamelog: that CC linedrive came on July 26th, in Clement’s 3rd start after the ASB. Clement had already been shelled by the Yankees in his 1st start after the break, and he hadn’t pitched especially well in his 2nd start after the break.
So maybe it was liner that derailed his season, and maybe not. Maybe he was just due for a big regression anyway, and that liner was just the last straw.
Which I find to be an uncomfortable thought.
But again, nobody knows for sure. His career statline says that he should be better than he was down the stretch, and therefore he will again be better than he was in that dreadful 2nd half — but as we saw in both halves this year, obviously his temporary performances can fluctuate wildly away from that career statline. Or in other words, he’s streaky. That in mind, I intend to reserve judgment on Clement until at least mid-August next year. Because it’s been two years in a row now that he’s done the same thing after the ASB. In Clement’s defense, as Andrew pointed out, it’s possibly been injury each time, so maybe it’s just a question of normal regression compounded with lots of bad luck, producing a misleadingly bad effect (again, in terms of ERA). But all the same, once bitten, twice shy.
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
And then again, let’s imagine a little. Assume that Clement has the same type of year next year that he did this year, except in reverse: the good half is the 2nd, and the 1st half is horrendous. OK, except that for our purposes, that doesn’t work for one reason: if Clement has a 1st half next year like his 2nd half this year, he never gets the chance to right himself. Not with us. He’s out of our rotation by July, and he’s probably off the team (with us paying for the privilege of having him out of our hair) by the trading deadline.
So needless to say, I think Mr. Clement needs to bust out of the gate with a bang next year. And not the bang that we heard so often when he was pitching in the 2nd half this year, that is, the resounding crack of solid wood on cowhide.