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Matt Clement: 2005

I read Evan Brunell's article on Matt Clement from Firebrand and I found some things very interesting within it. This is the basis of it:

  1. Clement is not as successful in 2005 as previous years
  2. Clement's control is worse this year than previously.
  3. Clement is not giving up the long ball, a  problem in the past.
  4. His H/9 is off the charts compared to previous years.
Yet Clement's ERA is better than in the past, even with worsened control and hits allowed. What could be responsible for this? The fact that Clement has not given up the long ball in the same way as he used to (only 1 HR allowed this year in 50 IP; his career rate excluding 2005 is 0.99/9 IP, or basically 1/9 IP) is what accounts for the low ERA, but what gives with the enormous hits allowed total (9.36 H/9 IP, and on pace for 208 hits allowed in 200 IP) , and the walk rate?

Clement is averaging 3.24 BB/9 IP at the moment, which is less than last years 3.83 BB/9 IP, and also better than his 3.53 BB/9 IP from 2003. Oddly enough, if you multiply his 3.24 BB/9 rate by 200 IP to figure walks for the season, it comes out to 72, which is what Evan predicated with his starts formula (I don't advocate using that method, but kudos to him for being on target). Total walks allowed is not what I care about, it is walk rate itself. 77 walks allowed last year by Clement, but in 181 IP. If Clement gives up 72 walks this year in 200 IP, that is more than a 5 walk difference in control, and Clement's control actually has improved greatly. One other thing; his strikeout rate has fallen:

6.84 K/9 IP in 2005
9.44 K/9 IP in 2004

0.176 K/PA in 2005
0.245 K/PA in 2004

Sometimes improvement in control can lower your strikeout rate, but as a pitcher who gives up more groundballs than flyballs, it is not a big deal for Clement.

As far as his WHIP (1.40) and BAA (.267) staying high goes, Clement cannot give up the long ball if he wants to continue succeeding. If Clement continues to avoid giving up souveneirs than the WHIP and BAA against will not matter, but let's take a look at a few numbers:

  1. .292
  2. .277
  3. .301
  4. .339
Those figures are his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) for the past four years, including 2005. Basically, what we can derive from that, as well as his improved walk rate and a cure for his gopheritis in Jason Varitek (I am not sure I buy that explanation entirely, especially since Damian Miller was his catcher in 2003, and he is known to call a great game...maybe Vtek is that good) Clement has had an alarming spike in his hit rate on balls in play. But oddly enough, this spike comes with a decrease in the rates (Walk and homerun) that used to plague him as a starter. Looking at his BABIP totals from the previous 3 years, we can see that he was a lucky pitcher in BABIP terms, and his ERA was as low as it was in spite of his homeruns and walks.

BABIP suggests that the .339 figure is the defenses fault (if you subscribe to Voros McCracken's DIPS theory) and Clement is not responsible for those hits. The league average BABIP during the power spike of 1996-2004 was .309, and Clement is at .339 in a year where offense is down. What would happen if Clement's BABIP was at league average? Most likely, his ERA would be in the mid-2.00's somewhere, and we would not even be talking about Jon Garland for the All-Star game. How can I be so sure Clement is not just allowing everything he throws to get tattoed by the opposition?

Boston 2005
Defensive Efficiency: 0.6827

Red Sox Defensive Players, POS, Name, FRAA

C:  Jason Varitek, 1
1B: Kevin Millar, 2
2B: Mark Bellhorn, 4
3B: Bill Mueller, 1
SS: Edgar Renteria, -4
LF: Manny Ramirez, -2
CF: Johnny Damon, -2
RF: Trot Nixon, 2

OF: Jay Payton, 2
SS: Ramon Vazquez, -1
3B: Kevin Youkilis, 0
1B: Dave McCarty, 0
C: Doug Mirabelli, 1

If you would like some significance added to that first number, just know that it is second worst in the AL, and directly in front of that New York Yankees' aging defense that I love to tease. None of the regulars do an outstanding job defensively on the entire team, and Renteria is hurting the team defensively the most. Last year he was at -7 FRAA, so it probably is not going to get any better.

Here are the Cubs' last three Defensive Efficiency Ratings:

2004: 0.6980 (5th in NL)
2003: 0.6934 (9th in NL)
2002: 0.6864 (14th in NL)

Those Cubs' figures make you think that Clement usually posts a below league average BABIP figure (which some pitchers can do; it is simply that the amount of control over it is miniscule or insignificant) and the defense did not hurt him too much (with the exception of 2002 it seems) and that Boston's defense is the issue.

With Boston's defense just not getting the job done range wise, and not making plays for Matt Clement, it is no wonder his BABIP is sitting at .339. It is a testament to his ability as a pitcher (and maybe Varitek's ability to call a game as stated) that his ERA stands at 3.06; let's not panic and assume the worst, since if you take a closer look, the best is yet to come if the Sox can field for the rest of the year. Enjoy Clement at the bargain price we had him for; he is capable of leading this rotation more than many assume he can.