Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
Position Report: Matt Clement
by alex ciepley
Christian: In opposition to how I feel about Zambrano, I have a good feeling about Clement, his spring and first start notwithstanding. Clem is older, and has shown for five years now that he can handle a full-season workload. Also, he didn't start pitching in the minors until around his 20th birthday, and didn't break 150 innings until he was 23.
Last year, his walks were under 4 per 9 innings for the second straight year, and while his K-rate dropped from the gaudy 9.44 per 9 innings that he had in '02, his rate of 7.63 per 9 innings was the second best of his career. He still walks a lot of guys, but he no longer leads the league, and his list of similar pitchers through his current age has almost as many hits (Jason Schmidt, Dick Ruthven, Mike Norris) as misses (Steve Trachsel, Todd Stottlemyre, Dustin Hermanson, Art Mahaffey). And, truth be told, those misses aren't *that* bad. He's never going to be mentioned in the same breath as Wood and Prior, but he has the potential to be a solid 3-4 guy for years to come. Chances are those years aren't going to be with the Cubs, but after a few frustrating early years (ask a Padres fan, or a Marlins fan who knew who the Marlins were before last June), it's nice that his most productive seasons have come in a Cubs uniform.
Alex: I'm with Christian on this one, and think Clement will be fine. Now don't we look silly: Clement struggles in spring training and has a foul first outing, while Zambrano goes out and looks unstoppable. But when I say I'm more worried about Big Z than Clement -- and I think Christian would agree with me here -- I'm not saying that I think Clement is the better pitcher. Mattie's a great number three or four starter, but Zambrano can be a co-(co-)ace alongside Wood and Prior.
Clement was terrible this spring, but this is why I'm not all tied up in knots about it:
2004 SPRING TRAINING PITCHER ERA Miller 6.00 Hudson 6.57 Pedro 6.75 Pineiro 7.71 CLEMENT 8.84 Millwood 10.13 Foulke 15.00
I've never understood what scouts are talking about when referring to a pitcher's "bad body language", but whatever it is, I'm guessing Clement is a good example. When things go ill in a game, he can mope a bit around the mound. He looks dejected, like the unwanted kid watching his older brother and friends shoot some hoops, knowing he'll never be invited to the on-court party. Chin up, Matt! The goatee-pasted fans in the stands don't expect perfection, just some consistency, along with some swing-and-miss sliders and sharp grounders to the shortstop.
PECOTA: 12-11, 3.85, 160 K, 80 BB, 190 IP
ZIPS: 10-13, 4.13, 180 K, 82 BB, 192 IP