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July 22, 2005
Back to normal
So what's wrong with Matt Clement? He struggled to hold the White Sox to four runs last night, allowing three home runs in the process, and didn't look much like the pitcher who breezed through most of the first half of the season en route to 10 wins and an All-Star berth.
And fact is, he hasn't looked like that pitcher in his last four starts. He has a 7.82 ERA over that span, with 22 runs allowed in 25 1/3 innings. (And this includes a complete-game victory in Texas, the only win he has since June 25.) More alarmingly, he's given up seven home runs in his last 18 2/3 innings and also showed signs of his old wild-man self with only his second five-walk game -- on July 16 against the Yankees -- of the year.
There are very few of us who can say with any degree of certainty what, if anything, is wrong with Matt Clement. But here's what I do know.
Matt Clement's seasonal ERA after last night is 4.29. That's almost dead-on to his career ERA of 4.33. He's struck out 7.59 batters per nine innings. That's almost dead-on to his career rate of 7.96. He's allowed 0.9 home runs per nine innings. And that's not almost dead-on to his career rate; that's exactly dead-on to his career rate of 0.9 per nine innings.
In other words, what tends to happen over the course of a season is that players -- especially veterans like Matt Clement -- revert to their established career norms, varying only slightly a little one way or a little the other. And if they have a stretch where they're better than normal, as Clement was over the first half, then they usually follow it with a stretch where they're worse. As Clement is doing now.
The real improvement Clement has made this season is in his walk rate. He's only walking 3 hitters per nine innings, compared to a career norm of 4.11. If that continues, some of this improvement should stick.
But to expect Matt Clement to fill Curt Schilling's shoes, or Pedro Martinez' -- as some were giddily doing as he piled up win after win -- is unrealistic. He's 30 years old and he's been in the major leagues for 7 1/2 years now. He is what he is.
And what is he? A very good second-level starter. Don't let last night -- or the first three months of the season -- convince you otherwise.
Posted by Art at 10:00 AM | Permalink