Sunday, December 19, 2004
The market for starting pitchers has never really gone through a “correction” as it did for relievers and position players. Given the market for free agent starting pitchers, the Red Sox could be viewed as inking the best values this time next year. As it stands now, the Padres get the top honors scoring Woody Williams at $3.5 million plus performance incentives. David Wells deal comes in second and Matt Clement is third.
The Sox did pay about $4 million more for Clement than his counterparts on the market - Leiber and Wright. But Clement has a better track record for future success than those two because his pitches miss bats. Over the last three seasons, he has averaged nearly one strikeout per nine innings. High strikeout rates are the best indicator for future success for a pitcher.
Clement features a hard low 90's sinker and slider combo that results in a K's and grounders. A high number of ground balls is also another good stat - those hits don't leave the park. The last part of the DIPS big three is BB and it is the only area that Clement struggles.
After reading about Clement's stuff, it reminded me of another pitcher with similar offerings, Kevin Brown...well, the old Kevin Brown in L.A., S.D, and Miami. Brown also struggled with his control before getting to Florida at the age of 31. He was a good pitcher but became a great one when he got better control. He was a late bloomer.
If Clement can follow Brown's pattern, the Sox would have made a great investment. If he does not, the Sox paid the going rate for an above average starter. Regardless, the Sox made an investment with the potential for a big reward and little downside relative to the other alternatives.
One other note on the left coast:
Mark Mulder going to St. Louis was a surprise. The A’s would likely still battle for a playoff spot with Mulder, which I thought was Billy Beane’s plan with the acquisition of Kendall. The A’s made out fine in the Hudson deal but I expected Mulder would extract more with two years under contract. Nevertheless, Beane likely concluded that the market is overvaluing starters, and particularly his Big Three, and with only one year left in playoff contention/success cycle, it was time to act now while the going is good. With Mulder and Scully gone, on paper it seems the Sox and MFY are now probable locks for the post season.