Mike Clevinger…COME ON DOWN!!!

The Legend – Rod Roddy

As a kid, especially during summer break, I would watch the The Price Is Right almost daily. My grandma would make Chorizy and I some Farina, Buttered Toast and some Coffee and we would sit down and watch the popular game show. The unadulterated excitement of the live studio audience when one of them was called upon by announcer Rod Roddy to “COME ON DOWN!” and join the game contestants. I wish I had that level of enthusiasm when breaking down the White Sox first signing of note of this off-season.

Mike Clevinger to the White Sox???

White Sox Twitter has been a wild place during this long Thanksgiving weekend, with the most recent team specific news being rumors of Mike Clevinger joining the team. Ken Rosenthal does the official honors on Sunday.

Pending a physical, but no term length or contract price….so we trudge on. Jon Morosi is up next to help fill in the gaps.

Okay, not perfect information, but we know that it is at least 1 year guaranteed, at least $8 million dollars and this is a go assuming Mike Clevinger can throw a curve past the White Sox medical staff (would prolly be his best one of 2022). Great. Seems like we have enough info to break this down.

What Does Mike Clevinger Look Like These Days?

Screenshot from MLB.com

About as you’d expect. Oh, I meant his pitching not his outward appearance. Although having seen him in the flesh in early October in San Diego, I can tell you the locks are flowing and look glorious. The overall pitching, not so great. Clevinger’s 2022 was pretty uninspiring, he made 22 starts (23 appearances overall) with a 4.33 ERA over 114 1/3 innings pitched. That was good for an ERA+ of 86 (100 is average, Davis Martin had an 82). A below average performance for the soon to be 32 year old right hander. The two ugliest parts of the stat line for your boy were his 18.8% K-Rate (22.4% is MLB average) and his 1.6 HR per 9 innings, which puts him solidly in the top 10 for starters with at least 100 Innings pitched.

Table cut from Fangraphs

Now, flyballs turning into HR’s can sometimes be quite volatile and maybe not the best indicator of future performance. However, since it was accompanied by a shockingly low .249 BABIP allowed, we’ll just assume the luck going in both directions will even out a bit, but probably not move the needle too much.

The more encouraged of you readers will say (probably SHOUT, knowing this group), “BEEF, HE JUST HAD THAT TOMMY JOHNS SURGERY”. Good call, the first season after Tommy John surgery is generally rough and seeing as this is an outlier in his career stats, that could be a reasonable conclusion here. However, this was his 2nd Tommy John surgery and although the sample size is small for this subset of players, it is extremely discouraging.

A quick excerpt from the article I linked above from the San Diego Union Tribune. The results of TJ2 ain’t great.

Any Other Concerns?

Yes, he’s not been particularly reliable at taking the ball or eating up innings. See his career performance below. 1 200 Inning season (terrific), but his career high after that is 126 1/3 Innings. Oof.

In 2022, it might not have just been durability, he got absolutely demolished the 3rd time through the order. 1.032 OPS the 3rd time through…..UGLY!

Is There Any Good News?

Now that we have ingested all the stinkiness of Clevinger’s 2022 season. I even omitted how terrible he was in the playoffs, because I am a glass half full kinda guy. And we have tempered our expectations that Cleveland Mike Clevinger ain’t never coming back. I do have a couple of things that caught my eye regarding ole Mike.

He’s started throwing a sinker and the results have been good…

Table cut from Baseball Savant

According to the chart, Clevinger has scarcely thrown the pitch since 2016. The sinker has basically been dropped from his repertoire until 2022 and it’s a good thing it came back because it seemed to combat his biggest problem, people smashing home runs off of him. It’s the antidote to a 4-Seam Fastball that is still lagging in velocity behind his pre 2nd TJ surgery peak.

If Ethan Katz is going to bring him in and change the way he pitches making him a Sinker / Slider guy that tries to throw groundballs, that could be an iteration that makes a lot of sense for the White Sox. 2022 Clev is about the worst combination of things for our White Sox. Homer prone (in our homer friendly park) and lots of flyballs (45.8% rate per Fangraphs) with our horrendous outfield team defense. Seems like a bad combo.

Also….digging into his game log for 2022, I saw an interesting pattern leap out at me. (see below).

Game log cut from Baseball Savant

Big shocker, he got demolished when pitching in Coors Field and when facing the Los Angeles Dodgers. When I remove those two environments for him, I come up with a much prettier 3.35 ERA, across 94 Innings. Yes that is cherry picked, but he won’t have to face any scary monsters like that in the AL Central. Furthermore, the only two AL offenses in 2022 that were better than the Dodgers were the Yankees (that was mostly Aaron Judge) and the Toronto Blue Jays. Maybe Clev’s numbers were slightly skewed given opponents and his limited starts.

HEADLINE: 5th Starter for 5th Starter Money

This is photoshopped

After digging in a bit, I feel as meh about the move as I did when I first saw the twitter rumors splashing across my iPhone screen. I think the volatility in general White Sox fan response has been a combination of looking at his peak years in Cleveland and dreaming and conversely viewing his most recent numbers and combining them with some questionable decision making.

I find myself being okay with this move. If it dipped into the 8 figures territory I would probably be slightly down on it given the downside. At that price it would’ve likely been a barrier to other White Sox moves. Had the contract been $5M for 1 year, I’d probably be pretty positive about it. Feels like a market deal for market 5th starter stuff. Steamer has Clev projected for a 4.44 ERA, 1.4 fWAR in 151 1/3 innings. I’ll take the under on those innings pitched, but otherwise, that looks like a 5th starter.

However, if this does happen to go sideways, at least some of yous out there will have one additional added benefit….


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