How many of you remember the watershed 1993 film Dazed and Confused? In this coming of age saga, a young righty, with the flowing locks of Sampson himself, embarks on a journey that will change his life forever. It is in that film where we first meet Mike Clevinger. I could go on a lengthy diatribe about the film with the Indians righty supplanted as the protagonist, but I already did that a year and a half ago when I first introduced you to Mr. Clevinger. It’s like I’m watching my kids grow up right before my eyes. Either way Clevinger is long haired and goofy just like Mitch from Dazed and Confused. Not to toot my own horn, but to totally toot my own horn, I called this developing breakout a year ago. The Indians acquired the former 2011 4th rounder from the Angels back in 2014 for pen arm Vinny Pestano. Since then it’s been a classic Cleveland starter story, as the organization focused on bringing Clevinger along first as a pen arm, and now as a starter. With a 14.1% SwStr, and a 28.5% K%, there’s some signs that Clevinger, in a season of disappointing starters, could be a diamond in the rough. Let’s look under the hood, and then go pitch by pitch through his Sunday start vs. the division rival Detroit Tigers.
Scouting Report: For the most part Clevinger works off of his low-mid 90’s fastball, that he can ramp up to 96 when needed. The heater accounts for a tick over half his pitch usage (53%), generating about an 8% SwStr, and a 40%ish groundball rate. He mixes in three breaking/off-speed pitches in his slider, change, and curveball. He throws his slider, the best of his offspeed pitches, around 18% of the time. The pitch sits in the low-80’s in terms of velocity, and generates lots of swings and misses. His mid-80’s changeup is an underrated pitch, rating the highest of his arsenal on Fangraphs pitch values. He throws the change around 16% of the time, and gets the most swings and misses of any of his offerings, with a 27% whiff rate. His mid-70’s curveball gives him a fourth offering, and a varation of nearly 20 MPH between his four pitches. His ability to mix speeds, and throw all four of his pitches for strikes, keeps hitters off balance, and hints at some unreached ceiling for the 26 year old.
Jose Iglesias – 92 MPH fastball down the middle, strike 1, fastball at 94 low and away, ball 1, 80 MPH to the outside corner, swinging strike 2, 74 MPH curveball low in the zone golfed to Zimmer in center. One out.
Alex Avila – 89 MPH fastball low and inside, ball 1, 93 MPH inside belt high, swung on and missed, strike 1, 75 MPH curveball low and inside, ball 2, 87 MPH changeup to the outside, foul ball, 82 MPH slider low and inside, ball 3, full count, 94 MPH belt high and away, and he misses the zone, walk.
J.D. Martinez – 81 MPH slider to the outside, ball 1, fastball at 93 on the outside, ball 2, 94 MPH fastball on the outside ball 3, 93 MPH fastball on the outside and another ball. Four pitch walk, worked away from JD.
Miguel Cabrera – slider at 81 low and outside, ball 1, 93 MPH fastball low and outside, ball 2, 93 MPH fastball inside, strike 1, 92 MPH on the inside, foulball, changeup on the outside, foulball, 75 MPH curve in the dirt, and Miggy bites on it with a check swing and can’t hold up. Two outs.
Nick Castellanos – 82 MPH slider on the outside, ball 1, 92 MPH fastball on the inside, ball 2, 93 MPH fastball outside, ball 3, 92 MPH fastball high and inside, strike 1, 92 MPH fastball on the outside again, ball 4. He can’t hit his spot to the gloveside part of the plate.
Victor Martinez – 92 MPH fastball inside, strike 1, 88 MPH changeup down and away with some bite, swinging strike 2, another changeup at 85 MPH is fouled off, 92 MPH high and inside, ball 1, 75 MPH curveball skied to left, and Inning over.
How Clevinger managed to escape that inning with no runs allowed is impressive. His control was iffy, but he got squeezed a few times when pitching away to righthanders to his gloveside. Needs to throw more first pitch strikes, because he’s a different, much tougher at bat, when he’s up in the count.
Mikie Mahtook – 91 MPH fastball inside, strike 1, 75 MPH curveball, foul, 90 MPH changeup high and outside, foul, 81 MPH slider belt high and outside, hit right at Kipnis, who toss to first for the out.
Andrew Romine – 88 MPH changeup on the outside, foul, 74 MPH curveball on the inside, swinging strike 2, 92 MPH fastball high and outside, ball 1, Fastball at 92 belt high and middle, swinging strike 3.
Dixon Machado – 93 MPH fastball on the outside, ball 1, 93 MPH fastball down Main St. is hit to right field for the final out.
Jose Iglesias – 93 MPH fastball inside, ball 1, 80 MPH slider to the outside, strike 1, 80 MPH slider outside and in the dirt, ball 2, 92 MPH fastball, low, ball 3, 93 MPH fastball to the outside, ball 4. That same pitch on the outside is killing him.
Alex Avila – 91 MPH fastball on the outside, just a little low. 85 MPH changeup high and inside, strike 1, 91 MPH fastball low, ball 2, changeup to the outside corner, strike 2, 87 MPH over the middle of the plate hit for a lazy fly to Zimmer. 1 out.
J.D. Martinez – 92 MPH fastball way outside, strike 1, 87 MPH changeup low, ball 2, 92 MPH fastball ripped to left field for an RBI double, as Iglesias scores.
Miguel Cabrera – 74 MPH curveball, low, ball 1, 92 MPH fastball catches the outside corner, strike 1, 81 MPH slider, ball 2, 88 MPH changeup to the outside corner again, strike 2, 93 MPH outside and off the plate, ball 3, full count, 80 MPH slider in the outside, ball 4. 5 walks!!!
Nick Castellanos – 93 MPH fastball high and inside, swinging strike 1, 88 MPH changeup down the middle, strike 2, 90 MPH changeup high in the zone, swinging strike 3. Nice at bat for Clevinger.
Victor Martinez – 87 MPH change on the inside, strike 1, 90 MPH changeup in the hands, and V-Mart hits a lazy grounder into the shift.
The control is frustrating, because Clevinger is just inches from throwing all of his low fastballs, and sliders on the outside for strikes. However he’s consistently missing the spot. I will say the strike zone seems a little high today.
Mikie Mahtook – 90 MPH fastball inside, strike 1, changeup to the outside, strike 2, fastball in the outside, ball 1, 75 MPH fastball is tapped to the front of the plate and Gomes throws to first for the out.
Andrew Romine – 91 MPH fastball, foul, 92 MPH fastball inside, foul, 91 MPH fastball in the dirt, ball 1, curveball at 75 MPH to the bottom of the zone gets a swing and a miss, strikeout.
Dixon Machado – Fastball to the outside, ball 1, 90 MPH fastball gets a groundballs to short for the third out.
What an efficient inning, that weak bottom of the Tigers order is saving Clevinger’s bacon today.
Jose Iglesias – 91 MPH fastball high and inside, ball 1, 91 MPH fastball to the outside, strike 1, 92 MPH to the outside, strike 2, 75 MPH curveball to the bottom of the zone, foul, 90 MPH high changeup, hitsbofd the bat, foul, drops in a 86 MPH changeup for strike 3.
Alex Avila – 72 MPH curveball drops in for strike 1, changeup for ball 1, slider at 81 for strike 2, high changeup at 85, ball 2, 93 MPH fastball gets a check swing and Avila can’t hold up, strike 3.
JD Martinez – 81 MPH slider to the outside, ball 1, 87 MPH changeup in the outside corner, strike 1, fastball to the outside, swinging strike 2, 85 MPH changeup hit to third and the ball is booted by Jose Ramirez.
Miguel Cabrera – 74 MPH curveball gets Migfy to chase, strike 1, 93 MPH down Main St. is fouled back, high heat, and Miggy swings through the pitch.
Outstanding inning for Clevinger, he got ahead in the count and nibbled less low in the zone and outside to the gloveside to three righties he faced that inning.
Nick Castellanos – High inside slider at 79 MPH fouled off, 91 MPH fastball on the inside, fouled off, strike 2, 91 MPH fastball on the outside, ball 1, 73 MPH fastball is hit for a lazy line drive to Jose Ramirez at third.
Mikie Mahtook – 86 MPH changeup on the outside, ball 1, 92 MPH fastball, hit to right field.
Summary: Boy that was frustrating to watch. As much as I like Clevinger, his location is infuriating. I hope Mickey Callaway has a medical marijuana card, cause I would need to relieve stress before, during, and after every Clevinger start. Not because Clevinger is awful, not even close, but because he’s mere inches away from domination. He consistently misses first pitch strikes on the borderline parts of the plate, whether it be away from righthanders with his slider, or on the bottom of the zone with his fastball to both lefties and righties. His three off-speed pitches are legit, and I could see at least above average grades on all three. Coming into the start I viewed his slider as his best off-speed pitch, but it might be his changeup. Based on what I saw today, it’s an absolute weapon. Getting nice armside break, and the ability to locate it all over the zone. His curveball is a nasty swing and miss pitch, he could bury in two strike counts to rack up the K’s. It gives him excellent separation in terms of speed from his low 80’s slider, and mid-high 80’s changeup. Later in the start he began to challenge righties more on the inside, and work more in the zone. While the K per numbers certainly boost his fantasy profile to number scouters, he’d be better served to pitch to contact a little more. He allowed only two hard hit balls all day, both to JD Martinez. All in all, there’s upside here, if he can just stick in the rotation, and improve his strike throwing early in counts.
Final Line: Win, 6 IP, 2 Hits, 5 Walks, 1 ER, 7 K’s, 99 Pitches, 60 Strikes, Game Score 66
Updated Top 100 SP
(rankings for ROS based on 12-team Roto)
Disabled List (Ranking When Active): Madison Bumgarner, SF (3) , Noah Syndergaard, NYM (8), Dallas Keuchel, HOU (13), Danny Duffy (19), KC, Chase Anderson, MIL (29) Kyle Hendricks, CHC (33), Eduardo Rodriguez, BOS (31), Aaron Sanchez, TOR (34), Brandon McCarthy, LAD (43), Charlie Morton, HOU (46), Matt Shoemaker, LAA (54), Andrew Triggs, OAK (61), Matt Andriese, TB (68),Vincent Velasquez, PHI (73), Zack Wheeler, NYM (75), Kendall Graveman, OAK (76), Jerad Eickhoff, PHI (91), Matt Harvey, NYM (99) Brandon Finnegan, CIN (100)
Dropped off: Junior Guerra, MIL, Randall Delgado, ARI , Antonio Senzatela, COL, Joe Musgrove, HOU, Erasmo Ramirez, TB, Danny Salazar, CLE, Patrick Corbin, ARI, Chad Kuhl, PIT, Amir Garrett, CIN, Matt Garza, MIL, Tyler Anderson, COL, Jesse Chavez, LAA, Jeremy Hellickson, PHI, Ricky Nolasco, LAA, Josh Tomlin, CLE, Alex Meyer, LAA, , Robert Gsellman, NYM, Joe Biagini, TOR, Wade Miley, BAL, Jake Junis, KC, Derek Holland, CWS, Daniel Norris, DET
- Madison Bumgarner made a rehab start with AAA Sacramento on Friday night, velocity maxed out at 92 MPH, as he gave up 4 earned on 62 pitches. This was the second in a string of 4-5 rehab starts for Bum, I’d expect his return after the break.
- In the month of June Marco Estrada was the pitching equivalent of the stick figure throwing away trash emoji. In his 6 June starts Estrada had a 9.11 ERA, 5.86 Bb/9, 1.95 HR/9, and a 5.96 FIP. I’d bury Estrada on the bench until he snaps out of this, of course a Wednesday date in the Bronx should make the decision easier.
- After an extended DL stay Jon Gray returned on Friday in Arizona, and passed the first test. A road start in the desert comes with a certain degree of difficulty that can’t be ignored. In the current environment do Rockies starters even scare you that much? The whole league is Coors! This is a long winded way of saying I view Gray as a borderline must start in all formats.
- Coming off his best start of the season I’ve added Kevin Gausman back in the ranks. His splitter usage was up yesterday, and perhaps this is the road map to at least the respectable numbers we expected from him. Then again I’m prolly just dumb, and being Gaus-winked again.
- Junior Guerra has dropped off the list. I own him in a few places, as he was a cheap arm that paid dividends last season, particularly in dynasty. Problem is he’s not startable at the moment.