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Mike Clevinger to White Sox - Fantasy Baseball Impact

RotoBaller logo: MainLogo RotoBaller 11/30/2022 RotoBaller Staff

© Provided by RotoBaller The White Sox added some depth to their rotation in late November, signing right-hander Mike Clevinger to a one-year deal.

Clevinger returned to Major League action this past season after missing the whole 2021 season following elbow surgery, but it was overall a pretty disappointing return as he mustered just a 4.33 ERA in his 22 starts and reached just 114.1 innings pitched with the Padres in 2022.

We have seen plenty of upside from Clevinger in the past, as he had some great years with Cleveland prior to the surgery. Let's dive in and take a look at where Clevinger sits right now and what to expect in 2023.

 

The Bright Years in Cleveland

Clevinger pitched for the Indians from 2016-2019, making 88 starts and posting a strong 3.20 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP over that time. He won 42 games in those years and was really looking like one of the best pitchers in the game in 2019 (he put up an elite 26.5% K%-BB% in 126 innings that year). His career in Cleveland ended in 2020 as he was traded to San Diego only to make just four starts before hurting his elbow and going for the surgery that would cost him the whole 2021 season.

That made him a tough guy to rank for 2022, as we just had no idea how much of his former ability would still be with him after major elbow surgery at the age of 31.

 

A Disappointing Return to Action

We mentioned already the mediocre numbers in 2022, but there is unfortunately even more bad news.

© Provided by RotoBaller

As you see in the plot above, the K% and SwStr% bottomed out in 2022. Here are the CSW% and SwStr% marks on each of his pitches as compared to the league averages for that pitch type:

Pitch Clevinger Usage Clevinger CSW% League CSW% Clevinger SwStr% League SwStr%
4-Seamer 36.6% 27.6% 27.8% 10.6% 10.6%
Slider 20.6% 25.4% 31.3% 13.6% 16.6%
Sinker 14.9% 27.4% 27.9% 7.6% 7.0%
Cutter 14.6% 31.9% 27.2% 15.2% 11.8%
Changeup 9.7% 28.9% 25.0% 15.0% 15.4%
Curveball 3.4% 12.3% 32.0% 6.2% 12.9%

Things could certainly be worse here, as Clevinger has plenty of marks here at or above league average. The problem, I think, is with that slider. A 13.6% SwStr% on a pitch that you throw 21% of the time and depend on for strikeouts is going to lead to a disappointing amount of strikeouts. The good news is that he has all of these pitches available to him, and some strong marks on the cutter and fine marks on the other fastballs and the changeup, but there's no real standout pitch right now.

Back in 2019, Clevinger earned a sick 21.8% SwStr% on the slider and a much better 13.9% mark on the four-seamer. So we saw just an insane drop in performance by the slider, which I think is the main reason we saw the disappointing season overall. The question is: can that pitch improve? If he can get the slider back to even a 16% SwStr% in 2023, we could really be in business. One other glimmer of hope here is that slider had 85th-percentile horizontal movement in 2022.

I have my doubts that he will really improve in 2023 with another year of work on his body, I think maybe the surgery just took away a lot of the elite ability he had prior. However, I would expect Clevinger to improve from what we saw in 2022, and the schedule will likely be a much easier one getting away from the NL West division with the Dodgers and Coors Field in it.

 

Conclusion

I think there's some upside remaining with Clevinger. I'm not willing to write him off yet, but I am more pessimistic than optimistic right now. A 32-year-old who disappointed and didn't generate whiffs after major elbow surgery has me thinking the new Clevinger is the real Clevinger. That said, if he falls way down in drafts, he's a guy I'm willing to take a flier on just in case he can improve that slider and creatively use some of these other pitches he has at his disposal.

He makes for a good pitcher to take a "wait and see" approach on in 2023. Keep a close eye on the SwStr% marks on the slider and other pitches after his first few starts, and if things are looking really good, you can try to buy him for a cheap price. Either way, I don't think the Clevinger fade is going to be the reason you don't walk away with a championship next season.

Thanks for reading, keep it locked on RotoBaller all offseason long!

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alex roberts

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