|Friday, June 14
Fastball, splitter key to Clemens' success
By Tom Candiotti
Special to ESPN.com
Editor's Note: ESPN analyst Tom Candiotti writes a weekly scouting report. Here is the former knuckleballer's book on New York Yankees starter Roger Clemens as he prepares to face the crosstown rival New York Mets in the middle game of a three-game series on Saturday at Shea Stadium.
Piazza will be the patient one and let Clemens dictate the confrontation and Piazza will react accordingly. If Clemens tries to play the intimidation game with Piazza then we will very likely see a very entertaining matchup. I don't think this will be the case because Clemens is a complete pitcher. He can pitch for power, he can pitch with finesse, and he is just a great situational pitcher. He has an uncanny ability to make a great pitch when needed. When he needs a strikeout, he can get one. Rarely does Clemens beat himself by throwing the wrong pitch. He knows when to pitch around hitters and when to challenge them.
Clemens still attacks with his fastball, but he has complemented his fastball by throwing a splitter to also go along with his slider. His slider has become his third-best pitch and he doesn't rely on it much when he does get into jams. Clemens' style is very comparable to that of Curt Schilling -- using a power four-seam fastball that he will locate both inside and outside as well as up in the zone. If you see hitters struggling to get to it then he will "climb the ladder" on the weaker hitters, meaning he will keep attacking high and higher in the strike zone and above it.
He has fallen in love with his splitter over the last five years. It is a very effective pitch for him as hitters recognize the fastball, but by the time they commit to their swing it is dipping out of the zone. He goes with this pitch a lot when he gets in trouble or needs a strikeout.
Clemens has great command and control. He likes to pitch inside, which he does extremely well and he isn't afraid to hit a batter either. He will protect his teammates by retaliation, if necessary, which is why he gets great respect from his teammates.
Clemens won't tolerate hitters diving to get to his fastballs away. He believes the outside is his portion of the plate and if a hitter is going in "his" zone then he won't hesitate to knock a batter down or challenge him hard inside.
This battle between these two future Hall of Famers will always be fun to watch, but I think we've already seen all the fireworks between them already.
ESPN baseball analyst Tom Candiotti won 151 games pitching in 16 major-league seasons.