Tyler Clippard: The Nats Lone All-StarPosted on July 16, 2014 by Ben Bruno
Much has been made about the lack of Washington Nationals on the All-Star roster. Between Jordan Zimmermann being the only National selected and having to miss the game because of injury, to Rafael Soriano saying he wouldn't attend if he didn't make the original roster. It should come as no surprise that the one player for the Nats to represent the team was Mr. Reliable himself, Tyler Clippard. Check out how he pitched last night, as well as his thoughts on the game here, before we get into his impressive career stats.
Clippard made his MLB debut as a starter for the New York Yankees in 2007, but he didn't truly find his role until pitching strictly as a reliever for the Nats in 2009. That year, he appeared in 41 games and pitched 60.1 innings. He posted good numbers, a 2.69 earned run average (ERA) and just under ten strikeouts per nine innings pitched (K/9). Since that season and through 43 games pitched this season, Clippard is tied for the 3rd most games pitched over that span with 380. His 423.1 innings pitched (IP) are the most of any pitcher from 2009-2014 among pitchers that appeared in 275 games or more. After his 41 games pitched in 2009, Clippard went on a run of four consecutive seasons pitching in at least 72 games each year (78, 72, 74, 72 to be exact), and is on pace to reach 72 games again this season after pitching in 43 so far. Clippard has been as consistent as they come, especially among relief pitchers, but has he also been good?
The quick answer is yes, he has. During the same stretch from when Clippard became a reliever (2009-2014), there is only one pitcher in the top-12 for most games pitched with a lower ERA than Clippard, and it's not by much. Clippard posted an ERA of 2.66 over this time, while Brad Ziegler's is 2.61. In order to find a pitcher with a better batting average against (BAA) than Clippard's .185, you have to scroll down to 77th on the list of most games pitched from '09-'14 (Craig Kimbrel, .152). Just a bit in front of that at 74th is where you'll find the first pitcher to post a lower on-base plus slugging percentages (OPS) than Clippard's .592 over the same span (Koji Uehara at .553). Just for reference, Kimbrel and Uehara have both pitched in about 100 less games than Clippard (270 and 272 respectively). The scary thing for opposing teams is that as good as Clippard has been, he's getting better.
His 2.03 ERA is the lowest it's been in his career except for his remarkable 2011 season. His Fielder Independent Pitching (FIP), a stat that "has been shown to be more effective than ERA in terms of predicting future performance" is currently 2.49, which is easily the best it's been in his career. He has also posted a career high K/9 of 11.93, good for 14th best among relievers, and his 0.45 home runs per nine innings (HR/9) is also a career high, after giving up only two this season. Clippard is also posting a career high in O-Swing% (38.2%), which measures the percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone, meaning he is getting hitters to chase "bad" pitches. Hitters are also swinging and missing at 14.2% of his pitches, which is good for 12th best among relievers, and just a tick off of his career high of 14.3%. Not all of his numbers are improving, as his walks per nine innings pitched (BB/9) are the second worst of his career at 4.05. His left on base percentage (LOB%), which measures the percentage of runners that a pitcher strands after they reach base, is also the second worst of his career at 77.9%. Walks and stranding runners are crucial to the success of relief pitchers, but Clippard is still on his way to a career year in spite of them.
While there may have been more "deserving" players on the Nats to make the All-Star game this season, Clippard's resume - and not just this season - speaks for itself. He's been one of the best relievers in baseball since he became one, yet doesn't get the glory that comes with being a closer. He's been a steady presence in what is arguably baseball's most volatile position and has managed to improve his game along the way, and I for one was glad to see him get some well-deserved recognition by making the All-Star team, even if it was just for a night, and even if he threw a pitch over the catcher's head to the backstop.
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