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What’s wrong with Clippard?

Jul 7, 2010, 3:50 PM EST

Photo by Rachel Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Tyler Clippard has put 18 men on base in his last 5 2/3 innings.

There was arguably no relief pitcher in baseball more dominant over the first half of the season than Tyler Clippard. And there has arguably been no relief pitcher in baseball less effective over the last two weeks than Clippard, who again struggled last night in helping blow a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning.

Summoned by Jim Riggleman after Livan Hernandez allowed back-to-back singles to open the eighth, Clippard added fuel to the fire by allowing two more singles and a sacrifice fly. That prompted Riggleman to turn to Sean Burnett, who nearly got out of the jam by getting Oscar Salazar to hit a routine double play grounder to second, only to watch as Cristian Guzman and Ian Desmond botched the turn, allowing the tying run to score.

So the lone run charged to Clippard last night was of the unearned variety, though it's not like he could take credit for performing all that well. If anything, this was a continuation of a disturbing trend for the right-hander, who is suddenly putting men on base at a staggering rate.

From Opening Day through June 22, Clippard allowed 47 opposing batters to reach base in 45 2/3 innings. But in six appearances since then, he's allowed a staggering 18 batters to reach in only 5 2/3 innings. He's also allowed 10 runs (seven earned), raising his ERARead more »

  1. Todd Boss - Jul 7, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    I'd say its just fatigue. He has 43 appearances and 51ip halfway through the season! That's a ton. All star break should reset him for the 2nd half.

  2. Anonymous - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    I could not believe last night when Riggleman put in Bernadina for Morse but LEFT Livan in to pitch. He could have made a double switch to either Storen or Clippard, with them batting seventh and had Bernadina bat ninth, sparing us from Willie Harris' great at bat. Clippard should never be put into a game when there are baserunners!I found it interesting that some intrepid reporter asked Riggleman if he regretted that move and he admitted he shouldn't have left Livan in. It was really impressive reporting to elicit that response from Riggs.

  3. Sec3MySofa - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:23 PM

    I think it was Ray King who said the only stat he cared about as a late-inning reliever was Inherited Runners Scored. That's your only job when you come in with men on base–leave them there, he argued (and probably still does). W/L, ERA, K/BB–all rotisserie stuff to him.

  4. Mark Zuckerman - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    Anon: Thanks for the compliment. Though I'm guessing you did it unaware I was the "intrepid reporter" who asked that question.

  5. JayB - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    We know your voice Mark….What is up with lack of international signings. MASN Rizzo BLOG says we were players at the signing deadline….nothing from team on who and for what…..more lip service this year again?

  6. Doc - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    Nah, Mark, we all know that you are THE INTREPID REPORTER! Nobody asks these clowns more poingnant questions than you do. See our boy Morse, Michael by name, got three hits last night!

  7. alexva - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    Over the course of a season, almost all players have streaks and slumps. If you saw him pitch that 3 inning stint agains the Mets, you'd have thought he was Bob Gibson. If you watched him pitch against the O's, you'd say Joel Hanrahan. At season's end, he'll fall somewhere in the middle. I do agree with Todd Boss that he's been overworked. All Star break or not, they may need to give him a reduced workload the 2nd half.

  8. Bowdenball - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:37 PM

    Too many peaches?Or maybe just regression to the mean combined with a bit of fatigue. Since they moved him to the pen in Syracuse, he's looked like a very good but not great reliever- gets a lot of guys to swing and miss, but also struggles sometimes with his control. I think that's what he'll be for years to come- this looks like a blip to me.The real question I'd like to ask is: why aren't we using Clip as a pseudo-lefty setup man? Sure the ball technically comes out of his right hand when he pitches, but who cares? He gets out lefties with ruthless efficiency, and results are all that matter. And Storen is unbelievably effective against righties so far. We've got a perfect 8th inning L-R combination in the bullpen. I wonder if Riggleman has noticed this- if he has, I haven't really noticed it in his usage of the guys yet.

  9. raymitten - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:52 PM

    Clip is one of my favorite Nats but I wonder if we all drank the Peach Kool-aid a little too soon. He got several wins by allowing inherited runners to score, perhaps he may be more mortal than we thought. He's still probably at his best one of the best in the bullpen but perhaps human. My question is why does Riggleman keep using Clippard in game changing situations while he is in this slump, particularly when Storen was well rested. Its becoming an Acta-eque Groundhog Day act.

  10. court - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:00 PM

    I think Clippard is actually worse against lefties so far this season (although that was not the case last year). I think it has more to do with Clipp being able to start an inning as opposed to coming in mid-way. Considering the way Storen has been going, I think it's time to give him the 8th and let Burnett and Clippard alternate the 7th.

  11. alexva - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:10 PM

    @ Raymitten – the same reason he kept using Capps, the same reason he still plays Morgan….Players have a role on the team. If you change their role whenever they slump it can be chaos.

  12. Bowdenball - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    court:Good point. I'd say it's debatable whether Clip's been better against lefties or righties this year. He still has a better K/BB ratio against lefties than righties, which suggests to me that he's more comfortable throwing to them and that they're fooled more often by his delivery. Lefties are hitting the ball much better against Clip than righties, but that may be a result of an uncommonly high BABIP for lefties against him this year and an uncommonly low BABIP for righties- in other words, just good/bad luck.One thing you can't really debate is the career numbers. Kid is really, really good against lefties for some reason. Given his inning total this season, I'd like to see us use him a bit more sparingly and maybe even as a pseudo-LOOGY in conjuction with Storen as need dictates in the 7th/8th. I'd generally just like to see less rigid formula in the bullpen roles and more creative thinking like this,.

  13. Nervous Nats Fan - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    Mark, I'm wondering what you're hearing about Dunn – specifically, how much has his trade value gone up this year by him proving to be a serviceable first baseman (so now he's not a DH only kind of guy). I think it would be interesting to know how differently he is perceived now versus even the start of the season. Thanks.Also, on a more relevant note, I looked back for the Fangraph's article I read earlier this season discussing how his inherited runners scoring numbers were very high (even higher than they are now!) and he had an unsustainable strand rate and BABIP. Seems like his recent performances could just be regression to the mean.

  14. Anonymous - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    I dont understand why you have to have defined roles for the bullpen rather than using whoever is hot at the time; its like that all over baseball and its stupid. It only makes sense if you have a Mariano Rivera or someone like him who is a sure thing. I dont understand why we had to trot Matt Capps out there 4 or 5 days in a row when he was slumping and Clipard was hot and why we keep trotting Clipard out there to blow games when Storen is hot. I would love to see a progressive manager who uses the 'book' intelligently rather than instinctively.

  15. Anonymous - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    I absolutely knew who the intrepid reporter was! I'd recognize that voice anywhere.

  16. DCJohn - Jul 7, 2010 at 7:35 PM

    Send Clippard back to Syracuse to get mo-jo working. It's not going to do the team or him any good if he's doubting his stuff or if he's become to predictable. When the O's make you look foolish two games in a row, then it's time to re-examine. Clip has a role to play on this team. Remember two years ago, the Nats and Padres were playing for the rights to draft Strasburg. We got swept by them and thus won the sweep stakes. Point is, the Nats are the verge of being a real contender. In many ways this year has been a dress rehersal for what we need to be real contenders and when we can expect to ten games over .500 at the break, not ten games under. So, Clip, figure out what you're doing wrong and fix it. We need you.

  17. Chip Chanko - Jul 7, 2010 at 7:35 PM

    From watching and listening to most of the games this year, but without looking at any stats…it seems that Clippard does best starting an inning. If he gets into trouble, it seems like he reacts better when the runners are his vs. inherited. It also seems like he frequently is still warming up when he comes into a game. He may get two men on but then gets out of it by finding his location by the end of the inning. This may be why he doesn't do as well in situations where he has to make it count from the start. Again, this is just my feeling from memory and may have no basis in fact!

  18. phil dunn - Jul 7, 2010 at 9:23 PM

    What is wrong with Clippard?? The answer is simple, he was used too much early in the season and now he is burned out. Riggleman did him in because he was the only effective relief pitcher. Frank Robinson did the same thing to Chad Cordero, pitching him every day until his arm fell off.

  19. Deacon Drake - Jul 8, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    It may not even be burnout so much as that he has pitched so many inning since coming up last season that everyone knows his trick now.But given the Nats handling of relievers, the smart money is on burnout. Hey look, Hanrahan is competent again (1.07 WHIP this season) and Cordero is starting to rally back with his duct tape arm.

  20. markfd - Jul 8, 2010 at 4:02 PM

    Mark, you could probably punch up the way back machine and find a similar piece on Luis Ayala back in the day. Botom line is Clippard has never pitched this much, this often in his career, he is a skinny guy so a lot of torque on his arm, I hope it is fatigue and Storen gets more appaearances in the second half.





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