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Roster review: Tyler Clippard

Oct 21, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT

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Age on Opening Day 2014: 29

How acquired: Trade from Yankees for RHP Jonathan Albaladejo, Dec. 2007

MLB service time: 4 years, 148 days

2013 salary+bonuses: $4 million

Contract status: Arbitration-eligible, free agent in 2016

2013 Stats: 72 G, 71 IP, 37 H, 19 R, 19 ER, 9 HR, 24 BB, 73 K, 0.859 WHIP, 0 SV, 3 BS, 6-3, 2.41 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 0.4 WAR

Quotable: “He’s been the most consistent pitcher I’ve had in some time. And his numbers are off the charts.” — Davey Johnson on Tyler Clippard

2013 analysis: Clippard had already established himself as one of baseball’s best (and most consistent) relievers at the season’s outset, and he only bolstered that reputation over the ensuing six months. He made 70 or more appearances for the fourth straight year. He struck out more than a batter per inning for the fifth straight year.

What really separates Clippard from the rest of the pack, though, is the complete lack of hits he surrenders. Opponents recorded only 37 base hits in 71 innings against him this season, a staggeringly low rate of 4.7 hits per nine innings that ranked second among all MLB relievers who made at least 50 appearances (topped only by Red Sox closer Koji Uehara).

Clippard did go through a couple of rough stretches (one in April, another in August and September) but he also enjoyed a prolonged stretch of utter dominance. In 23 appearances from June 4-July 27, he allowed one run on eight hits, holding opponents to a .341 OPS.

2014 outlook: Every year, you can’t help but wonder whether Clippard is bound to regress, either due to injury, fatigue or a simple reversal of fortune. But four consecutive years of dominant performances should be enough to convince everyone this is who Clippard is, and barring some unexpected development, this is who he will continue to be for years to come.

There is one downside to all this: Clippard is becoming quite expensive, especially for a setup man. He made $4 million via arbitration last winter, and he’s going to get another nice raise this winter. Some teams might cite that — not to mention the typical erratic nature of relief pitching — as justification for a trade. But the Nationals can’t really afford to lose Clippard, and they’ve also shown a willingness to spend good money on players, even those who hold positions that don’t typically command significant salaries.

  1. Whack-A-Mule - Oct 21, 2013 at 7:11 AM

    Mule Can’t Do the Math –

    Mule needs help understanding the Clippard math.
    WHIP 0.859 – ERA 2.41 – 72 appearances – 71 innings pitched
    WAR = 0.4

    A WAR of 0.4 is awfully close to that of the average bear/
    late inning reliever (0.0).

    ” ‘ Splain, pliz. “

    • Hiram Hover - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:09 AM

      In general, WAR doesn’t think that much of relief pitchers. And in Clippard’s case specifically, his fWAR (fangraphs) and rWAR (baseball reference) diverge a lot, which is worth noting too.

      Clippard in 2013 was 0.4 fWAR and 1.8 rWAR.

      Soriano by comparison was 0.5 fWAR and 0.9 rWAR.

    • Sam - Oct 21, 2013 at 2:29 PM

      To add to what Hiram said…

      Just some technical details: fWAR for pitchers is based on FIP, which takes strike outs, walks, and home runs per inning into account; whereas rWAR for pitchers is based on run prevention (i.e. [earned] run average).

      So, while Clippard’s ERA in 2013 was low, his FIP was “high” compared to most relievers.

  2. slidell2 - Oct 21, 2013 at 7:18 AM

    If you’re talking performance, $4M seems quite reasonable compared to what Soriano’s collecting.
    Also, this nonsense about calculating the appropriate pay by “position” or “role” is just that, nonsense. “Performance” should be the dominating factor.

  3. nats128 - Oct 21, 2013 at 7:47 AM

    I really like Clippard. The only knocks on him is the HRs and the long innings. Sometimes he needs that 3rd pitch when his changeup isn’t fooling them.

  4. Faraz Shaikh - Oct 21, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    one other reason I would support Clip’s trade is how other teams’ value him. He has closed for us successfully in the past so other teams that are without proven closers, might be interested in trading for him, for example Tigers. But I don’t know what to expect in return.

  5. Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 21, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    Clippard was the one reliever you could count on in the bullpen.

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 21, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    Now the Tigers are looking for a new Manager. Ausmus would fit well there.

  7. jd - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Ghost,

    As far as I know there are 4 managerial openings right now ( I may be missing someone):

    1) Nats
    2)Detroit
    3)Cincinnati
    4) Cubs

    I am pretty sure that the Nats job is the best out there because it’s a good young team in a good city with good owners with deep pockets. Each of the other openings comes with some issues such as: not a great city, small market and a lousy team (I think you can deduce who I am talking about in each case).

    Still, the Nats should be very aggressive in their process so as not to lose the best candidate for them. Other teams have made announcements during the world series and if that’s what it takes so be it. The heck with Selig who really hasn’t done squat for us in the TV dispute with Angelos.

    • NatsLady - Oct 21, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      Seattle

  8. snerdblurter - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Yeah, Leyland stepping down is a bit of a dagger for us as we are no longer the #1 opening (I guess you could argue Cincy is up there too, maybe).

    Anyways, Clipp was the best arm on the roster for 3/4 of the year. As long as the opposing team wasnt wearing red and blue with white A’s on their caps, he was among the best in the league and shouldve gotten more ASG consideration… $5-5.5M would be well worth it for a guy like Clipp (especially when its not coming out of my pocket)

  9. jd - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    Ghost,

    I am pretty sure that given a choice Ausmus would take the Nats job. I think he’s an NL guy, I think our team has the better future especially if the Tigers can’t keep Scherzer and who the heck wants to live in Detroit?

  10. jd - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    snertblurter,

    I don’t even think Cinci and Detroit are the 2nd best choice. At least the Cubs are in a big market, are willing to spend to rebuild and have a good GM.

    I think we are by far the best job out there. In fact when Girardi was in the mix the NY talk show hosts felt that the Nats job would be very attractive to him.

    • snerdblurter - Oct 21, 2013 at 3:41 PM

      I hope a lot of these guys (esp. Ausmus) see things the way you do, although I’m always a little skeptical about how much potential managers consult the US World & News Report’s “100 Best Places to Live” report when considering job offers. Maybe if its a younger guy with a family and young kids that is looking to settle down? Does Davey live in DC year round? Semantics, really, but necessary for surviving an offseason like this…

      Bottom line – I think Tigers are probably the better team in terms of chances to win it all next year, but the youth/talent of the Nats core that is under team control for the next 2-3 years might make the Nats the better option for younger guys like Ausmus, Williams, et al. who will also probably get a bit of a longer leash here than in Detroit.

  11. sjm308 - Oct 21, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    Good news is I did not have to sign in today so thanks to many for the advice on checking that little box.

    I have always like Clippard and hope he is here next year but the reality is that relievers are maybe the easiest piece to replace. If Rizzo makes that one blockbuster trade and it results in either David Price or Stanton and Clip is one of the players needed to complete that type of trade I am fine with it.

    I have never concerned myself with what any of our lads make or compare them to what others make. It is not my money and it makes no difference to me if they are paid millions over what others think they are worth. I just want them to play well, play hard and make good choices off the field. Clippard seems to be a good example of that. Has he ever been hurt? I can’t remember him going on the DL at any time in his 4 years here.

    One last comment. It is interesting to me that Soriano’s article generated 4 comments while Clippard already has 12. It seems to me that Soriano is going to be a whipping boy or certainly not a fan favorite in the next season. Part of that is his huge contract and another is his demeanor but I don’t see Rizzo getting rid of him. I will be honest and admit I did not even read the post on Soriano. Does he have a 3rd year guarantee if he makes a certain number of appearances? Not sure I am in favor of more than one more year. I like to think that Storen will be more then ready in one more year.

    Go Nats!!

    • scbilly - Oct 21, 2013 at 1:10 PM

      A third year is guaranteed for Soriano at $15m if he finishes (not appears in or saves) 120 games total in 2013-14. I’m not sure where he stands on that oddball metric.

      • tcostant - Oct 21, 2013 at 1:18 PM

        I remember the Mets regretted a similar vesting option with K-Rod a few years back and basiclly remover him from the closer role because of it.

        I think I read a while back that Soriano finished close to 60 games, so that option is in play.

      • Hiram Hover - Oct 21, 2013 at 1:57 PM

        He finished 58 games this season, which is the most he has finished in his career.

        In 2013, only 6 pitchers finished 60 or more games, and only two finished 62 or more, the # he’d need to trigger the vesting option.

        So: if healthy, he will approach that #, but it’s unlikely he hits it.

    • Section 222 - Oct 21, 2013 at 3:18 PM

      +1 (referring to sjm’s comments on the salaries of players and wilingness to part with Clipp in a blockbuster deal that brings us DPrice or GStanton.)

  12. jeromeaquino - Oct 21, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    I have seen many comments about the Nats poor season and its causes, e.g., poor bullpen, lack of clutch hitting, a manger more interested in tomorrow than today, etc. I feel one cause that has not received much notice was the injury to Christian Garcia. Garcia pitched well down the stretch in 2012. While DJ made several mistakes in game 5 against the Cards, one of his mistakes was failing to use Garcia rather than Edwin Jackson in the 8th inning (enough said about E. Jackson). He was slated as a possible starter in 2013. His injury had a significant impact on the team and likely effected both starting and relief pitching.

    Go Nats, 2014!

  13. therealjohnc - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:47 PM

    The Rays aren’t going to take Clippard in a Price deal, for the very simple reason that the only reason they’d be moving Price is because he’s getting too expensive for them. Why would they use that as a means of getting an expensive relief pitcher?

    Unless they get a seriously good offer of current major league players at positions that would upgrade the Nationals significantly, I would urge the Nationals not to deal Clippard. This team is in “win now” mode. Although you can easily replace relief pitchers, it is very difficult to come up with a relief pitcher who will replace Clippard’s production. Just having guys to sit in the bullpen and wait for the manager to call is not the same thing.

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