Oct 21, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
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.
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