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Roster preview: Tyler Clippard

Feb 3, 2014, 12:31 PM EDT

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals

Age on Opening Day 2014: 29

How acquired: Trade with New York Yankees, Dec. 2007

2014 salary: TBD via arbitration (Clippard is seeking $6.35 million, Nats are offering $4.45 million)

2013 Stats: 72 G, 6 GF, 71.0 IP, 37 H, 19 R, 19 ER, 9 HR, 24 BB, 73 K, 0.859 WHIP, 6-3, 2.41 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 0.4 WAR

2014 storyline: Tyler Clippard has been among the Nationals’ most reliable players for five seasons now, regardless of position. After failing early in his career as a starter, he’s found the perfect role as setup man and has become among the best of his kind in baseball. Because of that, it’s a little bit easier to project his 2014 season than some of his teammates.

The Nationals like Clippard exactly where he is, so unless there is a complete disaster at closer it’s unlikely we’ll see him moved from the eight inning spot. One situation to watch, however, is how he pitches in the context of his contract. Clippard is under team control through 2015 and can be a free agent in two years. After this season the Nationals will be one year away from making a decision about his future. How Clippard performs this season could determine whether his future holds an extension, trade or simply a big contract year in 2015.

Best-case scenario: Clippard had a very good season in 2013, but there is still room for improvement. A best-case scenario would probably resemble his 2011 campaign when he held a 1.83 ERA across 88 1/3 innings. He was an All-Star that season and held an 0.838 WHIP. Even if Clippard isn’t quite that good, he’ll be one of the most important weapons for Matt Williams this season.

Worst-case scenario: The biggest concern with Clippard is his workload, as problems in the Nats’ bullpen late in recent seasons have forced him to log extra innings. Three of the last four years have seen Clippard lead Nationals pitchers in appearances. A worst-case scenario would probably involve all that catching up to him and an ERA heading north of 4.00. He’s been so good lately that only injuries would seem to slow him down.

Most-likely scenario: Barring something unforeseen, Clippard figures to have another good season as a centerpiece of the Nationals’ bullpen. He’ll likely make around 73 appearances, pitch 75 innings and hold an ERA just under 3.00. He has cut down on strikeouts each of the last three years, so look for Clippard to continue to improve at getting guys out by contact.

  1. NatsLady - Feb 3, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    Check out his ZIPS projection. Pay the man.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/2014-zips-projections-washington-nationals/

    • Sonny G 10 - Feb 3, 2014 at 12:42 PM

      +1

      • masterfishkeeper - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:11 PM

        But when I read most similar player is Armando Benitez, I start laughing.

      • Section 222 - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:14 PM

        Even better is Tyler Moore’s smiliar player — Marlo Thomas!

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:15 PM

        Strasburg’s similar player is Prior. uh-oh.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:20 PM

        A J Cole’s comparison is Zack Greinke. That’s high praise for a minor leaguer.

  2. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    he is definitely the best guy we have no matter who we paying to close and who we expect to close in 2015. he is probably the best setup man in the game right now. I hope he brings his K back up a little. He is not the contact-out guy.

  3. Section 222 - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    How do folks think Clip compares to David Robertson? Robertson made MLB Network’s Top 10 Relievers, Clip did not. (I think the rest of the Top 10 were closers.)

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      david robertson is their closer now, right? that might be the reason he made it. I think Clip has done it longer and with more workload per season.

      • Section 222 - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:31 PM

        How many years he’s done it doesn’t really enter into the calculation for MLB network, since it’s the “Top 10 Right Now.” Theoretically, that means that whether a guy is a closer or setup guy shouldn’t matter either. It’s an interesting comparison. They are the same age (28). In the last four years (2010-2013), here are some significant numbers:

        Robertson — IP 255, WHIP 1.204, K/9 11.6, ERA+ 179, K/BB 3.13
        Clip — IP 3.23, WHIP 1.019, K/9 10.4, ERA+ 144, K/BB 3.11

        In 2013, the numbers were as follows:

        Robertson — IP 66.1, WHIP 1.040, K/9 10.4, ERA+ 199, K/BB 4.28
        Clip — IP 72, WHIP 0.859,K/9 9.3, ERA+ 158, K/BB 3.04.

        Obviously, two outstanding pitchers.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:43 PM

        I am really interested to know who are the other nine guys that were rated above Clippard? I can see Holland, Jensen, Kimbrel, and Uehara (who is quite old) on the list. Who else is being rated ahead of Clip?

        Just by numbers you have listed, Clip seems better in WHIP, Innings, and H/9. Maybe advance stats rate higher on due to K/9.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:43 PM

        to me, almost 70 extra innings with slightly bigger ERA is much more valuable over same time period.

      • Section 222 - Feb 3, 2014 at 3:21 PM

        I agree. But that’s looking backward. The question is who you’d want next year. I’m not sure to be honest. Robertson was dominant last year.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 3, 2014 at 4:19 PM

        salary and control are other things to consider. I still side with Clippard. There is probably some fanboy factor to my choice but he deserves it.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Feb 3, 2014 at 2:47 PM

        Pretty sure that ‘top 10′ is for fantasy baseball purposes and is based on projected saves, thus points in fantasy scoring.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 3, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        oh, that makes sense.

        I would still draft Clip ahead of some closer given his better WHIP, K, and ERA numbers while giving more innings. I use elite relievers for relief spots if there aren’t any good closers available. they may not give saves but they save other stats from suffering. Besides there is a high chance that they become closers in case of injuries.

      • Section 222 - Feb 3, 2014 at 5:41 PM

        Actually, I’m pretty sure the Top Ten Right Now series is not about fantasy projections, though I’m sure some fantasy players follow it. And “The Shredder” and Brian Kenny don’t care about saves, so I doubt that’s a big factor either. Most teams use their best relievers as closers so it’s not surprising that the list is full of closers. And I don’t have any problem with calling Uehara, Kimbrell, Jansen, Holland, and Chapman the best relievers in the game — saves or no saves. Robertson made the list despite the fact that he’s never been a closer. Clip didn’t, and he was our closer for half of 2012. Not saying that’s the right call though.

  4. David Proctor - Feb 3, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    One more thing on ZiPS: someone in the other thread asked where that ranks us in relation to other teams. Of the teams that have been ranked so far (only 2 teams have not been done yet), we’re 3rd best. We rank behind only the Dodgers and Tigers.

  5. David Proctor - Feb 3, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    Take this for what it’ worth, but Jim Bowden says the Nats and Rays are “discussing” a possible trade for Jose Lobaton. Lobaton hit .254/.320/.394 last year.

    Of course, Bowden says a lot of things so like I said, take it for what it’s worth.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Feb 3, 2014 at 5:12 PM

      Whether discussions are real or not, that’s an acquisition that would make sense.

    • zmunchkin - Feb 3, 2014 at 5:31 PM

      Interesting. The Rays have been interested in Espi for a while. I wonder if he is involved in the discussions?

    • sjm308 - Feb 3, 2014 at 6:53 PM

      Makes some sense in that the Rays have 3 catchers with ML experience. I remember Lobaton hitting a homerun against the Red Sox in the playoffs last year. Not sure but I think he is fairly young and I don’t believe he was that great a defensive catcher. I would be upset if its Espinosa for Lobaton straight up.

      • zmunchkin - Feb 3, 2014 at 7:22 PM

        I agree sjm. Espi is worth more than a backup catcher. And he is even more worth more to the Rays given that he is cheap this year. And if he is in the show this year, his arbitration years are 2015-2017. So he is basically locked up at what is likely low $s for then next 4 years.

        And according to baseball reference Lobaton is 29 – turns 30 in October.

  6. Theophilus T.S. - Feb 3, 2014 at 3:47 PM

    Clippard is at least as important to the Nationals as Soriano. Who’s more important, the captain who cruises into the port or the guy below who plugged the leak in the boat?

    • janebeard - Feb 4, 2014 at 10:43 AM

      I think he’s MORE important, because there is no replacement for him. Sori has a replacement on the team already.

  7. janebeard - Feb 4, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    Tyler Clippard was the brightest spot on our team for a few years there, and he continues to be as sure a thing as there is. I hope he has many great years ahead of him, because I want him to benefit from a few years of the Nats being at the top and in October ball. He deserves it!

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