Tyler Clippard’s Deceptive Results

A glance at Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard’s numbers will certainly impress. He has appeared in 16 games and has thrown 23.2 innings, allowing just two runs during that span. It looks like the low run totals might be more than flukey. Though his BABIP sits at an unsustainably low .220, he has his share of strikeouts, 29, so perhaps he can continue pitching well out of the bullpen even when more batted balls drop in for hits. Yet there’s something deceptive about Clippard’s numbers.

A 0.76 ERA suggests that Clippard has done his job preventing runs, but that’s not exactly the case. While he has allowed only two runs of his own — a triple and sac fly in one case, a homer in the other — he has done a poor job of preventing inherited runners from scoring. In fact, pitchers must hate it when Jim Riggleman lifts them in favor of Clippard when there are men on base. He has allowed 56 percent of his inherited runners to score so far.

In his last three games, in fact, he has allowed at least one inherited runner to score. His record in those games: 3-0. Clippard actually leads the NL in wins, which seems odd, even at this point in the season, from a reliever. Four of those, however, have come after he has blown a lead. You can’t pitch your way into a save situation, but with a little help from your offense you can easily pitch yourself into a win.

Other than striking out plenty of hitters, Clippard does something else well. He does not allow the runners he himself puts on base to score. His strand rate is a ridiculous 97.6 percent, which is third in the NL among pitchers with at least 20 IP. The highest strand rate for any NL pitcher with more than 70 IP last season was 85.2 percent. He has also kept the ball in the park this season despite allowing a 55 percent fly ball rate. While flukes in this regard happen, it’s unlikely that he’ll sustain his 3.6% HR/FB ratio.

The new Meltdown/Shutdown system does favor Clippard, crediting him with 10 shutdowns to just one meltdown. This, however, can be misleading. The statistic depends on WPA. There have been situations this year where Clippard has blown the lead, has had his offense retake it, and then has come out to pitch the next inning. That’s going to reduce his number of meltdowns, because recording outs in later innings, in which he has the lead, will help improve his WPA.

Clippard does have a few things going for him. His FIP is excellent at 2.96 and his xFIP is even decent at 4.03. That shows that he’s a bit lucky on the home runs, but even so he’d still be an effective reliever. His high strikeout rate, too, bodes well for the rest of his season. There are enough warning signs, though, from his high walk rate to his penchant for allowing inherited runners to score to his unsustainable ability to leave men stranded, that suggest that he might soon sport a stat line that more resembles his peripheral performance.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

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I don’t think his BABIP is unsustainable. Last year in 60+ IP his BABIP was .207, which is obviously .013 points lower than his current BABIP. Heck, his career BABIP is only .244.

Having watched all of Clippard’s games the past two years… one thing is clear, no one makes good contact on the guy. He has a funky motion that is all arms and legs and hides the ball very well versus batters. What makes him so effective is the fact that he’s a flyball pitcher that generates lots and lots of weak pop ups to the OF.

While I obviously don’t expect him to keep up his ERA, I don’t think a similar type of stat line is out of the question with him.

One thing that us Nats fans have noticed though is the fact that Clippard is already starting to tire due to overuse by Riggleman (something Jim has talked about fixing). Before these last few games, Clippard was untouchable. I imagine if he could just get two days rest, he’d be recharged and ready to continue on the roll he’s been on so far.


I vote unsustainable…

Career Leaders in BABIP (min. 100 IP, min. 7 K/9)

0.242 Pat Neshek 125.0
0.244 Tyler Clippard 121.1
0.245 Troy Percival 708.2
0.251 Herb Score 858.1
0.252 Carlos Marmol 321.1
0.256 Kelly Wunsch 177.0
0.257 Jeff Zimmerman 228.2
0.258 Karl Spooner 116.2
0.259 Sid Fernandez 1866.2
0.259 Floyd Youmans 539.0


It’ll be great if Clippard regresses, if only to make Boswell look like an idiot (again). Boz was all over the place a week ago praising Clippard for his low H/9 rate.


You want him to regress?

Must be an O’s fan.


I think Clippard regressed enough in just the last inning against the Mets to even out his stats to his actual talent. Wow, that was brutal.