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The value of Tyler Clippard

Since Tyler Clippard is not a closer, you're not likely to hear or see this statement often. But he has been perhaps the most dominating and valuable relief pitcher -- and probably just plain pitchers, period -- in the majors in this young season.

Every time a Nationals starter has pitched five innings, the Nationals have won. That says a lot about their bullpen, which was a disaster a year ago. Clippard is a big reason for the turnaround. Clippard has allowed one run in 11 2/3 innings.

Twice this season, Clippard has entered and taken the game by the throat. Against the Mets, he pitched three innings and struck out seven. Last night, he pitched the seventh and eighth of a tie game and struck out three while allowing a single hit.

Clippard has mixed durability with dominance. He ranks second among all relievers in innings pitched, one out behind Case Janssen. Batters have whiffed 37.5 percent of the time when they swing at Clippard's pitchers, a rate that ranks among all pitchers in the majors. (Tyler Walker is actually second at 38 percent.)

In some cases, wins by relievers can be misleading, but Clippard's three wins leads the majors among relievers, and it leads the Nats. His 14 strikeouts are most on the Nationals. His ERA works out to 0.77, and his WHIP is 0.94.

Matt Capps will receive deserved credit for his start. He leads the majors with seven saves and has perfected his escape act -- he's allowed one run in 8 1/3 innings despite a 1.68 WHP. But the best pitcher out of the Nationals bullpen, and maybe any bullpen, this year has been Clippard.

FROM THE POST

The Nationals eked out another close victory, a 6-4 win over the Rockies that came when Wil Nieves smoked an RBI double in the eighth. The Nationals' -18 run differential does not necessarily bode well, but it is a sign they've been winning close games.

Stephen Strasburg may not be long for Harrisburg, Dave Sheinin writes after watching his third start.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 8, Syracuse 2: Roger Bernadina went 2 for 5. Chase Lambin went 3 for 4 with a walk and is now batting .412. Colin Balester allowed four runs on five hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings.

Harrisburg 3, Reading 0: Rafael Martin allowed two hits in two scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 1.13. Erik Arnesen allowed one hit in two scoreless innings while striking out two, lowering his ERA to 0.75.

Potomac's game was suspended by fog. Yes. Fog.

Hagerstown 7, Lakewood 5: Steven Souza went 3 for 4 with a home run, three RBI and four runs. Francisco Soriano went 2 for 5 with a triple and three RBI. Jack McGeary allowed six earned runs in three innings on five hits and three walks.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

The Nationals are playing well, but the fans haven't showed up yet.

Getting one run in seven innings off of Roy Halladay doesn't seem so bad now.

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 22, 2010; 8:50 AM ET
 
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Next: Nationals Minor League Report

Comments

Nats need to find a way to get new fans in. The current marketing plan is missing something. Maybe start getting players and coaches out there in front of the press a bit more, more interviews?

Posted by: alex35332 | April 22, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Was at the game last night. For anyone watching on tv, was the interference call against Morgan legit?

Posted by: flotsam3 | April 22, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Let's just hope they don't misuse Clippard. It's unfortunate that there is a set bullpen model that all managers abide by. Using the best reliever in the highest leverage situations is the most effective way to use a bullpen, which aren't necessarily in the 9th inning.

Posted by: Vladman1327 | April 22, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

I remember how many people thought it was mistake to acquire Clippard...where are these folks now!?

Posted by: markfd | April 22, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I think it's impossible, mathematically or otherwise, to give up 6 earned runs when the other team only scores 5.

The score to the Hagerstown game was actually 12-7.

http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=milb&gid=2010_04_21_hagafx_lwdafx_1&cid=563&t=g_box

Posted by: dc_homer | April 22, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

The kid has been light's out everytime Riggleman has called on him and his confidence level is off the charts,he has overmatched almost everyone he has faced and he throws strikes he may not be the closer but i'll tell you what he ain't far off.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 22, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Glad to see Clippard getting some kudos. I liked him at first because of the glasses, but after because of the pitching.

Posted by: markfromark | April 22, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Who got to wear the Elvis wig last night? Clippard would be my nominee.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 22, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I was thinking maybe Nieves, but I kinda sorta fell asleep during the postgame, so I don't know. I did see each of them being interviewed sans wig (Nieves on the field), though.

flotsam, he did go outside the baseline, so I think it was. If memory serves, they also mentioned the recent game (in NY?) where an opposing player did the same and wasn't called out on it (and nobody on our side argued it).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 22, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

And, yeah, I've been liking what Clippard brings to the field.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 22, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

@alex35332: "Nats need to find a way to get new fans in. The current marketing plan is missing something. Maybe start getting players and coaches out there in front of the press a bit more, more interviews?"

Maybe winning lots of games--over an extended period of time--when the local hockey team is not in the playoffs?

Attendance is what it is. I currently have lots of elbow room around my season-ticket seats. That's all right with me.

When they're still over .500 in June and the pitching phenom of the 21st century is on the mound, people will come back. Not to worry.

Posted by: shepdave2003 | April 22, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

@flotsam3: "Was at the game last night. For anyone watching on tv, was the interference call against Morgan legit?"

Yes, it was legit. Morgan was running out to 1st on the grass. That's a no-no.

Of course, this transgression is usually ignored. So, as somebody said on Ballpark Guys last night, whether or not it was a "good" call is debatable. But it was correct, according to the rules.

Posted by: shepdave2003 | April 22, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

When Storen comes up, with Clippard,Capps,Walker,&Brunney this might end up a really dominate bullpen. A far cry from where it was this time last year.

Posted by: bbmom1 | April 22, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

The current marketing plan is missing something.

Posted by: alex35332 | April 22, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

------------------------

You mean, like commercials on channels other than MASN? Or maybe promotional events that are advertised well in advance? The marketing of the Nats has been awful from day one (well, maybe that first year was alright...remember those PNC bank commercials that featured Brad Wilkerson?)

And how about throwing some deals on concessions every once and awhile. I bet they'd get a ton of people out for a dollar dog night or maybe a "happy hour" where all beers are $1 off or something...

It seems like the front office just doesn't care that only 11,000 tickets are sold to some games. The stands have been so empty for this Colorado series that it almost looks as if you're at a Marlins game.

Posted by: combedge | April 22, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Re: "I remember how many people thought it was mistake to acquire Clippard...where are these folks now!?"

Are you confusing Tyler Clippard with Tyler Walker?

Posted by: NatsFly | April 22, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

@flotsam3/all:

agree with what folks have said in analysis of the Morgan/baseline call, but only to a point. by the time he was at the bag, he was RIGHT ON the foul line - ESPN's Baseball Tonight did a zoom-in blow up, and he was in the base path at the time Giambi whacked him in the head trying to catch the awful throw. Everyone on the ESPN set said it was an awful call, that even if technically correct, NEVER gets called, and should not of been. Nyjer got HOSED, and as usual, so do the Nats. Glad it didn't matter in the final outcome.

Posted by: TheBorg | April 22, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

"Every time a Nationals starter has pitched five innings, the Nationals have won. That says a lot about their bullpen, which was a disaster a year ago. Clippard is a big reason for the turnaround. Clippard has allowed one run in 11 2/3 innings."

Riggleman is also a big reason for the turnaround. In close games he has shown flexibility in using the bullpen and he has put pitchers in for the right situations where they can succeed. He doesn't just push buttons and go to his "7th inning guy" followed by his "8th inning guy" followed by his "closer." Clippard has had several multi-inning outings already; Burnett came in to get the first out in the 9th against a lefty in a save situation, to be followed by Capps. These are the types of moves that our prior manager never would have made a year ago; his inflexibility contributed in a big way to the bullpen disaster last season.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | April 22, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

When Clippard was acquired, he was considered a starter. But if memory serves, he didn't have a lot of sustained success in that role.

Do you think his current performance level is due to his being utilized more effectively as a reliever, or because he has simply developed into an effective pitcher?

Long question short, could Clippard be viewed as a potential starter again, or even as an emergency spot-starter from the bullpen?

I'm not advocating for such a move; I'm merely asking for your opinions.

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 22, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

It's so nice to be 8-7 instead of buried in last before the end of April.

As to the run differential, these nats are a lot like the '84 Mets, who had just come off 6 or 7 bad years, but now had Gooden, Darling, Strawberry and Hernandez -- they got blown out in several April losses but kept winning the close ones. I kept waiting for the team to tank, but they were in first as late as the end of June and ending winning 90+.

We all hope the Nats' version of Gooden will be here before long, and that the team keeps winning the close ones.

Honestly, it's easier on the stomach to lose big than to drop a heartbreaker. One loss either way.

Posted by: nats24 | April 22, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

"Riggleman is also a big reason for the turnaround. In close games he has shown flexibility in using the bullpen and he has put pitchers in for the right situations where they can succeed."

This. Riggs is doing a great job using the journeymen in the blowouts (walker/Batista), getting some mileage out of Jesse English and using Clippard to win games. He's ridden Clippard really hard but gave him some nice rest earlier this week. Clippard is the guy in the close, winnable games. Bruney is the wildcard. Riggs is really managing the pen so much better than Acta.

Posted by: hoo93 | April 22, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I didn't see the play at first, but anyway -- it's not against the rule to run outside the lane. It's against the rule to run outside the lane and interfere with a play. I don't think that's ignored very often.

Posted by: markfromark | April 22, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Here's an idea for a marketing plan: hold a special "Fire Clint!" day where every fan gets to fill out a pink slip for him and the Nats retire the lame-MC-shtick forever!

Posted by: cassander | April 22, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

shepdave, I disagree 100%. Morgan was on the right side of the line; the horrible throw brought Giambi into Morgan infront of the bag. Baseball tonight replayed it 10 times, all 4 analysts thought it was a horrible call.

As for Clippard, I was thinking last night that should this team tank he is one guy we could get a good young player in return for. I hope he stays but how much trade value will Walker et al have?

Posted by: SCNatsFan | April 22, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

where's Poopy? Does he want to make any comments on his favorite team up the parkway?

Posted by: 1of9000 | April 22, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I think Clippard is so effective because the batters are mesmerized by the glasses. It's his secret weapon.

Posted by: gilbertbp | April 22, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

"Long question short, could Clippard be viewed as a potential starter again, or even as an emergency spot-starter from the bullpen?"

Clippard has been great because he's in a role where he can get by with two pitches. Since he only has two and a half pitches, it works out for him. Put him in a starter role and he'll still dazzle for three innings, be out by four, only it won't be to put the closer in.

Posted by: Section506 | April 22, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Adam, I want to echo the recent praise for including the minor league summaries in the blog. Thank you.

And relative to that note, Bally-Star's days look numbered if he doesn't figure it out soon. I hope he does.

Posted by: lowcountry | April 22, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Vladman for the reminder that it's not just the 9th when games are on the line. Closers finish games, but it's often the middle guys who "save" them. This should go without saying, but seems contrary to current conventional wisdom.

And thanks Adam for the focus on Clippard.

Posted by: KenNat | April 22, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

"Riggs is really managing the pen so much better than Acta."

Really, it's just that he has better guys in the bullpen to manage than Acta did in 2008-2009. No one complained about Acta's bullpen management in 2007 when he actually had a halfway decent bullpen to manage. It's not Acta's fault that some of the guys from his good 2007 bullpen (e.g. Saul Rivera, Luis Ayala) ended up regressing by 2009 and were not replaced sooner with better guys. It's not Acta's fault that Rauch got traded, Cordero got hurt and he ended up having to manage the likes of Hanrahan and Steven Shell. It's good players that make managers look good, and mediocre players that make them look bad. Nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 22, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

"Closers finish games, but it's often the middle guys who "save" them. "

That's why stats geeks use the "hold", but unfortunately it's not caught on with the sports media. Really, holds should be considered equal to saves.

Posted by: Section506 | April 22, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

CiL, completely agree re Riggs use of the bullpen and not managing robotically. The current issue of SI also had an article on managers managing that way as well--an article, incidentally, about Jon Rauch.

Posted by: slewis1 | April 22, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Good one, gilbert.

---

I think Clippard is so effective because the batters are mesmerized by the glasses. It's his secret weapon.

Posted by: gilbertbp | April 22, 2010 11:22 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 22, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

The Nats need to get on sports talk 980 so they can be promoted properly. Its a shame I can hear crappy BlO's games clearly and I have to try to listen through the static to hear Nationals games. This should be fixed. Come on Nats, tell them there is a new sheriff in town!!!!

Go Nats!!!

Posted by: punchdaclock | April 22, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

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