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Tyler Clippard is making them miss

Tyler Clippard may not gain much notice outside of Washington, but he should based on one incredible fact: Clippard has made hitters swing and miss more than any other pitcher in the major leagues.

Batters have dared swing at a pitch from Tyler Clippard 102 times this season, and 40 of those whiffed. That 39.2 percent rate is highest rate in the major leagues among all pitchers, relievers or starters. The league average is 22 percent. (John Lannan, the lowest on the Nationals, is 8.6.)

Clippard has become a weapon for the Nationals, surprisingly one of the most overpowering pitchers in the majors. On Friday night, he oppressed the Dodgers in the seventh and eighth inning, allowing one hit and striking out four. He lowered his ERA to 0.66, upped his team-best strikeout total to 18 and lowered his WHIP to 0.80.

How does Clippard blow so many hitters away? He does not light up the radar gun; the fastest pitch he threw Friday was a 93-mph fastball. His herky-jerky motion gives hitters a unique look at all four of his pitches. Clippard most fools hitters with a four-seam fastball and his changeup. He can throw his changeup in either count, which makes hitters chase high, riding heaters.

"When he throws a fastball, it looks like a changeup," said catcher Wil Nieves, who caught Clippard on Friday. "But instead of going down, it just stays straight. Hitters, they don't see rotation. They cannot recognize his changeup. His delivery plus that nasty changeup that he has, a combination like that makes the hitters crazy. I've never seen so many pitchers swinging at the high pitch like they do to him. It's unbelievable."

Nieves caught Clippard in 2007, when they played together with the Yankees and Clippard started six games as a rookie. "He was a little bit wild," Nieves said. "He always had that good changeup, curveball. Now he's throwing everything for strikes."

"I really think I've thrown the same way my whole career," Clippard said. "I think I've matured mentally, knowing what to do out there in certain situations, to pitch to my strengths. I've always been a strikeout guy. I've always been able to elevate. It's just a matter of maturing as a player and commanding my fastball a little better. It's a maturation process, getting physically stronger and mentally stronger. It all just snowballs from there."

Clippard's success in the bullpen has sparked a question: Should he go back to starting? Clippard believes he could start, but he had no opinion - "It doesn't matter, really," he said. "That's kind of up to the organization." The other day, Manager Jim Riggleman said his brother asked him why Clippard wasn't starting. The reason: He's just too valuable as a durable, dominating set-up man.

Plus, Clippard may benefit from his bullpen role. Opposing hitters get only one look at his unique wind-up, which bears at least a resemblance to Tim Linceum's delivery. They also have less opportunity to discern his fastball from his changeup. Said Clippard: "If they were to see me two or three times in a game, they might have a little better understanding of what I wanted to do to them."

As of right now, he's doing pretty much whatever he wants.

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 24, 2010; 1:51 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Game 18 discussion thread: Nationals vs. Dodgers
Next: Today's lineup


Clip's been money this year, really dominant. Until Atilano last night, he seemed to me the only pitcher who really attacks the hitters and the zone, instead of dancing around. He keeps the pace of the game going, helping his defenders, and really amps up the team. He's always had good stuff, and I have to agree that a couple innings nearly every day beats a start every 5 days (especially with our rotation improving soon - already with Marquis out!)...

Posted by: mo_dc | April 24, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Is there a call in show this year if so what's the number i'm here in Atl.i had last years number but to date no one answers. HELP!!

Posted by: dargregmag | April 24, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

When is too early to sign Clip to a multi year deal for a little more coin than $401,000? He's obviously got the stuff and is quickly becomming a fan favorite.

Posted by: JP82 | April 24, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

"I've never seen so many pitchers swinging at the high pitch like they do to him. It's unbelievable."

does he mean "so many HITTERS"?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 24, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Dar, posted this on the previous post, hope it helps:

According to the WFED site, there's a listing in their "Contact Us" section for the Sports Call-in Line - 1-877-936-9333

Posted by: HotNats | April 24, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Thanks HotNats much appreciated.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 24, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Clippard is under WSH control through 2011, but his time with the Yankees chewed up all his options. He had just over one year of MLB service time going into the season, so the team might look at a 2-3 year deal at the nd of the season.

I personally like him much more as a reliever than a starter, for two reasons - 1) He tends to pitch high in the strike zone, and 2) As a reliever, he can go 95-100% for 1-3 innings, as opposed to trying to shift gears between 80-95% to go six.

Posted by: BinM | April 24, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Agree, he's more valuable as lights-out in the 6th/7th/8th than as a starter, and honestly, I don't know that they have a spot in the rotation for him at this point. Lannan isn't going anywhere; Olsen hasn't pitched himself out of a job yet, and he'll have to to lose it; Stammen is doing well; Livo is doing well; and Atilano has earned another start. Come June, Strasburg replaces somebody who's either hurt, ineffective, or traded, and about the same time, so does Wang. So we're talking about maybe five possible starts at the most, even if you did put him in instead of Atilano. Not worth it--they're better off finding out Atilano can pitch.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 24, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

The Calvary is Comming; Sec3my sofa is dead on with his assesment of the June call ups if Superstar(Stevie Wonder) is the real deal and Stammen continues to get it right and Altiano and Livo stay on course all of a sudden the supposed weak link(pitching) on this team put's us on the road to respectability(.500 or better)

Posted by: dargregmag | April 24, 2010 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Just a hear-hear on Clippard. Sec3 and darg hit the nail on the head. What a valuable commodity he is in this role, especially as the Nats don't have starters who often go real deep into the game.

Off topic, I have tickets at Reading Monday night, and now it looks like it's going to rain. I don't relish driving there and not seeing Strasburg (or a game, even)

Posted by: nats24 | April 25, 2010 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Clippard is a warrior. I love the way that he just goes right after hitters, attack, attack, attack. He just looks fearless on the mound. My God, he's 3-0, with the most wins of any Nats pitcher so far, did anyone expect that? I'm very happy for him.

Riggleman is right, Clippard is invaluable as a setup man. Remember 2005, when it was starting pitcher-Luis Ayala-Chad Cordero? That was an often-lethal combination in producing Nats wins. Now we get starting pitcher-Clippard-Capps, which is proving to be seriously entertaining so far. Can't wait to see Clippard follow Stephen Strasburg in relief.

Posted by: JoeRiley | April 25, 2010 12:19 AM | Report abuse

@dag: "The Calvary is Comming..."

That can't be good news. Does this mean Jesus is going to get crucified when he arrives from Harrisburg/Syracuse...?

Posted by: gilbertbp | April 25, 2010 5:16 AM | Report abuse

Lincecum... interesting, and perhaps a better analogue than whom I was thinking, which was Marichal without the leg kick.

Posted by: Hendo1 | April 25, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, that one may be a bridge too far, gilbert, although I understand the punning inclination.

dargramps, I asked about the Nats radio post-game call-in number over on the MASN site, and a commenter said that the new one is 202-465-3080, and that there's no toll-free number.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 25, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Yep that number (202-465-3080) is correct. The call in show this season is hosted by Phil Wood and he does it right from the PNC Diamond CLub after the games. I've listened to a few of them and they seem better than in previous years - natch - that's probably due to Phil and his smooth handling of the show & baseball expertise. He's also been having some decent guests, e.g., the other night he had the Official Scorer with some good stuff to discuss.

Posted by: gonatsgo1 | April 25, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

natsfan1a1: Thank you for the info and thanks everyone for helping me out,quick question did we not have Darnell McDonald in our farm system at one time i was Bosox-O's game and he's playing for the Sox.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 25, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Here's hoping that Olsen can bounce back & give the team 5+ innings today; After the 13 innings yesterday, the bullpen is a little thin.

Posted by: BinM | April 25, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

You're welcome, darg.

I don't remember about Darnell McDonald but hope that somebody else will. I caught some of the Sox-O's game, and then I watched some of the Giants-Cards game on MLB Network. You'd think that after 13 innings we might have had enough baseball, wouldn't you? Oh, and I watched TWIB before it all started. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 25, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Given the use of the bullpen yesterday, here's hoping for a rainout today!

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | April 25, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Re Darnell McDonald, he signed with the Nats as a free agent at the end of 2006 and spent the first part of 2007 at triple-A Columbus.

The Nats, who had picked up Levale Speigner from Minnesota in the 2006 Rule 5 draft, returned Speigner to Minnesota in June to free up a space on the 25-man roster, and then traded McDonald to the Twins to get Speigner back. (Some deals work out more brilliantly than others.)

Posted by: Hendo1 | April 25, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

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