What pitcher has the best record in the majors? You probably figure, since I’m asking, that it’s a Nats’ pitcher. And it is, Tyler Clippard is sitting at 6-0, which beats the starters leading the league. Halladay is 6-1, as is Ubaldo Jiminez, and there’s nobody else with more than 5 victories. It’s nice for him, but, it does reflect that he’s blown a few hold opportunities. Sunday was just one of those times – he came in with a man on first, nobody out, and gave up one run. It wasn’t a horrible appearance – one hit and one walk, then a sac fly. But he managed to get out of the inning without more damage.
The good thing about Clippard is that even after a few poor appearances, his ERA is still sitting at 0.79. But recently, he hasn’t been as lights out as he seemed to be in April. In his last three outings, he’s allowed 1 ER, but he’s also allowed 4 inherited runners to score, at least one in each game. It would seem, perhaps, that he’s being overworked. You know what’s gonna happen if the game is close, he’s pitching the 8th, possibly the 7th as well. So the wear of doing that for a month straight may be taking a toll. After all, he’s on pace for 123 2/3 IP this year, which is pretty much unheard of for a setup man in this day and age.
Except there’s a problem with that theory. It may be hard to remember this long back, but he started out the season worse. In the first 5 appearances of the season, while he once again only allowed 1 ER, he inherited 9 baserunners and let 6 of them score. At one point against Philly, he came in with the bases loaded. All 3 guys scored before he got three outs. So in the last three games he’s inherited 5 runners, and 4 of them have scored. This is, for sure, a worse percentage than he had at the beginning of the season. But it doesn’t mean he’s tired or overworked. It could just be a little bit of a bad few days.
What’s remarkable, really, is how good he has done in those middle 8 appearances. He only inherited 3 runners in that time. None of them scored. Neither did anyone else.
It’s important to remember, though, that none of this means he’s NOT overworked, either. 123+ innings for a reliever is alot, and they need someone else who can pitch in the 8th once in a while. Maybe that’s Sean Burnett. Maybe it’s Drew Storen. Either way, if they want Clippard to be effective all this year, and still able to lift his arm next year, they should probably try to find someone.
So what can we conclude here? Statistically, probably not much. It’s too short of a timeframe to come to anything real here. But it’s probably just like many other relievers. If you give Clippard a chance to get three guys out, with the bases empty, he stands a pretty good shot at doing it before anyone scores. And if there is someone on, he isn’t awful at it. That is what makes him valuable, that is what makes relievers less valuable than starters. But if he keeps it up, he may end up getting rewarded financially for it at some point. Heck, it may even lead to some trade offers from other teams looking for a closer or a setup man. The question then, if you’re Mike Rizzo, would be how much do you think he’s worth?