WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 22: Pitcher Tyler Clippard #36 of the Washington Nationals works the sixth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Nationals Park on June 22, 2011 in Washington, DC. The Washington Nationals won, 2-1. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Davey Johnson told the D.C. press corps yesterday that he thought Tyler Clippard should have been an All-Star after the first-half of the 2010 season, when the then-25-year-old rising-fastball-throwing right-hander held opponents to 21 runs (19 earned) in 44 games and 51.2 IP setting up for 2010 Nats' All-Star Matt Capps. "I think it's great," Johnson said when asked about Clippard going to Arizona this year, "I really didn't want to use him on [Sunday] because I know he's going to probably pitch in the All-Star Game, but we needed that one bad and I needed him in that eighth inning." The Nationals have needed the one-time Yankees' prospect just as much this season as they did last year. Heading into the break, Clippard's thrown 51.1 innings, allowing just 26 hits, 18 walks (3.16 BB/9), 10 ER and seven HR's, while striking out 63 (11.05 K/9) and holding the opposition to a .150 BAA, and a .184 BABIP...
Clippard's fourth in the majors in innings pitched behind the Braves' Jonny Venters (55.1 IP), the O's Jim Johnson (52.1 IP) and the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija (51.2). The Lexington, Kentucky-born, Florida-bred pitcher's .184 BABIP is the third-lowest in baseball behind only the Phillies' Antonio Bastardo and the Indians' Tony Sipp, and Clippard's pitched 28.0 more innings that Bastardo and 25.0 more than Cleveland's Sipp. The Nats' set-up man's 99.4% LOB% is the best in baseball. A fly ball pitcher who works up in the zone with his fastball or alternately throws a bottom's out change, Clippard has turned into an extreme fly ball pitcher this season with 62.3% fly balls hit off him (up from 55.6% in 2010) and 19.8% grounders (down from 27.8%) on the year in 2010.
Clippard still works predominantly with the fastball, throwing 58% fastballs but far less sliders than he did last season (13.5% down to 7.4) and more changeups (27.4%) than he has since he was still in the New York Yankees' organization. Clippard's been consistently brutal for lefties to face throughout his career, holding opposing left-handers to a .193/.280/.346 slash in 419 at bats, and not much easier for right-handers to hit (.210/.312/.393). But the now-26-year-old's not giving it up to either left-or-right-handed hitters this season, holding lefties to a .167/.220/.345 line and righties to .140/.245/.267 slash.
One of the only flaws in his first-half, if you were to go looking for one, is that Clippard's allowed more of the fly ball's hit off him to leave the yard this year than he did in 2010, (10.6% in '11, 6.7% in '10), and his 7 HR's allowed are tied for the most by any relief pitcher with more than 41.0 IP on the year.
The success, of course, has led to speculation that Clippard could be dealt at the end of this month, with the Tampa Rays, the Red Sox and the NY Yankees who drafted Clippard and dealt him to D.C. for right-hander Jonathan Albaladejo, all rumored to be interested in the Nats' late-inning arm. Asked about being possibly being dealt by MLB Network Radio hosts Holden Kushner and Joel Sherman on Sunday morning, before he lowered his ERA to 1.75 on the year (3.33 FIP) with another scoreless inning (he's allowed just 3 ER since May), Clippard said he'd like to stay in the nation's capital:
"For me personally, I want to stick around here in Washington. I mean, I love this city. Our organization is up-and-coming, we've got a lot of great things going on and I was here, part of this organization when we were going really bad, and when things were in shambles. And so, if I can stick around here for the long-term and to see the turn-around that this organization can possibily make, I think that would be really, really special, and hopefully that happens, cause I love it here."