Jun 12, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Washington Nationals pitcher Tyler Clippard (36) looks in for the sign before delivering a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. The Nationals beat the Blue Jays 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE
In a 2010 interview, then-25-now-27-year-old Washington Nationals' right-hander Tyler Clippard said he wasn't sure what caused hitters so much trouble when facing him. "Obviously, there is some deception there," the current Nats' closer said, "Which is good, but that's kinda just how I throw. So I'm lucky enough to kind of have that in my repertoire, I guess. But I don't really know if it's that or the [fact] that I have a good changeup or what it is, but I think it helps a little bit for sure." Opposing hitters had a .212/.299/.348 line against Clippard that season with right-handers particularly incapable of connecting with the 6'3'' reliever's pitches (.188/.276/.318 vs RHB).
In 2010, Clippard posted a 3.07 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 41 BB (4.05 K/9) and 112 K's (11.08 K/9) in 78 games and 91.0 IP. In '11, the fifth-year pro had a 1.83 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 26 walks (2.65 BB/9) and 104 K's (10.60 K/9) in 72 games and 88.1 IP. So far this season, Clippard's put up a 1.83 ERA, 2.09 FIP, 15 walks (3.93 BB/9) and 39 K's (10.22 K/9) in 35 games and 34.1 IP... over which he's yet to allow a home run...
But most impressive has been Clippard's work since he took over as the Nationals' closer. Since earning his first save of the year on May 22nd, Clippard is 13 for 13 in save opportunities and so successful in his ninth-inning role that Davey Johnson told reporters last week he'd likely remain the late-inning option even after 24-year-old reliever Drew Storen returns from the DL (which could be as soon as the first game back from the All-Star Break.) "'Right now he’s my closer,'" the Nats' manager told reporters including the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, "'and the way he’s going I can’t see going to somebody else," Johnson said. "They’d have to show me up here probably in a setup role before they have the opportunity to close.'"
Davey Johnson likes what he's seen from Clippard. Major League Baseball does too. The 27-year-old right-hander was named the MLB Delivery Man of the Month for the month of June after a 12-game, 10-save stretch in which he threw 11.2 scoreless, giving up just two hits and six walks (4.63 BB/9) while striking out 16 (9.26 K/9) and posting a 2.54 FIP and (you know with the whole no R/ER thing) a 100.0% LOB%. Clippard's the fourth National to win one of MLB's monthly awards this year with Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez earning pitcher of the month honors in March/April and May, respectively, and Bryce Harper taking home a Rookie of the Month award last month.