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Is Anything Wrong with Tyler Clippard?

Tyler Clippard was the Washington Nationals’ lone representative at the 2011 All-Star Game and with good reason. He was, without a doubt, the best reliever on the pitching staff and was perhaps the best set-up man in baseball. The start of the 2012 season hasn’t been quite so smooth for the former All-Star. So, it begs the question, what’s happened to Tyler Clippard?

To jog your memory just in case you’ve forgotten, last season, Clippard put up a 1.83 ERA, a 0.838 WHIP, and a 4.00 SO/BB ratio in 88.1 innings. It was the best season in his career without question. This year, it’s been less pretty. After nine innings, Clippard is looking at a 6.00 ERA, an extremely high 1.778 WHIP, and an inflated 5.0 BB/9.

Those numbers may not be terribly reflective of how well he’s pitched and some other factors working against him. It’s also worth nothing that Clippard complained of some shoulder stiffness earlier in the season, but he also said this was normal compared to previous years. As Will pointed out this morning, he also blew three saves last so maybe this slow start will be forgotten like last year’s.

While his results have been less than ideal, some other factors indicate that he could be due for a marked improvement. Opponents are hitting .282 against him, but his .379 BABIP indicates that he hasn’t had much luck in terms of fielding help behind him. That BAA should drop as the season progresses if he’s going to be around the league mean, but he sported an unreasonably low .197 BABIP last year, so it doesn’t mean it will definitely fall. There are always outlying years.

The real tale about Clippard’s performance comes from FIP and SIERA. Both of these stats should be read on the ERA scale, whereas below 3.00 would be outstanding and above 5.00 would be terrible. Clippard’s FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, this year is an incredibly low 2.34 despite his astronomical 6.00 ERA. FIP basically tells you what a pitcher’s ERA should be based on league average BABIP, timing, and home runs surrendered. FIP is a future predictor, which indicates Clippard’s ERA stands to go way, way down.

Clippard’s SIERA, or Skill-Interactive ERA, is an above-average 3.72. SIERA is designed to be an even more accurate model of evaluating pitching than FIP, and FanGraphs describes it as “an attempt to more accurately model what makes a pitcher successful.” While a bit higher than his FIP, Clippard’s SIERA also indicates that he is set to improve drastically.

So given those numbers and a track record of success as a reliever, I don’t think anything is wrong with Tyler Clippard. He had a slower start last season, too, and his Sabermetric stats indicate that he could be due for an improvement as the season progresses. Nats fans have to hope that he does, because without Drew Storen until around the All-Star Break, they need last year’s All-Star to pick up some slack. He is certainly capable of doing just that.

About Joe Drugan

Managing editor of The Nats Blog and co-host of the Nats Talk On The Go podcast.

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