In the eighth inning of the Nationals 3-1 win over the Tigers, the team's first win over the Detroit ballclub since 2005, Tyler Clippard came in to face Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, which isn't the easiest task in the world. Clippard has struggled with keeping his pitches down in the zone, but his pitch location chart from this 34-pitch outing against the Tigers is truly amazing.
Of the 34 pitches Clippard threw on Wednesday evening, not a single one in the bottom-half of the zone was called for a strike, and only one really even flirted with the zone. The only thing below the belt that was a strike was the swinging strikeout by Prince Fielder on a nasty changeup (the yellow #3 at the bottom in the image above). Let's take a look at the previous three appearances for Clippard as a small sample to compare the results.
The outing above is the April 29th in Atlanta against the Braves. As you can see, again, the vast majority of Clippard's pitches are in the top half of the strike zone. Just three of his 19 pitches were in the bottom half of the zone and strikes. In this outing, he gave up a leadoff walk that eventually scored and led to the Nationals 3-2 loss in the game.
In his next appearance, this time in Pittsburgh, things went quite a bit better. He had to throw just 11 pitches to retire the Pirates in the eighth inning, and he gave up just one hit. The Pirates' lineup may not be nearly as potent as the Braves or the Tigers, but as you can see, the pitches that are strikes are almost entirely in the bottom half of the zone.
Finally, in his outing on Sunday in Pittsburgh, once again, the vast majority of pitches were down in the strike zone. He ended up throwing nine pitches to get through the eighth inning en route to a Nationals win.
Keeping pitches down in the zone is one of many factors, like velocity, pitch movement, pitch selection, and a host of other things, that helps a pitcher have success. If all pitches are in one part of the zone, it's easier for a hitter to time up, so it's important to move around effectively. Pitches up are simply much more likely to result in solid contact. This information above is a small sample size, but I'll be keeping an eye on Clippard in his next couple outings.
All PitchFX data gotten from BrooksBaseball.net.