Tyler Clippard came from the nation’s capital for only an average shortstop. That may lead the less-knowledgable to believe he’s not that good.
Clippard, though, is one of the most talented relievers in baseball, and possibly the best considering his longevity.
The 29-year-old right-hander allowed a .188 opponents batting average, including .130 against right-handed hitters and .179 against first batters faced.
Clippard has appeared in 70 or more games in each of the last five seasons and his 371 games pitched over that stretch are the most in the majors.
What’s more, he’s fared no worse than 9.25 strikeouts per nine innings since 2009, and went as high as 11.08 strikeouts per nine innings in 2010.
It’s tough to find any sign that Clippard is slowing down, and he may prove the most valuable acquisition of the year for Oakland.
Over the last three seasons, Clippard has allowed no better than a .259 BABIP and his walk rate has fallen in that period as well.
Clippard appears to be an exception to certain laws of physics, biology, and baseball in general.
It’s tough to find a knock on this guy, but there may be one.
Though Clippard’s longevity in rare and unusual, his velocity may finally be falling a small bit. It’s a difference that could be explained by pitch selection or general mechanics, but his average pitch speed has dropped as the season wears.
He also has dropped to an average of 91 miles per hour since 2012, where his velocity hovered around 92 or 93 miles per hour.
His decreased walk rate, though, coupled with his steady strikeout numbers, help to minimize concerns.
Clippard also chooses to throw the high heat very often, more than any pitcher in baseball, which has lead to a lot of fly balls. This plays into Oakland’s favor, generally, given park factors at home.
But this could also backfire, especially with a small decrease in velocity. Just a little drop in speed can leave his favorite pitches right in the sweet spot of the zone, and bye-bye baby.
If it’s not already clear, this author expects big things from Clippard. Even a drop in production keeps Clippard in the upper echelon of relievers, and if he can stay fresh through the year, should be a major asset to the A’s.