My man Mike Harris at Nats Fanboy Looser has a piece up today about Tyler Clippard and whether or not the bespeckled one can continue his torrid pace of destroying National League bats this season. I started to type a comment to his post, but it was longer than a post comment should be, so I decided to move it over here where I could expand a bit.
And I'm going to try to do this using numbers that Mike doesn't have to break out his slide rule to understand.
Clippard has several things going for him so far this season that has led to his success:
He's given up eight hits in 19.1 IP. That's a rate of 3.7 hits per nine innings. His career number is 6.5 H/9.
He's not allowed a home run. Career-wise he's given up 1.3 per nine, relatively high for a short reliever.
He's walked 4.1 per nine. Career he's 5.0 per nine.
But here's the thing. His numbers are trending down throughout the course of his career. His 2010 numbers are outstanding and will regress somewhat. But taking a little bit deeper look they might not be completely unsustainable.
His BABiP against (Batting Average on Balls in Play) this season is .195, which at first blush screams that regression would be imminent, owing to the fact that major league average is around .300. But in 2009 his BABiP was .201. In his major league career, spanning 62 games and 117.1 innings, his BABiP is .235.
We might just be dealing with a guy that has so much deception and quirkness in his delivery that hitters don't get a good look at him and can't pick the ball up out of his hand, leading to weaker contact. And he's doing this while remaining a predominantly fly ball pitcher (.46 ground balls per fly ball. MLB average is .79.)
Clippard is essentially a two-pitch pitcher. He's got a low-90s fastball that runs in on right-handed batters and a wicked change-up that falls on the tops of the shoes to left-handers.
He's getting batters to swing and miss at many more pitches out of the strike zone than he did last year (34.8% to 24.3%), and getting more swinging strikes in total (15.9 % to 13.9%).
He's not throwing more strikes, but he's doing something--so far--to make hitters think he is.
So expect a few more batted balls to end up in play, and probably a few more walks thrown in there. And expect a couple hitters to guess right and hit couple homers against him along the way.
But it seems that the converted starter has really found a niche in short relief. If he can maintain a repeatable delivery, confusing hitters between his fastball and change-up, the Nats might have discovered a valuable piece to a major league quailty bullpen.