I don’t think his BABIP is unsustainable. Last year in 60+ IP his BABIP was .207, which is obviously .013 points lower than his current BABIP. Heck, his career BABIP is only .244.
Having watched all of Clippard’s games the past two years… one thing is clear, no one makes good contact on the guy. He has a funky motion that is all arms and legs and hides the ball very well versus batters. What makes him so effective is the fact that he’s a flyball pitcher that generates lots and lots of weak pop ups to the OF.
While I obviously don’t expect him to keep up his ERA, I don’t think a similar type of stat line is out of the question with him.
One thing that us Nats fans have noticed though is the fact that Clippard is already starting to tire due to overuse by Riggleman (something Jim has talked about fixing). Before these last few games, Clippard was untouchable. I imagine if he could just get two days rest, he’d be recharged and ready to continue on the roll he’s been on so far.
I was really hoping to see an article on Clippard sometime. He was a guy that I see his statlines all the time but don’t really know much about him.
I know he has a violent delivery which is probably deceptive and he gets a ton of K’s and doesn’t give up a lot of hits. Just because the league average BABIP is around .300 doesn’t mean that every pitcher or hitter should regress to it. Some guys have very good stuff and will induce weak contact, which may be what Clippard does. I’m thinking some regression could be in line where he will strand less of his own runners, and maybe do a better job when he comes into the game with runners on base because it’s very odd to post opposite stats in each of those situations.
I also wouldn’t be surprised to see this guy get injured in a year or two. They are working him very hard, even though he has been a starting pitcher in the past, he is still working a very lot.
Doesn’t this suggest a flaw with the Shutdown/Meltdown logic? Shouldn’t the Shutdown/Meltdown be based only on the team’s change in WPA while the team is on defense? (In other words, wouldn’t it make more sense to disregard changes to WPA while the player’s team bats? He’s not influencing that by his pitching, and it shouldn’t show up in the Shutdown/Meltdown as if he did.)
That’s not quite it. Clippard doesn’t get direct credit for his offense. But while he produces negative WPA when blowing the game, if he comes back out and has a lead an inning later, he’ll be able to produce positive WPA to offset the negative WPA he produced the inning before, when he blew it.
Comment by Joe Pawlikowski — May 10, 2010 @ 1:57 pm
Maybe I’m not getting this… Suppose (a made-up example)Clippard comes out in the 6th with a win expectancy of 57%. He allows two runs to score before getting out of the inning, and the win expectancy is down to 45%. The Nats score three runs, boosting the win expectancy back up to 68%. Clippard comes back out for the 7th, and walks the leadoff man, resulting in a win expectancy of 64% and prompting a pitching change. The game went from 57% to 64% while he was pitching, so that would count as a Shutdown, right? The more logical thing (to me) is that his WPA was -0.12 in the 6th, and -0.05 in the 7th – while he was actually pitching – and overall his -0.17 WPA would qualify as a Meltdown. Am I misunderstanding the metric?
The way you describe it in the second to last sentence is the way it’s done.
Comment by Joe Pawlikowski — May 10, 2010 @ 2:26 pm
Why shouldn’t he get credit for that second inning?
Is there a difference between the following situations?
A) Top of the 8th inning, up 2-1. Pitcher gives up 2 runs, making his team down 3-2. Bottom of the 8th, offense scores 2 more runs, and they’re up 4-3. Pitcher pitches a scoreless 9th for the win.
B) Top of the 8th inning, up 2-1. Pitcher pitches a scoreless 8th. Bottom of the 8th, offense scores 2 more runs, and they’re up 4-1. Top of the 9th, Pitcher gives up 2 runs, making his team up 4-3, but hangs on for the win.
(Traditional metrics, of course, give Pitcher a blown save and win in situation A, and a save in situation B.)
It seems that you want to give the pitcher more credit for situation B, because the lead never changed. (Credit beyond the possible WPA difference for pitching badly with a 3-run lead instead of a 1-run lead, that is.)
Yes, I want to give more credit for situation B. In that one, the pitcher did not give up the lead. That seems pretty damn important to me. You can’t count on your offense to score more runs. They will from time to time, but you can’t bank on it.
In situation A, the pitcher put his team in a bad spot. They had the lead, and he blew it. Now they’re down, and only the offense, something completely out of the pitcher’s control, can save them.
In Clippard’s case, he’d be rightly debited for blowing the lead. But then the offense comes back and re-takes the lead. He comes out for the next inning, and if he records outs without giving up runs he’s moving his team further towards 100% WE, even though he nearly blew the game earlier.
In situation A, the pitcher did his job. He never lost the lead. He might have come close in the ninth, but ultimately, as you say, he hangs on to win. That’s the difference. In situation B, the pitcher is a loser without the offense. He has no control over that aspect of the game.
Comment by Joe Pawlikowski — May 10, 2010 @ 2:35 pm
Something tells me I messed up instances of situation A and situation B. You know what I’m talking about, though. Blowing a lead is far worse than giving up runs and still maintaining the lead.
Comment by Joe Pawlikowski — May 10, 2010 @ 2:36 pm
But in both cases, the offense bails him out, no? It’s just that in one case it’s via “insurance runs” rather than retaking the lead.
What I find interesting is that his flaws are practically irrelevant in fantasy. Inherited innings don’t count against the ERA, and Clippard has been terrific in not letting his own runners score. Or maybe I’m rationalizing keeping him around a bit after squeezing two wins out of him.
He’s certainly do for some regression; my gut tells me he’ll eventually fall somewhere between his FIP and his xFIP.
Encouraging for Nats fans, his average velocity for fastballs and sliders has increased at least two miles per hour since his conversion to the bullpen, and the differential between the fastball and the changeup currently sits at 10.7 MPH, which works perfectly with his deceptive delivery. Additionally, all three of those pitches are getting results (and he seems to have almost abandoned his curveball).
I think you’re putting too much weight on the initial meltdown. If your WPA is positive — as Clippard’s was last Thursday, for example, when he preserved a tie in the ninth after blowing a lead in the eighth — you’ve increased your team’s chances of winning, regardless of how many leads you blew in the process. His eighth (-.062 WPA) was poor, yes, but his ninth (.147 WPA) more than made up for it.
I’m with Joe on this one. Why? Because you pitch differently with a lead. If you’re up 4-2, you throw first pitch strikes all the time, because a solo homer isn’t going to cost you the game.
Another reason: part of the reason his WPA has been increasing is _because_ the offense has been bailing him out.
Consider the case everyone’s talking about — where he gives up a run in the 8th (WPA goes down), Nats tie it up, then he pitches a scoreless 9th (WPA goes up). OK, so his net WPA is positive — but there are two problems with that:
1. I would think WPA takes disproportionate jumps in the ninth as you get closer to 3 outs.
2. I would also think that his WPA in the ninth jumped so much *because* the Nats had tied it back up in the eight. What if they hadn’t and yet he pitched a scoreless ninth? He still pitched the same, right? But his WPA still took a jump.
In summary, I think that the Nats offense is boosting his WPA.
OK, so that BABIP might be luck. But it should also be noticed that Riggleman usually puts in 3 all-glove-no-hit outfielders behind him, and the infield defense is pretty good this year too. So it’s within reason that more batted balls would be outs for him than for Your Average Reliever.
That’s the thing, though: the offense hasn’t been bailing him out, at least not with regard to Meltdowns the way Joe described. I was vague in my description of the situation last Thursday, but the Nats did not score in the bottom of that eighth inning. Clippard let the Braves tie the game in the top half and then shut them down in the ninth to preserve that tie. There haven’t actually been any situations this year where Clippard turned a Meltdown into a non-Meltdown by staying in the game after the Nats offense retook a lead he blew or erased a deficit he created.
“The Nats offense is boosting his WPA.” What pitcher doesn’t ever benefit from his offense? Clippard has done so very, very little so far — possibly even less than the average reliever — and in terms of Meltdowns, not at all.