Throughout the offseason, The Nats Blog will look back at every player’s 2012 season to summarize and analyze his performance, and we’ll look ahead to his possible role in 2013. We’ll go from #1 Steve Lombardozzi all the way to #63 Henry Rodriguez until Spring Training. Enjoy.
2012 marked Tyler Clippard’s fifth season in Washington, and his ERA was the highest it had been since his first year on the staff. But don’t be deceived by the numbers. Clippard’s worth last season was measured by much more than his ERA.
When Drew Storen was injured and it became apparent that flamethrower Henry Rodriguez was not going to work out as a closer, Clippard seamlessly stepped into the closer role for the first time in his career, and he did a phenomenal job of filling in. In 50 games as a closer, Clippard had a 3.70 ERA and a .196 batting average against. He struck out 56 batters, recorded 32 saves (seventh in the NL) and had only four blown saves.
Clippard’s first day with his new job title was also the day he earned his first save. On May 22 against the Philadelphia Phillies, Clippard faced the minimum and stuck out one, cementing the Nationals’ 5-2 victory. From that day forward Clippard was exceptional. He didn’t allow an earned run until mid-July, when Storen was nearing full health.
In July, Clippard may have felt the pressure of his lack of job security, because he blew his first save since taking over the closer’s role two days before Storen was taken off the DL. That’s all speculation, but the stress of fighting for his job may have gotten to him. Around that time, he allowed seven earned runs and blew two saves in three days.
Clippard resumed his previous dominance when he ascertained that he was going to keep his job, until the end of the season when he started to wear down. September was his worst month of the year, when he recorded an 8.03 ERA, a .358 batting average against, three losses to zero wins and just four saves. Clippard pitched the second-most innings of Nationals’ relievers in 2012, so the fatigue that seemed to be an issue will most certainly be removed in 2013 with the surplus of late-game relievers.
Next Year: After going through arbitration this year, Clippard is set to earn $4 million in 2013, which makes him the second-highest paid reliever behind Rafael Soriano. Now that Soriano is in the mix, Clippard will most likely pitch in the seventh inning. The right-hander could also periodically serve as a lefty specialist (a position the Nationals are lacking) because his career numbers are actually slightly better against left-handed hitters than right-handed ones. In Clippard’s career, rightys have scored 23 more runs than leftys, hit 11 more home runs, walked 14 more times, and have had significantly higher batting averages and on-base percentages.
Up Next: #37 Stephen Strasburg