Washington Nationals Opinions: Nats Dodged Bullet in Tyler Clippard Deal
Throughout the past week, as the trade deadline has grown steadily closer, the Washington Nationals have continued to be brought up when discussing some of the biggest names on the market, particularly when it came to relievers.
One of those names was none other than former National Tyler Clippard, who spent the last seven seasons pitching in Washington, including an incredibly successful stint as the team’s eighth inning set-up man. During the offseason, Clippard was dealt to Oakland, but a struggling Nats bullpen, combined with an under-performing Oakland team, made Clippard’s return to D.C. a distinct possibility.
But that trade never materialized. Instead, the division rival Mets swooped in, sending right-handed pitching prospect Casey Meisner to Oakland in exchange for Clippard, who will make his return to the NL East in a different uniform.
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Nationals fans certainly can’t be happy about the events that have unfolded. It’s always tough to see one of your own, one of the players you’ve spent several years cheering for, suddenly wind up wearing the laundry of one of your most hated rivals. It only makes it all the more frustrating when said player is one that you were also looking to acquire.
I get it. It’s tough. But maybe, just maybe, there’s a silver lining in all of this.
Tyler Clippard was fantastic for the Nationals, particularly over the last two seasons, when he was one of the best relief pitchers in the National League. Through 2013 and 2014, he ranked ninth among NL relievers with a WAR of 1.9, which was fairly high considering that Clippard wasn’t a closer.
This season, however, has not been as kind to the goggled righty. As Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post tweeted out yesterday, Clippard’s K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) ratio for this season is its lowest that it has been in the past five years. His BB/9 (walks per nine innings) is its highest. In short, Clippard isn’t getting hitters out at the plate, and he’s putting more pressure on himself with free passes.
Clippard’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play) also seems dangerously low at .214 this season, too. It’s a stat that tends to normalize over time, and the fact that his 2015 number is below even his career average (.237) may be a reason to expect some regression to the mean in the near future. In other words, the Mets may be getting a Tyler Clippard who’s about to go into a slump.
All of that being said, it’s impossible to predict the future. Clippard is having a rough season by his standards, and he may be headed for an even rougher patch with the Mets should his BABIP trend back upward, especially taking into consideration the fact that he’s failing to get strikeouts and is putting more hitters on with walks. There’s also the possibility that he could right the ship, find his stuff and get his strikeout and walk numbers back in line with the numbers that made him dominant over the last two seasons. Either of those two options is plausible; neither is certain.
What is certain, though, is that Nats fans, no matter how much they used to love Tyler Clippard, will now be cheering for the former rather than the latter.