Friday, September 28, 2012

Has Clippard turned a corner?

US Presswire photo
Tyler Clippard retired the side in the eighth inning of last night's win.
ST. LOUIS -- It was only one outing, lasting all of three batters. But it was the first time he'd retired the side in 2 1/2 weeks, so Tyler Clippard had plenty of reason to feel good about his performance after it was over Thursday night in Philadelphia.

"I was itching to get back out there," the Nationals reliever said. "The last few days, I've been working on some things, and I knew I was close. I wanted to get back out there, and I'm glad I got in there tonight."

Clippard hadn't pitched a clean inning since Sept. 10, following up that appearance in New York with six consecutive shaky outings, including four straight in which the right-hander surrendered a run.

During that stretch, Clippard lost his closer's job to Drew Storen, though Davey Johnson remained confident enough in him to use him in a setup role. And that's where he'll stay through the rest of the regular season and into the postseason.

"It can be like a hitter going in a little slump," Johnson explained prior to Friday night's game against the Cardinals. "Am I going to take him out of the lineup, just because he had a couple oh-fers? No. I'm the same way on [relievers]. I know what he can do. I'm going to ask him to do it again. He doesn't have to prove anything to me. He's been great, not just this year but last year, too. I haven't lost any confidence at all in him."

Clippard has been working with pitching coach Steve McCatty, trying to figure out what was going wrong during his rough patch. Their conclusion: Clippard wasn't locating his fastball down in the strike zone enough.

"I can look back on those outings, and they kind of come back to just one or two pitches, and most of the time they were fastballs right down the middle," he said. "And you're not going to have success, especially in fastball counts. So it's kind of just getting that confidence back, and I think [Thursday night] helped me do that."

Clippard isn't satisfied with the way he pitched through much of September, but at this stage of the season he's more concerned about how he'll pitch in October. And he's confident Thursday night's performance is a sign of things to come.

"I'm not too worried at this point in the season about my numbers or anything like that," he said. "I just want to get going for the playoffs, get right for that. Time it up right so I can go on a good stretch here for the last month or so of the season, for the playoffs."


blovy8 said...

He used to have success with high fastballs.

JaneB said...

But now hitters know to expect them.

I'm glad the baseball gods are smiling on him again. I hope they are grinning ear to ear for him and all our guys for, oh, about 35 days more.

peric said...

A lot of it is the wind mill throwing motion that doesn't show the hitter the ball until the very last second. That is what he uses as an effective replacement for a high velocity fast ball. That's what makes his change ups so beguiling and effective. But for the change to work the sleight of hand fast ball must.

Jane Elizabeth said...


JaneB said...

I say yes. And I wish EJax would turn one now, too.

Snicks Scoops said...

Hey Nats fans, I recently started a sports writing website with some of my friends. Check out my piece on Bryce Harper's numbers compared to those of Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Trout in each of their first year seasons:

SCNatsFan said...

Just like one bad outing isn't a problem, one good outing isn't a solution. One thing is for sure; with starters who only go 6 or 7 this team will go nowhere in the playoffs if the bullpen, and Clip, struggle. Lets hope he can put together a solid post season pitching the 8th or the 9th.

Jane Elizabeth said...

SCNatsFan is correct.

The problem for Clippard is that there aren't enough innings left before the play-offs for him to prove anything. I predict that he will be better than he has been the second half but not as good as he was in the first half, but that is simply the mathematical concept known as regression to the mean.

NatsFanJim said...

No he hasnt turned a corner. His fastball is down to 92-93; his command is way off -- no one is swinging at his 4-seamer high in the zone anymore. What's more, he's been fortunate (lucky?) for two years with so many swings at high fastballs that werent strikes/

Plus: one decent outing does not a comeback make. Personally, I would bet he will not be in the league this time next time. And I'm being generous.

NatsFanJim said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
natsfan1a said...

I hope so. I guess we'll see.

Holden Baroque said...

Ohhh, I will SO take that bet.

Holden Baroque said...

Final Curve

When you turn the corner
And you run into yourself
Then you know that you have turned
All the corners that are left

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