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Tyler Clippard may set the Holds record. (Don’t laugh.)

Posted by John Autin on August 19, 2011

Tyler Clippard earned his 32nd Hold on Thursday with a perfect 8th inning against the Reds, striking out Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs, and remains on track to break the mark of 40 set by Luke Gregerson last year.

[Pause for snorts and guffaws from the Hold skeptics.]

That's fine -- I'm not promoting Holds as a measure of relief performance, and you don't need to credit Holds at all to recognize Clippard's outstanding performance. He has a 1.58 ERA and 80 Ks in 68.1 innings, ranking 2nd in Ks and 3rd in IP out of all pure relievers this year.

Clippard has allowed a .158 BA overall (nice symmetry with that ERA), but just .058 with anyone on base (5 for 86) and .054 with RISP (3 for 56, with 26 Ks and 6 walks). Three for fifty-six?!? In 7 bases-loaded situations, he's allowed no hits, no walks, not even a sac fly.

For the saberists, he leads the all relievers in Win Probability Added (see WPA table below) and Base-Out Wins Saved (REW or RE24, slice it as you will), and is 2nd to Jonny Venters in Wins Above Replacement.

And here's how reliable he's been at preserving leads. Of the 6 leads he has blown:

  • Three came when he entered with the tying run already in scoring position with less than 2 out, and allowed only the tying run(s) to score.
  • Only once did he let in 2 runs: On August 7, he came in with a 2-run lead and runners on 3rd and 2nd with 1 out. One run scored on an infield error, and he struck out the next man, which should have ended the inning before the single that plated the 2nd run to tie the game. Washington won the game anyway.
  • Two blown leads came by letting in just one inherited runner. Both were in the 1st week of the year, and both times he inherited the tying run on 3rd with less than 2 out; one scored on a sac fly, the other on a groundout. He had positive WPA for both games, and the Nats won 1 of the 2 games.
  • The other 3 came when he allowed a single run, each on a solo HR. Washington won 1 of those 3 games.

Only 8 of Clippard's 54 games had negative WPA -- meaning the team was less likely to win after his stint than they were beforehand -- and one of those barely registers (-0.002). He has 17 games of +0.130 WPA or better, and just 2 of -0.130 WPA or worse. His worst game was -0.296. Virtually every late-inning reliever has had a game worse than that; Venters had one meltdown game of -0.706 (came in with a 1-run lead, allowed 4 runs in 0.2 IP).

OK, it's not Goose Gossage '77. It's still a damn fine season, and I just wanted to say so.

_______________________________

Top 30 in Reliever WPA, 2011:
(through August 18)

Rk Player WPA Year Age Tm Lg G GF W L W-L% SV IP H R ER BB SO ERA ERA+ HR BF AB 2B 3B IBB HBP SH SF GDP SB CS PO BK WP BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ Pit Str
1 Tyler Clippard 4.544 2011 26 WSN NL 53 6 2 0 1.000 0 67.1 36 12 12 21 80 1.60 241 9 250 225 5 0 2 0 3 1 3 3 4 1 0 1 .160 .231 .302 .533 50 1026 667
2 Jonny Venters 4.464 2011 26 ATL NL 66 8 6 1 .857 4 69.2 37 10 9 30 78 1.16 326 1 272 234 2 1 5 3 5 0 9 1 2 0 0 4 .158 .262 .188 .450 30 1014 621
3 John Axford 3.201 2011 28 MIL NL 59 50 2 2 .500 36 58.1 52 18 15 22 71 2.31 172 3 248 224 3 2 1 0 1 1 3 6 2 0 0 7 .232 .300 .304 .603 69 1015 641
4 Antonio Bastardo 3.157 2011 25 PHI NL 49 15 5 0 1.000 8 45.2 18 7 7 16 51 1.38 281 3 169 150 4 1 0 0 2 1 2 2 0 0 0 3 .120 .204 .220 .424 19 724 472
5 Jonathan Papelbon 3.079 2011 30 BOS AL 51 46 4 0 1.000 28 50.2 41 18 17 8 65 3.02 136 3 203 191 8 1 1 3 0 1 0 4 0 0 0 1 .215 .256 .314 .570 54 800 552
6 Joel Hanrahan 3.025 2011 29 PIT NL 53 45 0 1 .000 30 54.1 40 8 7 9 47 1.16 334 1 206 195 10 0 1 0 1 1 6 1 0 0 0 3 .205 .239 .272 .511 45 744 483
7 Chris Sale 2.799 2011 22 CHW AL 46 13 2 1 .667 4 56.2 43 17 17 20 58 2.70 154 5 232 208 12 0 2 2 2 0 3 3 2 2 0 2 .207 .283 .337 .619 68 878 562
8 Drew Storen 2.626 2011 23 WSN NL 56 40 6 2 .750 32 58.2 44 19 18 14 50 2.76 140 7 234 218 8 1 3 1 0 1 2 1 0 0 0 1 .202 .252 .344 .596 68 834 558
9 David Robertson 2.481 2011 26 NYY AL 52 6 3 0 1.000 0 48.2 31 8 7 26 73 1.29 328 0 202 176 6 1 4 0 0 0 0 11 2 0 1 5 .176 .282 .222 .504 38 905 575
10 Scott Downs 2.405 2011 35 LAA AL 45 6 6 2 .750 0 40.1 27 8 6 9 24 1.34 282 3 158 145 4 1 0 0 4 0 2 0 0 0 0 2 .186 .234 .290 .523 47 577 366
11 Jose Valverde 2.375 2011 33 DET AL 56 52 2 4 .333 35 53.1 41 19 16 28 51 2.70 145 4 229 197 5 0 4 2 2 0 4 7 3 0 1 3 .208 .313 .294 .607 71 904 558
12 Javier Lopez 2.248 2011 33 SFG NL 59 13 5 2 .714 1 47.0 35 13 13 24 37 2.49 148 0 195 165 7 0 6 3 3 0 7 3 2 1 0 1 .212 .323 .255 .577 68 727 458
13 Craig Kimbrel 2.192 2011 23 ATL NL 61 50 3 2 .600 36 59.2 36 13 12 23 94 1.81 210 1 234 208 4 1 1 1 1 1 4 0 3 1 0 4 .173 .258 .216 .474 37 1002 646
14 Ryan Madson 2.145 2011 30 PHI NL 43 30 3 1 .750 22 42.2 35 10 10 13 45 2.11 184 1 171 156 5 0 6 1 1 0 5 2 1 0 0 0 .224 .288 .276 .564 59 671 430
15 J.J. Putz 2.132 2011 34 ARI NL 44 37 2 2 .500 30 44.1 34 15 14 11 41 2.84 141 4 178 161 10 1 0 1 2 3 2 6 1 0 0 1 .211 .261 .360 .622 71 654 444
16 Mike Adams 2.097 2011 32 TOT ML 56 7 4 2 .667 2 56.1 34 8 7 12 56 1.12 331 3 215 201 11 1 2 0 1 1 1 8 0 0 0 0 .169 .215 .279 .494 41 815 562
17 Greg Holland 2.094 2011 25 KCR AL 32 9 3 1 .750 2 44.2 28 9 8 14 53 1.61 246 3 172 157 4 1 1 1 0 0 6 0 0 0 0 5 .178 .250 .274 .524 47 703 452
18 Koji Uehara 1.949 2011 36 TOT AL 51 20 1 2 .333 0 54.2 30 12 12 9 72 1.98 208 8 203 192 4 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .156 .193 .302 .495 34 778 558
19 Sergio Romo 1.817 2011 28 SFG NL 53 12 3 1 .750 1 37.2 20 7 7 4 53 1.67 221 2 135 130 6 0 1 0 1 0 1 2 1 0 0 0 .154 .179 .246 .425 21 512 365
20 Daniel Bard 1.812 2011 26 BOS AL 55 9 2 5 .286 1 57.0 33 15 14 15 58 2.21 186 5 217 197 7 1 1 1 4 0 1 7 1 0 1 2 .168 .230 .289 .519 39 832 544
21 Javy Guerra 1.686 2011 25 LAD NL 29 22 2 0 1.000 10 28.2 24 5 5 8 23 1.57 239 0 118 106 5 0 0 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 .226 .299 .274 .573 66 498 302
22 Grant Balfour 1.618 2011 33 OAK AL 49 14 4 1 .800 2 49.2 32 11 11 18 47 1.99 201 4 193 174 6 0 1 0 1 0 7 0 0 0 0 0 .184 .260 .287 .548 52 823 512
23 Louis Coleman 1.603 2011 25 KCR AL 39 9 1 2 .333 1 49.1 29 10 9 21 52 1.64 241 5 192 169 8 0 6 2 0 0 2 2 4 0 0 4 .172 .271 .308 .579 62 792 491
24 Heath Bell 1.579 2011 33 SDP NL 50 41 2 4 .333 32 48.2 41 17 14 17 37 2.59 138 1 202 179 5 0 1 0 5 1 4 3 0 0 0 8 .229 .294 .274 .568 66 891 561
25 Eric O'Flaherty 1.569 2011 26 ATL NL 59 5 1 4 .200 0 55.0 44 9 8 20 53 1.31 290 2 228 198 7 1 7 2 6 2 1 5 2 1 0 1 .222 .297 .298 .595 68 897 550
26 Aroldis Chapman 1.567 2011 23 CIN NL 38 11 2 0 1.000 1 36.1 14 15 14 28 56 3.47 115 2 144 114 2 0 0 2 0 0 4 1 4 4 0 2 .123 .306 .193 .499 44 615 363
27 Francisco Rodriguez 1.566 2011 29 TOT NL 56 35 4 2 .667 23 56.0 55 18 18 21 64 2.89 135 3 244 218 11 2 4 2 2 1 1 9 1 0 0 3 .252 .322 .362 .685 94 923 598
28 Mariano Rivera 1.534 2011 41 NYY AL 49 41 1 2 .333 32 47.0 40 12 12 5 42 2.30 185 3 179 171 6 0 1 0 1 2 5 1 0 0 0 1 .234 .253 .322 .574 53 679 490
29 LaTroy Hawkins 1.533 2011 38 MIL NL 41 7 1 0 1.000 0 38.2 38 9 7 7 20 1.63 246 1 162 153 3 0 1 0 1 1 3 2 0 0 0 2 .248 .280 .288 .567 59 572 378
30 Fernando Salas 1.518 2011 26 STL NL 51 37 5 4 .556 22 58.2 39 15 15 16 60 2.30 158 6 231 210 7 1 2 2 3 0 1 2 0 0 0 2 .186 .250 .314 .564 62 913 584
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/19/2011.

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73 Responses to “Tyler Clippard may set the Holds record. (Don’t laugh.)”

  1. Seems a bit lucky, 12 runs allowed on 9 homers? He's having a good season but that's a LOT of homers for a reliever

  2. What I mean to say is that he likely would have blown a few more games with a little less luck

  3. Johnny Twisto Says:

    All hail holds! And Clippard was a great Yankee!

    Good point by Grafe about the HR.

    In 7 bases-loaded situations, he's allowed no hits, no walks, not even a sac fly.

    In 12 bases-loaded situations, David Robertson has allowed 1 hit, while striking out 10.

    But I see he's allowed 4 runs. How did that happen? OK, the one hit (the first bases loaded situation he faced this season) was a bases clearing double. And then the last one he faced was a groundout which brought in a run. In between he struck out 10 straight.

    On average this season, 0.7 runs score per bases-loaded PA.

  4. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Further on Clippard's success vis-a-vis his HR allowed -- his BABIP is just .197, so it seems he's been a bit fortunate.

    In the past 10 years, there have been 824 player-seasons of at least 60 IP with at least 90% of games in relief. Of those, only 6 have resulted in a lower BABIP than Clippard (and of course his season isn't finished). I'm sure those guys all regressed quite a bit the following season. (Eyeballing it, I know for sure that Joaquin Benoit hasn't matched his success of last year.)

  5. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Active players moving up the career holds list (as everyone knows, the record is held by Mike Stanton with 266).

    Arthur Rhodes 250
    Scott Linebrink 155
    Kyle Farnsworth 154
    Damaso Marte 138
    Octavio Dotel 126

    Should I be surprised there aren't more active guys challenging this vaunted record? It's possible I overlooked some, not realizing such disposable relievers are still around.

    Mike Adams just got his milestone 100th hold. Unfortunately the game was on the road. But I see Texas drew a healthy 39,000 the next night, obviously there to witness the on-field celebration of Adams's mighty feat.

  6. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Unsurprisingly, Scot Shields' great run from 2005-8 accounted for 124 holds. Four straight seasons of at least 31. Only Rhodes has also had four straight seasons of at least 25.

  7. The Yankee Clippard!

    I'm not sure what's funnier. That he may set the "hold" record, or if he does, the record was only just set last year by someone named Luke Gregerson.

  8. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Hey! Gregerson may be no Mike Adams, but he's a fine ballplayer.

    Gregerson/Adams/Bell must be one of the great late-game combinations, even though they were only a team from about mid-'09 to mid-'11. Of course, how many relief trios have co-existed at a high level for longer than that?

    Crossing my fingers on Soriano/Robertson/Rivera....

  9. Look at John Axford and Craig Kimbrel. Virtually identical in G, GF, SV, IP and BB. But, Kimbrel noticeably better in everything else (H, R, HR, SO, ERA, WHIP).

    Yet, Axford is a full point better on WPA. Would seem his saves must have been a lot tougher (smaller leads, more inherited runners) than Kimbrel's. So, relative to Kimbrel, Axford is pitching in tougher situations and not pitching as well in them (albeit still pitching very well), but still achieving the same end results.

    So, should one infer that Mr. Axford has been a bit fortunate to achieve the level of success he's experienced? Or, is it just that Mr. Kimbrel has been so utterly dominating that his performance level far exceeds what would normally be required for the success he's achieved?

  10. Quick, which starting pitcher has the longest streak this year of pitching 7+ innings and allowing no more than 4 hits?

    Actually, it was Ricky Romero who already held that distinction with a 4 game streak heading into tonight's action. With tonight's 3-hit shutout of the As, Romero extended that streak to 5 games, tying him with these guys for the second-longest such streak since 1919.
    - A.J. Burnett 2007-08-22 to 2007-09-13 TOR
    - Dan Haren 2007-05-14 to 2007-06-04 OAK
    - Woody Williams 2001-08-31 to 2001-09-30 STL
    - Randy Johnson 1997-05-28 to 1997-06-19 SEA
    - Dave Stieb 1988-09-18 to 1989-04-10 TOR
    - Mark Langston 1988-09-03 to 1988-09-24 SEA
    - Nolan Ryan 1976-09-20 to 1977-04-07 CAL
    - Nolan Ryan 1971-05-04 to 1971-05-29 NYM
    - Mickey Lolich 1964-08-12 to 1964-09-05 DET
    - Billy Pierce 1957-05-21 to 1957-06-08 CHW
    - Bob Feller 1947-04-22 to 1947-05-13 CLE

    Not bad company for Ricky.

    Standing alone though is Johan Santana who had an 8 game streak in 2004 (Jun 15 to Jul 22). Despite his dominance, Santana was "only" 5-2 during that streak.

  11. good to see the best relievers more and more not being shoehorned into the closer's role

  12. Is it also surprising that Washington's relievers Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen combine for the most WPA (7.17) of any two teammates among relievers?

    Second is Atlanta's Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel with 6.656 WPA.

  13. A full season WPA of 4.54, as Clippard's is now, would be the third-highest WPA season ever for a non-closer reliever (fewer than 10 saves for the season), behind only Mariano Rivera's 1996 (the year before he began his run as the greatest closer ever) and Rafael Betancourt's 2007.

  14. @3, @7,

    Go Yankee Clippard! I am very happy for him. When I saw him introduced at the ASG this year I fell out of my seat.

  15. My conclusion from the above article is that Jonny Venters is the best reliever in baseball.

  16. Clippard does have a high HR rate, not only this year but for his career. But when you rarely let anyone on base, a HR is less damaging.

    It may bite him at some point, but this year he's only allowed 12 runs on those 9 HRs. BTW, 10 of those runs were charged to him (2 were inherited), accounting for all but 2 of the runs on his ledger this year.

  17. JT, I appreciate the dry humor about milestone Holds.

    I probably should have used a different headline, but I needed a hook and there it was. My real point is that he's done a superb job. Sure, there's some luck involved, as there is in most outlying performances. But I think the details of his blown leads are pretty impressive -- the only time he's blown a lead of even 2 runs, he inherited those runners in scoring position with 1 out, and if not for an E3 he would have been out of the inning unscathed.

    BTW, I'm probably guilty of having a soft spot for Yankees castoffs. :)

  18. @15, Realist -- No argument from this corner about Venters. Teammate Kimbrel might make a case, though, for his dazzling strikeout rate -- 14.2 K/9.

    The O'Flaherty/Venters/Kimbrel trio clearly has the best "team" results this year -- combined stats of 1.42 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 184.1 IP, 11.0 K/9, 4 HRs, and only 3 unearned runs.

  19. Once, I tried to "reform" the save. The proposal:

    1. The reliever must make his appearance with his team leading by no more than two runs; or the tying run must be on base or at bat.
    2. The reliever must preserve the lead.
    3. No save shall be awarded if the reliever fails to retire a batter.
    4. No save shall be awarded if the reliever is responsible for putting the go-ahead run on base or at-bat, unless the same reliever ends that inning. [You don't get rewarded for making everyone else's life harder!]
    5. Any reliever who meets the above criteria shall be awarded a save.

    The idea was to make it an actual reward for doing something important, rather than just finishing out a blowout win, or by tossing the last inning of a three-run game. And since more than one could be given, teams would lose the statistical incentive to use one's best reliever exclusively as a "closer."

    This would mean that Clippard would actually have 26 saves, not 31 holds. (He would lose his holds on 5/31, 6/17, 7/16, 7/30, and 8/12 because he had a 3+ lead and never faced the tying run.) And Storen would have 28 saves: he loses his six 3-run finishes, gains back two on holds (4/2 and 4/15). His third hold - June 5 vs. Arizona - would not be a save because he came in leading by three, nobody on, and left with the bases loaded and up only two. (Rule 4.)

    And all of this because I was annoyed that the guy who often really made the difference could get practically no credit, while some glory boy hogged the spotlight for being the last guy the manager used. I mean, if you lose the lead you get a blown save, so if you hold it, why not get an actual save instead of some phony-baloney thing nobody pays attention to?

    The irony is, it's the save, so even if it "works" it's kind of useless. But since I can't cure cancer, I'm stuck curing the save.

  20. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    Most innings pitched in a season by a pitcher whose runs allowed is less than twice the home runs he has allowed: Frank Smith, closer for the 1954 Reds, 81 IP, 29 R, 15 HR. Clippard 2011 currently has the sixth most IP on this list.

    Two other pitchers with 25+ IP make the R<(2*HR) list from this season: Koji Uehara and Tony Watson.

  21. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    Once, I tried to "reform" the save.

    Your proposal has a lot to recommend it, NF. Did you ever get a reply back from the Holtzman estate?

    (-;þ

  22. I'm surprised nobody has commented on how low Mo Rivera is on the list (28th). In the past he typically is in the top ten (or better) in WPA among relievers:

    1996 3rd
    1997 16th
    1998 3rd
    1999 6th
    2000 12th
    2001 10th
    2002 41st
    2003 7th
    2004 5th
    2005 7th
    2006 10th
    2007 20th
    2008 2nd
    2009 2nd
    2010 21st
    2011 28th (currently)

    This will make two seasons in a row of reduced performance. He never has lead the league, but for his career he has WPA of 52.3, 18 more than second place (Hoffman) among pitchers who relieve in at least 80% of their games.

  23. crap, i better go sell my luke gregerson rookie cards quick

  24. @19, Nightfly -- That's an intriguing idea. I especially like the idea of allowing more than one save to be awarded in a game. Such a change would give managers political cover to break out of their current conformity in "managing to the stat."

  25. @23, Ano -- Given the sharp drop in Gregerson's K rate this year, I would have thought you'd long since dumped the rookie cards.

  26. Clippard's also tied for fourth in the majors in Fangraph's fun "shutdowns" stat. (i.e., relief games of a WPA >= 0.05), behind Venters, Axford and Brian Wilson.

    I'm a fan of that stat, and its converse, the "meltdown" (WPA <= -0.05). And as a little side benefit, monitoring shutdowns and meltdowns engenders an even greater appreciation for bbref boxscores, which are the only boxscores I frequent that list WPA for every player.

  27. Thanks for featuring the vastly underrated Tyler Clippard's sensational 2011 performance. I've watched the vast majority of his appearances this year and the season he's having has been amazing. His percentage of swings and misses by opponents (28% of his strikes have been swinging strikes) is second only to Jonny Venters among NL pitchers who've played most of the season, and Clip does it without having a high 90's fastball. His chanegup (aptly called a "Bugs Bunny changeup" by Nats broadcaster F.P. Santangelo) is so good that it must make his 93-94 mph fastball look like it is a Strasburg/Chapman level heater.

  28. #19. Keep it up. My favorite is the save when the tying run is on deck-even if there are two outs in the ninth. I am sure this is a 98% situation for an average pitcher.

  29. I'll take holds over saves (and how teams under-utilize their best bullpen resources) any day.

  30. p.s. atlanta's 1-2-3 punch last night was awesome in reducing the game to 6 innings and beating another great Lincecum start.

    p.p.s. Will we see Lincecum's delivery again or is it all stretch now?

  31. Timothy P. Says:

    @5 Twisto, nobody reads your comments any more! You should suspend posting here and take up another hobby. Football season is just around the corner, or in your case maybe there are some professional wrestling forums you can contribute to.

  32. I know you mentioned it early in the write-up, but Holds in its current state cannot be considered valid. You can't come in to a game and let up 2-3 runs and considered to have held the lead, that's just ridiculous.
    Remove these holds from his record: #3, 8, 10, 18, and 29.
    I'll add my thoughts on saves in October.

  33. John Autin Says:

    @32, J -- I believe you are mistaken. "Holding the lead" is not an ambiguous expression; you either held it, or you didn't.

    But in point of fact, a Hold is not simply "holding the lead"; a Hold is awarded only when the pitcher enters in a save situation, does not finish the game, but preserves the lead throughout his time in the game. In other words, a Hold is exactly the same as a Save, but without finishing the game.

    So Holds are clearly at least as "valid" as Saves. And if you want to get the definitions changed -- if you think a closer should not get a Save when he gives up 2-3 runs -- that's fine with me, but let's start the campaign by aiming at Saves, since that's what most people pay attention to.

    The specific Clippard Holds you mentioned were all save situations when he entered:
    -- #3: Entered with a 4-run lead and bases loaded; tying run at bat = save situation.
    -- #8: Entered with a 4-run lead and 2 men on; tying run on deck = save situation.
    -- #10: Entered with a 3-run lead and 1 man on; tying run on deck = save situation.
    -- #18: Entered with a 2-run lead and bases empty; tying run on deck = save situation.
    -- #29: Entered with a 3-run lead and bases empty; pitched 1 inning or more with a lead of 3 runs or less = save situation.

    BTW, he allowed 1 run in #18 and #29 -- you're outraged that he should get a Hold when he allows a run?

  34. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    My favorite is the save when the tying run is on deck-even if there are two outs in the ninth.

    I looked into 2011 play results at the outer margin of the save rule (last inning with two outs and e.g., bases empty and a two-run lead, one runner on and a three-run lead, etc.), but I didn't turn up much that wasn't expected. The batter's slash line in such situations is .211/.276/.298 in 373 PA, with 4 HR, 32 RBI, 30 BB, 97 SO.

    However, I did find an odd thing for the two plate appearances in the bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded, home team trailing by five. Both plate appearances resulted in an RoE. The more recent play, on August 10, was fairly routine, with Rubén Tejada (NYM) facing Heath Bell (SDP): "Reached on E4/attempted forceout (Ground Ball); Bay Scores/unER/No RBI; Baxter to 3B; Thole to 2B." Bell retired the next batter to seal the win; he did not get a save, presumably because he allowed the baserunners that created the save situation.

    Check out the scramble in the May 28 game, Johnny Damon (TBR) facing Chris Perez (CLE): " *ENDED GAME*: Reached on E3 (Ground Ball to 2B-1B); Kotchman Scores/unER/No RBI; Rodriguez out at 3B/1B-P-2B-C; Longoria to 2B." Without checking the news accounts, I figure Rodriguez must have overrun third. Matt LaPorta committed the error. Perez did get the save.

  35. Who knew Tyler Clippard is toiling away in (to me) anonymity all season in Washington. Thanks for featuring jim, JA. He is having a Verlander-esque season hidden deep in the Nationals' pen.

    Starters have the Cy Young, closers used to get the Rolaids Relief award, but what recognition do set-up men or hold-men get?

    @11
    Jim, I don't have specific examples on the tip of the tongue, but my (probably unreliable) baseball instincts tell me that low-ERA set-up men are perceived to be too valuable to be left in that role and are converted to closers. I think that's why there are not huge career hold numbers, comparable to saves.

  36. @22
    Whiz, Rivera's presence at the bottom of the list did attract my attention. I didn't want to be the first to mention it for fear of igniting a pro-Rivera pushback. And Papelbon doubling Mo's WPA for the season. I'm not sure what to make of their relative WPA's this year.

    Why is Brian Wilson nowhere to be found on this list? He is one of the save leaders in the major leagues.

  37. @31
    Timothy P., why do you needlessly insult another BR member?

    I know JT doesn't need me to defend him, the quality of his thinking speaks for itself, but don't go there.

    I, for one, read and respond to Johnny Twisto's posts when I think I have something intelligent to add.

  38. John Autin Says:

    @36, Neil L. -- "Why is Brian Wilson nowhere to be found on this list? He is one of the save leaders in the major leagues."

    Neil, such deadpan irony with a Twisto of sarcasm could spoil your earnest reputation! :)

    That question could be dubbed "The Case of the Purloined WPA" -- the answer is enfolded within the question itself, hiding in plain sight.

  39. @38
    JA, you give me too much credit. I can only aspire to Twisto-level sarcasm.

    Thanks for the happy face in your gentle admonishment.

    I know the post was about holds leaders but I automatically assumed that if you save a lot of games you must have a reasonably high WPA.

    Sherlock Holmes I am not, I have no axe to grind with Brian Wilson.

  40. I was totally kidding around with Twisto Neil. If you were to read Twisto's post #5 there is nothing controversial about it, I just wanted to let him know I was still lerking out here. I havn't been posting much and I missed missed his warm wit and subtle charm.

  41. As for toiling away on the Nats with no recognition...erm, he was an All-Star.

  42. @41
    Yes, Cheese, but I live in a market far away from Washington. And how often do the Nationals appear in, pardon the pun, national media?

  43. @40
    Timothy P., thanks for clarifying. My naive, conciliatory sensibilities were offended by yor post.

  44. John Autin Says:

    @39, Neil -- Now I am guilty of overstating my point about Wilson.

    I would state the general relationship between reliever high WPA and high Saves as an "if ... then" statement flowing from left to right -- but definitely not an "if and only if."

    Over the past 20 years, 60 of the 67 relievers with 4+ WPA in a season also had at least 20 saves; only 7 were setup men.

    But, in that same span, of the 115 relief seasons of 40+ saves, only 36 (less than 1/3) had 4+ WPA; 30 of them had WPA less than 2, including 9 league leaders. Five actually had negative WPA for the year.

    (And BTW, no admonition was intended.)

  45. @44
    JA, maybe the bottom line of our dialogue, at least from my end, is the fact that saves get too much attention and effective, non-closing relief gets too little credit. My assumption about Wilson is a case in point. It was an uninformed, distant reaction.

    But there's no hiding from WPA, whether you've had poor closing outings, like Randy Gregg, Jon Rauch, or, this year, Mo Rivera.

  46. Anyone else think Washington uses him as the setup guy instead of the closer so when his free agent year comes up, he can't demand as much money? I do.

  47. It was a pleasure to discover this fact and the 1.58 ERA does indeed say a lot. It has been very enjoyable watching Tyler Clippard perform over the last couple of years. I can't remember anyone quite like him, and I've been a fan for a very long time.

  48. @46, Rich -- Are you really suggesting that the MLB leader in such a major statistical category would not be richly rewarded?!? :)

    But seriously ... I doubt that that's the main reason Clippard doesn't close, but if it is, then bully for them. Ditto if they've kept him in setup because they think he's really their best reliever and they recognize that those situations are generally more important than 9th-inning save chances.

    But it seems more likely that it's just a coincidence. Storen was the 10th overall draft pick in 2009, and he's been groomed for closing all along. Clippard is your garden variety failed-SP-turned-reliever, a 9th-round pick in '03 whom they lucked out on after getting him in a minor deal with the Yanks in '07. Even the Nats had him starting until 2 years ago.

  49. A couple of the homers Clipp gave up were when he had been overused (either 2 or 3 days of work in a row, or in the 2nd or 3rd inning of work), for example in a marathon extra inning game vs. Chicago where the Nats blew three saves, still eventually won the game.

    Although Clippard may be toiling away in Nats Town, he did get chosen for the All-Star Game, and was called upon in a clutch situation (where he gave up a single that Hunter Pence grabbed and threw out the runner at the plate) and he won the game. So his name will forever be in the record books as an All-Star winner.

  50. Uh, no. The Nats tried Clippard as closer, didn't work. And believe me, the Nats KNOW Clipp is their best reliever. When trade rumors circulated, Davey Johnson (manager) said, "Clipp's not going anywhere. He goes, I go." He didn't say the same about Storen-- who, very luckily, did NOT get traded for Denard Span.

  51. @49 @50
    Natslady, welcome aboard. Unless you're an old hand posting under a new screen name, I haven't seen you before.

    Cheese pointed out to me in #41 Clippard's starring role in naling down the all-star game win, Natslady. His work has only been obscure to people like me who navelgaze at their own local team. :-)

    Any thoughts about why Tyler Clippard has excelled in the setup role more than a starter or closer?

  52. John Autin Says:

    @49, NatsLady -- I wouldn't dispute that some of Clippard's bad games were related to his heavy workload. At the same time, a good bit of his value lies in being able to work often: he's 3rd in IP among pure relievers this year, and is on pace for 90 relief innings, a level reached by only 2 relievers in the previous 3 seasons, including Clippard last year. It wouldn't seem quite fair to credit him for that durability but also dismiss any negative consequences of his heavy workload.

  53. John Autin Says:

    @51, Neil -- I'll take a shot:

    1. There's copious evidence that relieving is simply easier than starting. That's not to make light of those relievers who can handle a heavy workload, such as Clippard, but it's still not the same as starting.

    2. I'm not sure when it was that the Nats tried Clippard as a closer, but it couldn't have been a long tryout. He has just 1 career save in the majors and 1 in the minors; and of his 17 "blown saves" in the majors, only 1 came in the 9th inning or later (that June 24 game in which 3 Nats blew the save in the 9th or later). I would be very surprised if he didn't succeed as a closer if given a longer chance to prove himself.

    Conventional wisdom says there's a big difference between closing and setting up. But every single year, you see proven setup men pressed into closing duty, and many are "surprisingly" successful.

  54. They tried him last year as a closer (2010). Not sure how long the experiment was.

    You are mistaken to call Clippard a setup man. He is the STOPPER. If you reference another article, you will see that his average is 3.8 outs per appearance. That is different (and more critical) than a closer who comes in with clean bases or a specialist who comes in and gets a couple of outs (i.e., a "lefty specialist).

    Clippard usually (but not always) comes in late in the game and gets the side out and works another inning (although not the 9th).

    As for durability, he's plenty durable BUT, because of the adrenalin he pours out, and he works from the windup with no men on base, he can be overused. The temptation for a manager has been to put him in in every close game, and he had a poor end of the year last year because of overuse.

    As long as the Nats have a good closer in Drew Storen (they are roommates), Clippard can be Houdini--just not every night. If you change his role to closer, then who do you have with nerves of steel who can get the side out with the bases loaded?

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110809&content_id=22963998&c_id=mlb&partnerId=rss_mlb&tcid=fb_share

  55. Phil Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

    TYLER CLIPPARD FOR H.O.F. !!!! Without guys like him, guys like Mariano Rivera wouldn't have much to "save," would they?
    :)

  56. I don't know why he didn't succeed as a starter, he was with the Yankees when he was tried as a start, so that is outside my area.

    As for being "better" in the role he is in, I think you have to bear with me and our team's philosophy that his role as stopper is more important than the closer's role. He seems to thrive in the crisis situtations, and being the closer is not a crisis unless you as closer make it one by getting men on base. As Clippard himself views it, his job is to get the ball to Storen. Then, and only then, does he feel safe.

    He's like an emergency room surgeon who operates under extreme pressure and then turns the patient over to a skilled team of nurses.

  57. Oh, and, no, I don't think he is being used in his role to save money when he goes to arbitration (this year). Our owners are billionaires and not cheap (cf., the draft signing bonuses, cf., the Werth signing). There are two players on our team that the fans would not tolerate leaving the city--Tyler Clippard and Ryan Zimmerman. Never say never, of course, but, highly unlikely.

  58. @54
    Natslady, I called Tyler Clippard a setup man also, not a stopper. Maybe we're just hung up on semantics, but I always thought the stopper, no matter how inaccurate, meant the save guy.

    In the context of JA's blog, Clippard is a HOLDER, not a stopper, I submit. He is "rewarded" for his effectiveness by the dominating WPA, compared to Storen.

    However, saves are the contract-boosting glamor stat, not holds, so Drew Storen, to the casual observer, cops most of the credit due to the lack of effective metrics for relievers other than the flawed holds.

  59. To follow up on your analogy in #56, Natslady, unfortunately the critical care nurse will get a new contract worth two or three times that of the surgeon.

  60. Neil, I agree with you on the sad state of metrics for evaluating relievers (this is much discussed on our local blogs), but last year didn't the Cy Young winner NOT win 20 games? Wasn't he with a not so great team? So people's view of relievers can change (I hope!)

    No, I'm not putting Clipp up for Cy Young--a general practitioner (starter) gets that, and probably should in terms of value to the team (and to a person's long-term health.)

    Keith Law was irate that Clippard and not Jordan Zimmerman was chosen for the All-Star. Jordan Zimmerman is and will be excellent. There are many excellent starters.

    But Clippard is once-in-a-generation. I am glad that he is appreciated for the job he does, not for a job people think he should do.

  61. Wow! That really is an impressive line! Thanks for pointing it out!

  62. Neal, thanks for the welcome. I've never posted here before. Posted now because I'm a navel-gazer for my own team--and our guy is the topic. :) :)

  63. John Autin Says:

    NatsLady, your articulate perspective as a Nats fan is appreciated.

    And I do like the term stopper -- that's what a relief ace used to be called. I especially like that term for guys who often come in with men on base, although (a) that's kind of a lost art in this era of planned 1-inning appearances, and (b) the list of relievers with the most inherited runners is cluttered up by lefty specialists (and sometimes even righty specialists).

    The leaders in inherited runners so far this year (with a 50-IP minimum to filter out some specialists):
    1. Chris Resop, 50.
    2. Clippard, 42.
    3. Jeremy Affeldt, 40.
    4. Jesse Crain and Glenn Perkins, 38.
    6. Hisanory Takahashi, 37.
    7. Matt Belisle, Jose Veras and Edward Mujica, 36.
    10. Matt Guerrier, 35.

    Obviously, not one of them is a closer, because closers start the inning, lah-di-dah. The only guy with even 5 saves and as many as 25 inherited runners is Matt Capps (15, 26). Fernando Salas has 22 saves, 21 IR. The MLB save leaders have inherited 10 runners combined (6 for Valverde, 4 for Kimbrel). John Axford (36 saves) has inherited ONE runner all year.

    Of the 25 pitchers with at least 25 inherited runners, Clippard's 81% strand rate is tied for 3rd-best.

  64. John Autin Says:

    @55, Phil -- Funny, I was thinking that I should have made this thread a Hall of Fame debate. Those seem to generate the most response.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/14231/comment-page-1#comment-139031

  65. John Autin Says:

    I see that 10 teams are not directly represented on the Top 30 Reliever WAR list:
    -- Cubs, Cleveland, Colorado, Florida, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Seattle, Tampa, Texas, Toronto.

    Milwaukee acquired Francisco Rodriguez and Texas got Mike Adams, but most of their work was done for their first teams.

    The other 8 teams are non-contenders (or, in Cleveland's case, contenders only in a very weak division).

    Having at least 1 very good reliever is obviously not sufficient to insure contention, but it may be necessary.

    As an aside, if you ever wondered about the value of a starting rotation, consider the Royals: An average offense, good bullpen, but they're 24 games below .500 due to a rotation whose ERA is 29th in MLB. Their top starter, Bruce Chen, ranks 92nd in WAR among all MLB starters.

  66. @62
    Natslady, echoing John at @63, don't let this be the only time you jump in here. We'll broaden your perspective beyond the Beltway. :-)

    You make a lot of sense and seem like an intelligent, potentially objective, baseball observer.

  67. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Clippard is once-in-a-generation.

    Let's not get carried away. He's had a few good seasons. This is his first dominant one. I think we could find two or three other good relievers somewhere around the majors.

  68. JT, does that mean you won't vote in my "Tyler Clippard HOF" debate? I feel like I need a 100-comment thread to keep up with the Joneses, and a HOF debate is the surest way to generate some heat. :)

  69. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Oh don't get me wrong, he's obviously on his way there. Just hasn't quite done enough yet.

  70. Both the Save and the Hold are in serious need of reform.
    A fun read though.

  71. [...] Pretty sure this means Tyler Clippard is the best RP in baseball. [BR Blog] [...]

  72. Yesterday represented another problem with the Hold/Save stat. Clippard comes in with game tied and pitches a clean inning, but doesn't get a hold. Storen (closer) comes in and gives up a run, but doesn't get a blown save. Nats won in the 10th, so he doesn't lose the game either. Of course that sort of thing happens to starters all the time...

  73. [...] allowed a single to load the bases -- then whiffed 3 in a row swinging? As noted by B-R sage Johnny Twisto, Robertson has been almost untouchable with the sacks full this year; his "123" line now reads 16 [...]