Tyler Clippard

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Tyler Lee Clippard

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Biographical Information[edit]

Tyler Clippard reached the major leagues as a starting pitcher in 2007 but established himself as one of the major leagues' most effective middle relievers beginning in 2009.

Clippard was chosen by the New York Yankees in the 9th round of the 2003 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Scott Pleis and debuted that year with the GCL Yankees, going 3-3 with a 2.89 ERA. In 43 2/3 IP, he allowed 33 hits and 5 walks while striking out 56. Moving up to the Battle Creek Yankees in 2004, Clippard had a 10-10, 3.44 record with a K:BB ratio of 4.53:1.

The right-hander was 10-9 with a 3.18 ERA for the 2005 Tampa Yankees. Opponents hit .219 against him and he struck out 169 in 147 1/3 IP while walking 34. He also made one appearance each for the Charleston RiverDogs (0-1, 7.50, 10 K in 6 IP) and the Columbus Clippers (one scoreless inning, 2 K). He led Yankees farmhands in strikeouts and finished fifth in the affiliated minor leagues, behind Francisco Liriano, Joel Zumaya, Rich Hill and Chuck James. He also led the Florida State League in strikeouts and was 7th in ERA. He failed to make the FSL post-season All-Star team and Baseball America did not rank him as one of the league's top prospects.

Moving up to AA in 2006, Tyler again led Yankee farmhands in strikeouts (175). He allowed just a .200 batting average and had three times as many strikeouts as walks. Clippard was 12-10 with a 3.35 ERA for the Trenton Thunder. He threw the first no-hitter in franchise history on August 17, shutting down the Harrisburg Senators. He also won 9 straight games at one point, breaking the club record of 8 shared by Tomo Ohka and Carl Pavano. He teamed with Philip Hughes to form the top 1-2 duo in the Eastern League. Clippard again was fifth in the affiliated minors in strikeouts, trailing Yovani Gallardo, Francisco Cruceta, Matt Maloney and Franklin Morales. He led the EL in strikeouts and was 7th in ERA, between Devern Hansack and Chris Begg. Baseball America ranked him as the #10 prospect in the EL between Humberto Sanchez and Jonathan Sanchez.

Clippard began 2007 with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. He was 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA in his first 8 starts, striking out 41 in 39 2/3 IP but allowing 40 hits and 17 walks. When Darrell Rasner broke his finger in May, Clippard was called up to New York. He became the 7th rookie to start a game for the 2007 Yankees, following Hughes, Matt DeSalvo, Rasner, Chase Wright, Kei Igawa and Jeff Karstens.

In his major league debut, Clippard allowed one run on 3 hits in 6 innings against the Mets with a second-inning homer by David Wright the sole tally against him. Tyler also doubled off of Scott Schoeneweis in the sixth inning. It was his third plate appearance since high school; the other two had come earlier in the game. Clippard was 3-1 with a 6.33 ERA in six starts for New York, walking 17 in 27 innings. In the minors, he was 4-4 with a 4.15 ERA for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and 2-1, 5.40 for Trenton.

In the winter of 2007, Clippard was sent to the Washington Nationals in return for Jonathan Albaladejo. Tyler spent 2008 with the Columbus Clippers, going just 6-13 with a 4.66 ERA; he was 1-1 with a 4.35 ERA in two major league starts for Washington. He tied Yorman Bazardo and Charlie Haeger for the most losses in the 2008 International League.

Moving to the bullpen in 2009, Tyler was excellent with the Syracuse Chiefs (4-1, Sv, 0.92 in 24 G, 20 H, 42 K in 39 IP). With the 2009 Nationals, he went 4-2 with a 2.69 ERA in 41 games, striking out 67 in 60 1/3 innings and allowing only a .172 opponent average - .122 against lefties.

Clippard began 2010 strong as well, going 7-3 with a 2.15 ERA in Washington's first 40 games. The only other reliever to get 10 decisions in his team's first 40 games was Mike Marshall, also 7-3, back in 1979. To that point, Clippard was 3 for 11 with a double as a batter in the major leagues as well. He finished the season with a record of 11-8 and 1 save in 78 games, leading the Nationals in wins. In 2011, he was only 1-0, but with an excellent 1.75 ERA over the first half and was named the Nats' sole representative at the 2011 All-Star Game. In the game, he relieved Cliff Lee with two on and two out in the 4th inning; the only batter he faced, Adrian Beltre hit a sharp single to left, but the inning ended when Hunter Pence gunned down Jose Bautista at home. Clippard was replaced by Clayton Kershaw to start the 5th, but in the meantime, the National League had scored 3 runs on Prince Fielder's home run in the bottom of the 4th to take a lead they never relinquished; he was thus credited with his league's 5-1 win. He finished the season with a record of 3-0, 1.83 in 72 games, with 104 strikeouts and only 36 walks in 88 1/3 innings. He also gave up only 48 hits, for a tremendous WHIP of 0.838.

Clippard was the Nationals' closer for most of 2012 with Drew Storen on the sidelines and handled the job in a satisfactory manner. In 74 games, he went 2-6, 3.72, but recorded 32 saves and gave up 55 hits in 55 2/3 innings; he walked 29 and struck out 84. He tied J.J. Putz for 7th in the 2012 NL in saves. The Nationals went on to win the first division title in team history and Tyler was used three times in the postseason, giving up a run in 3 innings with no decisions. he followed that performance with a season in which he went 6-3, 2.41 in 72 outings in 2013, allowing a mere 37 hits in 71 innings while striking out 73 as the Nats' top set-up man.

Clippard was an All-Star again in 2014, after his customary understated but outstanding performance in the first half. By the end of August, he was approaching some hallowed territory, as since the beginning of 2010, he had pitched over 350 times with an ERA around 2.60. One could only find three other similar five-year stretches combining such a large number of appearances with such a low ERA by a reliever: Robb Nen either from 1996 to 2000 or 1998 to 2002, and Dan Quisenberry from 1982 to 1986. The main differences was that the other two were closers who gathered a lot of publicity, while Clippard was compiling his numbers in relative obscurity, but this did not make him any less valuable to the Nationals. He finished the season with a record of 7-4, 1 save and a 2.18 ERA. In 70 1/3 innings, he allowed only 47 hits and 28 walks, while striking out 82. He pitched 3 times in the NLDS, which the Nationals lost to the San Francisco Giants, giving up only a hit and a walk in 3 innings. There were questions raised however about why, with the season on the line, manager Matt Williams did not call to him in the crucial 7th inning of Game 4, when the Giants scored the go-ahead run against rookie Aaron Barrett.

Eligible for salary arbitration heading into the 2015 season, he was about to become expensive, and in spite of his outstanding contribution since he had joined the team, the Nationals decided on January 14th to trade him to the Oakland Athletics in return for SS Yunel Escobar. In Oakland, he took over the closer job when incumbent Sean Doolittle was sidelined by an injury and recorded 17 saves in 37 outings, to go along with a 1-3 record and a 2.79 ERA. However, the A's fell out of contention early, and just before the trading deadline, on July 27th, he was sent to the New York Mets in return for minor league P Casey Meisner. The trade became even more important the next day as Jenrry Mejia was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance for the second time that year, resulting in a 162-game suspension, leaving a big hole to be filled in the Mets' bullpen. Tyler made 32 outings for the Mets, going 4-2, 3.06 with a couple of saves. He also, pitched 8 times in the postseason, although he was not as effective, giving up 5 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings and being charged with a loss in Game 4 of the 2015 World Series against the Kansas City Royals on October 31st.

Clippard became a free agent after the 2015 season and it took him a while to find a team, in spite of his record of success. On February 8, 2016, he signed a two-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks worth $12.25 millions as the D-Backs were poised to make a run at the NL West title after an off-season of lavish spending. Tyler pitched 40 times for Arizona, going 2-3 with 1 save and a 4.30 ERA. By the end of July, it was clear that the team was not going to be making a postseason run, so on July 31st, they decided to trade him to the New York Yankees, where he had started his career, in return for Vicente Campos. The Yankees had just traded relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller for prospects and needed someone to act as set-up man for newly-minted closer Dellin Betances. He went 2-3, 2.49 in 29 games with 2 saves the rest of the way. In 2017, he was counted on to form a "big three" in the bullpen alongside Betances and a re-signed Chapman, but he ran into some trouble, putting up an ERA of 4.95 over the first three and a half months, with a record of 1-5 and 1 save. On July 18th, he was traded again, this time to the Chicago White Sox along withe three prospects, Ian Clarkin, Tito Polo and Blake Rutherford, in return for Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson. He did not stay long in Chicago, going 1-1, 1.80 in 11 games, with 2 saves. Having demonstrated he was pitching well once again, he was sent to the Houston Astros on August 13th in return for future considerations. However, things immediately went south in Houston, as he was 0-2, 6.43 with 2 saves in 16 games. Even though the Astros had some issues with the back of their bullpen entering the postseason, they decided Clippard was not part of the solution, and he was left off the roster as Houston went on to win the first World Series in franchise history.

Given his up-and-down recent history, Clippard had difficulty finding a job in 2018. He eventually agreed to a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on March 7th.

Sources: 2007 Yankees Media Guide, 2004-2007 Baseball Almanacs, A story on Clippard's MLB debut

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time NL All-Star (2011 & 2014)
  • 30 Saves Seasons: 1 (2012)
  • Won one World Series with the Houston Astros in 2017 (he did not play in the World Series)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Bryan Hoch: "Clippard revels in Yanks return, shot to play for USA", mlb.com, February 23, 2017. [1]
  • Paul White: "Nationals reliever on verge of unprecedented run", USA Today Sports, August 25, 2014. [2]

Related Sites[edit]