Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Nationals' Search for a Closer...

posted by Jon Williams
The Washington Nationals are not the first team to struggle to find an acceptable closer. They have a bullpen full of cast-offs, youngsters, and specialists placed in unfavorable roles. Much of the blame can also be placed on manager Manny Acta who is not a very good manager of the bullpen and a little too protective of his starters. Joel Hanrahan and Garrett Mock could both probably grow into the role given time. Joe Beimel and Jesus Colome could do the job if used correctly. Even Julian Tavarez...okay, maybe not Tavarez. But the point is that an effective closer is created not born and Manny Acta needs a reliever to come almost fully formed before he'll be able to spot the closer in the stone.

Although Mike MacDougal has not yet blown the opportunity to cement himself as the latest Washington closer I have my doubts they he can hold on to the job. This is mostly because of things like his 1.87 WHIP, 7.80 BB9 , and mediocre 5.40 K9. The good news is I believe a very good candidate for the role has just presented himself. His name is Tyler Clippard.

Clippard was well on his way to becoming a mediocre, end-of-the-rotation starter. I do not mean that to be insulting. There are thousands of people that would do almost anything short of murder to be an end-of-the-rotation starter on a major league baseball team. But being a starter is no longer the plan for Clippard. This season the Nationals moved him into the bullpen at Triple-A Syracuse with extremely good results. Clippard's already good stuff suddenly looks great as has often happened when starters move to the bullpen. In 37.2 innings, Clippard has 41 strikeouts to just 15 walks. That is not stellar control but it is a huge improvement over MacDougal. His 2009 era is just 0.96 with a WHIP of 0.93. Now a lot of that is good fortune, he will not maintain .216 BABIP forever. He is an an extreme fly ball pitcher but has always managed to limit the damage from homeruns...in the minors anyway. A lot of those flyballs are of the infield variety which is a pitcher skill that is not mentioned often.

In most leagues you will be able to pick up Clippard easily or FAAB him for a buck or so. I believe that it will prove to be a very wise choice for those on the hunt for saves. At the very least I think Clippard will be a fine relief pitcher, of value to NL-only teams whether he closes or not.

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6 Comments:

OpenID paulmbourdett said...

I remember when Clippard was with the Yanks. I believe it was his first start in the bigs, not entirely sure. Anyway, he K'd a few guys early in the game, and started pacing around the mound after each strikeout all cocky and whatnot. I remember wanting to smack him in the face that day. That said, if he's been pitching that well out of the pen down on the farm, he's worth a shot. Washington has nothing to play for, why not groom this kid as closer-of-the-future? Let him take his lumps now and go into next year with him as the guy.

Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 4:48:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

Yeah, the Yankees seem to groom them cocky. The Yankees have a lot of similar pitchers that could help their own bullpen out. Why David Robertson hasn't become the stud reliever NY is looking for is a mystery to me. Maybe next year...

Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 5:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd said...

Hi! Just wanted to say "thanks" for writing this blog. It's nice to have a place to read some studied advice on Fantasy Baseball.

Monday, June 22, 2009 at 6:20:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

Thanks Todd, I appreciate the kind words.

Monday, June 22, 2009 at 6:30:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elbert said...

i remembered Clippard well when he's still learning the craft @ Yankees' farm; still was hoping someday that Clippard would have another shot at the big.

hope he does well!

p.s.: who do you like between Markakis & Alf. Soriano?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 7:53:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

Hey Elbert, I had high hopes for Clippard as a Yankee too. I think he'll do well. As for your question, I would take Markakis as the more disciplined hitter. Soriano is the sexier pick but when things aren't going right they go really wrong for Soriano.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 9:01:00 AM EDT  

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