Tagged: Matt Capps

Clippard Posting Astounding Season

Typically middle relievers only get noticed when they do something terrible like blow a lead, walk in a run, or otherwise screw up a perfectly good start for the starter or a potential save opportunity for the closer.  Like umpires, if we know the names of middle relievers it’s usually a bad sign, just ask the Royals relief squad. 

Tyler Clippard, however, has transitioned from a starter on the most recognizable American sports franchise, to a middle reliever on perhaps its most dubious and somehow has gained more recognition, and even more astounding it’s positive recognition.  After another late-inning rally by the suddenly feisty Nationals, Tyler Clippard, not Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Ubaldo Jimenez, or even Big Time Timmy Jim Lincecum leads all of Major League Baseball with seven wins.  This is the same Tyler Clippard who announced his presence with authority as an up-and-comer for the Yankees in 2007 and pitched his way to the bullpen in Washington in less than two years.

Last year he had a fine season, pitching 60.1 innings in 41 games and compiling a 2.69 ERA.  This year, though, he’s out of his mind.  In addition to the absurd record he’s allowing opposing hitters a tiny .188/.294/.291 (AVG/SLG/OBP).  His WHIP is 1.12 and he’s struck out 30 to only 12 walks.  Of course, his incredible win total is due in part to his losing a few leads (he has 0 saves in 5 opportunities) and being in the right place at the right time to get credit for victories when the team has come back late.  It also doesn’t hurt that once he leaves the game with the lead he’s followed by the best closer in baseball so far this season, Matt Capps.

However he’s getting it done, both he and the Nationals will take it.  The starters may be giving him a hard time about being the win vulture, swooping in and stealing their Ws, but this franchise will take them any way they can get them.  With their potential front end starter finishing his apprenticeship in Syracuse, the dominance of Clippard and Capps in the back of the bullpen adds another ray of hope to the Nationals increasingly bright future.

Pitch Perfect: Greinke Dominates, Pirates Surprise

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With the season approaching the one month mark we’re
starting to get a better idea of how things look to shake out over the coming
summer.  Apparently the Marlins aren’t
going to set the MLB record for wins in a season and the Red Sox are much
better than their sluggish start indicated. 
In particular, though, I want to look at some of the great pitching
performances we’ve seen so far.

           

No discussion this season can begin without Zack Greinke,
this week’s Sports Illustrated cover boy. 
He’s been outstanding, showing incredible control and command, and the
ability to blow it by people when he needs to. 
His mix of pitches and speeds is what makes him so good.  In his first of two straight complete games
he faced Texas and his curveball
alone varied from 62-82 mph.  That’s 20
mph with the same pitch!  Add in a
fastball that can approach 94 and you have a variance that destroys hitters’
timing.  It looks like Greinke is finally
bringing all of his talent together and becoming a complete pitcher.  The SI cover is great, because maybe he’ll
begin to get a little more of the national recognition that he deserves.  Even though his scoreless streak was snapped
by a fluke bounce that led to an unearned run, he’s still got a 0.00 ERA, a
WHIP under 1.00, and a 6/1 K/BB ratio. 
He’s looking like a true front-end starter in his sixth Major League
campaign.

 

Tim Wakefield is also off to a strong start, and somewhat surprisingly.  He has two CG, including one near no-hitter
and last night he went seven while giving up just one hit, which came in the
first inning.  His ERA is 1.86 and even
though he walks more guys because of the knuckler, he’s been able to limit hits
and keep guys from scoring.  Wakefield
hasn’t had an ERA below 4.00 since 2002, but he’s off to a tremendous start and
is a big reason the Red Sox have ripped off 11 straight.  His gem against Oakland
in which he carried a no-no into the eighth was the first win in that streak.

 

Wakefield’s
opposition last night was Cliff Lee, the reigning Cy Young who’s gotten off to
a less than auspicious start to the year. 
Last night he looked more like the dominant guy he was last year.  He went eight innings, giving up just five
hits and no walks before giving way to Kerry Wood, who lost the game on a Jason
Bay HR.  Lee’s record stays at 1-3 with
the no decision, but he’s showing signs of snapping out of it.  He’s keeping his walk numbers down and has
limited the number of hits since his first couple of starts.

 

Johan Santana appears to have his old form back.  He looks as good as he has since getting to New
York.  He’s
giving the Mets much-needed consistency, and if he can continue to go deeper
into games it will put less strain on their currently suspect bullpen.  If Santana remains a real ace the whole
season, the Mets will once again have a chance to break into October.

 

A real surprise this April comes courtesy of my Dad.  He pointed out that currently the three best
teams in Major League Baseball in ERA are the Royals, Pirates, and Mariners.  Hard to imagine that anyone predicted even
one of those teams to be at the top, let alone all three.  The Royals are getting great performances out
of Gil Meche and Greinke, along with better than expected stuff from Sidney
Ponson and recent call-up Brian Bannister, who’s looking like the promising
prospect of a few years ago.  The
Mariners have Felix Hernandez and a rejuvenated Erik Bedard to anchor their
staff, but the true surprise has to be the Pittsburgh Pirates.  They have no big name guys or anyone that
would be considered a stopper, but their entire staff is doing great work and
has posted 4 shutouts and is five for five in save opportunities.

 

The Pirates rotation consists of 

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Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Ian
Snell, and Jeff Karstens, none of whom are exactly household names.  Duke and Maholm have ERAs under 3.00 but none
of the staff has a high strikeout total. 
In fact, the whole staff ranks 29th in MLB in strikeouts,
ahead of only the Angels.  Their middle
and late relief has been superb, allowing the team to remain in games and to
hold leads.  Their closer, Matt Capps, is
only 25 and is off to a great start and has been nailing down games at the
end.  None of the Pirates will blow you
away with velocity or stuff, but they all have shown the ability to throw
strikes and get outs somehow.  The team
will still have a lot of trouble keeping up with the NL Central, but the
development, finally, of some young players and a pitching staff with depth is
a very promising sign in a once proud baseball city.

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