Tyler Clippard Agrees to Two-Year Pact with Arizona Diamondbacks

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This offseason has already seen five relievers, including Darren O’Day, Joakim Soria, Ryan Madson, Antonio Bastardo, and Tony Sipp, sign multi-year contracts worth more than $6 million per year, making it a remarkably profitable winter for relievers who don’t pitch the ninth inning. On Monday, the list added another name, as Tyler Clippard inked a two-year deal worth $12.25 million with the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to Ken Rosenthal on Twitter.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America

Clippard displays his unorthodox mechanics before delivering a pitch against the Mariners on August 29, 2014. (Source: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America)

After seven seasons with the Washington Nationals, Clippard began 2015 with Oakland, appearing in 36 games and striking out 38 batters in 38.1 innings with a 1.190 WHIP. His high walk numbers (4.9 BB/9 with Oakland) led to an inflated FIP of 3.96, but a low BABIP and HR rate kept his ERA down at 2.79. After a July 27 trade to the New York Mets, Clippard’s walk rate improved, but he struck out more than a batter-and-a-half fewer per inning than he did in Oakland (8.84 vs. 7.24) and his home run rate nearly doubled from 0.70 to 1.39 HR/9. Fortunately, Clippard maintained a high strand rate and low BABIP, and his ERA in 32.1 innings with New York was a respectable 3.06, despite an anxiety-inducing 4.65 FIP.

Clippard’s career ERA of 2.88 is significantly lower than his 3.72 career FIP, and after nine big-league seasons and over 500+ relief innings, it may be time to ask if Clippard’s style of pitching lends itself to defying FIP. However, Clippard’s K/9 and BB/9 both ticked in the wrong direction in 2015, which raises concerns about his future. Clippard also posted a 21.2 percent ground ball rate in 2015, second-lowest of his career, following a season in which that number was 36.9 percent – still below average, but easily the highest of his career. It’s no surprise that in that season, Clippard’s ERA was a measly 2.18, which indicates that Clippard should focus on inducing more ground balls in 2016, especially if his strikeout rate continues to decline.

Entering his age-31 season, Clippard’s age isn’t a huge concern just yet, and the structure of Clippard’s contract is relatively team-friendly. Hopefully, Clippard can regain some of the strikeout ability and roll a few more ground balls out of the D-Backs’ bullpen in 2016 and provide a reliable bridge to closer Brad Ziegler.

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