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June 20, 2006

Tyler Clippard: June 19th
by Fabian

I’m not going to lie. I waited and waited for it last night, but Tyler Clippard didn’t do it. He didn’t give up a home run, and in doing so he avoided his maddening bloop and a blast problems to author a final line of 7-3-0-0-2-6-0 (IP-H-R-ER-BB-K-HR). This was easily Clippard’s best game in a while and hopefully, I’m crossing my fingers once more, he starts rolling.

Throughout the course of Clippard’s first inning of work, I was cautiously optimistic for a good game. He was doing a better job of throwing strikes than he had done his last time out, but on his third pitch to the third batter of the game, he threw a hanging curveball to the hitter. Luckily, the pitch hung so much that the batter layed off of it for a ball. As I have previously stated, when Clippard’s curveball is on, it’s his best pitch, when it’s off, and he is inconsistent with it, it leads to a lot of long fly balls. Despite that pitch, as well as a line drive single over the second baseman’s head, Clippard worked a quick and clean frame.

The second inning generated further optimism as Clippard sandwiched an easy one pitch flyout to the CF around two strikeouts, one swinging and missing and the other a called strike on a perfect pitch to the outside corner of the plate. The third inning produced even more dominating results as Clippard continued to throw his fastball with pinpoint accuracy. This led to a strikeout looking on the outside corner at the knees for the leadoff batter and then a strikeout swinging for the second batter of the inning. The third batter fared better as he was able to get bat on ball for a groundball up the middle. During the fourth inning, Clippard continued to roll, he generated a flyout to the LCF warning track on a first pitch fastball, don’t worry the ball wasn’t hit particularly hard, before striking out the next batter on four pitches with the fourth being…a swing and miss fastball. The inning’s final batter was down 0-2 following two fastball strikes and then feebly grounded out to 3B.

Results wise, the fifth inning was continued cause for celebration, as the side was set down in order, but there were two hard hit balls. The first pitch was a fastball ripped to 3B, but caught for an out. The next batter worked the count to 2-2 before hitting the ball to CF, but Brett Gardner was able to track the ball down with his 80 speed and then the last out was a much easier flyball to RF.

Now here’s where there was a little bit of trouble. Clippard started off the sixth inning easy enough, getting a grounball to SS on his curveball for an easy out. He then quickly fell behind the following batter 2-0 before the count eventually went full, but then he walked the hitter on a pitch up high. Clippard then fell behind the next batter 2-0 before getting a fastball over for a strike. He then got the batter to hit into what would have been an inning ending double play, but unfortunately Clippard got to the ball and didn’t make a play so it was slowed to the point where the Thunder defense was only able to pick up the out at 1B. Facing the next hitter in the Fisher Cats lineup, he once again fell behind 2-0. He was then able to get his curveball over for a strike before missing outside with a fastball, which led to the Thunder coaching staff calling for an intentional walk. At the time, I had a problem with this decision as I felt it might not send the best message to someone you value as a pitching prospect to basically let them know you think they can’t get someone out. In retrospect, I agree with the decision as it avoided Clippard giving up a big hit to a guy hitting .317 with an ISO over .200. The pitch following the intentional ball four was a curveball hit hard to LCF, but the LF and former CF, Justin Christian, was able to catch up to the ball for the final out of the sixth inning.

Clippard’s seventh and final inning was much better as he left on a high note by hitting the strike zone more consistently to work around a base hit to CF for an easy 13 pitch inning that featured a strikeout on a changeup.

Of the 84 pitches Tyler Clippard would throw on this night, 68% were for strikes. The difference between this night and previous nights was not in a change in pitch selection, as seemed to be the case with Hughes on Sunday, but rather pitch execution. While he still had a couple hanging curveballs, they were not hangers in the zone, so hitters did not tee off of them. In addition, his changeup was also terrific tonight. Though he did not use it too much, when he did he was able to get guys swinging and missing. In fact, Manuel Mayorson was so out in front of a third inning changeup that he apparently lost his bat towards the home plate screen. I wanted to see Clippard go out for another inning, but that probably would not have been for the best as it’s good to just have him get a solid start under his belt without trying for too much.


-As mentioned in yesterday’s comments, Brett Gardner was promoted to AA Trenton. In his first game with the Thunder Gardner showcased his best talent, speed. It was with his 80 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale that Gardner was able to drag bunt for his first AA base hit and then steal 2nd base on a pitch out before advancing to third on the pitchout’s ensuing errant throw. Gardner also worked a walk in his final plate appearance. Definitely an impressive debut for a guy who could be trade bait given the big league team’s current slide.

-Eric Duncan had a non-descript game. He hasn’t done too much in his AA time, but he’s still only 21, and he’s still had less than 40 Abs since his demotion so nothing can really be said in one direction or the other. If he gets hot enough to convince scouts that the Yankees hurt him by rushing, but the talent is still there, he could be another piece of trade bait.

-With Gardner moved to AA, Shelley Duncan was moved to AAA and did what he does best, which is hit for power, collecting a double and a home run in his debut at the level. Call me crazy, but given the fact that Melky has been slumping and has barely shown any power at the big league level, Shelley Duncan may be a hot streak away from seeing some time at the major league level. Or, perhaps the Yankees just got tired of the lack of defensive support Trenton pitchers were getting and decided to begin fixing that problem, by removing their greatest OF liability (Duncan) and inserting perhaps their best OF defender (Gardner). Hughes and especially Clippard, are thankful.

-Another guy that might be a AAA hot streak away from a big league appearance is Steven White. White pitched 6 solid innings for Columbus, but struggled with his control a bit in the middle of the game, leading to him giving up 3 runs in the 5th inning. On the night White’s line was 6-5-3-3-2-4-0 with 65 of 102 pitches for strikes. In 18 AAA innings he has a 3.50 ERA. As the Yankees most big league ready SP prospect he’s a likely trade chip.

-As far as trade deadline moves, I think any and everyone not named Hughes or Tabata should be considered trade bait. If either of those guys goes, I will be none too happy. Any package of any other set of players is acceptable in the right deal.

-Scroll down for SG's look at the Yankees recent losing ways.