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June 9, 2006


Tyler Clippard: June 9th
by Fabian

Well…I put the Yankees on the backburner in order to watch Tyler Clippard perform tonight and I walk away…unimpressed. My opinion of Clippard hasn’t changed much, 1 start isn’t enough for that to happen, but I was able to get a sense of some of the positives and negatives of his game.

The first thing you notice about Clippard is that unlike Hughes who has the supposed ideal pitcher’s build. Clippard is all limbs. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to affect his delivery to the point where his mechanics are out of whack, though his mechanics don’t seem as clean as Hughes (I’m not a scout, take this as well as all my scouty observations with a huge grain of salt). Clippard’s feet are also huge and it looks kind of like he’s wearing clown shoes when he’s on the mound, for whatever that’s worth.

Now, onto what actually took place. If you look at the box score, it’s likely that you’ll come to the conclusion that Clippard was knocked around and abused tonight, which wasn’t the case. In the first inning Clippard was simply a victim of bad luck. He had the first batter of the game on a 2-2 count, but was not able to put him away as he ended up walking him, he then had the second batter of the game behind on the count at 0-1 when his luck went south. Clippard’s 0-1 pitch, a 90MPH fastball up and away was “doubled” to LF. I say “doubled” because it was a play your average LF makes, but unfortunately Shelley Duncan is a very inexperienced LF and despite this was playing way too far in. Adding the fact that he’s not exactly the fastest guy in the world makes this even more absurd. Duncan then compounded things by missing not one, but two cutoff men, that allowed the run to score. Clippard then hit the next batter after having him behind in the count at 1-2; the 1-1 pitch was a particularly beautiful 75MPH curveball for a strike looking down in the zone. Clippard then had the next batter at 0-2 following a well-placed 89MPH fastball for a strike down and away as well as a 79MPH changeup for a swing and miss away. Seeing how poorly the batter reacted to the changeup, Clippard decided to go back to the well and this time the 81MPH changeup was barely connected with and rolled up the 3B line foul…except, it didn’t go foul and everybody was safe. This wasn’t the defense’s fault really, it was just one of those freak occurrences as EVERYONE thought it was headed foul, but it just didn’t go. At this point Clippard showed his frustration with his hands on the hips, probably wondering who he must have pissed off to have this kind of luck thus far. The next batter was at 1-1 before Clippard hung a curveball in the middle of the plate for a single to CF. The ball wasn’t particularly hard hit, but it was terrible execution of the pitch as it screamed, “hit me!” on it’s way to the middle of the plate and belt high. Clippard got the next batter to ground to 3B on a 90MPH 1-1 fastball for the first out of the game. This seemed like it might have settled Tyler down as went after the next batter getting him to swing and miss on an up and away 90MPH fastball followed by swinging and missing on an 80MPH changeup down and away. I was beginning to think Clippard was in the clear for the rest of the game and then he unleashed an 81 MPH belt high changeup down the middle of the plate, which turned into a HR, as it should. The very next pitch resulted in a groundball to 1B for the second out of the inning and then Clippard got the following batter to ground out to SS to end the inning. I thought the horror was over; it was not.

As Clippard came out for his second inning of work rain started to come down and I don’t want to seem like a Clippard apologist, but it clearly affected him. The first pitch of the inning was a fastball that was hit into LF, in my opinion, that ball as well as the HR were the only times Clippard allowed batters to make good contact, which was one of the lone positive things to come out of this outing. After allowing the hit, everything went to pieces, as Clippard would walk the next two batters, consistently missing high in the zone. In the process of this it appeared to me that Clippard was not getting proper push off his front foot and as a result not finishing his delivery as he should, allowing his pitches to sail. You can call me a Clippard apologist if you would like, but the rain clearly led to his early exit in my opinion since the first inning was more a product of bad luck and defense and not Clippard himself.

Overall, Clippard threw 40 pitches and 58% for strikes. In the first inning he threw 30 pitches and 70% for strikes so the 2nd, rainy, inning skews the look of his control numbers. 75% of Clippard’s pitches were fastballs, which primarily came in at 89-90 MPH. None were above that velocity and a couple were below. Clippard threw 15% changeups, at about 80MPH, and 10% curveballs at about 75MPH. The fastball wasn’t particularly hard and wasn’t his best velocity, as I have confirmed reports from people I trust that he has touched 94 on several occasions this year, but batters did not get around on it or attack it in a way that would scream “mediocre fastball”. The changeup and curve were both very effective, when Clippard located them where he meant. In this sense, Clippard pitched to his scouting report, as his control was impressive, 2nd inning aside, doing a good job of painting the corners, but his command, throwing quality strikes, has room for improvement. This was just a very tough outing for Clippard, but not enough to drive your opinion of Clippard in one direction or another.

***

While I did not mention it in yesterday’s report as I was suffering from Phil Hughes overload, Eric Duncan was making his first start back at AA and the only noticeable thing about his game was that he perhaps needs to become a more commanding 1B. What I mean by this is that when taking throws from his infielders, as he would take his foot off the bag he would look towards the umpire for the call rather than quickly proceeding to throw the ball around the infield in order to sell the call. It could have just been a sample size issue though.

In today’s game Eric had a mixed bag first at bat as he showed a good eye on pitches away from the plate, but showed what is perhaps his weakness as he swung and miss on some curveballs middle of the plate and down leading to a strikeout. For his second at bat, Duncan was started off with a pitch chest high and down the middle of the plate, which he promptly deposited over the RF wall for his first home run of the ’06 minor league season, which was nice to season. Duncan’s third at bat saw the opposition attempt to perhaps further expose a potential breaking ball weakness, but the first pitch curveball missed up and in. The pitcher, who was attempting to get through 5 innings to qualify for a win then came back with a fastball down and just off the middle of the plate…that Eric deposited over the RF wall, further than the first blast. In his 4th plate appearance, Eric would take a changeup down and in for a ball and then he was given another changeup, this one further down and close to the dirt, which he bit on and swung and miss. The third pitch of the at bat was grounded out to 2B for a force. It was more of the same for Duncan in his 5th at bat as he grounded into a force out at 2B on the second pitch.

For those who haven’t seen him, Duncan has a somewhat weird timing mechanism that is only REALLY noticeable when sitting behind home plate. As he waits for the pitcher, his back (left) elbow twitches against his side as he taps his foot and then as he’s about to swing he stops the twitching and attacks the ball from his semi-crouched stance. Though he’s definitely got some pop, Eric isn’t an especially impressive physical specimen in the sense that he isn’t huge. I’ve seen him listed as 6’3’’ in some places, but 6’1’’ is more realistic, he has an athletic build to go along with decent speed and is a physically strong individual.