After making a deal with the rival Atlanta Braves for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson on Friday, the Mets have traded for right-handed relief pitcher Tyler Clippard, too. The 30-year-old made his major league debut at Shea Stadium, starting for the Yankees, back in 2007.
Clippard was drafted by the Yankees in the ninth round of the 2003 amateur draft. He made his professional debut that year in the Gulf Coast League, starting five games and appearing as a reliever in six. But starting in 2004, he was almost exclusively a starting pitcher through the rest of his minor league career. His debut came on May 20, 2007, a game the Mets lost to the Yankees. Clippard went six innings, struck out six, walked three, and gave up just one run on a David Wright home run in the second inning.
But in six starts with the Yankees that year, Clippard had a 6.33 ERA. He wasn't dominant in his time in the minors that year, either. After that season, the Yankees sent him to the Nationals for relief pitcher Jonathan Albaladejo, who had a 4.70 ERA—roughly league average at the time considering park factors—in 49 appearances with the Yankees between 2008 and 2010.
But the Nationals converted Clippard to a relief pitcher after acquiring him and struck gold. In 24 appearances with the Nationals' Tripe-A affiliate, Clippard had a 0.92 ERA in 39 innings, Clippard was promoted to the big leagues. He has not pitched in a minor league game since.
Clippard was dominant in the big leagues immediately upon his arrival. He threw 60.1 innings in 41 appearances for the Nationals that year with a 2.69 ERA and 64 ERA-. In total, he's pitched 492.1 innings as a major league relief pitcher with a 2.65 ERA and a 3.44 FIP. He has struck out 10.24 batters per nine innings and walked 3.58. And he was traded to the A's by the Nationals for Yunel Escobar after the 2014 season. In terms of his pitch arsenal, Eno Sarris's piece from earlier this year is a must-read.
Tyler Clippard hasn't been one of the handful of very best relief pitchers in baseball over the past few years, but he's been a very, very good one. He has a 2.79 ERA and 3.89 FIP so far this year, and the latter is high almost entirely because his walk rate has been much higher this year than in any of his past few seasons. His strikeout rate is down a bit, too, but the results have still been good. And while he's never been a hard thrower by the standards of major league relief pitcher, his average fastball is just a bit slower now than it was at its peak, sitting in the low-90s.