Tyler Clippard and the Yankees agree they need to find a way to fix Tyler Clippard. The usually reliable reliever has been performing well below his usual standards lately — he gave up four runs in the ninth inning of the Yankees’ 8-1 loss to the Rangers on Saturday — and seems to have lost his status as Joe Girardi’s seventh-inning guy to Chad Green.
Because Clippard is not a closer, trying to figure out how much he’s hurting the team can’t count on traditional stats such as saves. ERA doesn’t really cut it either, because that doesn’t take into account the game situation.
There is an advanced metric that has been around a while called “Shutdowns and Meltdowns.” It means pretty much what you’d think and can be helpful in evaluating the worth of all relievers regardless of their role.
According to FanGraphs.com, “Shutdowns and meltdowns answer a simple question: did a relief pitcher help or hinder his team’s chances of winning a game?”
Here comes the technical stuff, also from FanGraphs:
“To determine if a pitcher has earned a shutdown or meltdown, you simply need to check their Win Probability Added (WPA) for the game in question. WPA is a measure of how much the team’s Win Expectancy (WE) changed while the pitcher was on the mound.”
(You may know Win Expectancy from its ESPN cousin, which is Win Probability. The network has started posting the Win Probability for both teams during its baseball telecasts, with mixed reviews from viewers.)
FanGraphs credits a shutdown or meltdown if the reliever earns a WPA of plus 0.06 or greater or minus 0.06 or greater for a given outing.
Clippard’s traditional stats (through Saturday) are: 1-4 record, 4.85 ERA, one save, four blown saves.
But how does he rank on shutdowns and meltdowns? Glad you asked.
Clippard has earned six shutdowns (good), but 11 meltdowns (bad). How bad? He entered Saturday tied for the second-most in baseball.
So he’s hurt the Yankees a lot.
Through Friday, Brett Cecil of the Cardinals led the majors with 11 meltdowns. Clippard, who suffered No. 11 on Saturday, and former Met Carlos Torres (now with the Brewers) had 10. Pedro Strop of the Cubs, Blake Treinen of the Nationals and the recently released Francisco Rodriguez of the Tigers had nine each.
Milwaukee’s Corey Knebel led the majors with 24 shutdowns vs. only four meltdowns. That might make him the most valuable reliever in baseball.
The least? How about Miami’s Junichi Tazawa, who had seven meltdowns and one lonely shutdown. (And a 7.31 ERA and a two-year, $12-million contract.)
From a team standpoint, the Brewers had the most meltdowns (52) and the most shutdowns (86). What that might tell us is that the surprising first-place team in the NL Central has depended quite a bit on its bullpen (and also has played a lot of exciting, back-and-forth games). How long can that be sustained? It’s worth wondering about for a team that was only four games above .500.
The rest of the top teams in shutdowns: Cardinals (73), Blue Jays (72) and Rockies (68).
The other top meltdown teams: Rays (46), Phillies (44) and two teams with 43: the Mets and Cardinals.
The Mets were 13th with 61 shutdowns. Among the Mets’ top relievers, Addison Reed had 18 shutdowns and four meltdowns. Jerry Blevins was 13-5 and Fernando Salas 9-4 on the good side.
The problem for the Mets has been their secondary relievers: 30 meltdowns vs. 20 shutdowns by the rest of the overworked bullpen.
The Yankees were 29th with only 44 shutdowns and 22nd with 33 meltdowns — almost a third of those by Clippard.
Dellin Betances has 10 shutdowns and two meltdowns. Aroldis Chapman has six shutdowns and two meltdowns.
Chad Green? In 11 relief appearances, the young righthander has five shutdowns and two meltdowns. No wonder Girardi wants to see more of him — and, unless he can get untracked, less of Clippard.