WASHINGTON — When the Washington Nationals’ lone All-Star selection Jordan Zimmermann came down with a cramp in the biceps of his throwing arm Friday night, Major League Baseball was confronted with the very real possibility that it was about to hold an All-Star Game without a single representative from one of the division-leading clubs.
Given the reaction to the perceived snub from Nationals’ closer Rafael Soriano — as good a candidate as anyone to be chosen, with his 0.97 ERA and 22 saves in 24 opportunities — the reality became even starker. But at the final hour — late Sunday afternoon — MLB announced that reliever Tyler Clippard had been added to the team, his second All-Star appearance.
Even Clippard’s own All-Star manager, Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny, made a back-handed comment in Monday’s news conference, saying there were “a couple Nationals that were not available” that he may have chosen instead.
Before you go thinking that Clippard’s selection is strictly a PR move for MLB to save face, though, consider what Clippard has meant to the Nats.
His record of 6-2, along with a save and a 2.03 ERA, are stellar enough. His 11.9 K/9 IP (53 K/40.0 IP) is third-best among all National Leaguers who have thrown as many innings as he has, with the injured Jose Fernandez one of the two above him.
Clippard joined the Nats before the 2008 season and cemented himself as a bullpen fixture after a successful 2009 campaign. But since 2010, he has been by some measures the most important reliever in baseball.
Over the last four and a half seasons, Clippard leads all Major League relief pitchers in innings pitched (363.0) and wins (28). His 5.5 fWAR over that span is 13th-best, and of all relievers with at least 250 innings pitched, his 2.65 ERA ranks 11th, trailing a list of mostly closers, including Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara and Soriano.
Clippard earned an All-Star bid in 2011, but the often-overlooked right-hander was due another recognition for his stalwart, often underappreciated work. Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll actually pitch in the game.
Michael Taylor has had a breakout campaign at Double-A Harrisburg. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
To that end, Nationals fans may have already seen their peak All-Star excitement, as