NEW YORK – Heading into the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels, the New York Yankees were tied 3-3 thanks to home runs by Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. But relief pitcher Tyler Clippard struggled again out of the bullpen, giving up three, costly, earned runs in only 0.1 innings pitched.
Clippard’s problems stem beyond this one appearance – over his last seven appearances he has allowed six earned runs on seven hits combined, three of those hits being home runs. After posting a stellar earned run average in the first two months of the season, Clippard sits at 8.10 for the month of June.
So what has been the reason for Clippard’s struggles of late? One word: command. In last night’s game specifically, all three hits that Clippard allowed were right over the heart of the plate. The first batter that he faced on Tuesday night was Cameron Maybin, and he jumped on a changeup early in the count to give the Angels a 4-3 lead.
Following Maybin’s at-bat, Yunel Escobar came to the plate and hammered a first-pitch splitter for a triple, which scored another run. Again, the Angels took advantage of Clippard throwing a ball right down the middle early on in the count simply because Clippard missed his spot. Catcher Gary Sanchez set up down and away but Clippard ended hanging the splitter and Escobar made him pay.
Although Clippard has struggled of late, he is still a proven relief pitcher that has had success for the Yankees; he just needs to get back to his bread and butter. As seen in the graphic below, Clippard is a pitcher who likes to command the bottom-right hand portion of the zone, frequently getting hitters to chase pitches that look appealing to the eye.
Of all the pitches Clippard has thrown this year, 22% have been located in the bottom right region that lives outside the strike zone. Hitters are only batting .063 in that area when Clippard locates his pitch effectively.
Ultimately, this seven-game skid will come to an end. Clippard’s ERA still sits at 3.12 despite his last seven outings being abysmal. Look for Clippard to try and get hitters off balance early in the count with pitches outside of the strike zone, and then tease them with his splitter on the outer half of the plate.
This Yankees’ team is too good to continue on this skid for much longer and their bullpen (hopefully sooner than later) will figure it out. Every team goes through a rough stretch — the Yankees will bounce back.