After making six appearances (all starts) for the Yankees in 2007, Clippard was traded to the Washington Nationals for the man whose name I love to yodel, Jonathan Albaladejo.
Sloth Howard made two uneventful starts for the Nationals in 2008 before Washington converted him into a reliever in 2009, a position in which he has flourished. Since his transition to the bullpen, he has pitched in 44 games and has a 2.43 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in those games. He has also struck out 75 batters in 66.2 innings and held opponents to a .188 batting average (39 hits in 227 at-bats).
Yes, he has been good, but he has been exceptionally good against the Mets. In yesterday's game, he faced 10 batters and struck out seven of them. The seventh inning was Clippard's most impressive inning. He struck out the heart of the Mets order (David Wright, Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur) on only 12 pitches. All three batters struck out swinging.
Is it steroids? No. Despite the fact that Clippard's balls are clearly enlarged (see photo, right), his body takes after Ron Howard's side of the family, not Sloth's side.
Is it the pitching coach? Please! The Nationals' pitching coach is Steve McCatty. He was a .500 pitcher when he played for the Oakland Athletics from 1977-1985 (63-63 career record).
McCatty was known for two things. He's known for his miracle 1981 season, when he went 14-7 with a 2.33 ERA and finished second in the Cy Young Award balloting. He's also known for the fact that he couldn't strike anyone out. McCatty struck out only 541 batters over a career that spanned 1188.1 innings. He rarely even got to two strikes on any batter. He had no problems getting to four balls, as he walked 520 batters. This is the man we're supposed to believe turned Tyler Clippard into the über-pitcher he has become? No.
The reason why Tyler Clippard has become the Met killer whose large balls strike fear into the bats of the orange and blue is simple. He studied at the academy with the quiet name, PSSST, which stands for Pitching School of Smiley, Smith and Tomlin. That's right, Mets fans. I'm talking about former Pirate pitchers and Met killers John Smiley, Zane Smith and Randy Tomlin.
The fearsome threesome was contacted by Tyler Clippard to help him strike fear into the hearts of the Mets. As any long-time Mets fan would know, John Smiley, Zane Smith and Randy Tomlin were three lefties all called upon by then-Pirates manager Jim Leyland to shut down the Mets offense. And shut them down, they did!
Here are the stats compiled by the founders of the PSSST Academy over their careers, followed by what they did against the New York Mets:
- John Smiley (career): 126-110 record (.550 winning pct.), 3.80 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
- John Smiley (vs. Mets): 14-10 record (.583 winning pct.), 3.11 ERA, 0.99 WHIP
- Zane Smith (career): 100-115 record (.465 winning pct.), 3.74 ERA, 1.34 WHIP
- Zane Smith (vs. Mets): 10-9 record (.526 winning pct.), 2.26 ERA, 1.10 WHIP
- Randy Tomlin (career): 30-31 record (.492 winning pct.), 3.43 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
- Randy Tomlin (vs. Mets): 9-0 record (1.000 winning pct.), 2.05 ERA, 0.95 WHIP
As you can see, the Mets appeared to be the one team that kept these guys in the major leagues. They were merely pedestrian against all other teams, but turned into Juan Marichal (who won his first 19 decisions against the Mets) whenever the Mets stepped into the batters box.
Apparently, the motto of PSSST (Beat the Mets, beat the Mets, step right up and defeat the Mets) was ingrained so well into Clippard's psyche that he decided to extend it to apply to other major league teams. He not only beats the Mets now, he handles every other team as well.
It is for this reason that PSSST kicked him out of their academy. They were upset that Clippard did not ONLY defeat the Mets. Their policy of pitching well enough to defeat the Mets but no one else apparently didn't sit well with Clippard and so he was politely removed from the academy and went back to the Nationals.
The Mets never did well against John Smiley, Zane Smith and Randy Tomlin. Now one of their former disciples is doing the same to the current team. Tyler Clippard is a Washington National, a division rival of the Mets. The Mets will face Washington 18 times this year. The Mets will have to make some noise against Clippard or the student of PSSST will continue to silence their bats.