Based on ZiPS projections, Emmanuel Clase is expected to finish 2023 with the following stats:
74 G, 71.3 IP, 26.8% K%, 6.1% BB%, 2.27 ERA, 1.5 fWAR
Read what our writers think, then vote in the poll below and drop your own opinions in the comments and on the Covering the Corner Discord.
Merritt Rohlfing’s prediction: OVER
If you’ve read most or all of these Over/Under pieces, you’ve surely come to realize the inherent conservatism in ZiPS projections. This is the case with most all projection systems, but typically what we see is something in the 50th percentile of what they expect out of a player. So that's why, despite showing Emmanuel Clase as nearly matching his appearances from last year — and he did lead baseball in saves as well as appearances — they suggest he’ll only touch 1.5 WAR. Which seems silly.
A writer at a previous site I wrote for, Steve Kinsella — now covering the Rays for Sports Talk Florida — was wont to say that relievers, by their very nature, are a fickle beast. A typical guy will rarely see his innings pitched for a season get anywhere over 60, and he’s never in for very long in games, so their level of variance is incredible. It’s why we’ve seen these one-year wonders like Jeff Manship or Dan Otero or Nick Wittgren. Luck, and lack thereof, can really swing a perception of a reliever. So nailing down what you expect out of them can be hard.
A guy like Clase though — that arm of his is just too ridiculous. A hundred miles an hour with movement, and now he’s found a 92 mph slider to pair with it, is just a troubling combo for any hitter. Not to say he couldn’t also be struck by a weird fluke bad season. The only guy to top him as a bullpen arm last year was Edwin Diaz, and that’s very much a guy who had one of those weird years. In his first season in New York after being as lights out as you can be in Seattle, he logged a 5.59 ERA and gave up a hit an inning. His strikeouts were still there, but his home run rate jumped to 5.9% and his BABIP was a wild .381. Since then he’s logged a 2.27 ERA over 150 games. So what can you say?
The big difference, and perhaps what can help Clase avoid such a weird season, is that over his two years in Cleveland, he’s forced a 65.4 ground ball rate. Yes, ground ball pitchers can be victimized by the BABIP gremlins, and with new shift rules he might suffer a bit, but what won’t happen is fly balls turning into dingers because the ball he happened to be throwing was one of those weird juiced balls MLB has let float around the game the last few years. Try as you might, you are hard-pressed to hit a home run if it hits the ground in front of the mound.
Not much has changed behind Clase defensively, and if anything I’m hopeful some of those younger guys, Steven Kwan and Oscar Gonzalez among them, will get better with another year in the majors under their belt. So while the winds of fate and fortune have dragged even elite relievers down to mortal status — even Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera had some 3-plus ERA seasons at the height of their powers — I don’t think Clase will face any kind of weird collapse. One-and-a-half wins are decent for any relief arm.
For one of the best in the game, he should cruise past that by the time he gets to Seattle for his second consecutive All-Star appearance.
Will Emmanuel Clase finish with an fWAR over or under 1.5?
This poll is closed
Tomorrow’s player: Cody Morris