Clip Show aims to be your weekly update for all things Columbus Clippers. Check back each Tuesday afternoon for team records, roster updates, and performance updates on some of the brightest prospects in the Tribe system.
Holy schnikes! Ladies and gentlemen, your Columbus Clippers might be the hottest team in ALL of baseball (I mean, ALL). 12 wins in a row have them sitting at 20-5, with a 3.5 game lead over Louisville in their division (and in the overall IL standings). Columbus is just mashing their opponents, and, other than the crazy 18-12 game against Charlotte, the Clippers have been getting great pitching along the way. Here’s hoping their imminent return to the Rainforest that is Columbus won’t put a wrench into the machine. Columbus opens an eight-game home stand on Thursday.
This Week: 7-0
Season Record: 20-5, 1st place (of four) in ILW (International League West)
4/26 @ Gwinnett – Clippers 7, Braves 5; WP Huff (2-0)
4/27 @ Gwinnett – Clippers 4, Braves 0; WP Barnes (1-1)
4/28 @ Gwinnett – Clippers 2, Braves 1; WP McAllister (4-0)
4/29 @ Gwinnett – Clippers 8, Braves 5; WP Putnam (2-0)
4/30 @ Charlotte – Clippers 6, Knights 0; WP Martinez (1-0)
5/01 @ Charlotte – Clippers 9, Knights 3; WP Huff (3-0)
5/02 @ Charlotte – Clippers 18, Knights 12; WP Lewis (3-0)
4/30 RHP Alex White’s contract purchased by Cleveland
4/30 LHP Eric Berger promoted from AA Akron
4/30 RHP Jess Todd designated for assignment
4/30 INF Jason Donald transferred from Akron on MLB rehab assignment
5/02 INF Josh Rodriguez signed, assigned to Columbus
5/02 OF Jordan Brown traded to Milwaukee
OF: Travis Buck, Ezequiel Carrera, Jerad Head, Chad Huffman
IF: Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Donald, Wes Hodges, Jason Kipnis, Cord Phelps, Josh Rodriguez, Luis Valbuena
C: Luke Carlin, Paul Phillips
SP: Scott Barnes, David Huff, Corey Kluber, Joe Martinez, Zach McAllister
RP: Eric Berger (L), Frank Herrmann (R), Josh Judy (R), Jensen Lewis (R), Zach Putnam (R), Carlton Smith (R)
DL: RHP Hector Ambriz (torn right elbow ligament); OF Nick Weglarz (torn left knee meniscus); INF Nick Johnson (right wrist soreness); RHP Anthony Reyes (torn right elbow ligament); RHP Hector Rondon (torn right elbow ligament), LHP Jeremy Sowers (left shoulder)
*subject to change
5/03 @ Charlotte, Zach McAllister
5/05 vs. Lehigh Valley, Corey Kluber
5/06 vs. Lehigh Valley, Joe Martinez
5/07 vs. Lehigh Valley, David Huff
5/08 vs. Lehigh Valley, Scott Barnes
5/09 vs. Charlotte, Zach McAllister
Players To Watch
We talked a bit about Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall yesterday, and my hope is to continue to bring you more player-specific posts from time to time so as not to feel like I’m cramming stats into this column. But, what about everyone else? Let’s take a look at a few of the guys…
We profiled two of the “big three” infield prospects yesterday, so it’s only fair to discuss the third: 2B Cord Phelps. Sadly, Phelps has been mired in a bit of a slump, with just four hits in his last 25 at-bats (.160). That said, he’s still hitting at a .288 clip for the season with a huge .431 on-base percentage, and continues to play solid defense. And, with that on-base clip, you can’t say he’s not contributing, as despite the hitting marks over these last seven games he’s still walked six times and scored five runs.
Part of the logjam in the infield is inflated by the presence of INF Jason Donald. Rehabbing and injury, Donald has been shuffled between Columbus and Akron this year, and most recently returned to Columbus this week. In his first two games with the Clippers, he’s been nothing short of sensational, with five hits in nine at-bats (.556), including a double and a homer, five RBI, a walk (OBP: .600), and three runs scored. Donald’s addition means there are four viable “prospects” (sorry, Sweet Luis) playing two positions on the infield (and DHing as they can). Yikes.
Though I just ripped on Sweet Luis Valbuena, it wouldn’t be fair to do this column without noting that he was named the Tribe’s Minor League Player of the Week. In six games ovver the week of the award (April 24-30), Valbuena went 9-for-24 (.375) with, two doubles, three home runs, seven RBI, and five runs scored, notching hits in all six games. For the season, Sweet’s hitting .303 in 20 games, with four homers, 15 RBI, and 12 runs scored. Somewhere, TD just blacked out.
Every successful lineup generally begins with a solid lead-off man, and Columbus has one in OF Ezequiel Carrera. Carrera has been money so far this season, and in six games this week showed his worth by going 10-for-29 (.345), including 4-for-6 on Monday night. He scored five runs, drove in six, walked three times and stole two bases. For the season in 22 games, Zeke is hitting .314 with a .398 OBP, and has scored 19 times.
He’s a bit past “prospect age,” but it’s hard not to love what OF Jerad Head has been doing. He’s 16-for-43 (.372) in his last 10 games played, and his average has average has actually gone down over that span. In 17 games on the season, Head is hitting at a .379 clip, and has a .969 OPS. Not too shabby.
Call him Crash Davis! 31-year-old C Luke Carlin has been tearing it up, despite no realistic hope of a promotion to The Show (barring injury, gulp). That hasn’t stopped him from mashing the ball when called upon, as in 17 games Carlin is raking to the tune of a .346 average, two homers, 13 RBI, and a .471 OBP/.990 OPS.
I have to lead with LHP Carlton Smith this week. As much crap as I gave Smith last year for being pretty horrid out of the pen (and, let’s be honest… he was), I have to give him props for his start this year. The big righty is 1-0 working in eight games spanning 11.2 innings, and is yet to allow a run. He’s allowed eight hits, walked two (WHIP: 0.86) while striking out 14. Quite a turnaround from last year’s 6.38 ERA in Columbus. It’s worth noting, however, that the 25-year-old has seen a similar pattern in years-past. He pitching the entire year in Akron in 2009, and was decent. When repeating there to start 2010, however, he was lights-out with a 0.87 ERA in his first nine appearances before being promoted to Columbus and struggling. It seems to be working again, as this year’s start while repeating a level has shown him to have made some adjustments and improvements. Let’s hope it continues.
A sad note from the bullpen, however, is the DFA of RHP Jess Todd. Originally included with Pure Rage Perez in the Mark DeRosa trade with St. Louis, the right-hander could just never keep it together. After coming over in the 2009 trade, he worked 20 times in Cleveland with pretty lousy results (ERA: 7.66 with opponents hitting .358 off of him). His 2010 numbers in Cleveland were similar over five games (ERA: 7.50 with an OBA of .333). Sadly, his AAA numbers suffered as well, as he was super-streaky and finished 2010 with 3.31 ERA in 49 IP. 2011 was unkind to Todd, however, as he could never get it going. Before being DFA’d, he has worked eight times spanning 9.0 innings, and was sporting an ERA of 11.00. He surrendered 18 hits, walked six, and allowed 11 earned runs, while only striking out six. Opposing batters were hitting .450 off of him. It remains to be seen what Todd’s next stop will be, but it appears his tenure with the Tribe’s organization may be nearing its end. Ironically, Todd’s last appearance was a perfect inning of relief on Friday.
A Quick Word…
…about “the streak”. 12 wins in a row takes a whole lot of things happening at the right time, and in concert. The Clippers have been mashing the ball all season, with 158 runs in 25 games (6.32 runs/game). This includes 27 home runs hit. As a team, the Clippers are hitting a mind-boggling .297.
Let that sink in for a moment.
25 games, and the ENTIRE TEAM is hitting almost .300. They lead the IL in runs, hits, walks, on-base (.389), slugging (.466), and OPS (.854). But, as good as those numbers are, they only tell part of the story of the winning streak.
Despite a ton of flux in the pitching rotation, the Clippers have been getting more than adequate pitching during the winning streak. They’ve allowed 42 runs in those 12 games (3.5 runs allowed per game), but that includes the crazy 18-12 win from Monday night. So, in the previous 11 wins prior to Monday, Columbus pitching was allowing just 2.73 runs per game. Put that on a team that’s scoring like the Clippers are, and you’re going to see some winning streaks.
Beyond that, Columbus’s starting pitchers had an amazing streak of their own working within the winning streak: until David Huff allowed on during the crazy slug-fest on Monday, no Columbus starting pitcher had allowed a home run in 59 innings. That streak dated back to April 25th.
So, let’s go back to the math: your team scores runs at an almost alarming rate. Your starting pitchers are keeping the ball in the year. Your total pitching staff is hovering around 3 runs allowed per game over a 11 or 12 game stretch. It doesn’t take a mathematician to see how the Clippers have sprinted out to their 20-5 record.
…a tip of the cap to OF Jordan Brown. As recently as two years ago, I was lobbying in this space for Brown to get a legitimate look with the Tribe. Now, he’s been shipped to Milwaukee for caayyysh. As well as he played at times in his Tribe minor league tenure, Brown just never seemed to really be in the club’s plans. In fairness, he did hit just .230 with only two RBI in 26 games in the majors last season, but by that time he was already “over the hill” in terms of being a prospect.
Even still, Brown—hitting .278 with three homers and 13 RBI in 20 games for Columbus in 2011—deserves a tip of the cap for being such a solid player for the Tribe’s AAA teams over the years, even if he missed his best years/chances at being a viable MLB player because of it. He did what he could. He won an MVP award and a batting title in AAA. You can’t ask a guy to do much more without giving him a chance to play.