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.
Throw the brakes on. After a pretty sweet streak in which the Clippers pushed their record to 20 games over .500, the Clippers have lost seven of nine and have seen their division lead cut to just two games. For once, it wasn’t just the pitching that let them down, either. The bats, much like their major league brethren, have deserted them at times. 27 runs in eight games (3.4 runs per game) from a team that was scoring at a 6+ run-per-game clip… when you have a weak pitching staff, that drop-off is going to hurt you. It hurt the Clippers this week.
Two Weeks: 2-6
Season Record: 37-22, 1st place (of four) in ILW (International League West)
5/31 @ Durham, Bulls 4, Clippers 1; LP McAllister (7-1)
6/01 @ Durham – Bulls 5, Clippers 4; LP Martinez (4-2)
6/02 @ Durham – Clippers 2, Bulls 1; WP Putnam (4-1)
6/03 @ Louisville – Bats 10, Clippers 4; LP Smith (1-1)
6/04 @ Louisville – Bats 6, Clippers 5; LP Lewis (3-2)
6/05 vs. Louisville – Bats 11, Clippers 5; LP McAllister (7-2)
6/06 vs. Louisville – Bats 5, Clippers 0; LP Kluber (3-4)
6/06 vs. Louisville – Clippers 6, Bats 2; WP Hagadone (2-1)
6/3 INF Nick Johnson off the DL, sent to Akron
6/5 OF Donnie Webb promoted from Akron
6/5 2B Kyle Smith sent to Lake County
6/5 OF Nick Weglarz off the DL, sent to Akron
6/7 INF Wes Hodges released
6/7 INF Nick Johnson promoted from Akron
OF: Ezequiel Carrera, Jerad Head, Chad Huffman, Donnie Webb
IF: Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Donald, Jared Goedert, Nick Johnson, Jason Kipnis, Cord Phelps, Luis Valbuena
C: Luke Carlin, Paul Phillips
SP: Scott Barnes, Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister
RP: Justin Germano (R), Nick Hagadone (L), Josh Judy (R), Jensen Lewis (R), Joe Martinez (R), Zach Putnam (R), Carlton Smith (R)
DL: RHP Hector Ambriz (torn right elbow ligament); RHP Anthony Reyes (torn right elbow ligament); RHP Hector Rondon (torn right elbow ligament), LHP Jeremy Sowers (left shoulder), INF/OF Josh Rodriguez (groin)
*subject to change
6/07 vs. Rochester, Jeanmar Gomez
6/08 vs. Rochester, David Huff
6/09 vs. Rochester, Scott Barnes
6/10 vs. Rochester, Zach McAllister
6/11 @ Buffalo, Corey Kluber
6/12 @ Buffalo, Jeanmar Gomez
6/13 @ Buffalo, David Huff
Players To Watch
How are the kids doing? Let’s take a look…
Gotta take the bad with the good. The whole team is slumping a bit, and none more than OF Jerad Head all of a sudden. He went 3-for-26 (.115) this week, and knocked his season average from .338 to .304. Yikes!
Also in the slump category? 2B Jason Kipnis, who turned in a rough 4-for-23 (.174) week. He hit two doubles, only drove in one run, and saw his season average plummet 14 points in seven games. Not good times.
AAA continues to be an adjustment for 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, who had another mediocre-at-best week. He went 7-for-29 (.241) this week with a double, triple, and four RBI. It’s probably a good thing that there hasn’t been the constant pressure to bring him up this year, as he’s just not ready yet. For the year, he’s hitting .265 in 56 games, with a weak slugging percentage of .419. He has been good at getting on base, with 25 walks and a .359 OBP. Chisenhall is going to need the rest of this year, and possibly some of next year, to be considered ready for The Show.
Poor Zeke. Ever since the Legend of the Zeke squeeze bunt, OF Ezequiel Carrera has been slumping. In his last 10 games in Columbus, he’s hitting just .179 (7-for-39) with no extra base hits, no RBI, and just four runs scored. He has swiped four-of-five on the base paths, however.
Sweet Luis is back! INF Luis Valbuena is back and raking at AAA. Valbuena is hitting 14-for-33 (.424) with five RBI and six runs scored in his last 10 games here in Columbus. Not that that means anything for his career as a whole. It’s just nice that he’s one of the few guys hitting right now.
One pitcher who’s been good of late is RHP Jeanmar Gomez. After two rocky starts after being sent back down, Gomez has turned in three decent starts in a row. He’s been saddled with a lack of run support (only one decision in three starts), but he’s been very good. He’s worked 8.0, 7.0, and 8.0 innings in the three starts, and allowed just four runs (ERA: 1.57), and allowed just 22 baserunners (14H, 8BB) for a WHIP of 0.96. He also fanned 13 over that span. For the year in AAA, Gomez is 4-1 with a 2.53 ERA over seven starts spanning 46.1 innings.
It’s been a bit of a bumpy road in the first 10 innings of AAA work for LHP Nick Hagadone. Hagadone has been seeing some later-game, lead-holding situations out of the pen, and he has responded with a mixed bag, working 9.2 innings with a 6.52 ERA in seven appearances. That looks bad overall, but you have to break it down more to see what’s been going on. Four of those appearances saw Hagadone looking very, very good. In his second, third, fourth, and seventh appearances, Hagadone combined to go 2-0 with a save over 7.1 innings of scoreless ball, allowing just two hits while walking one and fanning nine. That’s AWESOME. However, in his first, fifth, and sixth times out, he was dreadful, combining for just 2.1 innings and allowing seven earned runs (ERA: 27.00). He allowed six hits–two of them homers–over those appearances, and walked two while striking out just two. So, in a phrase, it’s been totally feast-or-famine for Hagadone. The big lefty has plenty to time to turn it around, and has shown the ability to be lights-out at times. It will come.
A Quick Word…
…about making the case for a Cord Phelps call-up to play second base. Our boy Jon touched on Phelps this morning, and how he’s the one piece that’s keeping the Tribe from running away to a World Series win. Seriously. How can they be so blind?? I agree with Jon that Cord’s not going to single-handedly life boat the current Tribe shipwreck, but I also agree that he’s certainly now earned a trip to the bigs. It’s not like Orlando Cabrera has been so good that it would somehow derail the Tribe to see what Cord’s got.
In all seriousness, I know that (see below) this is probably the kiss of death, but we need to break out Cord’s performance to this point in the season and really look at how good he has been this year, and overall since his promotion last summer to Columbus.
Phelps cooled this week, hitting just 5-for-25. His hitting streak ended at 13, and his season average dipped to .304. Even still, Phelps has been the Clippers’ best hitter over the past calendar year. He’s now played 120 games at the AAA level (i.e., basically a full season minus some injury time), and his numbers are solid for a middle-infielder. He’s not going to dazzle anyone with power, but his consistency and the fact that he filled a gigantic vacuum in the Clippers’ lineup during a championship run AFTER the departures of Michael Brantley, Matt LaPorta, and Carlos Santana speak volumes about his makeup and his ability to adjust. He came up on June 10th, and by the time the playoffs rolled around he was batting third in the order, and holding it down.
In 120 games, Phelps has hit .311 (140-for-450), and has a sick on-base percentage of .391. His slugging isn’t mind-blowing (.502), but he does have an OPS pushing toward .900 (.894), which you would certainly take from a middle infielder. Even better is that Phelps is a switch-hitter, and doesn’t struggle mightily against one side versus the other: this season, he’s hitting .314 against right-handers, and .284 against lefties. Obviously, those numbers may not directly translate to MLB success, but that kind of OBP would be a breath of fresh air now, considering the Tribe’s starting second baseman’s OBP is .271. Marinate in that for a moment.
Again, his power won’t be an impact in the Majors (13 homers, 35 doubles in 120 games at AAA), but that’s not why you’d be calling him up.
Defensively, Phelps isn’t a Gold Glover by any stretch, but he holds his own. He’s certainly better with the glove than is Jason Kipnis or Lonnie Chisenhall at this point. He’s played 267 games at second base in the minors, and has a career fielding percentage of .979. He’s made 25 errors in 267 games. Contrast that with Cabrera, who in 88 games at second base over his career has fielding percentage of… .979 (and that’s an improvement over his career numbers: in 15 years at both 2B and SS, he’s got a career fielding percentage of .977). OCab might have a bit more range (Cabrera’s 2B range factor per game in the Majors is 4.77, Phelps’ 2B range factor per game in the minors is 4.46), but certainly not enough to offset what appears to be a break-even in fielding, and what might be an improvement at the plate.
So, while I don’t blame the Tribe for going out and getting OCab as a stop-gap at second base, I think we can all agree that the gap has been stopped long enough, and that there really isn’t a reason to keep Phelps at AAA at this point.
…let’s talk about Da Clip Show Kiss of Death. I gave Zach McAllister a big stroke last week in this column, and he promptly went out and had his two roughest starts of the season. He went 0-2 this week, allowing 11 runs (10 earned) in 13.0 innings. The big blow was Sunday, during which Louisville touched him for seven runs in 5.0 innings.
It just goes to show the power of the written word on a Cleveland sports blog. The sports gods are reading.