Da Clip Show: Keeping an Eye on the Tribe’s AAA Squad – 9/6/11

Clip Show aims to be your weekly update for all things Columbus Clippers. Check back each Tuesday for team records, roster updates, and performance updates on some of the brightest prospects in the Tribe system.

The Clippers have completed their regular season, and are gearing up to start their best-of-five series against IL South champs Durham (Tampa Rays). The Clippers beat Durham last year for the Governor’s Cup title after qualifying as the Wild Card. We’ll do our best to break down the match up below. For now, it’s nice to bask in the team’s second straight playoff appearance, and first division title under the banner of the Tribe’s system. Manager Mike Sarbaugh deserves accolades for keeping his team moving despite the near-constant revolving door on his roster.

This Week: 3-3

Season Record: 88-56, International League West champs


8/30 @ Louisville – Bats 2, Clippers 1; LP Martinez (8-8)
8/31 @ Louisville – Clippers 12, Bats 4; WP Putnam (6-3)
9/02 vs. Toledo  – Clipper 4, Mud Hens 3; WP McAllister (12-3)
9/03 vs. Toledo – Clippers 7, Mud Hens 6; WP Talbot (4-2)
9/04 @ Toledo – Mud Hens 6, Clippers 2; LP Martinez (8-9)
9/05 @ Toledo – Mud Hens 3, Clippers 1; LP Kluber (7-11)

Roster News

8/30 RHP Jeanmar Gomez recalled to Cleveland
8/30 OF Trevor Crowe activated on ML rehab assignment

9/02 RHP Josh Judy recalled to Cleveland
9/02 OF/1B Matt LaPorta optioned from Cleveland
9/02 RHP Tyler Sturdevant called up from Akron
9/02 OF Thomas Neal off the 7-day DL

9/03 OF Grady Sizemore brought up on ML rehab assignment

9/04 LHP JD Reichenbach promoted from Lake County

9/05 LHP JD Reichenbach sent to Lake County
9/05 OF Grady Sizemore activated to Cleveland

OF: Travis Buck, Ben Copeland, Trevor Crowe, Tim Fedroff, Chad Huffman, Thomas Neal
IF: Jared Goedert, Nick Johnson, Beau Mills, Matt LaPorta, Argenis Reyes, Luis Valbuena
C: Luke Carlin, Paul Phillips
SP: Paolo Espino, Corey Kluber, Joe Martinez, Zach McAllister, Mitch Talbot
RP: Eric Berger (L), Matt Langwell (R), Chen-Chang Lee (R), Zach Putnam (R), Tyler Sturdevant (R)
DL: RHP Hector Ambriz (torn right elbow ligament); RHP Anthony Reyes (torn right elbow ligament); RHP Hector Rondon (torn right elbow ligament), C Dwight Childs (broken hand), LHP Scott Barnes (knee)

First Round Series Schedule/Probables*
*subject to change
9/07 @ Durham, Zach McAllister
9/08 @ Durham, Mitch Talbot
9/09 vs. Durham, Joe Martinez
9/10 vs. Durham*, Paolo Espino
9/11 vs. Durham*, Corey Kluber
*if necessary

Playoff Preview

In lieu of looking at the players we’ve been following for most of the season, let’s look ahead at the first round series against the IL South champion Durham Bulls. Durham is in the playoffs for the fifth straight season, each one as the winner of the IL South. They, like Columbus, get it done with a pounding offense. These two clubs, in fact, boast the two best overall offenses in the league. Here’s how they stack up (league ranks in parentheses):

AVG..264 (3).271 (1) 
H1266 (4)1318 (1)
R716 (1)669 (2)
RBI661 (1)631 (2)
BB570 (1)444 (9)
HR152 (1)136 (t3)
SLG.422 (3).424 (2) 
OBP.347 (1).337 (2)
OPS.770 (1).762 (2)

Columbus gets the edge in terms of categories in which they lead, but if you’re picking a winner based purely on offensive stats, good luck. One variable, however, is that the leading hitter on the Clippers’ roster is now Luis Valbuena. A good chunk of the roster responsible for those stats throughout the season now resides in Cleveland.

Durham is led on offense by third baseman Russ Canzier. The 25-year-old righty hit .314 in 131 games for Durham, and drove in 83 runs on 18 home runs and 40 doubles. Canzier was a machine, hitting both lefties and righties equally hard (.321 against lefties, .312 against righties). He seems to have more power against right-handers, with 28 of his doubles and 13 of his home runs coming against them. He’s been especially deadly since the All Star Break, hitting .356 in his last 47 games with eight homers, 17 doubles, and 30 RBI.

As we turn to look at the pitching, this is where the water gets a bit murkier. Both teams hit like gang-busters all season, but the same cannot be said for the pitching staffs. While they are not anywhere close to the league leaders as their offensive counterparts, the numbers do bear out that these teams were pretty evenly matched throughout the regular season:

ERA3.94 (6)3.87 (5) 
H1270 (9)1226 (5)
R622 (7)620 (6)
ER548 (6)541 (5)
HR118 (6)129 (10)
BB417 (4)461 (7)
SO1142 (2)1135 (3)
WHIP1.35 (5)1.34 (4)

The edge appears to go to Durham, if only slightly. Though, again picking the outcome of the series based purely on these stats is folly. What it tells us is that these two teams are very evenly matched.

Durham’s staff is led by July call-up Matt Moore. The 22-year-old left-hander has been brilliant since his promotion, making nine starts since July 22nd and going 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA spanning 52.2 innings. Moore has held IL hitters to a .179 average, and hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start since coming up to AAA. He has solid control, walking just 18 hitters while fanning 79. He will match up with Zach McAllister in game 1.


The numbers don’t bear out an easy prediction. Columbus will have its hands full, especially given that the first two games of the series are on the road. There’s one thing, however, that can’t be born out by stats: will to win. Last season, I picked against the Clippers in both of their series, thinking that there just wasn’t anyway they could overcome the differentials they faced on paper. Mike Sarbaugh and his troops did nothing short of make an idiot out of me, getting super-hot at the perfect time, and riding the wave all the way to the Governor’s Cup and AAA National Championship.

So, how do we predict a winner? Columbus certainly has some question marks, as a great chunk of their regular season core is gone. They’re again relying heavily on Akron call-ups, and they will be without their second best starting pitcher (Jeanmar Gomez) and reliever (Nick Hagadone) for the series. Their offense gets a bit of a bump with Matt LaPorta coming back, though there isn’t that “go-to” guy in the lineup this time around like there was last season in Cord Phelps.

Overall, I just don’t see the Clippers having the horses again this year, though I certainly don’t underestimate Mike Sarbaugh’s ability to squeeze every ounce of “want to” out of his guys. I think this series goes the distance, and sadly I have to give the edge to Durham simply because I’ve seen Corey Kluber pitch seven or eight times this year, and he’s been pretty bad almost every time out. If this goes five games and he has to start that pivotal Game 5, I can’t see him bringing it home.

Clip Show Says: Durham in 5


    How do you think Russ Canzier feels? Mash all year in AAA and know there is no way you’ll ever make the bigs at your current position for your current franchise (E. Longoria has that spot locked up for quite some time). Two questions….1.) What do you think it’d take to get him, and 2.) Can he play first base or outfield?

  • Nullster

    DP, don’t you love when you post an article and only 5 minutes later part of it becomes moot? Valbuena now called up to the Tribe today.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com DP

    @Nullster: at least they have Matt LaPorta now to anchor their lineup. :-)

  • mgbode

    LaPorta is an anchor on a AAA lineup too? He sure was doing his best to weigh down the Tribe.