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11.09.2011

Season Wrap-Up 2011: Columbus Clippers

Nino Colla | Wednesday, November 09, 2011 | | | Best Blogger Tips
Here we are again. One year later and once again, the Columbus Clippers are champions.


COLUMBUS CLIPPERS
Level: Class AAA
League: International League (West)
Finish: 88-56 (Won West Division)
Playoffs: Won International League, AAA National Championship

POTY Feathers: OF Jerad Head and SP Jeanmar Gomez




Head: .284/.338 AVG/OBP. 24 HR, 67 R, 70 RBI, 3/4 SB
Gomez:  10-7, 2.55 ERA, 21 GS, 137.2 IP, 49/107 BB/K, 1.25 WHIP

Like last year, when I gave feathers to Jose Constanza and Vinnie Pestano, I'm giving feathers to the two guys on the club that probably get the least credit. I mean, Gomez will get credit, but he was good. Like really good. He did not have a real bad split on his stat sheet. He was stellar in April, decent in May, solid in June, even better in July, and good in August. The Venezuelan was pretty good in addition to going 5-3 with the big league club.

Then you have the offensive guy in Jerad Head, who just gets overlooked year after year. He's always a reserve. He's someone who plays, but does not get talked about. It was "out of need" that he got a shot at the big leagues. Every level the guy has produced. Is he a major league caliber player? Probably not, but he plays well at the Triple-A level and he's a big reason the Clippers have been able to repeat.

He spent a good portion of his season in 2010 in Akron, then he moved on and was a big part of the postseason run for the Clippers. This year he was one of the guys from the start and while he was not a big part in the postseason like last year, he sure did help the Clippers get there.

Give some credit to these two. Who knows what their major league future is, but they sure can play some ball and they are a a reason the Clippers are back to back champs.

OVERVIEW

Mike Sarbaugh for President, right? Sarbaugh 2012? It would almost be a wonderful tragedy if Mike Sarbaugh ends up as the head guy of the Clippers in 2012, but it may just happen. Three in a row?

We'll save that talk for later. But can you say enough about the job he's been doing in this organization? He's winning titles every year. There must be something about him and the way he commands a dugout. It's special. This group wasn't nowhere near as talented as the bunch he had in 2010 and not only did he take the team back to the playoffs and to the title game, this Clipper team dominated from start to finish and won their division by a large margin.

And then to be constantly disrupted by calling up players to the Cleveland team due to injuries and what not, it was just an added hurdle he had to guide his team over and he did it.

Now, let's not shower Sarbaugh with all the compliments, the team does deserve credit for actually going out and performing. This was a historic year, because the Clippers would go on some serious runs this season, ones that almost made you wonder if they were ever going to lose another game.

Then they got to the playoffs and they just did it again. It did not matter who or how, it just happened. Sweep Durham, dropped one to Lehigh Valley, and then of course a win over Omaha to win back to back National Titles.

Three in a row, let's do it.

PITCHING

You are looking at another rotation with some strong individuals. Once again being in a position to hold the depth to Cleveland, the rotation started out the season with some key players such as David Huff, Jeanmar Gomez, Zach McAllister, and Corey Kluber. The bullpen also was set to have some arms such as Josh Judy, Zach Putnam and Jess Todd. Of course some of those plans worked out, some didn't. But the Clippers won.

Zach McAllister

For the first few months, there really was no one better than Zach McAllister. He ended up leading the Clippers in wins with 12 and he lost three games, which is the same amount of complete games he had. In fact, he was 7-1 in the months of April and May and gave up 18 total earned runs. McAllister got a few shots at the big league level, his first not going so well, and after that he wasn't as invincible at the AAA level as he was to start the year.

He was one of the guys in the playoffs last year and he made two starts again in this postseason, winning a game and and losing another. Given the injury to Carlos Carrasco, he is one of the first guys on call for the Indians.

Corey Kluber

I kind of consider Kluber and McAllister in the same light. They both came over last year and it seems right to pair them up. McAllister had a great year. Kluber as the complete opposite. With the Clippers last year he made two starts in the regular season, so we did not see a whole lot of him. This year, it was a struggle. A year after striking out 165 hitters and walking 56, he struck out 22 less and walked 14 more in 10 less innings. You have to wonder if the move up a league really effected him that much.

And of course at the end of the season, with Kluber on the 40 man, the Indians called upon him and he had a few relief appearances and it was not good. It's time to start wondering if the return on Jake Westbrook was a complete dud.

Joe Martinez and Justin Germano

Two guys who are just looking for a way back to the big leagues. One is now overseas in Asia playing back in Japan, the other went on to have a stellar postseason. Justin Germano and Joe Martinez are swing guys. They each started and came out of the pen. Martinez was thrust into the starting role with injuries and call-ups and when Scott Barnes went down, he pretty much was forced to step up and he ended up being the guy in the Clipper rotation. He pitched the National Title game and was 2-0 in the postseason with a 1.80 ERA in several starts.

Germano threw a perfect game, enough said.

These two are such great guys to have on your Triple-A squad. They are depth guys. If you ever have an issue at the major league level. Germano even started there. But if they don't make it there, they are really good AAA players who can help the young guys, as well as take a beating if need be. And these guys did that and then some. They really are an important piece to the Clipper team.

David Huff

I give David Huff so much credit. This is someone who was pretty much in the dog house. He did not put himself into the good graces of Manny Acta and even Chris Antonetti. But you know what, Huff went back to Columbus and he became a better pitcher. In 2009 and 2010 he was okay, moderate. He got a few chances in Cleveland and it was mixed results. Some good, some bad. It just overall wasn't a whole lot to say, okay he's going to be one of our guys.

Take your hat off to what he did in Columbus this year. He went to work and while it did not translate into him becoming Cliff Lee V2, it translated into David Huff becoming a better pitcher. He cut his ERA at both levels down a whole heck of a lot, but the key for me was the walks. He really got out of control last year and he needed to reign himself in. He did that. Not sure what the immediate future is for Huff with the Indians, but I credit him for what he's been able to do.

Scott Barnes

To me, this is one sort of "breakout" that really went under the radar and it was likely because he did not put up numbers that made you say "whoa" and he got hurt to end the season. But Scott Barnes put himself in serious consideration for being a member of the Indians rotation at some point. Barnes is a strikeout artist. He's struck out at least 120 the past two seasons with Akron and the Giants San Jose team. Last year he struggled though in that he was giving up the long ball and just not being overly impressive.

This season after a quick two game dominance at Akron, the time had come and he moved up to the Triple-A level and there was very little adjustment. He topped his 100 strikeouts in 99 innings and with the Clippers,  he was quietly doing his job in a rotation full of people who did the same thing. This is one kid I'm really excited about moving forward. Unfortunately his season ended early, but he should be back next year.

Zach Putnam and Josh Judy


This duo is on the cusp of the major leagues. Heck Judy made it last year and pitched in more than a few spots. Putnam got the call in September and struggled, but showed his stuff (nine strikeouts, no walks). I fully expect both to be in contention for that bullpen opening that will be there in Cleveland this spring.

But with Columbus, they tag-teamed the closer role for most of the season. Putnam saved nine, Judy with 23. Judy had the better of the season with 60 strikeouts in 52 innings and a 3.12 ERA. Putnam had 68 strikeouts in 69 innings with a 3.65 ERA. Both are some legit late-inning relief options at the major league level though and both are the strikeout guys that the Indians are starting to move toward in the back end.

CC Lee and Nick Hagadone

CC Lee should have started in Columbus, but it took one last run at Akron with dominance to get that opportunity. He finished with a 2.50 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 39 innings. That is the definition of dominance. And it's not like that was a surprise. He struck out 82 in 72 innings in a full-season last year with Akron. So should it be of any surprise that he went 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 31 innings with the Clippers?

Well maybe a little, because that's out of this world. We talk about the new fad of strikeout relievers, this may be the best one. That's 99 strikeouts this season in 71 innings. He eats innings as a reliever, he strikes people out, barely walks anyone. I mean, this guy is looking like a legit stud at the back end. and when you talk about the best of this bunch of relievers, Hagadone might be right behind him as the best of them all. Hagadone too started in Akron, but he needed to after transitioning to the relief role at the end of last year. And it was not long before it was apparent that Hagadone too was ready for a new challenge. Nick struck out 24 hitters and walked just 7 in 22 innings. There was a point in the season when he hadn't allowed a walk or a run.

Then he went on to Columbus with a few adjustments, but he still had the strikeout working, he still limited the walks. His quick nine game stint in the majors was alright, and you definitely consider him in the mix for a bullpen spot.

The future is bright in the bullpen, that's for sure.

POSITION PLAYERS

Last year I did this little thing about asking who led the IL in batting and all that. The Clippers were tops in runs, average and on-base percentage. And it turned out that their leading run producer was Jordan Brown, with just 67 RBI.

Well guess what, that's kind of what happened again. They led the IL in both OBP and runs, and were third in average. And once again, their leader in RBI? Luis Valbuena with 75. I rest my case. Even though I really wasn't making one.

Luis Valbuena

I'm confused as to what the hell is going on. Luis Valbuena hit .302 with the Clippers this past year. He carried a OBP of .372 and hit 17 home runs. Led the team in RBI, hit 22 doubles. I can't say a negative thing about him. He committed just nine errors. He was the Clippers best player on offense, point blank.

You big fat jerk, you Baby Louie you. This isn't like a .313 average he hit in 2010 in 25 games. This is a full season. Is he a AAAA player? Someone who can play very very well at the AAA level, but when they get to the majors, fall flat on their face? Perhaps. It's looking like it. Are the Indians going to give him an other chance? It remains to be seen. After this season, I'd take him at his highest value and deal him because you have a second baseman, you have a shortstop, and you have more than enough utility options in Cord Phelps and Jason Donald, in addition to someone like Hannahan you can bring back to back up at third base,

That seems like the smartest move at this point. Valbuena in Columbus is not as valuable to you as he could be in a trade. But we'll see.

Chad Huffman

Run producer. That's what Chad Huffman is. He knocked in 58 runs this season, eight of them came in one game even. He added on five more in the postseason with a pair of home runs. Run-producer. Not sure what the Indians plans are for Huffman. He was acquired for depth and when the depth was needed, they used Travis Buck, Zeke Carrera, and then even Jerad Head before they used Huffman. And Head was in the same spot as Huffman, not on the 40 man roster. That may be a good thing, as they knew they had to take Head back off the roster after they used him, so it may mean they have plans for Huffman.

Cord Phelps

He played in 35 games for Cleveland, even hit a big home run to help the Indians win a game. But he struggled. Was he pushed too much? That isn't to say it wasn't the time, but the Indians maybe put too much pressure on him too early. Asking him to start at second, but then switching him in and out with Orlando Cabrera. It was kind of a mixed single. Oh we want you to be here, but only half the time. So when he did the shot to start, it might have been a little bit too much pressure for him.

Phelps was a monster in 97 games for the Clippers. If he was there the whole year, he could have probably been the IL MVP the way he was hitting the ball. He hit .303 in April and .324 in May with 7 home runs and 38, yes 38 RBI. He was on a fantastic pace.

Phelps always carries a high on base number and he will strikeout, but he'll walk a lot. His surge in power was nice to see (15 total home runs compared to eight and four the past two seasons) and of course, he can play a solid glove at any spot, including the outfield. This is someone that has a spot on the team in the future if you ask me. He's going to be a real useful player for the Indians in some way.

Jared Goedert

Rare Breed back in town. After starting the year on the disabled list, the 60 day DL to boot, Goedert got a quick rehab stint in Akron and then came to Columbus to take over duties that were soon vacated by Chisenhall as he got the call. We got 15 home runs from the Rare Breed, who hit 27 last year between Akron and Columbus. We're still not sure what we have here, but he carried a .346 OBP a similar average to last season and he produced with the long ball. His power at least may be legit, but the question is, can he hit them at the next level?

Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis

I'll keep it brief because they will get feathers but they both played a whole heck of a lot of ball with the Clippers this season and were big reasons that the club got off to such a great start. Kipnis more than Chisenhall, but they both were there for a few months. Kipnis played in 92 games, so he was there through the All-Star break. He put up some great numbers, along the lines of Cord Phelps. Chisenhall came a long at a slower pace, his main struggle with the left-handed hitters (.200 average compared to a .294 average against right), but we saw him start to correct that with the Indians.

Tim Fedroff

Fedroff became a bit of a legend around Akron for what he was doing. In 70 games he hit .338. .338! That's crazy. It led to a .399 OBP and simply put, Fedroff could hit. He as around the .275 maker the past two seasons, and when he arrived in Columbus, he ended with a .272 average in 62 games, so maybe it was more of a super-hot streak than it was the real Fedroff, but I'd say he has the potential to hit higher than the .270 area.

Fedroff was back at it in the postseason with nine hits, knocking in a few runs. It will probably be a repeat of Columbus next year, but you have to think that with Sizemore potentially gone, if any depth is needed, he'll be one of the new guys to get an opportunity if need arises.

Luke Carlin

I neglected to mention Luke Carlin last year in a separate little section of his own. Truth be told, he was one of the most consistent players for this team. He hit .213, so what? He plays good defense and you could always see guys like Huff and Jensen Lewis crediting Carlin for his work with the staff. Here's the thing though. He garnered 44 walks, struck out just 45 times. That's kind of what you want from a catcher. A solid on-base percentage. Can't hit? No big deal, get on base for us, play good defense and that's all. Carlin was a stop-gap for Chun Chen, who will probably arrive and become the starting catcher, but Carlin would definitely be a cool backup to have next year.

Not to mention, he led the team with Huffman in postseason RBI with five and he did it in just four games.

FINAL THOUGHTS

What more can I add? This team was good. Again. They did it two years straight now and it would not shock me if Sarbaugh took another batch of players and did it one more time. He seems to have that kind of magic.

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