The Columbus Clippers: Tribesman of the Future
By Matt Van Wormer
While the Cleveland Indians are battling for a spot in the 2011 playoffs, there is a team just two hours south of the parent club that are looking to repeat as International League and Triple-A National Champions. The Columbus Clippers (77-45) are, once again, tearing up the International League and hold a 12.5 game lead over the Indianapolis Indians. They have eight more wins than any other team in the league with just three weeks left before the Playoffs start.
The Clippers are in just their third season as a Cleveland Indians affiliate, serving the Washington Nationals, New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates in years past. Buffalo used to be home to the Indians’ highest minor league team but moving the team to Columbus just made sense. Not only is Columbus closer to Cleveland, it also gives the Indians another fan base within the state as they root for the players that hope to, one day, make it to the Big League ballclub.
The Clippers have been performing extremely well all season long. As a team, Columbus has the fourth highest team batting average (.265) and the best team on base percentage (.350) in the International League. It comes as no surprise that the pitchers also rank in the top half of the League in many important categories. Out of the 14 International League teams, the Clippers rank 7th in team ERA (4.03), 1st in Complete Games (6), 6th in Earned Runs (477), 6th in WHIP (1.36) and T2nd in Saves (38).
Leading the way for the offense is Luis Valbuena (.304). Jason Donald (.310) did hold the top spot for batting average on the team before being called up earlier this month. Valbuena’s 110 hits are best on the team and his 66 RBI are tied for tops on the club. This is Valbuena’s third season on the Triple-A team and he is currently on the Indians 40-man roster, getting called up for a total of eight games this season when the Tribe was in need.
The power supplier on this team is a home grown player, Jerad Head. He has 22 home runs on the year to go along with 24 (2nd) doubles and a .524 (1st) slugging percentage. Head is currently in his second season with the Clippers and worked his way there by going through the entire Indians’ minor league system. In 2008, he spent almost the entire season with the Kinston Indians before playing two games in Akron (AA) and then finishing out the season with former Indians Triple-A team, the Buffalo Bisons. In 2009 he went back to Double-A for the entire season and was called up to Columbus for the final 21 games of the 2010 season.
On the mound, Jeanmar Gomez is tops on the team in wins with 10. His ERA, best amongst the starters, is 2.45 and he is 2nd on the team in games started (19). He has been called up for a couple starts with the big league club but has performed best when with the Clippers. Gomez has hurled two complete games, one of them being a shutout and has given up just eight home runs in 124.2 innings of work (1 HR every 15.2 innings).
Holding down the bullpen is Josh Judy. Judy has 18 saves on the year to go along with six wins and two losses earned in relief appearances. He has appeared in 42 games and has thrown a total of 44.2 innings. Judy’s saves are good for 4th best in the International League and he averages just over one strikeout per inning with a WHIP of 1.44. Judy spent a small amount of time with the Indians early in the season, throwing four innings for the Major League club.
The combination of pitching, hitting and overall consistency in Columbus has made the Clippers the best team in the International League. it also says a lot about the players that the Indians sign into their organization. The future looks bright for the Indians and some of these guys in Columbus could become familiar faces with “Indians” written across their chests in the years to come.