Leo: International League Playoff Preview
Yes, it is that time of the year again…. time to peer into the possible playoff scenarios for the Clippers and the International League.
The Clippers rallied from a 7-1 deficit on Saturday night and won 11-7 in Rochester, lowering the magic number to eleven. That means any combination of eleven Clippers wins or Indianapolis losses and Columbus is the West Division Champions (it will be the first Clippers division title since 2004).
I waited until now to start talking playoffs because the magic number wasn’t yet close to single digits and because there were still too many teams in the mix for post-season spots (especially in the wild card).
However, now that Scranton Wilkes-Barre (6.0 GB in Wild Card) has dropped five straight games and Louisville (7.5 GB in Wild Card) has lost four in a row, it seems the playoff races can be seriously examined with only six teams: Columbus, Durham, Pawtucket, Lehigh Valley, Gwinnett, and Indianapolis. Obviously there are plenty of other teams that are mathematically still in the race, but it’s not realistic to think anyone outside these six will qualify.
Columbus Clippers – The defending Governors Cup and Triple-A National Champions have been atop the division for 111 consecutive days and won’t falter anytime soon. Mike Sarbaugh’s team leads the league in HR (131), HR differential (+27), and runs scored (616). The two biggest concerns for the Clippers are a lack of outfield speed/base stealing and inconsistency in the bullpen. Last year, the Clippers blew a large lead in the division and needed to battle until that last few days of the season to get the wild card spot. This year, the Clippers haven’t needed to sweat it out.
Indianapolis Indians – Dean Treanor’s team has come a long way since the Clippers swept them in a four-game series to begin the season at Victory Field. Indy’s team batting average has climbed to .266, third best in the league. Some of the young Triple-A rookies (that won the Eastern League title with Altoona last year) are starting to find their groove at the right time.
Pawtucket Red Sox – It’s amazing that a team ranking 13th out of 14 teams could be leading a division, but that’s the case here. The Paw Sox have the second best pitching staff (3.56 ERA) in the league and that’s the biggest reason that Arnie Beyler (former Clippers coach) has his team in a contending position. The Clippers will get a first-hand look at Pawtucket in a four-game series starting Tuesday night at McCoy Stadium.
Lehigh Valley IronPigs – Since the IronPigs franchise started in 2008, they had never spent a single day as a winning baseball team. Not one single day! Now, under the guidance of first year skipper Ryne Sandberg, Lehigh Valley is 68-53 and could win the division or the wild card. Lehigh Valley has a very veteran team. They are the WORST hitting team in the league (.252 avg.), but ranked third in pitching (3.75 ERA).
Durham Bulls – The Bulls have owned the South Division in recent history and won their third Governors’ Cup in 2009. Durham is well-versed in playoff chases, but it may be more helpful that they boast the best offense in the International League (.274 avg.). The Bulls also rank 5th in pitching (3.88 ERA).
Gwinnett Braves – The G-Braves are attempting to clinch the first post-season bid since the team moved to Georgia (from Richmond, Va.) in 2009. Gwinnett’s pitch is outstanding, headlined by right-hander Julio Teheran (12-2, 2.18 ERA). Teheran seems destined to win the league’s pitcher of the year award, but he’s not the only starting pitching weapon they have. Todd Redmond (2.91 ERA) is among the best in the league. Recently, the G-Braves lost a key to the staff when LHP Mike Minor (3.13 ERA) was called up to Atlanta. The key for Gwinnett is creating enough offense to make the playoffs.
Standings (as of 8/14)
Columbus 77-45, -
Indianapolis 65-57, 12 GB
Pawtucket 68-52, -
Lehigh Valley 68-53, 0.5 GB
Durham 67-52, -
Gwinnett 67-54, 1 GB
Lehigh Valley 68-53, -
Gwinnett 67-54, 1 GB
Indianapolis 65-57, 3.5 GB