West Mich MLN: More Misery with Lansing

The West Michigan Whitecaps began the 2011 regular season with miserable weather in Lansing. Their first series against the Lugnuts proved to be miserable in a different way, as the 'Caps are now in the midst of a four game losing streak courtesy of their in-state rival.

After sweeping both South Bend and Fort Wayne—although both series were shortened due to, not surprisingly, bad weather—the Whitecaps were poised to show Lansing that they're one of the premier teams in the Midwest League this year.

The Lugnuts, however, had different ideas.

Lansing's pitching staff stifled a West Michigan lineup that had been hitting, for the most part, really well this year. The division-leading Lugnuts also brought their bats to Comstock Park, outscoring West Michigan 20-6 in the four game series.

Currently sitting at 7-7 on the year, the 'Caps still find themselves in a pretty good position, as their .500 record puts them in the middle of the division.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for the early success in West Michigan comes from the improved contributions of SS Hernan Perez.

Perez, who finished last season with a woeful .235 batting average and thirty-five errors, is showing that a year in the Midwest League can go a long way in terms of improving a player.

This year, Perez is batting .391 with an on base percentage of .481—both of which are good for second best in the Midwest League—and, perhaps more impressively, he has yet to record an error this season.

Rob Brantly, who is in his second year behind the plate for West Michigan, is also proving to be a poster boy for continuity within the organization. One of the top prospects for the Detroit Tigers, Brantly is hitting .378 with nine runs batted in, both of which are second best on the team.

Like last year—as is the case with many teams in low-A baseball—the power still really isn't there for West Michigan. Although they are seventh in the league in home runs, with seven, the 'Caps are seemingly struggling to find that extra oomph in the bat that teams like Lake County—which leads the Midwest League with seventeen long balls—has had no problem finding.

Fortunately, what the 'Caps lack in power, they make up for in smart hitting. West Michigan has the second lowest strike out total at the plate in the league, and the third highest average amongst Midwest League teams. Combine that with the fourth-highest on base percentage, and you have the makings of a team that can beat you with small ball on any given night.

On the mound, West Michigan still has yet to find a true number one starter. As of right now, it seems that Jeff Ferrell (1-1, 3.71) is the guy that the 'Caps may be looking at as their workhorse. Keeping in mind that it's a lot more difficult to find a top of the rotation guy when you don't have a top prospect like Jacob Turner, last year's ace in West Michigan, it really isn't surprising that no one has jumped into that role just yet.

In the bullpen, Michael Torrealba (2-0, 1.86) has seemingly come out of nowhere as one of the guys to watch out for in the Whitecaps bullpen. Tied for the team lead in wins, Torrealba has teamed up with Bruce Rondon (2-0, 2.84, 2 SV) to provide one of the toughest two-headed bullpen monsters in the Midwest League.

The 'Caps will travel to Dayton for a three game series against the Dragons, followed by a road game against the division-leading Lugnuts. West Michigan will then bring Lansing back with them, playing two more at home before a six game road trip.

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