West Mich MLN: Battling the Losing Streak

The West Michigan Whitecaps have seen a lot of distress during their tenure in the Midwest League. Last season, the 'Caps spent a majority of the season at the bottom of the division; that is, before their impressive run to a playoff spot.

This year's Whitecaps might want to start wishing for the same kind of impressive run, as they are on the heels of a franchise record twelve game losing streak going in to today's game against Fort Wayne.

Now sitting at 7-15 on the year, the 'Caps went from the middle of the division, to the very bottom. And, while they've played their last three series against Lansing and Dayton—who sit at first and second place in the division, respectively—it's more or less been a combination of sloppy pitching and untimely hitting that has dropped them in this hole.

Giving up over four runs a game on average, West Michigan is sporting the third-worst team ERA in the Midwest League; furthermore, during their losing streak, the 'Caps are averaging a 5.58 earned run average.

While the offense has looked decent for West Michigan at times, the team is averaging just over two runs a game during the losing streak while they've been giving up nearly twice as many runs as they've been able to score, something that manager Ernie Young has to be concerned about going forward.

While third baseman Nick Castellanos—the top prospect on the team—has struggled a bit while going through the usual adjustments that a player has in his first season of professional baseball, he has been able to drive in a significant amount of runs, as he is currently the third-best run producer on the team with nine RBI.

Not surprisingly, catcher Rob Brantly continues to woo scouts with his impressive plate discipline and above-average defense. Brantly leads the team in batting average, runs batted in and doubles; on top of that, he's towards the top in nearly every major hitting category, and only has two errors on the year.

Perhaps the most surprising hitter, at least thus far, has been first baseman James Robbins. Robbins, coming off a very quiet 2010 season in Connecticut, has since made himself the number one power hitter for West Michigan. He leads the team in home runs, and his fourteen RBI tie him with Brantly atop the team.

On the mound, the loss of righty Jeff Ferrell (1-1, 3.71) to the disabled list has definitely set the rotation back somewhat. His eminent return to the rotation should definitely have a positive impact in the win column.

At this point, there is no real clear-cut ace in the 'Caps rotation. Right now, lefty Antonio Cruz (0-3, 3.80) has thrown the most innings for the club, and has been fairly successful, despite his lack of wins. Kyle Ryan (1-2, 4.71) has also played a large role in going deep into innings for the club, although his lack of experience has definitely hindered his results a bit.

The 'Caps continue their series against Fort Wayne tonight, before playing a road series against Great Lakes. West Michigan then returns to Comstock Park for a three game set against the same Dayton team that just torched them on the road.


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