West Mich MLN: Hitting the Home Stretch

The West Michigan Whitecaps have hit the home stretch of their season in a way that vastly differs from a season ago. Last year, the 'Caps were sitting at the very bottom of the division, and it took a late dramatic comeback to rise into the Midwest League's final wild card spot.

This year, however, they're already within striking distance, sitting just one game out of the wild card behind Great Lakes and Fort Wayne, who are tied for the spot. This, despite West Michigan struggling as of late, losing four of their last six games going into tonight's showdown against South Bend.

As a team, the Whitecaps have a bit of a peculiar stat sheet. Though they are second in the Eastern Division in batting average at .257, they are much lower in everything else, including on base percentage and runs batted in.

With the trade of third baseman Francisco Martinez as part of a deal that brought in starting pitcher Doug Fister, Nick Castellanos is now the undisputed top third baseman in the farm. Castellanos leads the team in almost every category offensively, including batting average, runs batted in, doubles, triples, total bases, slugging percentage and hits.

Although the 'Caps have been hitting the ball consistently, they've failed to really generate any offensive power. Their fifty-seven home runs put them toward the bottom of the division, well behind Great Lakes' eighty-one.

On the mound, it's become clear that Kevin Eichhorn (7-3, 3.68) and Alex Burgos (5-2, 2.05) have become the top arms for the team in the starting rotation. In a combined twenty-seven starts this season; they have thrown an impressive 139 strikeouts with only forty-three walks.

Bruce Rondon (2-2, 2.03, 19 SV) continues to be the top closer in the Midwest League, as his nineteen saves in forty-one appearances leads the league. Michael Torrealba (5-2, 2.15, 4 SV) is starting to come into his own as a huge player out of the bullpen, as well.

Despite the success of the top of the order and the bullpen, as a team the 'Caps are pretty middle of the road statistically; that being said, they lead the league in home runs allowed, with a very impressive fifty-one.

West Michigan concludes its series against South Bend tonight before heading to Dayton for a four game battle against the Dragons. They will then return back to Comstock Park for a seven game home stand.

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