TigsTown MLN: Why the Struggles from Erie?

The SeaWolves have been sliding as of late, and after two more losses to Akron over the past two days, the SeaWolves and manager Duffy Dyer are wondering what happened to that red hot team that flew through May and grabbed a hold of the division lead.

One likely cause of their 5-8 record so far this month is the recent struggles by their pitching staff. While they weren't top prospects, the team has lost Mike Bynum and Mike Kobow (one to Toledo, the other to trade). The team was also without Rob Henkel up until late last week, when he returned from a groin injury that had sidelined him for some time. Forcing Randor Bierd into action probably didn't help matters either.

And of course, last week the club lost its top prospect (and one of its best hitters at the time of the promotion after recovering from a slow start) when Tigers' manager Alan Trammell called up shortstop Tony Giarratano.

The offense isn't doing terribly, but could certainly use a boost, as they're averaging under four runs per game for the month (and that number is inflated by two 9-run games).

On the other side of it, the team is currently allowing nearly six runs per game (5.77) for the month, leaving a nearly two run difference and making it very easy to see the source of why the SeaWolves have taken this down swing.

The pitching isn't entirely to blame for this jump though, as the defense hasn't been carrying their end of things either. Through 13 games, the team has committed 14 errors (including at least one in every game for the last nine games). These errors have produced 10 unearned runs, providing nearly a one run disadvantage to the pitcher before he even steps foot on the mound.

There is hope though that this figure will start to get better. Rob Henkel, who was arguably the team's best starter before he was sidelined with the groin injury, should help stabilize the group. The addition of Humberto Sanchez from extended spring training should help give the team yet another valuable arm, and possibly allow the team to give some more rest to righty Nate Cornejo, who has been placed on a 90-pitch limit due to him tiring as of late.

Offensively, Dyer has been playing with the lineup in hopes of finding an order that will consistently put runs on the board, but so far, he hasn't had any real success. The team is still missing Giarratano, who would be a welcome addition back to the club (and hopefully one that will happen once Omar Infante shows he's comfortable back at shortstop in replacement of Carlos Guillen). Returning him to the club would not only help the defense (adding a solid defensive player and shifting Don Kelly back to third base full time, where he hasn't been quite as error prone this year), but would also give a boost to the offense, which has been riding .185 hitter Gilberto Mejia and the struggling Chris Maples (average down to .231) up the middle.

Another addition that might help jump start the offense is Byron Gettis. Gettis, a member of the Tigers' 40 man roster and a player the organization still has hope for, requested to be sent to Erie after having been solely a reserve for Toledo. Gettis, an extremely imposing figure, has power in his bat and can hit for average, as evidenced by his outstanding performance this past winter in the Puerto Rican League where he sat around .400 for much of the season. Gettis has already made his presence felt in the early going, with two home runs and six RBI in 38 at bats.

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