Starting the Whitecaps, who will prepare to make a run at the Midwest League crown starting on Wednesday against Fort Wayne. Making the playoffs in the Midwest League isn't the same as in some other leagues, as eight clubs get a chance in the postseason. However, the Whitecaps enter the playoffs as one of the favorites to win it all and grab their second title in three years.
That doesn't mean it'll be a walk in the park, especially starting with Fort Wayne. The Wizards have seemed to have the ‘Caps number all season, with West Michigan holding a narrow 10-9 season advantage (which isn't saying much when you consider the ‘Caps won 89 games this season).
West Michigan is likely going to rely on the club's impressive rotation (led by Burke Badenhop and Sendy Vasquez). Matt O'Brien could be a wild card in the mix as well, as he's had an impressive run after getting over his first appearance jitters. One interesting note will be who will be closing games for the club. Orlando Perdomo was the man in the ninth for much of the season, but after a few slips, that role was handed over to Anthony Claggett, who closed out the year with an ERA under one. And with Perdomo on the disabled list heading into the start of the postseason, it looks as if the ball will go to Claggett in those tight late game scenarios.
At the plate, the ‘Caps are going to rely on centerfielder Cameron Maybin and shortstop Mike Hollimon. Maybin's power wasn't quite what the Tigers were hoping, but playing in a large park at a young age, he's still a threat at all times, and has come up big time and time again.
The Toledo Mud Hens aren't the same favorites that the ‘Caps are, but they won't be walkovers either. The biggest concern for the ‘Hens is who they're going to have available for their games. Because of the September 1st call up date, the Tigers have been expanding their roster, and in turn, depleting Toledo.
The ‘Hens will now have to go without top starter Jordan Tata, infielders Ramon Santiago, and Kevin Hooper, outfielder Alexis Gomez, and first baseman Chris Shelton. That doesn't leave the cupboard bare, just thin.
Toledo will take on the Charlotte Knights in a five game series that starts on Wednesday. They'll have two games in Toledo before finishing up the series down in Charlotte. The Knights won't be an easy set for Toledo – they won just 3 games against Charlotte over the course of the season. On the plus side, they won both games of a short series later in the season, and lost the opportunity to make up more ground because of the heavy rains that cancelled an entire series in late August.
Finally, we wrap up with the Erie SeaWolves, who ended a disappointing season on Monday. The Tigers didn't take long to act on the situation, and on Tuesday, they released the entire coaching staff – manager Duffy Dyer, hitting coach Pete Incaviglia and pitching coach Mike Caldwell.
The move doesn't come as a great surprise to many; this group of players won a championship in West Michigan in 2004, and came very close to doing the same last year in Lakeland – so a last place finish wasn't what the Tigers had in mind. It seemed clear that this particular group of players reacted very well to player's coaches, so-to-speak, and that was not Duffy Dyer.
That shouldn't be taken as a slight against Dyer, or any member of the staff. Sometimes, a coaching staff won't connect well with a particular group of players, and it's easier to replace a coach than it is an entire team.
As for who might replace the staff, there is one clear cut choice whose name has been mentioned time and time again (and was discussed as the likely replacement back in July on the TigsTown Premium Forum). And that individual is Matt Walbeck.
Walbeck has been the Whitecaps' manager the past three years, and has led the team to the postseason each of those three seasons. Walbeck was always regarded as a future manager when he was a player, and has put his talent on display this season. Walbeck connects well with players, is a student of the game, and is obsessed with increasing his knowledge on the subject.
At this point, Walbeck is looking for a move upward, and the Tigers would be foolish to let him walk away with this spot available.