Lakeland MLN: LFT Trying to Find Rhythm

As the third week passes in the Florida State League season, the Lakeland Flying Tigers are still trying to find a rhythm to their offense.

The team's offensive statistics did improve slightly this week, however the results have taken a turn for the worst. With this week's run differential of zero and averaging four runs per game, the Flying Tigers still lost both their series this week.

The Flying Tigers no longer have a starter with a batting average above .300 and Chris Carlson is the only regular starter with an OPS (on base plus slugging) above .710, but even Carlson has had his woes since he's striking out in over a third of his at-bats.

The promotion of Shawn Roof didn't help their cause since his replacement at third base, Roger Tomas, is still trying to find his swing. With Tomas batting a meager .147/.184/.176 the only asset he's bringing to the field is his glove. His lone error for the week was after he made an amazing backhanded stop but tried to do too much with his throw to first and it sailed over Bertrams head. Tomas has shown he can be a plus glove covering third base, however if his batting line doesn't improve it's going to be hard to justify him playing the hot corner.

The silver lining in the promotion of Shawn Roof to Erie has been the addition of Mike Gosse. Gosse is quickly becoming a fan favorite at Joker Marchant Field, it's tough not to root for a player of his stature. Gosse is a very small (listed at 5'7") second baseman who has been getting most of his playing time serving as the designated hitter or pinch hitting in key situations. In the bottom of the ninth against the Daytona Cubs Gosse pulled a fastball deep into right field and hit halfway up the scoreboard. Gosse plays with a little chip on his shoulder and is always trying to make things happen. Whether he's pulling pitches out of the yard or going home on a double steal he's been trying to be the spark this offense needs.

The biggest enigma of the season has been Audy Ciriaco. Ciriaco has been putting on a show as of late in batting practice. He's been showing monster pull power to left center hitting balls regularly into the upper portions of the berm in left field. The problem is his seven o'clock swing hasn't been matching his four o'clock swing. After starting off this season on a tear he's tapered down as of late going 4-for-23 this week. In the field he has made our jaws drop when he showcases his athleticism then the next play he will have an errant throw that will leave you shaking your head. If it could ever all come together Ciriaco could be a fine talent since he has all the tools you would love to have from your short stop.

The pitching staff this week has been far from dominant, though they still have been one of the best collective units in the Florida State League. It all starts by pounding the strike zone. In 134 innings the team has only surrendered 32 walks which are second fewest in the league. By delivering strikes consistently the Flying Tigers are propelled by a staff era of 3.22.

The only major blemish of the week was Brett Jacobson's performance against the Clearwater Threshers. Jacobson took over after Duane Below pitched five innings of no-hit baseball, at proceeded to give up five runs (four earned) in 1 2/3 innings. Jacobson has been one of the Flying Tigers most consistent relievers this season going 4 2/3 innings in five appearances with just one earned run. However if Jacobson's power fastball doesn't sink then it's vulnerable to contact.

None of the hits given up were hit extraordinarily hard, even the home run surrendered to Dominic Brown barely cleared the fence in left field, the found holes or just out of the fielders reach. It was most likely just a hiccup almost all relievers get throughout the season, since his over the top fastball sits at 92-94 and topping out at 96 he has a power arm that will be vital for this season's success.

Robbie Weinhardt is the lone member of the pitching staff who has yet to give up his first run of the season. This past week was probably Weinhardt's best. In two innings of work he accumulated five strikeouts. That brings his seasons total to 13 strikeouts in just six innings of work. Giving up three walks and just two hits this season Weinhardt has been one of the most consistent relievers Andy Barkett has in his pen this season.

Like every baseball team, the Flying Tigers will go as far as their pitching staff will take them. With a very solid starting five in the rotation, if the pen could solidify, four runs may be all the support the Flying Tigers need. But a little extra will never hurt.

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