Erie MLN: No Place Like Home

The SeaWolves were coming off their most trying week of season after splitting with Akron and dropping two of three to Harrisburg. The offense was still firing, but they were squandering opportunities left and right and the pitching that had carried them through the first month of the season was limping. It was a trying road trip, but it's like they say: there's no place like home.

After facing off against Harrisburg to start the week, Erie headed back home to try their luck against Akron again.

The opener looked to be favorable for Erie with Alfredo Figaro slated to take the ball, but he would struggle through his appearance, allowing five runs- four earned- in as many innings. Erie fought back, though, with an offensive outpour of their own, which included six home runs in route to an 11-8 win.

Game two and three were over before they even started thanks to two stellar outings by starters Jonah Nickerson and Luis Marte. Nickerson showed off a new three quarters delivery – more on this later- and threw seven innings of one-run ball during Saturday's 4-1 victory.

On Sunday Marte out dueled Jeanmar Gomez, who threw an 87-pitch perfect game in Trenton on May 21, by allowing only two hits and one run over seven innings. Gomez wasn't so lucky. After being lit up for seven runs in four innings, he didn't answer the bell in the fifth. He entered the game with a 1.29 ERA and left with it at 2.77.

"His stuff is really good. He has a good change-up, good movement on his fastball. I guess today we caught him on an off day and our bats were hot," Michael Hollimon.

By sweeping Akron, Erie improved to 29-19 and are now only three games out of first.

How Jonah Got his Groove Back

Things were bad for Jonah Nickerson. You might even venture to say it was awful. Through his first seven appearances he posted a 7.41 ERA with 22 strikeouts and 29 walks. He managed to pick up a couple wins, but those were based more on the merit of the offense than on his own talents.

It had gotten so bad that the 'Wolves decided it was time for a change and demoted him to the bullpen when Pat Stanley was sent down to Erie from Toldeo last week.

Nickerson saw the move coming, he even embraced the role. He knew that he was struggling and that if something didn't change that this could be it for him, at least in AA ball.

"I wasn't getting results. Just look at the numbers, you can't really argue with the decision," Nickerson said. "I figured I'd be out there for a while."

In a last ditch effort to save his season, Nickerson approached manager Tom Brookens and pitching coach Ray Burress and told them that he wanted to go back to the three quarters delivery that he used in high school in an attempt to generate more movement on his pitches.

"It was just time to make a change. I wasn't getting results," Nickerson said. "I wasn't getting movement on my fastball and that's what it came down too."

"It was his idea. We got him to a three-quarter position. He was getting too high and he wasn't able to get movement or locate his pitches. All we did is took him from a non-powerful position at the release point to a power position at the release point," Burress added.

The first time he implemented it he threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings in Akron in a relief appearance. Things were looking better for Nickerson, and after Duane Below injured his left elbow a spot in the rotation re-opened and Nickerson was granted new life.

Now back in the rotation, it doesn't appear that Nickerson has any intentions of letting his spot slip away again without a fight after his last appearance against Akron.

Hollimon returns with a bang, sort of...

After being out for six-weeks with a torn quad muscle, no one expected Michael Hollimon to break out of the gates sprinting when he got back on the field. Well, apparently Hollimon had different plans for himself as he's been an offensive outpour since getting back on the field earlier this week.

Through his four games he's hit .333, belted two homers, and added seven RBI while striking out four times and walking twice.

"Earlier in the season I was trying to do too much and I can't kind of got out of my element. I'm going back to basics: just see the baseball," Hollimon said. "You can't hit what you can't see."

However, on the defensive side of the ball, things haven't been so great. Hollimon is learning a new position, so growing pains are to be expected, but it should be noted that he's committed an error in three straight games.

"I still have a long way to go. There are times when I feel comfortable. Then there are times when I feel like I'm making the wrong read. I have to move my feet more and act like I'm still a shortstop," Hollimon said. "I need more repetitions. I'm working my butt off in pre-game and in BP to get better."

Future Calculations

One of my favorite tools in the whole world- physically and digitally- is the Minor League Equivalency Calculator. The thing is just fantastic. We can sit here all day and debate back and forth if Ryan Strieby can continue to produce at the next level, or if Alfredo Figaro has the stuff to beat major league hitters, and at the end of the day no one is going to be right or wrong, it's all opinion.

Let me preface this by saying that nothing about the MLEC is 100% accurate. After all, you insert a player's numbers into a form, input which league and team they play for, and it uses a formula to calculate what their numbers translate to on the major league stage. No one can be certain how a player will perform at the next level.

Based on Casper Wells' numbers from West Michigan last season the MLEC projected that he would hit .174/.233/.309 in Double-A ball. Now we all know that isn't true, as he went on to post a slash line of .289/.376/.589 at Erie, but if nothing else the MLEC is a little more accurate than the opinion of the average fan.

I spent countless hours playing with this thing -or what I like to call Friday night- inputting the numbers of each and every member of the SeaWolves. I also ran ten day numbers, monthly numbers and isolated hot streaks and cold streaks to see how they would translate over to Detroit.

Some of the stuff that the MLEC spit out was surprising, but for the most part it was exactly what you'd expect. That isn't the point, though. This is simply a tool that aids in understanding the game and players better, which is what this is all about. Right?

In all seriousness, though, this thing is usually frighteningly close to predicting the future, so let's take at how some of the SeaWolves numbers translate over to the major league level.

Alex Avila: .291/.377/.478, 11 doubles, 4 homers, 23 RBI, 19 BB, 29 SO
translated: .229/.298/.364, 9 doubles, 3 homers, 15 RBI, 14 BB, 32 SO

The major league translation here may not be the most flattering in the world, but his line is actually one of the better ones on the team.

Scott Sizemore: .309/.402/.543, 13 doubles, 9 homers, 31 RBI, 28 BB, 35 SO
translated: .305/.384/.512, 11 doubles, 6 homers, 21 RBI, 20 BB, 38 SO

I was shocked at how well his numbers held up. Then again, there isn't a better all around hitter on the Erie roster.

Ryan Strieby: .286/.406/.578, 9 doubles, 12 homers, 37 RBI, 29 BB, 43 SO
translated: .223/.308/.424, 7 doubles, 8 homers, 25 RBI, 21 BB, 47 SO

This one may be tough for people to swallow, but Strieby is a slugger through and through, and the numbers here just reinforce that assessment. He's a dangerous hitter, but he needs to become more refined before he is an all-around threat at the plate. His double total is simply too low.

I know we touched on this last week, but here's something else that is even more alarming, his split stats for 2009:

Home: .295/.400/.670, 8 homers 27 RBI
Away: .274/.413/.466, 3 homers 10 RBI

This is definitely something to keep an eye on moving forward. It makes you wonder how much the band-box of a field in Erie has aided in his success.

Brennan Boesch: .260/.295/.495, 15 doubles, 9 homers, 31 RBI, 8 BB, 52 SO
translated: .211/.233/.382, 12 doubles, 6 homers, 21 RBI, 6 BB, 57 SO

It's no surprise that the calculations aren't very kind to Boesch, but if you isolate his May numbers the figures improve drastically to .242/.268/.445 with five homers and 16 RBI.

Cale Iorg: .217/.251/.367, 9 doubles, 4 homers, 13 RBI, 6 BB, 51 SO
translated: .176/.197/.287, 7 doubles, 3 homers, 9 RBI, 4 BB, 56 SO

There's really nothing else to say here except that Iorg really needs to stop expanding his strike zone. When he does, he'll soar. Until then he's just going to remain that guy with a ton of potential.

Quick Hits

-Duane Below could be done for the season. He's heading to Detroit to see a specialist on Tuesday who will determine if he needs to have Tommy John surgery.

- It's a small sample size, but in his first 21 games Andy Dirks has been instrumental to the SeaWolves success. As of Monday he was hitting .325 with a .795 OPS. He's not going to hit for much power (no homers, no doubles, one triple), but he's making great contact so far.

"He was the best player they had in Lakeland," Brookens said. "He's in on everything. Every time we have a rally or score a bunch of runs it seems like his bat is involved."

-Max Leon is starting to heat back up after slumping through the first three weeks of May. Over the last seven days he's hit .361 with a homer and four RBI.

-Alredo Figaro could be in some trouble. He breezed through April with a 2-0 record and 0.96 ERA. In May he is 0-2 with a 5.52 ERA.

-Paul Stanley looked outstanding in his home debut against Altoona on Monday. Stanley lasted 6 1/3 innings, allowed three runs, struck out five and walked none.

What's Next?

-Erie will host Altoona and then head to Bowie on Friday.

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