Lakeland MLN: Bashing Their Way to Victory

The Lakeland Flying Tigers bashed their way to a 4-3 record this week. They scored 37 runs and bashed eight home runs, now if only the starting pitching could come around.

The Flying Tigers have become quite the enigma. In a week where the collective lineup batted .287/.381/.489 and having three starters allowing only one run per start you would figure it would have been a more fruitful week. Considering that the offense was in such a rut at the beginning of the season, you would assume once the hits started piling up so would the wins.

When it comes to power the man who you have to look at is Michael Bertram. He is no longer the lone power threat in the lineup but he can be the most prolific. Bertram has hit a homerun in the past three games in which he started. For the week he as compiled a .333/.600/1.133. With his defining pull power brings a solid presence in the lineup which is becoming more productive with every passing week.

When it comes to raw power in the lineup might be Jeremy Laster. Laster has always struck out an inordinate amount of times, which is a little bizarre since it seems like when he makes contact it is almost always well hit on a line. He currently has amassed a six game hitting streak where he has hit .304 with a homerun. The home run came on a fastball painted on the outside corner. Laster just went with the pitch and hit a towering opposite field home run.

Even his strikeouts are becoming more infrequent. To an average player, 26 strikeouts in 82 at-bats would be awful. For Jeremy Laster it is a marked improvement. Last season he struck out a league record 200 times in just 481 at-bats. This season he is on pace for 152 strikeouts in 492 at-bats. A reduction of nearly 50 strikeouts might be just what he needs to get a shot to prove himself in Erie.

It is especially perplexing that the Flying Tigers didn't capitalized more when the bullpen had such a strong week. The bullpen collectively had a 0.82 era in 22 innings while striking out 15. However when four starters allow four runs or more in over half the weeks starts you can understand how it would happen.

The young Matt Hoffman had the most disappointing week. In his first start he ran into some tough luck. In five innings of work he allowed four runs, far from great but it just happened to be the one game this week where the bats failed to show up. The Flying Tigers ended up being shut out five to zero.

In his second starts the wheels came off. He was wild out of the zone as well as in it. Against the Sarasota Reds he had an uncharacteristic three walks and allowed five hits in just an inning and a third. He only threw 23 strikes out of 44 pitches with his fastball. The final blow came when he gave up an opposite field home run which plated the eighth run of the outing.

For the week Hoffman's line is a staggering 17.06 era. While only being 20 years-old in the Florida State League it was assumed he would take a few lumps. His inconsistent play may draw some questions if he's above his head at Lakeland, though the only real replacement would be Trevor Feeney who has had a vital roll in the bullpens success.

On the other hand Thad Weber lived up to his all-star billing. He opened the Sarasota Reds series by throwing the Flying Tigers first nine inning complete game. Weber allowed just one run on just six hits and didn't allow a walk. It couldn't have come at a more perfect time, since the bullpen was heavily taxed while in Fort Myers. Weber followed the Pitching Coach Joe Coleman's tutelage by the book. His strike out rate isn't eye popping but he gets in a rhythm and throws strikes.

Not to be outdone Lauren Gagnier had his own gem of the week. In seven innings he allowed one earned run on five hits and two walks while striking out nine. He has become the Lakeland Flying Tigers biggest strikeout threat in the rotation. In 63 and 2/3 innings of work he has struck out 61 batters for an 8.6 K per 9 innings ratio.

Only Charlie Furbush can come close to his rate with his 5.6 K per 9 innings. The seven innings was he deepest he's gone into a game this season and if he could reign in the amount of walks, Gagnier could see an all-star selection of his own in the future.

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