Lakeland MLN: Inconsistent Play Foils LFT

The Lakeland Flying Tigers start the second half the same way they finished the first, at the bottom of the Northern division. After a four game losing streak and a -10 run differential the Flying Tigers find themselves in an early hole.

The enigma that is the Lakeland Flying Tigers continued for the first full week of the second half. In between rain drops the Flying tigers started the week with a four game losing streak. During the streak the offense averaged ¾ of a run a game and failing to score more then one run in any contest.

The pitching staff performed admirably with a 2.90 ERA during the losing streak. Just like clockwork, as soon as the pitching staff put together a shutout the bats woke up, for their lone victory a 4-0 Independence Day win.

The offense continued their success to put up six runs the next day. As expected the pitching staff inevitably collapsed and allowed 10 runs against Clearwater.

Mother Nature and the schedule have been as brutal as possible. With two days wiped away from rain and continues trips on I-4 from the one game at home and one game on the road in Tampa. It would be only fair to start the week against the hottest team in the Florida State League. Compound the problems with Lakelands premier bullpen arm being promoted. The Flying Tigers will need new arms to shoulder the load.

It was only a matter of time, so it's to no surprise that Robbie Weinhardt got the call to go up to Erie. Weinhardt has left some big shoes to fill after his flawless first half performance. The existing middle relief and the newly promoted will have to fill in on the fly.

Brendan Wise doesn't really fit the profile of a reliever in the Detroit organization. Though he's far from a soft tossing relief pitcher, he wouldn't qualify for the live armed relief pitchers that are frequently selected throughout the draft. Wise sits at 88-91 and will dial it up to 93 if needed.

However his pitching style is similar to what Joe Coleman instructs his starters, pound the strike zone and try to induce ground ball outs. Wise has only walked three batters all season, at any level, in 24 and 1/3 innings of work. While he hasn't struck out a lot of batters, he has a 2.21 ground out to fly out ratio.

Wise relies on his defense and with a BABIP of .310, while at Lakeland, he hasn't been overtly lucky this season. Since his blow up last week he has put together a string of five outings without letting a run cross the plate. While he's a vital part of the Lakeland bullpen, if there's any injury, trade or promotion in the higher ranks Wise could be the first one called up. He has already spent 49 innings in double A between last season and the start of this season.

The struggle continues for Brett Jacobson. In his four innings of work this week he allowed four earned runs. It's quite the conundrum trying to figure out the problem with Jacobson's game. He hasn't put himself in trouble by walking a lot of batters, he has a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio. His mid 90's four seam fastball combined with his over the top curve ball has stuck out his fair share of batters, striking out 7.36 batters per nine innings.

While Jacobson isn't allowing batters to stroll to first base, first pitch strikes have eluded him. He put himself in trouble when he fell behind in the count against Fort Myers. On a 1-0 fastball Steve Singleton pulled a 95mph fastball to left field. Then with two outs Jacobson fell behind Chris Parmiee 2-0 and he tried to sneak a curve over the plate in a fastball count. Parmiee sent the pitch sailing over the right field fence for the game winning RBI.

When Jacobson is ahead of the count he is about as hard to hit as any pitcher in the Flying Tigers bullpen. In the same outing he struck out two batters, both occurred when he was ahead in the count. When he's managed to get the count in his favor he's induces batters to chase curves in the dirt. Jacobson was able to work on his problems in the season with little consequence pitching in middle relief, though he will probably have to fill some important innings in the future.

The pleasant surprise of the week has come with the recently promoted Jared Gayhart. In his 45 and 2/3 innings at West Michigan Gayhart has been dominating the opposition. He has struck out 49 batters for 9.56 k per nine strikeout ratio while only walking 15 batters. Batters were averaging a mere .156 against Gayhart with a WHIP of 0.85 which is why he had 1.97 ERA.

Nothing has really changed during his first seven and a third innings for the Flying Tigers. He has used his easy fastball to get ahead of batters and force them to make contact. Gayhart's fastball is sneaky fast. His right-handed delivery is free and easy, yet he was sitting at 91-93 and hit 96 on the house radar gun.

In his outing against Fort Myers he might as well claimed residence in the strike zone. He threw 67% of his pitches for strikes. 37 of his 42 pitches were fastballs but he did throw his slider for strikes both looking and swinging.

Gayhart's roll with Lakeland has been in long and middle relief. He's thrown at least two innings in each of his three appearances. The results have been pretty close to ideal. He hasn't allowed a run and has yet to allow a free pass, while striking out five batters. Regardless of the situation Gayhart is utilized, he will pitch some valuable innings for Lakeland in the future.

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