Lakeland MLN: A Long August

The calendar mercifully changes to September when the Flying Tigers take the field next. This August was the worst month of the season for the Flying Tigers. After being swept by the Dunedin their record fell to 6-20.

You would be hard pressed to find a more depressing month than the August Lakeland had to endure. In their 26 games their run differential for the month was -29 and allowed a season high 132 runs for the month. If Mother Nature didn't wash out the Brevard County series the month could have been much worse.

What really killed the Flying Tigers this month, in the win loss column, were the close games. In the August they finished with a 0-8 record in games that were decided by one run. Baseball being the game of inches they could have had a fine month if they had a few bounces go their way but instead it turned to an atrocious month.

The lone bright spot for the week was the vindication of Mark Sorensen. In his first four starts in the Florida State League he had an 11.49 ERA. The damage came in all his starts since didn't have a start which he didn't allow less than four runs. Sorensen was pitching well in West Michigan by going 8-2 with a 2.44 ERA to earn his promotion to Lakeland. He didn't have a stellar college career in Michigan State but his lineage (son of Larry Sorenson) made him an attractive 32nd round pick in 2008 draft.

Sorensen shut down the Daytona Cubs for seven shut out innings and allowed only three hits and one walk. Sorensen has not shown the propensity to strike out a whole lot of batters. In both stops this season he has just 59 K's in 115 innings. While he's pitching to contact he is reliant on his fielders to make plays. It hasn't been the case with a .381 BABIP since his promotion to Lakeland. If he can start getting a little more luck to go his way, he should have more outings in the future like he did this week.

Now that there have been numerous promotions throughout the organization it is crunch time for the manager. With the season in its waning games the toughest part is managing the innings of the young prospects. Many Lakeland prospects have already pitched past their innings total from the previous season and are forced to delay starts or pitch from the bullpen. There should be a few fresh faces on display for the last home stand of the season.

Andrew Hess rebounded after having one of his worst starts of the season in his last outing. In his six innings of work he allowed just two hits while walking just one batter. However the lone unearned run he allowed was too much to overcome. His record fell to a surprising 6-11 even with a solid 3.43 ERA for the season. Hess is another pitcher who is at the mercy of his defense since he doesn't miss many bats. His 4.12 K/9 is low but his ERA could be heightened by his .335 BABIP. Regardless it is nice to see him back on track after his last outing.

It is getting harder to remember the complete game shut out Matt Hoffman pitched when he was called up in May. His role has been in the bullpen since his recovery from he was pulled from his last start with a minor arm injury. He has already surpassed his total innings pitched from last season by 26%. However his relief efforts have been going as poorly as his recent starts.

When Manager Andy Barkett signals to get the lefty, Hoffman has allowed seven earned runs in his nine innings of relief work. There has been a ray of hope in his last outing. Even though he allowed two solo home runs in his two innings of work, he missed bats consistently for the first time since coming out of the pen. He struck out four batters in his two innings and he didn't surrender a walk. If Hoffman can cut the homeruns in his next performance it will help wash some of the past misfortunes from the season.

With the Lakeland roster under more turnover than a neighbor hood McDonalds we are seeing some interesting prospects reaching the ranks. One intriguing pitching prospect is 2009 draftee Austin Wood. Wood reached some national notoriety at the University of Texas when he threw 169 pitches against Boston College in the College World Series Super Regional.

In college, Wood pitched well as a starter and as a closer while on the mound for the Longhorns. He is a classic side arm lefty that will pound the strike zone. He will create hellish at-bats for left handed batters but can work both sides of the plate well so he could project more than just a situational reliever. The question now is if he has anything left after the marathon relief appearance. With nothing but pride on the line pitchers like Wood will make these final six games more interesting to watch.


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