West Michigan MLN: Pitching Carries 'Caps

Perhaps one of the hardest things to do on a team that hasn't won all season, is setting goals to try and be successful as a team. While the Whitecaps have yet to reach such a goal, they did show spurts of genius last week, both on the mound and at the plate.

However, as was the case during the first half of the season, the 'Caps are towards the bottom of the Midwest League in wins since the All Star break. Offensively, the team has had one really great game since the All Star Game, a 15-3 beat down of South Bend, their only win of that series.

On the mound, West Michigan's pitching staff has been much more consistent, holding teams to six runs or less in eight of the last ten games. But, even that task is going to prove to be a little harder, as the team's ace, LHP Giovanny Soto (5-5, 2.30) was recently placed on the seven day disabled list.

The success of the staff is relatively surprising, though, due to the loss of RHP Jacob Turner the day after the All Star Game. Fortunately, players like RHP Richard Zumaya (1-0, 0.77), who earned his first win with the team just a few days ago, have picked up where Turner left off, for the most part.

The same can't be said on offense, however. The Whitecaps may be struggling to recover from losing 1B Jordan Lennerton, especially since he was replaced by 1B Clay Jones, one of this year's draft picks by the Detroit Tigers. While Jones has been able to hit for a .275 average with a home run so far in his newly born professional career, he really hasn't been able to fill the void left by Lennerton. And, while no one was really expecting him to do so, it was going to be a fairly important requirement if the team had any aspiration of making the postseason this year.

What the Whitecaps seem to be missing, as has been the case for the entire season, is a true power hitter in the lineup. While 3B Wade Gaynor leads the team in home runs with eight, he has yet to prove that he can hit the ball consistently enough to be considered a true threat by opposing pitchers. And while CF Jamie Johnson continues to get on base better than a lot of other leadoff men in the game, it hasn't translated in to runs, because, other than Gaynor, there really isn't a consistent run producer behind him.

That being said, it is easy to see that the 'Caps have not mailed it in just yet. They are still hanging close in most games, and winning some that have come down to the wire. Manager Joe DePastino has somehow kept his team playing for something throughout this season, despite the fact that it was pretty obvious early on that he wasn't working with a championship contender. But you have to wonder how long they can keep playing at that level before they wear down.

Unfortunately, the road continues to be a rough one for the 'Caps. After they finish a three game series against Dayton tonight, the team goes on the road to take on a decent South Bend team before returning home for yet another three game series against the very talented Lake County Captains. West Michigan then goes on the road for games against Western Division opponents Clinton and Wisconsin.

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