Erie MLN: Is the Writing on the Wall?

Kibler hasn't quite lived up to expectations

There's something funny about watching someone, or something, in it's final moments. There are warnings signaling the inevitable all around us, but far too often we look the other way and pretend that they don't exist.

Deep down inside, you know that something is going to have to be done, whether it happens to be you taking matters in your own hands or just learning that you are going to have to let go eventually, but you refuse to admit it.

It's like when you have a dog and it's in its final days. Everyone around you knows that the dog is suffering. Its health has long passed; he no longer joyfully chases the balls you throw down the hall; he walks with a hitch or, more appropriately, shuffles along on walks; the dog just lays there and grimaces every time you prod it to move. Everyone sees this. The dog is visibly suffering and no longer has any semblance of quality in its life, but you just don't want to let go. That's your dog- your friend.

I'm not saying that the SeaWolves should be taken down the green mile- not yet anyways- but if they suffer through another week like they one they just went through, then the time will be among us to make that decision and start talking about next year.

After going 3-3 last week, the 'Wolves dropped the ball by posting a 2-4 record against the same opponents by going 1-2 against both Connecticut and New Britain. The only difference was that this time they played those series on the road, where the SeaWolves happen to be the have the worst record in the Eastern League (22-35).

Maybe the writing was on the wall all along. This is a supremely flawed ball club. They've been ravished by injuries and promotions. They can't win games away from Jerry Uht Park. Their hitting and pitching has gotten results when they shouldn't have. The situational hitting has been non-existent. But, at least until recently, they were winning games.

Their .260 batting average as a unit places them sixth in the league. Their .337 on-base percentage is fifth. Their .435 slugging percentage and 135 home runs, however, are well above the rest of the pack. Which, in reality, is more a detriment than an attribute for this club.

Far too often they rely on the big hit. Small ball is not part of the vernacular in Erie, which may work well in the bandbox they play half of their games in, but the liabilities behind this mentality has surfaced far too often on the road, which is reflected in their record.

43 of those home runs have come on the road. That's it. The SeaWolves players and staff love to claim that not many of their homers have been cheap, and maybe they haven't, but you can't deny that something is going on with the astronomical split.

That doesn't bode well for a club that will play only eight of its remaining 23 games at home.

The hitters may have amassed the fifth best average in the league, but no one has really stood out in the process. Ryan Strieby is the only player with an average above .300. And the only one with an OBP over .400. And the only one with a slugging percentage above .550. And he's been on the disabled list most of the second half.

That's not good. Who can they turn too when they need a big hit? It's good to have a bunch of players performing as a unit, but only when they are doing so at an above average level. Brennan Boesch has started to step up in recent times, but his all around game is far too flawed to be considered a reliable option at this point.

The pitching is also in a similar situation. Their staff ERA of 4.04 places them eighth out of 12 teams. The 1,075 hits they have surrendered is the third most in the league, they also rank fourth with 539 runs allowed, first with 113 homers allowed, and last with 706 strikeouts.

How does this happen? Well, it's not hard when your staff is horribly mediocre. Robbie Weinhardt, Cody Satterwhite, and Brett Jensen are reliable options out of the bullpen, but outside of Luis Marte- who happens to be injured- there isn't a single dominating presence in the starting rotation.

Jonah Nickerson (5.05 ERA) has been unreliable as he continues to tinker with his delivery. Thad Webber (4.50 ERA) has shown flashes of brilliance but is far too inconsistent, and the same can be said for Pat Stanley (4.57). Jon Kibler (4.20) also hasn't been bad, but his season hasn't quite measured up to the expectations placed on him. The Tigers' were hoping for big things from the lefty after he was named the organization's minor league pitcher of the year last season for his effort in West Michigan, where he posted a 14-5 record with a 1.75 ERA, 126 strikeouts and 32 walks.

Still, however flawed, this team still isn't out of it. They are still only a game and half back of the wildcard leading Reading Phillies. All it's going to take is a solid week. A few guys step up and have some sustained success, and they're right back in it.

But, then again, maybe I'm just not ready to admit it's over.

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