It's games like these that give fans doubt on playoff performance come September. And seeing the month of August has been anything but good for West Michigan, will they have the winning momentum to carry into the playoffs?
Everyone remembers Brent Wyatt's impact on the team before All-Star break. Before August Wyatt was hitting .282 with 31 hits. His slugging percentage of .373 was a top three best of his team. Then August came. In the 22 games the Washington native has played, he's managed to knock in only seven RBI and reach home plate 13 times. Wyatt may have a team leading 117 games under his belt, but will need to finish strong in these next 11 games.
He is usually placed in the second spot of the lineup, so it can be debated that he's more of a sacrifice man than a RBI or base stealing buff, but in manager Joe DePastino's scheme everyone should be able to get on base.
QUICK SIDE NOTE: Bourquin is back. That's right, Ron Bourquin came back August 14th. He's batting .206 with only seven hits in his last nine games. Yikes.
West Michigan's top RBI man is Billy Nowlin, but the Golden West Alum has only knocked in nine in his last 10 games. Now for an average, middle of the lineup kind of player that's okay, but for a hitter who switches between the three spot, cleanup and clutch, you have to expect more out of him—seeing he's the only bright spot of run producing. Of course, he is the hottest ‘Cap as of late, due to his consistent hitting. He just needs more help and more RBI. West Michigan does average around four to five runs a game, and they do sit second in all of the Midwest League with 657 total runs this season, but since August five runs doesn't seem enough—especially with the way their pitching staff has been performing.
This brings questions about the rotation and bullpen, such as what happened to Bryan Villarreal? Yes, he picked up the win August 26th against the Lugnuts, but it didn't come easy for him. He gave up four runs on three hits-- walking three. Not to mention, he lost three straight starts prior to Wednesday night. Entering the beginning of August, Villarreal had a 2-1 record in July and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was very solid.
Villarreal isn't the only pitcher to be cursed by August. Brandon Hamilton has seen not only is rotation spot in jeopardy, but his ERA rising dramatically. This month Hamilton's 9.19 ERA is a team worst. He's pitched 15.2 innings this month and has given up 19 hits total so far. That's a little over two hits every inning. His mechanics are maturing, but he has yet to throw consecutive hitless innings.
With Brandon Douglas most likely gone until playoffs, his August absence has thrown West Michigan out of whack. Douglas wasn't the center point of the ‘Caps' offense, but he provided a nice mix of hits and RBI to give his team the momentum they needed to power through game-after-game.
DePastino said it best with a quick response this past week:
"We miss him out there."
On a side note, Detroit activated pitcher Jade Todd from the disabled list August 21st. Todd played only one game for the Whitecaps before being placed on the disabled list April 23. Todd was selected by the Tigers in the 2008 draft.
But lets not fret about August, it's almost over. In fact, some good news spread across West Michigan yesterday. The Midwest League announced its 2009 Postseason All-Star team. It comes to no surprise to see that Casey Crosby and Nowlin made the team. Crosby leads his team with a 10-4 record and a league leading 2.41 ERA. Nowlin is hitting .313 (second in the Midwest League) with 73 total RBI this season.
So as the week winds down, this is yet another losing road trip for West Michigan. Come August 28th, they will start a season-ending series against first place Fort Wayne. If the ‘Caps can power through this series, they might have upper hand entering the playoffs.
A week ago today, Dayton's Humberto Sosa devastated the ‘Caps by smacking a walk-off hit in the ninth inning to rally four runs for the 5-4 comeback victory.
The month of August has been rough on a number of the members of the Whitecaps.