COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. — It’s been another up-and-down week for the West Michigan Whitecaps. Or is it a down-and-up week?
The Caps wrapped up a miserable road swing at the beginning of the week with a couple of losses to Beloit. Then the Caps headed home and their fortunes headed north. West Michigan took two out of three against the Western Division-leading Cedar Rapids Kernels. They’ll try for another series victory today against the Quad Cities River Bandits, who just happen to be the second place team in the Western Division.
So while the Whitecaps have had a down-and-up week, we’ll still start with the up here in 3 Up/3 Down land. We’ll start with one guy who’s going to make his one and only appearance here.
SP Hudson Randall: 1 GS, 6.o IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
Randall had another solid outing for the Whitecaps in Wednesday night’s 7-2 win over the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Even though, he didn’t factor into the decision, you can see how much more confident the Whitecaps are when he’s on the mound. In five starts this season, Randall has a WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched) of 1.049 and a 2.5 K/BB ratio though he only averaged 3.37 strikeouts per nine innings. He had a 2.90 FIP which is a sabermetric stat that tries to take a team’s defense out of the equation when judging a pitcher (for those interested in this, I just used 3.2 as the constant).
Unfortunately for the Whitecaps, Randall won’t be available to them any more, which is good news for Hudson. He was called up to join high-Class A Lakeland on Friday. RHP Charles Gillies was sent down from Lakeland to West Michigan in return.
2B Devon Travis: .416 BA, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R, 1.075 OPS
It’s pronounced Dev-in. He won’t be insulted if you pronounce it as Deh-VON. But don’t you dare pronounce it as DEE-von. “We were at a park and they were pronouncing it DEE-von and that’s not o.k.,” Travis told me over the phone last week. “I don’t see an apostrophe after the ‘D.'”
Whitecaps manager Larry Parrish calls Devon a ballplayer that reminds him a lot of Curtis Granderson in that you can just write his name in the lineup everyday and never worry about what you are going to get. “He’s just a baseball player,” said Parrish.
This baseball player is currently riding a 15-game hitting streak and was just as good last week as he was the week before. He’s really turned it up during the Whitecaps recent homestand. Through the first five games of this stretch at Fifth Third Ballpark, Travis is hitting .500 and has an OPS of 1.324.
RP Chad Smith: 2 G, 4.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K
Another excellent week for Chad Smith, who’s really been fantastic all season long. Not to be confused with Brennan Smith (who’s also having a strong start to the season), Chad Smith has appeared in seven games this season and given up just one run in 12 innings of work. Opponents are hitting just .195 against him and he’s got a 6.75 K/9 ratio to go along with his 2.25 K/BB ratio and 1.000 WHIP.
This week, Smith pitched in two games and went two innings in each of his appearances. He gave up just one hit in his outing against the Kernels in Thursday night’s 4-3 win in 10 innings. He then gave up no hits and just one walk while striking out two against the Quad Cities River Bandits in Saturday night’s 7-4 win.
SP Montreal Robertson: 2 GS, 6 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 10 BB, 6 K
Robertson began the season with two really nice starts, but since then has struggled. The biggest issue as is often the case with pitchers is command. Robertson walked 10 batters over the course two appearances this week. He walked four in two innings of work against the Beloit Snappers on Tuesday. Then he gave six River Bandits free passes in four innings of work on Sunday. Unsurprisingly, the Whitecaps lost both games.
Robertson had a 10.50 ERA for the two combined starts last week. He only took the loss in one game and is now 1-3 on the season.
DH/1B Lance Durham: .087 BA (2-for-23), .322 OPS, 10 K
Durham came into last week hitting .302. He now comes into this week hitting .267.
The worst was Sunday against the River Bandits. Durham grounded out in his first at-bat of the day. He then struck out the next four times he went to the plate. The final strikeout ended the game with the bases loaded and the Whitecaps down one (He wasn’t alone as the rest of his teammates struck out 10 times yesterday).
C Bennett Pickar: .153 BA, .312 OPS, 3 K, 2 E, 3 Passed Balls
Although it wasn’t this week, Pickar’s bat has been pretty good this season. He’s hitting .286 with a .721 OPS. It’s his defensive work that has the Whitecaps concerned.
Pickar had two errors this week. On Sunday, he allowed three passed balls. It may be a case of the Tigers 2012 11th-round draft pick over-thinking things on the field.
Here’s an odd stat: The Whitecaps are 3-11 when Pickar starts behind the plate. They are 10-4 when Adolfo Reina is the starting backstop. Picker has a 4.60 CERA (Catcher’s ERA). Reina has a 3.12 CERA. Reina caught four of Hudson Randall’s five starts. Pickar has caught all six of Montreal Robertson’s starts.
The Whitecaps dropped the rubber match with the River Bandits Monday night. They’ll get a day off before starting on a nine-game road trip that begins in Bowling Green.