Scrappy Lake County Captains Fighting to the Finish of 2015

The season is drawing to a close, and the Lake County Captains are quietly battling their way through their last few weeks of play. The scrappy team, made up of many faces new to the full professional team, has reached the dog days of summer, and has just under four weeks left to secure a spot in the Midwest League playoffs. With the Midwest League using first and second half standings independently to determine playoff spots, the Captains have to use the end of this season to pull up their record and secure a spot in the playoffs, if possible.

As of Wednesday morning, August 12, the Captains are currently sixth in the Midwest League Eastern Division with a 20-23 record. They sit 6.5 games back of the Eastern Division leader, the Fort Wayne TinCaps, who are 27-17 in the second half. Of the Eastern Division’s first half playoff clinchers, the Lansing Lugnuts and the Great Lakes Loons, only the Lugnuts can be found to have a better second half record than the Captains; the Lugnuts are third in the Eastern Division currently, and are 24-20, while the Loons have found their way to the bottom of the division with an 18-26 record. To clinch a playoff spot in the second half, the Captains must also bypass the South Bend Cubs (21-23), the Bowling Green Hot Rods (21-23), and the West Michigan Whitecaps (24-19) to place in at least second place for the second half.

The Captains came close in the first half, ending with a 36-32 record, five games back of the Lugnuts. They fell behind the 39-31 Dayton Dragons to be fourth in the Eastern Division, but appeared ready and eager to surpass that performance as the second half of the season began.

As a team, the Captains fall right in the middle of the fray when it comes to their performance at the plate. The Captains are hitting. 254 as a team, with the Kane County Cougars and the Lugnuts leading the league with a .273 average each. The Captains are, however, leading the league in home runs with a team total of 76, and the team total of 514 runs scored puts them in third in the Midwest League, as does their .700 OPS.

From a pitching standpoint, the Captains are lower on the leaderboards. They are fourth-worst in the league with a team 3.77 ERA. However, they are second-highest in strikeouts, having struck out 926 batters overall on the year. They also recently earned the title of first Captains team in history to have five pitchers with 100 strikeouts in Jordan Milbrath, Anderson Polanco, Sean Brady, Thomas Pannone, and Justus Sheffield; they are the first team in the Midwest League since 2004 to achieve that feat.

The Captains can be compared to the Indians in that they have on paper what seems to be the makings of a winning name. They have the attention-grabbing names – Bobby Bradley, Sheffield, Yu-Cheng Chang – and players who are delivering, but wins aren’t falling into their lap as often as would be expected. However, unlike the Indians, who are playing some fundamentally bad baseball, the Captains are playing good games that,unfortunately for them, don’t always result in a win. Their highly touted prospects are not crumbling under pressure – Bradley has hit 20 home runs, Chang has nine, and Sheffield has struck out 109 batters this season. Even better, a number of lesser-known players have made names for themselves in Lake County this season, and have started their careers off in a strong fashion. Bobby Ison has 85 hits, 10 doubles, three triples and one home run and only 45 strikeouts in 92 games. Greg Allen has quietly become an invaluable center fielder and a player Indians fans should keep their eyes on for seasons to come. Brady has pitched 117.2 innings and posts a 3.82 ERA with 100 strikeouts, demonstrating his potential to be a strong starter down the road for the organization. After three years in a Captains uniform, Dorssys Paulino was finally promoted to High-A.

As the team heads into the final few weeks of the season, the fate of the 2015 Captains could really go in any direction. 5.5 games back is not an impossible deficit, and if they miss the playoffs, it will be by a small margin of defeat. Regardless of outcome, though, the Captains have put a number of players on the Indians radar screen this season, and the last few weeks of 2015 will only help demonstrate how those players can truly fare within the organization.

Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN Photographer

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