FORT WAYNE – and their results are perplexing.
Fort Wayne (55-49) is 12-23in the second half despite being essentially the same team.
The TinCaps lost starting pitcher Justin Hancock and outfielder/designated hitter Jeremy Baltz, who was injured for the final month of the first half, to Advanced-A Lake Elsinore at the start of the second half.
They lost reliever Leonel Campos to Double-A San Antonio early in the second part of the season.
But other than that, and a few new faces, Fort Wayne is what it was during a 43-26 start to the year. That team finished second in the standings, one game behind South Bend in the Midwest League Eastern Division.
But that core group has been dreadful since the All-Star break, with the worst record in the Eastern Division. Part of that is the overhaul to other rosters after the Major League draft, but the TinCaps shoulder most of the blame.
Fort Wayne can’t seem to string anything together. When the team hits, its pitching is suspect. When a starter throws a gem, the TinCaps can’t score. And the team has suffered from plenty of errors during close games in the second half, as well.
When you’re not playing the way you’re supposed to be, you’re not going to win some ballgames, TinCaps manager Jose Valentin said after a loss to Quad Cities on July 17 at Parkview Field. To be able to win three in a row, or at least win more games, we just got to play better baseball overall – pitching, hitting and playing defense. We’re not doing that.
And the TinCaps still have not managed to win three in a row in the second half, despite stringing together a nine-game winning streak, two six-game winning streaks, and four three-game winning streaks in the first half.
Fort Wayne was 22-13 after 35 games in the first half, and it’s edging closer to .500 overall now.
The last time Fort Wayne was .500 this season was April 17, after two losses to South Bend. Its record at the time was 6-6.
The TinCaps’ batting average has sunk from third in the league at the end of the first half to fifth overall. Their pitching numbers aren’t as good, either. But this isn’t a good team becoming bad. That’s the strange part about it.
This is a team that can’t put anything together, and because of that, its record is near the basement of the league.
Valentin is as frustrated by it as his players, and this isn’t a problem that’s easily fixed. The TinCaps are working, he’s said, but for many of them – especially the pitchers – it’s their first full season of professional baseball.
It’s draining, and when a team is losing, that grind is much harder to fight through. Still, after most losses, Valentin sticks to his usual refrain: guys have to stop making excuses.
The former major leaguer hates losing. And he asks the question of his TinCaps often.
When are you gonna grow up?