The first half of the 2014 Midwest League season is now in the books. After a horrendous 13 game losing streak haunted the Hot Rods early on, they got a few wins under their belt and were able to compete. But despite their best efforts, the Hot Rods could not overcome the losing streak, and they fell short of the first half division title. They would finished the first-half with a record of 32-37, which was tied for 5th with the Lansing Lugnuts, and 8.5 games back from the first-half champion West Michigan Whitecaps.
Leading the way offensively was a combination of Granden Goetzman and Johnny Field. In all four major offensive categories (batting average, runs, home runs, RBI and stolen bases) at least one of them are in the top three on the team, and they can both be found in the top three of runs scored and RBI. A surprising bright spot in the Hot Rods lineup – both offensively and defensively – has been from behind the plate, as Armando Araiza and Oscar Hernandez have done a nice job filling the hole Luke Malie and Justin O’Conner left at the end of 2013. Araiza is putting up slightly better offensive numbers (hitting .273 with 10 extra base hits, five home runs and 28 RBI), but Hernandez has the slight edge behind the plate, having both the better fielding percentage (.980) and RF/G (8.50), although Araiza has allowed less passed balls and has caught more guys running.
On the mound, where the Hot Rods have made their name known over the years, the club finished this half of the season with a 3.66 ERA. Much like the offense, the pitching is a two-headed monster, as both Stone Speer and Jacob Faria lead pitching categories like Goetzman and Field do offensively. Speer leads the team in wins (4) and is second in saves (2) while Faria has three wins, and leads the team’s qualifiers in K’s (59) as well as ERA (3.27). The pitching staff did get a huge bolster from high-profile prospect Ryne Stanek, as well as lesser known Jamie Schultz, both of whom joined the team after the season had already started. Shultz would make six starts, going 2-0 with an ERA of 0.93, and Stanek has gone 3-3 with a 3.53 ERA in 7 starts.
Goetzman and Faria, as well as Kean Wong, Ian Kendall and Ryne Stanek will represent the Hot Rods on the Eastern Squad in tonight’s MWL All-Star game in West Michigan. The first half of the season didn’t quite go as planned, but that doesn’t mean this team won’t excite moving forward. If they play the way they did throughout May and June, they have a lot to play for in the second half, and it isn’t out of the realm that they could catch one of this half’s top-finishing teams and take the second-half crown for a playoff birth.