Wichita Wingnuts All-Star Break Review
Record: 37-25, First Place in South Division, Third Overall Record in American Association
Last season the Wichita Wingnuts ran away with the South Division and steam-rolled through the playoffs on their way to the club’s first American Association championship. After two years of being the runner-up, there was no denying the Wingnuts the title in 2014. Along the way they won a league record 73-games and eight of their nine starters hit better than .300. It was a most impressive season to say the least.
In the off-season wholesale changes needed to occur, and manager Kevin Hooper saw only three of his 11 position players return. That left him to have to rebuild much of his roster and early on the results were mixed. Wichita was getting outstanding pitching performances from their starting rotation, but the relief corps was struggling and the hitters were inconsistent. The struggles saw the Wingnuts fall to second place in their division for the first time in three seasons, and forced Hooper to make some changes.
With the additions of Harrison Kain and Matt Padgett, the club is shaking off those early struggles and has vaulted back into first place. A 17-8 record in July shows the club is getting as hot as a Wichita summer day, and with the fourth best team batting average and team ERA, the Wingnuts are primed to repeat as league champions.
Top Player – T.J. Mittelstaedt
It has been a roller coaster year for many of the Wichita Wingnuts’ hitters, and that has been true of T.J. Mittelstaedt as well. He struggled to get above the .250 mark through the first month of the season, but since June 15 the versatile Mittelstaedt has been on a tear. He has raised his average nearly 30 points since then and has raised his on-base percentage over 70 points. Mittelstaedt is hitting .271 with a .428 OBP, and he leads the team in home runs and RBI. His 45 RBI rank him eighth in the American Association.
Top Pitcher – Tim Brown
With Jon Link starting the season in the Marlins organization, Anthony Capra leaving for Mexico, and Omar Bencomo being dealt early on, the Wichita Wingnuts asked a lot of Tim Brown to carry the load and to be the club’s ace. He not only was happy to oblige, but has flat out excelled in the spot. The right-hander is 7-1 with a 3.18 ERA and has allowed just 9 walks in 76.1 innings pitched. He currently has a four-game winnings streak, and is pace to set a career high for wins in a season.
The Joplin Blasters had their chance to make this division theirs, especially after taking four of five in Wichita in late June. It is likely that their failure to ride the momentum of that series is going to come back to haunt them. The Wichita Wingnuts are now in their customary position atop the South Division, and with the team’s offense catching fire they are there to stay. Get ready Wingnuts fans; your team will be defending their title.
By Robert Pannier