When outfielder Ryan Patterson was acquired by the Wingnuts during the offseason, manager Kevin Hooper told Patterson he wouldn't hesitate to make roster moves to reverse lethargy.
That didn't worry Patterson, but it set the stage for a season of constant turnover which few have survived. Patterson, shortstop Josh Horn and catcher Jeff Christy are the only position players who have been with the Wingnuts all season. Five pitchers have been active all season.
The Wingnuts have used 31 position players and 22 pitchers. The juggling comes a season after employing 30 total players on the way to the American Association playoffs.
"It's kind of been a year where guys who have put up numbers in the past have not been here after a while," Patterson said. "It definitely makes you feel better that you get to be a part of this. I'm definitely happy that I'm still here, but I kind of expected that from the beginning."
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Hooper also told Patterson — and anyone else who would listen after the Wingnuts' early difficulties — that he would eventually find the right mix.
Hooper has — the Wingnuts have won 15 of 23 games and are one game behind Sioux Falls for the second-half lead entering a season-ending three-game series with El Paso at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The right mix has just happened to include few players who started 2010 with the Wingnuts, and few players who replaced them. Wichita has seen instability at every position except the ones Patterson, Horn and Christy play.
"I hadn't really been used to the releases and the trades," said Patterson, who spent four seasons in affiliated baseball. "It's been kind of a new thing for me. We jokingly say that guys have to hang around for two weeks before we introduce ourselves to them."
A 96-game season doesn't lend itself to continuity if a team is performing poorly. Hooper didn't have time to wait out slumps, so roster moves became necessary.
"Of course you have to trust Hooper and the guys in the front office that they're going to be able to bring in the right guys who are going to be able to play for us," Christy said.
A concern was how the transactions would affect chemistry, since players might not know who would be occupying the locker next to them each day.
The Wingnuts have filled the roster with experienced players who provide leadership.
"This year, it hasn't been a problem," Christy said. "We have a great group of core guys that have been here. Whoever comes in here, we're going to try to win a championship. You put your ego aside and that's the way it goes."
Playoff scenarios — The Wingnuts are the only team that can catch Sioux Falls for the second-half lead in the North Division. If the teams tie, Wichita goes to the playoffs because Sioux Falls clinched a postseason bid by winning the first half. Their five-game series would begin Tuesday in Sioux Falls.
If Sioux Falls wins the second half, the other North playoff spot goes to the team with the second-best overall record. The Wingnuts and Lincoln trail Sioux City by a game in the overall standings. If two teams tie, they play a one-game playoff.
If three teams tie, the team with the lowest winning percentage against the other two is eliminated and the remaining teams play a one-game playoff.
Sioux City is at Lincoln this weekend, while Sioux Falls hosts St. Paul. Sioux Falls is 32-8 at home.