2022 American Association Season Review: Chicago Dogs
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier is winding down his look at the 2022 American Association season, with the 10th installment focused on the Chicago Dogs.
The Chicago Dogs Season in Review
The Chicago Dogs looked like they would run away with the East Division through the first three months of the season, but a late-season swoon had the team fighting for the top spot in the division. The club made the playoffs for the second year in a row, but was knocked out in the first round.
Tale of the Tape
(League ranking listed in parenthesis.)
Record: 54-46 (T-3)
Home Record: 25-25 (6)
Away Record: 29-21 (2)
Average: .265 (8)
Homeruns: 109 (T-7)
Runs Scored: 554 (7)
On–Base Percentage: .352 (7)
Slugging Percentage: .422 (7)
Stolen Bases: 120 (4)
ERA: 4.49 (2)
Strikeouts: 884 (2)
Saves: 24 (5)
WHIP: 1.38 (T-1)
Shutouts: 10 (1)
CG: 0 (T-11)
Fielding Percentage: .982 (3)
Errors: 66 (3)
A Recap of the 2022 Chicago Dogs Season
For the first three months of the season, the Chicago Dogs were one of the best teams in the American Association. In fact, they were one of just three teams who had a winning record in each of the first three months, joining the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and the Kansas City Monarchs.
Chicago went 10-6 in May, despite statistics that were not eye-popping. The team began 3-5, but then rattled off four straight victories and were 7-1 over the final eight games of the month. The team hit just .258 and had a 5.07 ERA, but All-Star catcher Ryan Lidge got off to a quick start, hitting .346 with 11 runs and 12 RBI 16 games. Danny Mars was an absolute beast at the plate, hitting .308 with four home runs and 24 RBI through the first 16 games. The bullpen was outstanding for Chicago, as Jeff Kinley closed out three games with a 2.89 ERA and Ryan Clark, August Voight, and James Reeves combined to toss 25 scoreless innings, allowing 12 hits and eight walks combined while striking out 34. The starting staff was not very good, but the bullpen was able to overcome the struggles.
The Dogs caught fire in June, going 18-8 while posting a 4.21 ERA, third best in the league during the month. Chicago brought the lumber in the month as well, hitting 32 homers, led by Grant Kay who had six. Lidge continued to swing a hot bat (.382, 2 HR, 21 RBI), but he was the only regular who hit better than .300. However, the club had eight players who appeared in at least 16 games who had a batting average of .260 or better. It was consistency leading this club, including in the bullpen, where five relievers posted ERAs under three.
The starting staff began to turn around as well, as Jordan Kipper (2.90, 4-1), Kyle Murphy (3.38, 3-0), and A.J. Kullman (3.60, 3-2) were outstanding. That helped Chicago win six straight games (May 31-June 5) and go 8-1 over a nine-game stretch. The low point of the month was when the team was swept at home by the Monarchs, then travelled to Milwaukee where they lost two out of three. However, they rebounded to win 10 of the next 12 games, taking what looked to be a commanding lead in the East Division.
The Dogs continued to roll in July, not only hosting the American Association All-Star game, but went 15-11. The team had their best month offensively (.289, 30 HR) and had a 4.97 ERA, which seems high, but was the fifth best in the league during the month. The Dogs went 10-3 through the first 13 games of July and were 15-6 through the first 20. However, the team closed out the month with a five-game losing streak in what was a sign that August was not going to be a good one for the Dogs.
The offense was spectacular for Chicago, as four players hit better than .300. K.C. Hobson hit seven homers and drove in 21 while batting .317, and Michael Crouse caught fire, hitting .396 while scoring 21 runs. Kay had an outstanding performance at the All-Star game, but was even better in the regular season, hitting .386 with five homers and 16 RBI.
The bullpen continued to be the reason the pitching staff was having success. Clark seemed nearly untouchable (15.1 IP, 4 H, 18 K, 0 ER), and Kinley came out of the bullpen moving into the starting rotation where he was spectacular, going 3-0 with a 3.34 ERA. Kipper continued to put up solid numbers (4.18, 3-2), but the rest of the starting staff all had ERAs well over six.
August did not look like it was going to be a troublesome one for the Dogs, as the team swept the Lake Country DockHounds (August 2-4) to begin the month, but then dropped 10 straight games, and dropped eight straight contests at home. The pitching staff was not the culprit, however, posting a 4.09 ERA, second best in the league. It was a struggling offense (.240, 27 HR) that had the Dogs howling.
Six players in the everyday lineup hit below .250, and no one hit above .300. Kay had six homers and 20 RBI, and Lidge drove in 22 to lead the club, but the catcher hit .274, his lowest batting average of any month. Kinley continued to dominate in the starting rotation, posting a 1.44 ERA, and Johnathan Tripp (4.24) was solid as well, but the rest of the starting staff struggled mightily, and Clark struggled before heading to the disabled list.
Chicago lost three of the final four games of the season, but finished in a tie with the Kane County Cougars. By virtue of the tiebreaker, the Dogs were division winners and chose to play the Milwaukee Milkmen in Round 1 of the playoffs.
The strategy was a sound one, but it did not pay off. The Dogs were shut down in Game 1 in Franklin, 2-1, then returned home where it looked like they were going to be swept, giving up five runs in the first inning of Game 2. However, Chicago battled back for four in the second and two more in the third to tie the game at six. Cody Bohanek had a three-run homer in the second and the Connor Kopach added a two run double in the third. The game remained tied until the seventh when Anfernee Grier kept his team’s playoff hopes alive with a two-run homer.
The series was tied with Game 3 at home. This was a scoreless tie through the first four innings, but Milwaukee jumped out on top in the fifth thanks to a pair of homeruns. The Dogs simply could not generate any offense, scoring one run in the ninth on the second homerun of the series by Grier, but that was all the offense they could produce, ending the season for Chicago.
What Went Right
There was a lot to like about this Chicago team, starting with the performance of the bullpen. Clark (2.11), Joe Cavallaro (2.13), Kevin Marnon (2.85), Brian Schlitter (3.28), and Reeves (3.41) were part of what became the most dominant bullpen in the American Association. They were so good that last year’s closer was able to jump another rotation and the group did not miss a beat.
Speaking of last year’s closer, Kinley turned into one of the best starters in the American Association. He finished with a 2.73 ERA.
Lidge continues to prove that he should be back with an affiliate team, posting a .322 batting average with 12 homers and 80 RBI. Kay clubbed 21 homers for the team while hitting .296, and the team had seven players who appeared in at least 50 games who had a batting average better than .260.
What Went Wrong
The starting staff was an eyesore for this club. Kipper (3.92) was the only other starter with an ERA under five. Tripp came out of the bullpen and gave the club a solid performance (4.31, 3-3), but Kullman (5.30), Murphy (6.42), and Shane Barringer (5.80) struggled.
This team also lacked the big bat. While they had a number of players who had solid seasons, Chicago misses the days of Victor Roache and Keon Barnum. A big bat in the middle of this lineup is necessary for this team to move to the next stage in the franchise’s progress.
Team MVP: Ryan Lidge
A very strong case could be made for Kay as well, but Lidge is one of the 10 best players in the American Association. In 95 games, a career-high, the catcher hit .322 with 60 runs scored, 29 extra-base hits, 12 homeruns, and 80 RBI. He also walked 59 times, giving him a .426 on-base percentage.
Lidge had 30 multiple hit games during the season, and put together a 12-game hitting streak (May 21-June 3) and a 15-game streak (June 14-30). The catcher also had a four-hit game (August 3) where he drove in six.
Top Pitcher: Jeff Kinley
Kinley was one of the best relievers in the American Association in 2021, posting a 1.46 ERA and 18 saves in 40 appearances. He was nearly untouchable, allowing 39 total baserunners in 55.1 innings, and looked like he would dominate in this role in 2022, allowing runs in just two of his first nine appearances while recording four saves.
However, he was hit hard in mid-June, giving up six earned runs in 1.1 total innings over two appearances. He rebounded to provide six straight outstanding appearances, allowing one run in nine innings, but volunteered to moving into the starting rotation and became a force. He allowed one run in five innings in his first outing, and two runs in five outings in his second. After allowing five runs in five innings to the RedHawks on July 17 Kinley dominated, allowing eight total runs over his final 50 innings. The left-hander went 7-2 as a starter, and had a record-setting outing on August 10, striking out 17 RailCats in 8.1 innings.
What to Expect in 2023
When Butch Hobson is your manager, you know you were going to have an outstanding club. The Chicago Dogs were as good as any team in the American Association statistically, and Hobson has built a club that traditionally has avoided the long slump because of the consistency of the group. However, that did not pay off in August, and the slump carried into the postseason where the team scored a single run in two of their three playoff games.
No doubt Hobson will be looking for that big bat, someone who can take this team to another level. He also needs to improve the starting staff. He put together the best bullpen in the American Association, but will need a better performance from the starting staff. It may take 60 wins to grab the East Division crown next year, so upgrading the starting pitching staff is a must.
One could still be sure that this Dogs team will be in the playoffs. Hobson is a great manager and Chicago is a great place to play baseball. It is now just a question of how far will they go?
American Association Transactions
Chicago: Signed RHP Tyler Palm
Lake Country: Signed RHP Nick Howard and INF Ashton McGee
Milwaukee: Signed LHP Bryan Peña
By Robert Pannier