2023 American Association First Half Recap: 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, Rob Pannier takes a look back at the first half of the 2023 American Association season for the Chicago Dogs including who is their MVP and top pitcher and discusses the prognosis heading forward.
The Chicago Dogs Tale of the Tape
(Ranking in American Association listed in parenthesis)
Overall Record: 28-30 (4th in East, 9th Overall)
Home Record: 15-13 (4)
Away Record: 13-17 (9)
Last 10: 4-6
Average: .271 (4)
Homeruns: 65 (4)
Runs Scored: 328 (4)
Slugging %: .432 (4)
On-Base %: .362 (5)
Stolen Bases: 87 (6)
ERA: 5.17 (T-9)
Saves: 12 (7)
Walks: 219 (3)
Strikeouts: 472 (4)
Opponent Average: .287 (12)
Fielding %: .973 (T-10)
Errors: 58 (11)
First Half Recap
In 2022, the Chicago Dogs looked like a real challenger for the Miles Wolff Cup, but struggled in August and were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Milwaukee Milkmen. This season, the club rebuilt and there were huge questions as to how the team would fare. In fact, it was predicted here that they would finish last in the East. However, they have exceeded expectations, at least early on.
Chicago went 13-4 in May, thanks in large part to the performance of Josh Altmann. Altmann was acquired from Lincoln during the off-season, and he was an absolute stud, named as the top player in the American Association in the first month of the season after hitting .424 with seven home runs and 25 RBI in 17 games. However, this has not been the same team since.
The Dogs went 10-17 in June, posting a 5.88 ERA, and are 5-9 this month with a mark of 5.59. Since June 2, the Dogs have won as many as two straight games just twice, and recorded the longest losing streak in the league this season, losing 10 straight games to start out June (June 2-13).
What Went Right?
The acquisition of Josh Altmann has been one of the biggest moves of the 2023 season. Altmann has been fantastic and Matt Bottcher has been outstanding as well. Ryan Lidge continues to be the best catcher in the American Association. It has been performances like this that have Chicago fourth in runs scored, slugging percentage, batting average, and home runs.
The bullpen has been very good for this club, especially the lefties. Bryan Warzek (3.03) and Jonathan Cheshire (3.54) have been spectacular, and Brian Schlitter has been solid as the closer.
What Went Wrong?
The pitching staff has been a work in progress. Tyler Palm (5.01) and Trevor Lane (5.14) were spectacular early on, but both have struggled mightily over the last six weeks. Nick Green also has an ERA above five (5.08) and these three are the top starters on the club. Ryan O’Reilly has been hammered and Jake Dahlberg eventually fled to Asia despite posting a 6.16 ERA. The starting staff is a real question mark.
Top Pitcher: Bryan Warzek
It may seem too easy to look at the guy with the top ERA and select him, but the truth is that Bryan Warzek has earned the selection for many reasons beyond his ERA. The lefty was rocked in his first appearance of the season, giving up two runs in 0.1 innings, but has given up just eight runs over his last 29.1 innings. He has struck out an amazing 52 batters while allowing 16 walks and 21 hits.
In addition, Warzek has served a multitude of roles for the club. The lefty has started two contests, even closed out one for a save. He is 1-0.
Top Hitter: Josh Altmann
While some may believe that Matt Bottcher is the choice, the truth is that Josh Altmann is having an incredible rebound season. He had a solid season in 2022, hitting 15 homers for the Saltdogs, but this came a year after he hit 29 in 85 games. He was looking for a big season in the Windy City and has come through, hitting .297 with 15 home runs and 53 RBI in 58 games.
The numbers are impressive across the board. The shortstop has scored 41 runs and has 13 stolen bases. His .594 slugging percentage is tops on the club, and his .401 on-base percentage is second overall. Plus, Altmann has made just eight errors at short.
Where Will Chicago Dogs Be on September 4?
The Chicago Dogs enter the second half in fourth in the East Division. That number seems surprising considering the fact that this team statistically is solid. They rank in the top four or five in most major offensive categories, and are getting satisfactory pitching performances for the most part. They are ninth with a 5.17 ERA, but considering that is just .17 points behind the fifth-place team, it is not a terrible mark.
The problem is that this team is simply not consistent enough to get on a run. The fact that they have struggled since June 2 does not look to be changing anytime soon and there may not be enough pieces on this team currently to keep them ahead of the Kane County Cougars. Look for Chicago to just miss the postseason this year.
By Robert Pannier