2023 American Association First Half Recap: Kansas City Monarchs
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 Kansas City Monarchs including who is their MVP and top pitcher and discusses the prognosis heading forward.
The Kansas City Monarchs Tale of the Tape
(Ranking in American Association listed in parenthesis)
Overall Record: 58-36 (1st in West, 1st Overall)
Home Record: 18-8 (1)
Away Record: (18-14)
Last 10: 5-5
Average: .284 (1)
Homeruns: 73 (2)
Runs Scored: 350 (2)
Slugging %: .463 (1)
On-Base %: .369 (T-1)
Stolen Bases: 89 (5)
ERA: 4.53 (4)
Saves: 9 (T-10)
Walks: 233 (6)
Strikeouts: 488 (2)
Opponent Average: .241 (2)
Fielding %: .973 (10)
Errors: 54 (T-9)
First Half Recap
There is no denying that the Kansas City Monarchs are the surprise team of the season. They should not have been, as fans have become accustomed to the amazing job that Joe Calfapietra does every year, but the fact that this team is atop the West Division is startling. Calfapietra did a near complete overhaul of this roster a year after the team had the best record in the American Association, yet still has them entering the break as the league’s top team.
The success of this team starts with the impressive performance of catcher Chris Herrmann. The Major League veteran hit .341 with 15 home runs and a league-leading 59 RBI at the break. That he has not returned to an affiliate club is a crime.
The Monarchs have lost several key players this season as well, but Calfapietra has found incredible replacements, starting with Odubel Herrera, who hit .302 with 17 runs scored and 22 games with the team. The signing of Peter Maris has not led to significant dividends yet, but fans know that Maris will hit.
At the break, Kansas City is the only team in the American Association to have a winning record in each of the first three months, going 10-8 in May, 18-8 in June, and 8-6 in July. Their best month was spurred by the performance of the pitching staff, as they had a 3.65 ERA in June, but the ERA is over five in both May and July.
What Went Right?
The offense has been significantly better than most expected. Kansas City enters second in home runs and runs scored and they are first in slugging percentage and tied for first in on-base percentage. The team is also first in batting average and Kansas City has the best home record in the American Association, good news for a team that also has the best record. As long as they keep winning at home, they have no concerns about winning the title for the second time in three years.
The pitching staff has also been significantly better than most expected. The team is fourth in ERA, and one of the most interesting aspects of this group is that there is no real superstar, maybe even no real ace. Jalen Miller may be the one to stake his claim to that title, going 6-2 with a 3.56 ERA. However, after Miller, everyone is just having a solid performance, with no one really standing out.
What Went Wrong?
The bullpen still has its challenges. This is the third straight season where Kansas City has had question marks surrounding the bullpen, as Patrick Weigel has taken over the closer’s role, but he has not been automatic, posting a 4.86 ERA in 19 appearances. Alex Valdez may regain that role, allowing zero earned runs in his last eight appearances. There just is not that dominating closer for this team right now.
Top Pitcher: Jalen Miller
Jalen Miller made two late starts last season for Kansas City and looked impressive, posting a 1.12 ERA. However, he was hit hard in the postseason and many were not sure about what the right-hander would provide this year. This season he has continued to be outstanding, posting a 3.56 ERA in 11 appearances and has won six of his last seven decisions.
Miller had a stretch where he did not give up a run in 18 straight innings and has held opponents scoreless in four of his 11 appearances, including tossing a complete game shutout on June 28.
Top Hitter: Chris Herrmann
Chris Herrmann has earned this honor for several reasons beyond his batting average, but we will address that first. The catcher is hitting .341, fourth in the league entering the break. His 15 home runs are tied for fourth and his 59 RBI lead the league. Herrmann also has 16 doubles and has scored 38 runs.
It has been an incredibly impressive campaign for the catcher, but he deserves a lot of recognition for how he has handled this pitching staff. This is not a dominating group, yet he has them posting the fourth best ERA in the league. Herrmann has been a coach on the field and the team has responded to his leadership.
Where Will Kansas City Monarchs Be on September 4?
Kansas City may not have the same offensive firepower that Cleburne does, but this is a very good offense, second in the league in home runs and runs scored. They are getting solid enough pitching and are not hurting themselves either, second in opponent batting average and sixth in walks allowed. Those are the kind of stats that will keep the team rolling, so do not be surprised if the Monarchs enter the postseason with the top record in the league.
By Robert Pannier