American Association 2021 Mid-Season Report: 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 looks at the first half of the season for the Chicago Dogs, looking at top players, areas to improve, and where this team is likely to finish.
Chicago Dogs Reach Midway Point
Record: 31-18 (1, 1) (Place in Division in parenthesis, followed by record overall)
(Overall ranking in American Association listed in parenthesis)
Average: .263 (7)
Homeruns: 52 (T-5)
Runs: 267 (5)
Stolen Bases: 53 (5)
On-Base Percentage: .367 (3)
Slugging Percentage: .424 (7)
ERA: 4.61 (5)
Strikeouts: 423 (6)
Opponent Batting Average: .253 (6)
Saves: 14 (T-2)
Fielding Percentage: .977 (8)
Errors: 41 (9)
First Half Recap
Wait for next year seems to have been the city motto of Chicago for 115 years, even with the Cubs winning the World Series a few years back. It has been the motto of the Chicago Dogs early on, but this looks like the team that could win at all.
Chicago is a great blend of power, pitching, and savvy. This is an experienced team, that is getting better as the season has gone along. The Dogs left May at 8-5, then went 15-12 in June, and are 8-1 through the first 11 days of July. The success of Chicago has come from one of the deepest lineups in the American Association. While the average is not particularly good, they are great at getting on base and they drive home runs.
While a lot of players can claim their part in the success of Chicago, it has been the play of catcher Ryan Lidge and the bullpen that had been the difference. Last year, the expectations for the Dogs were high but they did not live up to them as a pair of rookie catchers was not able to take the pitching staff to the next level. That has not been a problem for Lidge this year, as he has established himself as an outstanding force both behind and at the plate.
In addition, the bullpen has been spectacular. Jeff Kinley has stepped in to become arguably the best closer in the league. He is definitely the best of those who are yet to get transferred to an affiliate organization. Kinley could be this year’s Peyton Gray, and could be the very reason why Chicago wins it all.
We would be remiss if we ignore the performance of PURE Performance Player of the Week Danny Mars. Mars entered last week hitting .256, but put together a five-game hitting streak that saw the outfielder go 12-20 with seven runs scored and seven runs driven in. The Dogs get on base, and if Mars becomes another guy to add to that corral, Chicago is going to be unstoppable.
Grant Kay put up a solid season in Sioux Falls last year, and he was expected to be a big part of the Chicago lineup. However, he is in a major tailspin. Kay is just 4-24 in July and has gone hitless in 11 of his last 17 games.
What They Need
Right now, what Chicago needs is to be left alone. They need to hope that Major League organizations simply ignore them for the moment. While there is no doubt that the Dogs would love to see their players signed, if they are left untouched with this roster, this is a championship club, especially if Kinley remains.
What to Expect
When the season began, I saw Chicago as the second-place finisher in the North. However, this is the deepest team in the American Association. No disrespect to Kansas City, but Chicago has everything a team could ask for. Great starting pitching, outstanding bullpen, solid lineup with the ability to get on base and hit for power, and a manager who is second to none. They may not have the same flashy names as the Monarchs, but this is the best team in the league.
By Robert Pannier