American Association All-Star Break Review: St. Paul Saints

American Association All-Star Break Review: St. Paul SaintsIn American Association Daily, this is the unofficial All-Star break in the American Association, so Robert Pannier takes a look at the St. Paul Saints and how they have performed to this point in the season and take a look at what to expect as the American Association heads to its stretch run.

A Look at the St. Paul Saints: Summary

Record: 33-28, Tied for Second (1.0 Games Out in North Division)
Team Batting: Avg: .278 (5th), HR: 42 (8th), R: 302 (7th), SB: 41 (9th)
Team Pitching: ERA: 3.90 (4th), Saves: 16 (4th), WHIP: 1.33 (3rd)

American Association All-Star Break Review: St. Paul SaintsTeam Leaders
Batting: Brady Shoemaker (.324)
Home Runs: Burt Reynolds, Justin O’Conner (9)
RBI: Brady Shoemaker (41)
Runs Scored: Max Murphy (41)
Stolen Bases: Richard Prigatano (8)

Pitchers:
Wins: Jake Matthys (5)
ERA: Ken Frosch (0.00)
Saves: Tom Wilhelmsen (7)
IP: Eddie Medina (67.2)

The St. Paul Saints Highlights

There have been several things to like about the St. Paul Saints this season, starting with their bullpen. This group has been a God send for Saints Manager George Tsamis as, early on, they were carrying this team. Ken Frosch has made 31 appearances and has yet to be scored upon. Really, 31! Mike Devine has filled a number of roles, including long man, set-up guy, and closer, and has been up to the task every night, posting a 1.91 ERA in 29 appearances, going 4-2 with 3 saves. Tom Wilhelmsen had 7 saves before departing for Mexico, and Beck Wheeler has been sensational as well, going 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA in 28 appearances. There really has not been a weak link in the group as Ryan Schlosser, Jake Matthys, Zach Jones, and Ryan Boelter have all helped to make this a six inning game for opponents.

The acquisitions that Manager George Tsamis has made have been brilliant. He lost Wilhelmsen, then found Zach Jones, who has 3 saves and a 2.25 ERA in 8 appearances. Burt Reynolds was signed after passing through waivers, and he has a .315 average and 9 homers since joining the team 24 games ago. Kyle Barrett is hitting .291 at the top of the order, and Jake Smith has been a solid addition as well, hitting .273 in 19 games. When the team was struggling, Tsamis brought in key pieces that have rejuvenated the squad.

Despite being swept against the Gary Southshore RailCats in Indiana, St. Paul won three of four in Kansas City and took two of three in Sioux City. Those are the two best teams in the American Association, and combining to go 5-2 in their parks is something to really hang your hat on.

The St. Paul Saints Low-Lights

CHS Field is arguably the most beautiful field in the American Association, however, it has been a house of horrors for the Saints this season. They are 12-14 at home, including going 4-9 from June 11 to July 8. This has been a strength for this team in the past, and the Saints are going to have to get a little manna from heaven at home if they are going to stay competitive.

While the bullpen has been outstanding, it has been overworked as well. There have been stretches where this group has given up late leads, and that has simply come from overuse. Tsamis is going to have to find a way to get six innings out of his starters on a regular basis or it could be a long August in St. Paul.

Top Player – Max Murphy

It would be easy to look at the year that Brady Shoemaker is having or what an impact that Burt Reynolds has brought to the team and choose either one of these players, and no one can argue with that. However, Max Murphy has been one of the key reasons why the Saints offense has been one of the best in the league. Not only did he take over the lead off spot after Josh Allen signed with the New York Mets, but he has hit well, batting .308, scored 41 runs in 60 games, and played outstanding defense in right field. That does not even include that he has 31 RBI and 22 extra-base hits.

Top Pitcher – Mike Devine

There have been a lot of spectacular performances out of the St. Paul Saints bullpen this season, but Mike Devine has set himself apart. Not only has he been called upon to pitch three inning stints at times, but has been the team’s primary set up guy as well as closed out ballgames. Devine has struck out 41 in 42.1 innings pitched, allowing 32 hits and nine earned runs while posting a 4-2 record. There is no telling where this team would be at if he had not been acquired by Tsamis during the off-season.

Prognosis

There are really three things a team needs when the season is on the line: a good bullpen, clutch hitting, and veteran leadership. The St. Paul Saints had two of those three already, but the addition of Zach Walters improves that third dimension, making St. Paul a real threat to go all the way. They have depth, a more solid pitching staff that many had questioned coming into the season, and a bullpen that can be lights out on any night. Expect the Saints to make the playoffs.

By Robert Pannier

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