American Association Grades at the 2020 Midpoint
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 of American Association Daily Recap, Robert Pannier looks at how each team is doing at the midpoint of the 2020 season.
It’s Hard to Believe We Are Half Over
This marks the halfway point in the American Association as the league has completed five weeks of games and has five weeks to go. While the attendance has not been as good as was expected and the league has not been covered nationally as one would have thought, there is no doubt that this year has been a great one.
We have seen some incredible games and spectacular individual performances. Today, we look at each of the six teams and how well they are doing at this point, as well as what to expect over the final half of the season.
(Teams listed by order in current standings)
Winnipeg Goldeyes (18-13)
Earlier this week, St. Paul Saints VP Sean Aronson was on This Week in the Association and he declared that should Winnipeg win the championship, Rick Forney may have put together the best managing job in baseball history. That is not hyperbole.
The team is shutout from their own country, playing their entire season on the road, all while their manager is coping with the tragic loss of his son. All they have done is dominate the American Association early on, despite the current four game losing streak.
The Goldeyes have been the model of consistency. They are second in batting average (.285), second in ERA (4.19) and third in fielding (.975). They are tied for the least number of errors committed, third in homeruns, and tied for second in runs scored. The Goldeyes have handled their business where it matters most – in their hub – where they are 10-3 against the RedHawks. As long as they can keep winning in the hub city, they are a lock for the playoffs.
Sioux Falls Canaries (16-13)
Manager Mike Meyer is doing a lot of things right this season. Most importantly, he has not been content to wait for guys to return or to get back on track. In a 60-game season, he is pushing buttons quickly and that has helped the team to bolster its starting rotation.
The Canaries are last in ERA (5.49), but that is no surprise when 21 of their 29 games have been played in the Birdcage. Yet, it is a pretty respectable showing considering how hitter friendly the park is. Sioux Falls in third in hitting (.284), second in homers (33) and first in triples (10). The bullpen was dominant early on, but closer Keaton Steele has struggled over the last 10 days and may have lost his job to Ryan Fritze.
The one concern would have been the pitching staff wearing down over the final month, but Meyer pulled the strings on a great deal to acquire catcher Roy Morales. This should help to stabilize the staff, plus Morales has a live bat. With the Saints heading back to St. Paul, Sioux Falls loses playing their hub mate at home, but they have played well in CHS Field. The Canaries should battle for one of the two final playoff spots.
Chicago Dogs (15-13)
About 14 days ago the Dogs would have been getting an F. They were abysmal, locked in last place and seemingly going nowhere. Now, they are very likely the best team in the American Association. Manager Butch Hobson has not only done an amazing job turning this team around, but he has made a number of shrewd roster and lineup moves that are coming up gold right now.
It has also helped that the Chicago lineup has suddenly turned into the 1927 Yankees of the league. The Dogs have homered in seven straight games, including back-to-back five homer contests. Victor Roache is on an MVP pace, leading the league in homers with 11 and he has raised his average 100 points in the last two weeks.
The most significant move has been the return of Luke Westphal, who has been every bit as good as last season. With a very deep bullpen and good enough starting pitching, the Dogs are, once again, the team to beat.
Milwaukee Milkmen (15-14)
It was already a challenge for Milwaukee considering that their hub mates were the Dogs. That was going to make for a tough year when 24 of their 60 games were against Chicago, but that has not been the only issue. The team simply is not hitting as several established stars are not putting up as expected.
Chase Simpson has not been on the field since Week 1. Mason Davis, Dylan Tice, and Zach Nehrir have been below .250 for much of the season. The Milkmen are last in the league in hitting (.253), last in homers (25), and fifth in runs scored (135). Contrary to popular belief, this is not an easy park to hit in and the team has a number of first year players who are learning that lesson.
The pitching staff has been great, ranked first in ERA (3.97). They are as deep as Chicago with a better starting staff. Now that their closer situation looks like it is resolved, Milwaukee is set to make a serious run. It is all going to depend upon how much offense they can muster.
St. Paul Saints (14-16)
The Saints released Justin Byrd on Thursday, a guy who was hitting .311. That tells you how deep this team is. They are first in hitting (.287) and a respectable fourth in ERA (4.84), just a few points behind Chicago. This team has outstanding numbers – they just aren’t winning.
It is a combination of several factors hurting this team. First off, the number of men left on base is atrocious, leaving 229 left season, ranked fifth worst in the league. That works out to about 7.5 men left on base per game. As a team, they have hit .271 with runners in scoring position, not nearly good enough. That is a category that Manager George Tsamis cherishes above all others, and it is going to have to improve.
The pitching has been good enough, but key guys have been rocked, starting with Eddie Medina. The perennial 10 game winner is 1-5 with a 7.34 ERA. Spencer Jones and Matt Quintana have ERAs over six and only one pitcher is below three.
Tsamis has already made a number of big moves to help the team, including bringing in Sioux City Explorers superstar Nate Samson, former Saints star Alonzo Harris, infielder Drew Stankiewicz, and right-handers Matt Pobereyko, Nick Belzer, and Spencer Jones. He has done all he can. Now it is time for the players to do what their baseball-reference stats say they should be able to do. Right now, that does not look to be the case.
Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks (11-20)
One could simply copy the overall evaluation of the Saints and paste it into the RedHawks section. This is a team that is greatly underachieving this season, ranked fourth in batting average (.272) and fifth in ERA (5.23). They have also left the most men on base this season.
The struggles for Fargo-Moorhead start with the pitching staff, which has been mediocre at best. Brent Jones has been spectacular, and Matt Tomshaw is dominating the league right now. However, after that, this is a group getting in their own way.
The lineup has been anything but formidable. After Correlle Prime and Drew Ward no one has really stepped up. The group is putting up solid numbers, as all position players are hitting above .250. The problem is that they are not hitting when it counts. With the bases loaded, the RedHawks are hitting .216 and are hitting .255 with runners in scoring position. With runners in scoring position and two outs it is even worse, coming in at .241.
Those numbers have to improve quickly if this team is going to get into the race. In all honesty, the RedHawks will have to go at least 4-2 this week or they are out. They must also find a way to beat Winnipeg.
Who Makes the Playoffs
We stick with the Dogs all the way. They looked like they were done two weeks ago, but now we know that they were just playing dead. With how well the Goldeyes are playing against the RedHawks, they are the other playoff team.
Mid-Season MVP: Kyle Martin, Winnipeg Goldeyes
In each of the last six or seven seasons, there has been a clear favorite for the American Association MVP. This year, there are eight guys who have a legitimate claim as the league’s top player, but Martin has set himself apart from Day 1.
He started the season with a pair of homers and has not looked back. Martin is fourth in the league in hitting at .331, first in RBI (29), and ranks in the top 10 in runs (23). He is tied for third in stolen bases (7). He has six homers and six doubles.
A strong case can be made for Victor Roache (Chicago), Michael Crouse (Chicago), Darnell Sweeney (Winnipeg), Chris Chinea (St. Paul), Alay Lago (Sioux Falls), Damek Tomsha (Sioux Falls), and Adam Walker (Milwaukee). Martin has been the most consistent.
Mid-Season Top Pitcher: David Holmberg, Milwaukee Milkmen
There are four pitchers who have claim to this title, but we go with Holmberg, who has been great in all facets. He is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA, second in the American Association. The lefty is tied for fifth in strikeouts (33).
In 35.0 innings pitched, Holmberg has allowed 29 hits, 12 walks, and just 10 earned runs. Since losing to the Saints on July 10, he has won his last three decisions, allowing six runs in 23.2 innings pitched.
By Robert Pannier