Chicago Dogs: 2019 Season Recap
In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier looks back on the 2019 American Association season of the Chicago Dogs. This includes looking at the top player and pitcher as well as what to expect in 2020.
The 2019 Chicago Dogs Review
The 2019 Chicago Dogs were really something special. After going 45-54 in 2018, the Dogs improved by 14 games and were battling for a playoff spot until the final weekend of the season.
The big challenge in 2018 was the offense as they struggled to score runs and that hurt this team. That was not the case in 2019. Chicago proved to be one of the best offenses, finishing second in hitting and first in homeruns.
It was a pair of new additions that proved to be the difference makers. Keon Barnum became that American Association MVP after setting the league record for homeruns with 31. He also hit .311 and drove in 90 runs in his historic season. His partner was Victor Roache, who had an MVP season of his own, hitting .309 with 24 homers and 79 RBI.
A few holdovers helped to make this the most dangerous lineup in the league. Edwin Arroyo returned to hit .291 in 96 games. He was joined by Trey Vavra (.289, 56 RBI in 93 games) and Tony Rosselli (.269, 12 homer). Add in Kelly Dugan (.313 in 56 games), Jordan Dean (.296, 15 homers) and Gustavo Pierre (.308) and it was easy to see why this was such a dangerous lineup.
The pitching staff did not tail off, as Luke Westphal became an absolute star. The Dogs finished fifth in ERA as Westphal led the way, going 11-2 with a 2.82 ERA in 17 starts. He did not allow a hit through his first three starts, and did not give up a run until the calendar turned to June.
The Chicago Dogs got off to a great start, leaving May with a 9-4 record led by the league’s best offense (.299). In June the team tailed off a bit, but they caught fire in July and August, posting a 38-20 record. What was impressive was that when the pitching struggled in July (5.01), the hitting was outstanding (.317). In August, the hitting tapered off (.277), but the pitching was outstanding (3.17).
The problem for the Dogs was the they were in the wrong division. That June record proved to be the difference maker as the Saints (18-9) and RedHawks (19-8) both put up dominating records that the Dogs were simply not able to overcome.
By the Numbers
(league rankings are listed in parenthesis)
Record: 59-41 (Third in North, 3rd in League)
Home: 29-20 (7)
Away: 30-21 (2)
Score First: 29-14
Extra Innings: 5-2
Hitting: .286 (2)
Pitching: 4.27 (5)
Fielding: .970 (10)
Batting Average: Kelly Dugan (.313)
Homers: Keon Barnum (31)
RBI: Keon Barnum (90)
Runs Scored: David Olmedo-Barrera (69)
Stolen Bases: Gustavo Pierre (13)
ERA: Kyle Halbohn (1.98)
Wins: Luke Westphal (11)
Losses: Trevor Simms (6)
Saves: D.J. Snelten (118.1)
Strikeouts: Luke Westphal (123)
Team MVP: Keon Barnum
It only makes sense that the guy chosen as the American Association MVP would also be his team’s MVP. Keon Barnum had an amazing year, hitting .311 with 90 RBI and a league record 31 homers.
Barnum was an absolute hitting machine. After hitting .289 in May and .292 in June, he was a beast in July, hitting .381 with seven homers and 32 RBI in 26 games. He earned the top player award in that month, following that up with a .281, 11 homerun August.
The first baseman finished among the league leaders in several offensive categories. His 90 RBI was second overall, and his 237 total bases and 58 extra base hits were first. He also led the league in slugging percentage at .635.
Keon Barnum finished with 28 multi-hit games, including two four hit contests (July 16 and July 18). He recorded five two-homer games, including homering twice in both of his four hit games.
Top Pitcher: Luke Westphal
Luke Westphal put up one of the most impressive seasons in American Association history. He finished 11-2 with a 2.82 ERA, third best in the league. What was most impressive was his 133 strikeouts in just 89.1 innings pitched, giving him a strikeouts/9 inning mark of 12.4.
The left-hander got off to an incredible start, winning his first five decisions. He did not allow a hit through his first three starts, going 17.2 innings during that span. The first run he allowed did not come until his fifth start of the year.
In his 17 starts, Westphal allowed two or fewer earned runs in 13 of those outings. He also struck out double digit batters in three starts, including a season high 12 on May 24 when he allowed two walks and no hits in six innings of work.
Luke Westphal finished third in the league in ERA, third in wins, and third in strikeouts.
What to Expect in 2020
It was quite an amazing season in Chicago. Everyone expected Manager Butch Hobson to have success as he learned a lot in his first season in the American Association which he applied to the second. The hitting was outstanding and the bullpen was solid.
How good Chicago will be is going to depend upon who the Chicago Manager can bring back. If he is able to keep Barnum and Roache, this will be another impressive season in the Windy City.
To be a playoff team, however, one thing is going to have to happen – they are going to have to be better at home. Going 29-20 in your own ballpark is not good enough. This team was absolutely brutal on the road, but they need to take that same moxie into Impact Field. They missed the playoffs by just four games last year. Give them a 34-16 record at home next year and this team will be playing into mid-September.
By Robert Pannier