Hub City Rivalries Live Up to Expectations in American Association
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 examines how the hub city rivalries are impacting the standings and how that will likely determine the two playoff teams.
A Narrative Created from the Start
We are at the 45-game mark of the 2020 American Association season and it has been one that fans are going to remember for quite some time. The level of play has been phenomenal and, with about 15 games left, everyone is literally still in the race. It has been everything the league could have asked for and more.
It has also been quite predictable. At least in one sense. The American Association had set up the 2020 season so that six teams would play in three hub cities. There are now five cities hosting games but, to reduce on travel and keep players and coaching staffs safer, the league opted to have the hub city teams play 24 of their 60 games against one another – 40 percent of their games.
It became clear from the start that the teams that were able to dominate in their hub would be the ones that would make the playoffs. That analysis is playing out now.
Winnipeg, Kings of the Hub
With just two and a half weeks left to play, the Winnipeg Goldeyes hold a half-game lead over the Milwaukee Milkmen for the top spot in the American Association standings. The Goldeyes are fourth in hitting, second in ERA, and second in fielding, a formula that has propelled them to the top of the standings.
They have also dominated their hub.
Of the 17 games they have played against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, the Goldeyes have won 13 of those contests. In the three “home and home” weeks, Winnipeg went 4-2, 6-1, and 3-1. They are six games over .500 and it is their dominance of the RedHawks that has put them there.
Outside of the hub, the Goldeyes have not been nearly as formidable. They are 12-15 against the other four teams, but that does not matter. Manager Rick Forney made sure that his team took care of business where it mattered most – against their hub-mates
Winnipeg is not the only team reaping the benefits of playing their hub city team 24 times. The Milwaukee Milkmen have not dominated the Chicago Dogs, but they are 10-8 against Chicago. That has helped the Milkmen to a 25-20 mark.
In contrast to Winnipeg, Milwaukee is 15-12 outside the hub. That record has been aided by a recent six-game stretch with the Goldeyes where the Milkmen went 4-2.
The two teams that have not benefitted from the arrangement at all are the Sioux Falls Canaries and St. Paul Saints. Sioux Falls enters Tuesday’s games at two games above .500 (23-21), while St. Paul is a game over (23-22). They are 9-9 against each other this season, and that parity has stopped both teams from making a run.
The Last Chance to Make One’s Mark
This is the last week where the hub-mates will play one another. For Chicago and Fargo-Moorhead, it is a chance to get into the race, not only by winning five or six games, but also by knocking down the two teams at the top of the standings.
The RedHawks have seven games against the Goldeyes this week. They must go 6-1 to stay in the race. At eight games out, they would instantly make up five games in the standings and would have nine games left to do the rest. This is the team that had the best record in the American Association last season, so it is quite possible.
The Dogs are not in as precarious a situation, but they must also dominate this week as well. Nothing short of a 4-2 week will do, as that would pull them to within 2.5 games of the Milkmen for second place. Chicago has the scariest lineup in the league; they just need their beleaguered bullpen to step up.
On the other end of the spectrum, this is a golden opportunity for the Milkmen and the Goldeyes to solidify their positions. A 4-2 week for the Goldeyes would all but assure them a post-season berth. Should Milwaukee go 5-1, they would have to feel their playoff ticket was punched.
That leaves the Canaries and Saints. Should they stay true to form, splitting this week, both have the opportunity to jump ahead in the final nine games. St. Paul faces Milwaukee and Winnipeg each for three games. A sweep of either of those series and they are suddenly in one of the top two spots. They then finish with Fargo-Moorhead, who will likely be out of the race.
After the six against St. Paul, the Canaries have three with the RedHawks and seven with Chicago, the teams in fifth and sixth place. Sioux Falls is 3-2 against Chicago and 4-2 against Fargo-Moorhead this season. If they can go 7-3 in those last 10 and get a little help from the Saints when they play the Milkmen and Goldeyes, they become one of the two playoff teams.
A week from now we will have some answers. Here are some scenarios to watch for:
- The RedHawks must win five games this week or they are out.
- The Dogs must win four games or they are out.
- Five Goldeyes victories and they are a lock to make the playoffs.
- Neither Sioux Falls nor St. Paul can allow the other to dominate.
This is what we will be watching for this week. This is going to be the week that makes or breaks all six teams. It’s playoff style baseball already. You have to love it!
By Robert Pannier