American Association Daily provides insights and features on the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions going on with teams around the league. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier talks about the implications of the Lincoln Saltdogs adding left-hander Joe Bircher.
Joe Bircher Now a Saltdog
Lincoln Saltdogs Manager Bobby Brown has been looking to improve a pitching staff that has underperformed for the most part this season, entering the weekend in 11th in the American Association in ERA. Brown had already added reliever Cortland Cox and infielder/starter Dan Johnson, but may have pulled off the biggest coup of all on Saturday with the acquisition of LHP Joe Bircher.
A Top Reputation
For five seasons, Joe Bircher has established himself as one of the best starters in the American Association. He began his independent baseball career in 2014 when he joined the Sioux Falls Canaries, going 4-8 with a 4.37 ERA in 18 starts.
In 2015 and 2016, the lefty put up outstanding numbers but suffered from a complete lack of run support. Bircher posted a 3.05 in 16 starts in 2015, but was just 4-4. In 2016, he had an even better ERA at 2.55, but was only 6-6 in 19 starts.
The left-hander is always rumored to be on the move come trade time, but the Canaries had been unwilling to deal their ace. In addition, he has shown great loyalty, returning each season despite the limited success the club has had each year.
In 2017, Bircher was 5-6 in 20 starts, posting a 4.60 ERA. His 20 starts was a single season high, as was his 125.1 innings pitched. He was 3-4 this season with a 5.37 ERA in 10 starts, as his walk numbers have been up (26 in 58.2 innings pitched) and strikeouts down (just 36).
Joe Bircher’s Impact on the Saltdogs
The immediate impact will be none. Joe Bircher is on the disabled list and will remain there for at least a few more days. While the Saltdogs need him to help bolster their starting staff, they can afford to wait a few days to make sure he is 100 percent.
However, when he returns, he turns the Lincoln Saltdogs into a top three or four rotation in the American Association. Michael Tamburino has been solid and has become the team’s ace, going 4-4 in 11 starts with a 4.10 ERA. Kyle Kinman has returned from an early release and has been the story of the year in Lincoln, going 4-1 with a 2.94 ERA. Austin Robichaux has looked good at times, and the ace of last year’s staff, Derek Gordon, is returning to form and should be back in the rotation in a week or so.
With the addition of Bircher, this will be a rotation that is second only to the Sioux City Explorers in terms of depth and, if the group performs as they have in the past, this could be a major difference maker in the race for the South Division.
Bircher was acquired to complete an earlier deal with the Sioux Falls Canaries that sent Michael Hart from the Lincoln Saltdogs.
By Robert Pannier