Lincoln Saltdogs Mid-Season Report
Place: 1st in the Central Division (4.5 Game Lead),
Team Pitching (League Ranking Listed in Parenthesis): ERA: 3.26 (1), Strikeouts: 444 (7), WHIP: 1.29 (2)
Team Batting (League Ranking Listed in Parenthesis): Average: .261 (6), Home Runs: 56 (5), Slugging: .399 (6), Stolen Bases: 47 (8)
Lincoln Saltdogs First Half Recap
They say that pitching and defense win championships and, if that’s the case, it is easy to see why the Lincoln Saltdogs are leading the Central Division and are also the American Association’s hottest team. There is no one on this team who’s putting up incredibly gaudy numbers; this is just a brilliantly put together team by Manager Bobby Brown that has been at the top of the division all season long.
The Saltdogs got off to a bit of a slow start, dropping six of their first eight games. Things were not looking well until Lincoln put together a six-game winning streak to close out the month of May (with the sixth game being won on June 2) leaving the team 7-6 in May.
Winning streaks became a common practice for the Saltdogs, as the team would won six in a row from June 6 to June 11, four straight from June 13 to June 16, and three in a row from June 18 to June 20. Whenever one of the other teams in the division rallied to push Lincoln into second, the team responded by putting up a win streak to take back the division lead.
After a 17-10 June, the Saltdogs started out July in a bit of a funk. They had lost the last three games of June, and began July 1-4 and back out of first place. That is when the team rattled off a nine-game winning streak, the longest in the American Association the season, before finally falling to Kansas City. A sweep of Wichita just before the All-Star break moved the team to 4.5 games ahead of the RailCats in the division and they look to be the most complete team in the league right now.
As mentioned before, pitching and defense wins championships and that is exactly what the Lincoln Saltdogs are delivering each night. This team is first in the league in ERA and has committed the least number of errors. Their .981 feeling percentage is also tops in the American Association.
The pitching staff has been absolutely spectacular, posting a 3.26 ERA, nearly half a run better than the second-place RedHawks (3.71). These are not names that a lot of people are going to recognize, but the staff has put together spectacular outings each and every night. One need look no further to realize how good this team is than the fact that seven pitchers on this roster have ERAs under three and one more is just above that. It’s nearly impossible to put up big offensive numbers against this Lincoln pitching staff, and that is why they are cruising through the month of July.
When Tommy Mendonca got hurt that looked to be a crippling moment for the team’s offense. The Lincoln Saltdogs were in the throes of a difficult offensive stretch, and his injury led to the team releasing him outright. However, he was just signed, joining the team for a second-half run. No doubt that his .348 batting average will help to make this team even more prolific.
It is ugly how incredibly good the Lincoln Saltdogs are. With a 3-3 record against Winnipeg and a 3-0 record against Wichita this team is simply scary good.
1st Half Most Valuable Player: Cesar Valera
Because of the play of the pitching staff, Valera has become one of the most underrated players in the league. With a .319 batting average, 39 runs scored, and 31 runs driven in, he is truly a talent who demonstrated that last season’s .307 average was no fluke. Entering the break, he had hits in seven of his last eight games, including a 3-4, 4-RBI night against Kansas City on July 18.
1st Half Top Pitcher: Bennett Parry
Many are going to look at the selection of a guy who is 1-0 and think there is no way that he could be the team’s top pitcher. However, Parry has suffered from a complete lack of run support, as he entered the All-Star break with a minuscule 1.13 ERA. The left-hander has allowed more than two runs only one time this season and has allowed more than six hits in a game only one time this season. Truly remarkable to say the least.
If you are a firm believer in the idea that pitching and defense when championships, then the Lincoln Saltdogs are about to be the 2017 American Association championship winners. This team is absolutely build for success, and the return of Mendonca will only make them better at the plate and in the field. Don’t go chilling the champagne yet, but there is no reason to believe that this team isn’t going to at least be Central Division winners.
By Robert Pannier