Milwaukee Milkmen: 2019 Season Recap
In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier looks back on the 2019 American Association season of the Milwaukee Milkmen, their first season in the league. This includes looking at the top player and pitcher as well as what to expect in 2020.
The 2019 Milwaukee Milkmen Review
The 2019 American Association season was the first for the Milwaukee Milkmen and it was an eventful one, even into the off-season. The team opened a brand new ballpark, and already had their first player signed by an affiliate club before they even entered spring training. All was looking great for the first year team.
However, things soured a bit for the Milkmen when it was announced that their stadium would not be ready for opening day. That sent the team to Kokomo, Indiana to play their first 14 “home” games, which took a little off the luster of the club.
No worries though. Manager Gary McClure had the team ready to go, and they shocked the league by taking the first two games of the season against the defending North Division champion Saints in St. Paul. Things quickly turned, however, as Milwaukee lost nine of their next 10 games, including seven in a row.
Despite the tough start, this team showed a lot of resiliency. The Milkmen finished May 6-9 then went 11-16 in June. The starting rotation became the headline early on, as Angel Ventura, Jordan Kraus, and T.J. House were arguably the best top three in any rotation in the league. Add in Kurt Heyer and his 21 starts, and there was a lot to like about this Milwaukee team.
While the offense struggled to hit consistently, never hitting above .257 in any month, the Milwaukee Milkmen showed a lot of pop in their bats. Through the first 68 games of the season, Milwaukee hit 57 homers, including 26 in 26 games in July.
The good thing was that they were getting homers throughout the lineup. While Adam Walker easily led the club with 22 homeruns, five players had at least seven. Catcher Manuel Boscan quickly developed into one of the best all-around players in the league, even garnering a selection to the all-star game.
The Milkmen were doing themselves proud, despite all of the stuff going on around the club. However, as it became clear that the club would not have a chance in the ultra-competitive North Division, the team opted to make some moves for the future. Reliever Tanner Kiest was sent to St. Paul where he became the closer on a championship club. T.J. House went to Kansas City to help the T-Bones make the playoffs. As a result, the team finished 11-21 over the final 32 games.
The Milwaukee Milkmen finished 38-62 in their first season. That proved to not be enough for ownership, who opted to go with a managerial change, naming Anthony Barone their new skipper.
By the Numbers
(league rankings are listed in parenthesis)
Record: 38-62 (Sixth in North, Tied for 1oth in League)
Home: 16-33 (11)
Away: 22-29 (8)
Score First: 23-17
Extra Innings: 4-5
Hitting: .243 (9)
Pitching: 4.43 (8)
Fielding: .979 (6)
Batting Average: Manuel Boscan (.277)
Homers: Adam Walker (22)
RBI: Adam Walker (64)
Runs Scored: Adam Walker (54)
Stolen Bases: Garrett Copeland (12)
ERA: Tanner Kiest (1.72)
Wins: Jordan Kraus, T.J. House (7)
Losses: Kurt Heyer (11)
Saves: Myles Smith (17)
IP: Angel Ventura (130.2)
Strikeouts: Angel Ventura (108)
Team MVP: Adam Walker
The top numbers for any first year team become the standard. Someone has the most wins in a single season in club history. A player becomes the all-time leader in homeruns. Usually those stats mean nothing because there is such a small sample size in which to judge, but Adam Walker proved to be the exception.
For example, his 22 homers would be the club record or second all time for eight teams in the American Association. Walker finished with 64 RBI, scored 54 runs, and hit 17 doubles. All solid standards to set in the first season.
Walker had the biggest game of the season on July 17 when he homered three times and drove in five against the Texas AirHogs. He had 15 multiple RBI games and drove in four runs or more on three occasions.
He clearly established himself as the most feared hitter on the team and earned the club’s first MVP award.
Top Pitcher: Angel Ventura
Like Walker, Angel Ventura did the club proud in the team’s first season, setting some pretty high standards in terms of innings pitched (130.2) and strikeouts (108). One stat about the righthander that is often missed is his impressive 1.13 WHIP, as he allowed 111 hits and walked 50.
Ventura finished 6-10 with a 2.76 ERA, second best in the American Association. His innings pitched was fourth and his strikeout total was sixth overall.
Of his 20 starts, 15 were quality starts and he allowed two earned runs or less in 10 of his outings. That included five starts where he went at least seven innings without allowing an earned run.
What to Expect in 2020
This is going to be tough to call. There is a lot to be excited about in Milwaukee. The team will play all of their home games in Routine Field, which should increase attendance and help the team win at least seven more games. They also added Mason Davis from Kansas City and Devon Rodriguez, Karch Kowalczyk, and Chris Baker from the Saints to complete earlier deals. There are definitely pieces here that makes this team a real contender.
The question mark with be Anthony Barone. The team opted to remove a skipper who was in his first job as a professional manager with another with the same credentials. That seems puzzling on its face, especially considering that there is not an extensive history of first year managers winning big in their first year in the league. Maybe Barone is the exception. In their first year, the Milwaukee Milkmen proved to do a lot of things in unique ways. Why not do so in their second year as well.
By Robert Pannier