Sioux City Explorers All-Star Break Review
Record: 43-18, First Place in the Central Division, Second Best Record Overall
The Sioux City Explorers are the biggest surprise of the American Associations so far. The one team in this division that did not really challenge for the division title last season, the Explorers came out of the gate on fire, and have been up there with the St. Paul Saints as the top two teams in the league.
This is a team showing that they can compete with anyone in the league, and usually they will come out on top. Sioux City has the third best ERA in the league (3.32), is third in fielding percentage (.977) and, most impressively, is the American Association’s top hitting team (.298).
It has been the speed game that has been the most impressive part of manager Steve Montgomery’s club. At 118 club steals they are 42 ahead of the next best team and already have five players with at least 15 steals this season. Montgomery has the team putting pressure on opposing pitchers and defenses, and it is paying big dividends. The Explorers longest losing streak in the first half was just two games, and they enter the break as winners of six of their last seven contests.
Top Player – Michael Lang
There are five or six guys who could be considered for this award, but the play of Michael Lang not only makes him the best player on the Sioux City Explorers, he may just be the best player in the American Association right now. Lang is hitting .346, sixth best in the American Association, and his 58 runs scored is tied for first. He leads the league with 33 steals, and quite impressively is sixth in the AA in RBI. This young man can do it all, and is the catalyst making the Sioux City offense roll. He enters the All-Star break on a six-game hitting streak where he has gone 11-28, and he has scored a run in eight consecutive games.
Top Pitcher – Ryan Zimmerman & Patrick Johnson
I don’t usually like to have two “Top Pitcher” named, but the fact that these two have the top two ERAs in the league speaks to the need to include both. Patrick Johnson is 9-0 this season, and has not lost a game since September 1st of last season. He is second in the American Association in ERA at 1.96, but the way he has been pitching lately could make him first very shortly. In his last five starts he has allowed a measly three earned runs in 37.1 innings pitched. His numbers are just ridiculously good, allowing a 55 hits and 25 walks in 87 innings pitched. He has the top WHIP in the league.
Ryan Zimmerman makes this combination as formidable as it gets, and the two are going to be a nightmare in the playoffs. Zimmerman has not won as many games, 8-2, but he has the slightly better ERA at 1.85. Amazingly he won none of this first three starts this season, then rattled off seven in a row before finally falling to Joplin two weeks ago. He has also put up amazing numbers. He has given up 55 hits and 26 walks in 77.2 innings pitched, and has two shutouts.
Despite a nine-game lead in the Central Division, the fact that Kansas City has played extremely well since the early part of June means that this division is by no means a lock. However, with Zimmerman and Johnson at the top of the rotation there is not going to be any prolonged losing streaks for this club.
The Sioux City Explorers have a great opportunity to put some distance between themselves and their division rivals right off. After playing three against the surging Lincoln Saltdogs, the Explorers have nine-games against Grand Prairie, Fargo-Moorhead, and Sioux Falls. They could easily leave those series 8-1. Their six games against St. Paul from August 11 to August 19 might be to determine the best record in the league.
Sioux City is going to win this division, and will be the No. 2 seed entering the playoffs.
By Robert Pannier