Sioux City Explorers Mid-Season Report
Place: 4th in the Central Division (8 GB), 5th in Wild Card (3.5 GB)
Team Pitching (League Ranking Listed in Parenthesis): ERA: 4.69 (11), Strikeouts: 479 (3), WHIP: 1.53 (11)
Team Batting (League Ranking Listed in Parenthesis): Average: .273 (4), Home Runs: 30 (9), Slugging: .381 (7), Stolen Bases: 76 (4)
Sioux City Explorers First Half Recap
The Central Division of the American Association has been the most exciting race all season long. All four teams are above .500 at the All-Star break and all of them have been in first place at some point this season. The Sioux City Explorers find themselves eight games out in this division which goes to prove what an amazing job that Steve Montgomery has done with this team. The injuries have been crippling, but he has figured out a way to keep the Explorers competitive.
Sioux City started the season 9-2 and were getting both outstanding pitching and timely hitting. They left May 10-3 and in first in the Central, and the run continued early in June as well. On June 25, the Explorers were 22-13 and were challenging for the best record on the league.
However, injuries began to take their toll. The Explorers had been battling the injury bug since the starting of the season, but when John Nogowski signed with the Cardinals, that seemed to have opened the flood gates and it was a challenge for Steve Montgomery to just keep a healthy team on the field. No blow was bigger than when league MVP Nate Samson, who was having another MVP-type season, got hurt and was done for the year. In the last 24-games, Sioux City has gone 8-16.
The top of the order has been outstanding for the Sioux City Explorers. Jayce Ray, who was named to the All-Star team, and Tony Campana have been great table-setters. Both are hitting above .300 and have combined to score 85-runs and have 39-stolen bases combined. This duo is the most dynamic 1-2 punch in the league.
The bullpen has also been outstanding for the Explorers. PJ Francescon has 12-saves and a 0.92 ERA. He is not the only one. Keith Picht (2.22) and Kevin McCanna (2.85) have also been brilliant and Sioux City’s bullpen has been a huge story since the beginning of the season.
The starting rotation has really struggled this season. Hobbs Johnson has been the best starter, going 3-3 with a respectable 3.69 ERA, but beyond the left-hander no one has really stepped up. Kramer Sneed looks like he is regaining his arm strength, but that cannot happen soon enough.
Injuries are the ugly part for this team. The infield that Steve Montgomery expected to begin the season did not play a single game together. It is amazing that this team is in the position that they are.
1st Half Most Valuable Player: Jayce Ray
Samson was on his way to being the Explorers MVP, but the fact that he will miss the last half of the season negates him. Ray earned a spot on the All-Star team by hitting for average (.310), stealing bases (19), and showing some power (6-HR). He has also been outstanding in the field.
1st Half Top Pitcher: PJ Francescon
Francescon did not make the All-Star team, primarily because there are a lot of great relievers in the league this season, however, he should be considered among the elites. The closer has 12-saves and a miniscule 0.92 ERA. To understand his success one need look no further than 3-walks in 29.1-innings pitched. He does not hurt himself and just gets people out.
Two years ago Steve Montgomery was named the American Association Manager of the Year. If he can keep this team in the playoff hunt until late August he should be the winner again. This is a team that is crippled by injuries, but the bullpen could be the one factor that keeps them in the race. If they can get enough starting position that can give the team 5-innings of three or four run ball then they have a shot.
By Robert Pannier