Winnipeg Goldeyes: 2019 Season Recap
In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier looks back on the 2019 American Association season of the Winnipeg Goldeyes. This includes looking at the top player and pitcher as well as what to expect in 2020.
The 2019 Winnipeg Goldeyes Review
For the second straight year, the Winnipeg Goldeyes were on the outside of the playoff picture. That was not because the team lacked talent. They just happened to be in a very tough North Division which had the teams with the three best records in the American Association ahead of them. Honestly, there is no shame in winning 57 games but that simply not being enough.
The Goldeyes got off to a great start. They were the top team in the league when June began, starting the season 10-4. They had a winning record in every month but the final one, when there were just two games.
Winnipeg rolled behind the best 1-2 punch in the league as Mitch Lambson and Kevin McGovern won a combined total of 25 games. Unfortunately, the rest of the staff did not perform as well and that became a sore spot for the team.
The offense was able to disguise this for much of the season, but it became too much with each passing month. The ERA in May was 3.62, then jumped to 4.41 in June, 4.51 in July, and 5.16 in August. Even the addition of Texas AirHogs ace Kevin Hilton was not enough to turn the staff around.
The offense uncharacteristically did not perform well early on. The team finished May with a .260 batting average, but June was a real struggle for two players who had dominated this league for the last four years. Reggie Abercrombie hit .200 and Josh Romanski .247 in the month. Romanski would eventually wind up on the disabled list and would be released when Tyler Hill was signed and became an absolute star for the Goldeyes.
Abercrombie did reach several milestones however, including becoming the Goldeyes all-time homerun leader. Hill turned into an absolute beast at the plate, hitting .375 in 40 games with 32 runs and 28 RBI. His contract was purchased by the Kansas City Royals.
The Goldeyes were in the division chase until about mid-August, when they dropped two of three in St. Paul, then two of three to Chicago at home before losing two of three to the Saints in Canada. They would win eight of their final nine games, including two of three from Fargo-Moorhead, but finished seven out.
By the Numbers
(league rankings are listed in parenthesis)
Record: 57-43 (Fourth in North, 5th in League)
Home: 34-17 (2)
Away: 23-26 (7)
Score First: 37-14
Extra Innings: 2-6
Hitting: .274 (5)
Pitching: 4.56 (10)
Fielding: .987 (1)
Batting Average: Wes Darvill (.317)
Homers: Willy Garcia (17)
RBI: Willy Garcia (73)
Runs Scored: Wes Darvill (66)
Stolen Bases: Wes Darvill (26)
ERA: Mitch Lambson (3.11)
Wins: Mitch Lambson (13)
Losses: Kevin McGovern (7)
Saves: Victor Capellan (27)
IP: Mitch Lambson (150.2)
Strikeouts: Mitch Lambson (133)
Team MVP: Willy Garcia
Willy Garcia was everything that Manager Rick Forney could have asked for. He hit .310, led the team in homers (17) and RBI (73), and did a solid job in the outfield.
The impressive thing about the former Major Leaguer is that he adapted. He began the season hitting .240 through the first three weeks, but continually raised his average, staying above .300 for much of the year.
In a season where Reggie Abercrombie had a major down year and Josh Romanski was looking for a job, Garcia proved to be the big bat in the heart of this order that the Winnipeg Manager needed. He clubbed two homers in the same game three times during the year, including July 12 against the St. Paul Saints when he hit a pair of three run homers.
That was arguably one of the biggest series of the year and was when the outfielder was at his best. In the three game series, Garcia was 6-13 with five runs scored and six RBI.
Willy Garcia closed out the season on a nine game hitting streak. He was 16-40 with six runs scored and 10 RBI during the run.
Top Pitcher: Mitch Lambson
When you are chosen as the American Association Pitcher of the Year it only makes sense that you would be the team’s top pitcher as well. That is the case for Mitch Lambson.
He didn’t just have a great season; he had one of the very best in team history. Lambson made 21 starts, going 13-4 with a 3.11 ERA and 133 strikeouts. He set a team record for innings pitched in a season with 150.2 and walked just 33 batters.
The left-hander put together a run of seven straight wins from July 16-August 17. His 13 wins led the league and his 3.11 ERA was fifth overall. He was second in strikeouts, second in starts, first in complete games (4) and tied for first in shutouts (2).
While those stats are great, he proved his value in two key areas. First, beyond Lambson and Kevin McGovern, the starting staff struggled for much of the year, and it took a month for McGovern to get rolling. The left-hander was the go-to guy, the one the team could depend upon to go deep into games and win them.
He also averaged better than seven innings a start, a lot of times giving his bullpen the night off. In 15 of his 21 starts, the lefty went at least seven innings and he went at least seven in 15 of his last 18 starts. He was truly a workhorse.
What to Expect in 2020
This will likely be one of the most exciting off-seasons for Rick Forney. Abercrombie has retired and it is likely that he will not have much of the 2019 roster returning. Closer Victor Capellan is 30 and Lambson and McGovern could very well be in the Atlantic League. In all honesty, both should be in a Major League organization starting the season no lower than AA, but MLB doesn’t always make sense.
What this means is that Forney will have very few encumbrances when signing players. There will not be a lot of returning players demanding big pay raises, and he will not have to figure out who to build around. The slate should be almost completely clean.
I bet that is quite an exciting thought for the Goldeyes Skipper. Should Lambson and McGovern return, he has the best 1-2 punch of any rotation in the league. The retirement of Abercrombie means he has the top salary spot available. With a great tradition, a great ballpark, and a great fan base, he should not have trouble attracting top talent.
This is going to be a team that will take about three weeks to gel in 2020 and then they are likely to run roughshod over most of the North Division. With two years out of the playoffs, there will not be a third. Watch the signings of this team. No doubt, they will be the off-season’s winners.
By Robert Pannier