2022 American Association Season Review: Lake Country DockHounds
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier continues his look back on the 2022 American Association season, focusing today on the Lake Country DockHounds in their first season in the league.
The Lake Country DockHounds Season in Review
The Lake Country DockHounds finished in last in their inaugural season in the American Association, but there was a lot of excitement surrounding the club. Wisconsin Brewing Company Park had a very unique look and feel and the club averaged nearly 2000 fans per game.
Tale of the Tape
(League ranking listed in parenthesis.)
Record: 34-66 (11)
Home Record: 18-32 (11)
Away Record: 16-34 (11)
Average: .262 (9)
Homeruns: 101 (8)
Runs Scored: 517 (8)
On–Base Percentage: .343 (10)
Slugging Percentage: .409 (8)
Stolen Bases: 88 (9)
ERA: 6.56 (12)
Saves: 9 (12)
WHIP: 1.70 (12)
Shutouts: 4 (T-6)
CG: 3 (T-1)
Fielding Percentage: .978 (6)
Errors: 77 (6)
A Recap of the 2022 Lake Country DockHounds Season
The DockHounds made a great first impression, opening the season 10-7. The pitching staff definitely showed some warts, posting a 5.84 ERA through the first 17 games, but 23 homers helped the team to two three-game winning streaks and the club went 4-2-1 through their first seven series of the season.
However, things turned quickly in June, as the club went 7-20. Things began to go sideways on June 5, when the team lost the second of a three-game set against the Kansas City Monarchs. That started a run of five straight losses, and the team would lose 12 straight games at home.
Losing streaks became the challenge for the club, as the DockHounds had three of the longest losing streaks in the league in 2022, losing 10 straight games twice (June 17-June 26, July 28-August 7) and nine straight games (August 27-September 4). This became the hurdle the team simply could not overcome, which was primarily fueled by the pitching staff.
A 6.79 ERA in June was followed by a 7.83 mark in July. The club went 7-17 that month, and followed that by going 10-17 in August. Lake Country was able to keep their ERA under six in August (5.80) and September (5.89) but finished the last five weeks 10-22 overall.
The starters provided some quality outings. Nick Herold was outstanding after moving into the starting rotation, posting a 1-1 record with a 2.22 ERA. Alex McRae led the team in ERA at 4.01, going 5-4 in his 14 starts. Angel Ventura pitched well after arriving in Lake Country, allowing a single earned run in three of his last four starts. There was a lot to like about the starting rotation.
However, the bullpen had a horrific season. Cyrillo Watson was the only reliever with an ERA under five (4.78) and 11 relievers who made at least five appearances had ERAs over seven.
What Went Right
The club did receive solid play from its offense. Jake Snider hit .303 in 83 games, his first full season of playing professional baseball. T. J. Bennett clubbed 17 homers to lead the club, and Bennett, Gabriel Noriega, and Gio Brusa each finished with 56 RBI. Brusa was traded to Kansas City late in the season. The DockHounds lineup averaged 5.2 runs per game, a solid performance for any club, but could simply not overcome the challenges of the pitching staff.
Herold and McRae both had outstanding seasons for the team. Both pitchers will return to be in the DockHounds rotation for next season, giving a solid top of the rotation set, especially if Ventura returns as well.
Despite the struggles of the bullpen, Watson performed quite well for this club. Manager Jim Bennett used Watson in several roles and he performed admirably, going 2-3 with four saves in 26 appearances. He may not wind up closing next season but should be a key piece in the backend of the bullpen.
What Went Wrong
The pitching staff was obviously a problem, but the bullpen was the biggest culprit. While the starting rotation only had three hurlers they could rely on to give quality innings, the bullpen simply collapsed, especially in the backend. The club finished with just nine saves, blowing at least twice that many opportunities. This became a primary reason why losing streaks became prolonged. The team simply could not close the door on opponents, allowing them to get back in the games.
Team MVP: Jake Snider
It would be easy to choose one of the big power hitters for this team, and Bennett and Brusa both had solid seasons. However, Snider proved to be an invaluable piece near the top of the order, finishing with a .303 batting average, 58 runs scored, nine homers, and 41 RBI in his best season professionally. The season was so impressive that his contract was already purchased by the Colorado Rockies.
The outfielder had the first four hit game in DockHounds history (July 30), and was solid from start to finish, beginning the season with a three hit, three run performance, and closing the year with hits in six straight games, including having two three-hit performances during that stretch. He had eight games with at least three hits and 26 multi-hit games. Snider stole 17 bases as well.
Top Pitcher: Alex McRae
On a young club looking to establish themselves, a veteran, reliable starter is gold, and McRae proved to be just that. The right-hander had four seasons in the Major Leagues, pitching for the Chicago White Sox as recently as 2021. He finished 5-4, tossing 83.0 innings while striking out 78 in 14 starts.
The numbers would have been significantly more impressive had he not been battered in his last start of the season, giving up 10 runs in 3.2 innings to the Sioux City Explorers. Prior to that outing, McRae had a 3.06 ERA and hovered around three most of the season. In fact, after seven starts, his ERA was at 1.98, allowing just three runs over a span of five starts.
What to Expect in 2023
There is no denying that season one was a tough one for the Lake Country DockHounds. However, there is a lot to feel optimistic about. Jim Bennett is a former American Association Manager of the Year and had his first opportunity to build a club on his own. Bennett is smart, and there is no denying that he has used this opportunity to learn well. Now that he has had a chance to learn how Wisconsin Brewing Company Park plays, it should make building a team a bit easier this off-season.
Bennett has already made a number of key moves to improve the pitching staff. This is going to be the difference for the club. If they can shave at least two runs off that ERA from last season, then Lake Country will not be simply competing for a playoff spot. They will likely be at the top of the East Division. That becomes the goal for this club, as a 4.50 mark is what is needed.
American Association Transactions
January 24, 2023
Fargo-Moorhead: Signed RHP Davis Feldman and LHP Tyler Grauer
Lake Country: Transferred the contract of OF Jake Snider to the Colorado Rockies
Sioux City: Signed INF Malek Bolin, LHP Mike Esposito, Cristian Lopez and INF Daniel Perez
Winnipeg: Transferred the contract of RHP Will McAffer to the Kansas City Royals
January 23, 2023
Cleburne: Released RHP Nick Gardewine
Fargo-Moorhead: Signed OF Evan Alexander, RHP Reid Burlingmair, INF Nick Novak, OF Alec Olund and LHP Brady Stover
Lake Country: Signed INF Jake Plastiak
January 20, 2023
Gary SouthShore: Traded LHP Jaylen Smith to Grand Junction (Pioneer League) for a player to be named later
Sioux City: Claimed INF Casey Gillaspie off waivers from Kansas City
Lincoln: Released C Skyler Weber
Lincoln: Signed RHP Zach Keenan
Milwaukee: Signed LHP Jack Mahoney
By Robert Pannier