2023 American Association First Half Recap: Kane County Cougars
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, Rob Pannier takes a look back at the first half of the 2023 American Association season for the Kane County Cougars including who is their MVP and top pitcher and discusses the prognosis heading forward.
The Kane County Cougars Tale of the Tape
(Ranking in American Association listed in parenthesis)
Home Record: 14-20 (11)
Away Record: 12-12 (5)
Last 10: 26-32 (5th in East, 10th Overall)
Average: .254 (11)
Homeruns: 63 (7)
Runs Scored: 275 (12)
Slugging %: .410 (8)
On-Base %: .335 (12)
Stolen Bases: 70 (8)
ERA: 4.48 (3)
Saves: 14 (T-4)
Walks: 233 (6)
Strikeouts: 401 (11)
Opponent Average: .254 (4)
Fielding %: .976 (7)
Errors: 50 (7)
First Half Recap
After an impressive late season run that led the team to the East Division finals last year, a lot was expected out of the Kane County Cougars. However, this team has simply not lived up to expectations. The Cougars got off to an 8-10 start, then went 13-13 in June. It was the pitching staff leading the way, but they fizzled in June, posting a 3.04 ERA in May and a 5.46 mark in June. This month it is at 4.45 and they have hit 24 home runs in 14 July contests, but that has them at just 5-9 for the month.
After a slow start that saw the Cougars go 2-9, the team got on a roll, taking nine of their next 11 games and they were 18-11 from May 29 through June 24, but have gone 6-13 since, including dropping eight straight near the beginning of July.
The team still ranks near the bottom in many offensive categories, including last in on-base percentage, but they have caught fire with the home run ball, hitting nine over the final two games before the break.
What Went Right?
While the starting staff has not been as good as they were early on, this is still one of the most impressive groups in the American Association. Tyler Beardsley (2.89), Jack Fox (3.02), and Westin Muir (3.03) all rank in the top five in ERA but are only a combined 12-11 because of the lack of offense.
Daniel Bies has become the best closer in the American Association, recording seven saves. He has been nearly untouchable, giving up one earned run in 30.1 innings, a 0.29 ERA. He has struck out 31 in 30.1 innings pitched. In fact, the bullpen has been very solid thanks to Bies, Logan Nissen (2.77), José Fuentes (3.78), and Keith Rogalla (3.85).
The offense has been lacking, but Jonah Davis has been a major bright spot for this team. Davis is hitting .289 with 15 homers and 35 RBI in 52 games.
What Went Wrong?
It is the lack of offense for this team that is the issue. T.J. Bennett was having an outstanding season, but opted to retire 37 games into the year. Jimmy Kerrigan has played better of late, but is still only hitting .238 and has just nine home runs in 56 games. In fact, four players who have appeared in at least 36 games have batting averages under .250. That includes three of their infielders, a primary reason why this team is not near the top of the East.
Top Pitcher: Daniel Bies
It is hard to believe that one of the big three starters is not the top pitcher for this article, but no one can deny the performance by Bies this season. He entered the All-Star break on a run of nine consecutive appearances without allowing a run, giving up five hits and four walks while striking out 12 in 9.2 innings. He has given up just one earned run this season and four total runs, recording seven saves.
The closer is 1-1 with a 0.29 ERA in 22 appearances. In 30.1 innings pitched he has allowed 22 hits and 11 walks while striking out 31.
Top Hitter: Jonah Davis
Jonah Davis has been one of the biggest finds for Kane County this season. The outfielder is hitting .289 with 35 runs scored, 28 extra-base hits, and 35 RBI in 52 games. He had four home runs in the final three games before the All-Star break, and has been on fire since reaching a low of .188 on June 6, raising his batting average 101 points over the last six weeks.
Davis has a .630 slugging percentage and a 1.014 OPS, both tops on the team. He has also been very good defensively, making just two errors.
Where Will Kane County Cougars Be on September 4?
This team has shown that they can catch fire. They had a stretch where they were playing exceptional baseball, but have also shown that they can struggle to win games. Manager George Tsamis has become a wizard at making late season moves that have led his team to a championship. The question is whether there is enough talent out there on the market for him to be able to reload and make a run. Look for this team to squeak into the final playoff spot, but not stick around in the postseason for very long.
By Robert Pannier