2023 American Association First Half Recap: 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, Rob Pannier takes a look back at the first half of the 2023 American Association season for the Lake Country DockHounds including who is their MVP and top pitcher and discusses the prognosis heading forward.
The Lake Country DockHounds Tale of the Tape
(Ranking in American Association listed in parenthesis)
Overall Record: 28-29 (3rd in East, 7th Overall)
Home Record: 15-14 (T-5)
Away Record: 13-15 (8)
Last 10: 8-2
Average: .271 (3)
Homeruns: 63 (5)
Runs Scored: 322 (5)
Slugging %: .448 (2)
On-Base %: .361 (6)
Stolen Bases: 69 (9)
ERA: 5.04 (6)
Saves: 11 (T-8)
Walks: 217 (2)
Strikeouts: 436 (7)
Opponent Average: .265 (7)
Fielding %: .980 (T-4)
Errors: 40 (3)
First Half Recap
This looked like the season was going to implode for the Lake Country DockHounds as they came out of May 4-13, leading to a change in manager. In fact, the team had three managers within the first 30 games of the season, usually not a remedy for success, but Ken Huckaby has done an amazing job with this team.
Lake Country not only recorded their first winning month in franchise history, going 14-12 in June, but entered the break as one of the hottest teams in the league, posting the best record in July at 10-4. That has the club in third in the East Division entering the break, just 0.5 games behind Cleburne for the second-best record in the division.
This team has flat out responded to their new manager, and it has been the offense leading the way. Marcus Chiu has come out of nowhere to become a huge bat in this lineup, and Blake Tiberi is having a breakthrough season. In fact, this entire infield, which includes Demetrius Sims and Brian Rey may be the best in the league, with all four hitting above .300.
Huckaby has turned this club into a solid pitching staff as well. New closer Jojanse Torres has seven saves and a 1.58 ERA. The team lost ace Nick Herold, but has received outstanding performances out of Mike Shawaryn, and Randall Delgado and Conor Fisk look like they are on the cusp of making this a very solid rotation. Fisk has allowed just two runs in his last 12 innings.
What Went Right?
It starts with the offense. A lot has already been mentioned in this article about the performance of this group of infielders, but catcher Jaxx Groshans cannot be ignored either. He is hitting .311 with 21 runs scored and 21 RBI in 38 games. There is a lot of pop in this lineup, as the team is second in slugging percentage and fifth in home runs and runs scored.
The bullpen looked like it was going to be a liability, but the performance of Torres has solidified this position. That has allowed Keisy Portorreal, Matt Mullenbach, and Brady Kais to get more defined roles, which has made this group one of the better bullpens in the East Division.
What Went Wrong?
It looked like there was going to be a lot wrong with this team early on, but that is no longer the case. The major problem for this team is getting consistent starting pitching beyond Shawaryn. There is talent here, but the team has struggled to find four other dependable starters that can be counted on to deliver six solid innings each time out. Fisk has looked good recently, and is coming back from arm troubles, so a little grace will be afforded to him as he improves with each start.
Nick Banks was released by the club following the All-Star break. His loss creates a huge hole to fill.
Top Pitcher: Jojanse Torres
Jojanse Torres is one of the more fun stories this season. He has given up four total earned runs, and three of those came in a span of just four games (July 11-21). The fireballer has struck out 36 in 22.2 innings, but has walked 21. That is definitely an area the coaching staff will look to improve, but he has already made drastic improvements in this area, allowing just four total walks over his last 9.1 innings.
When Torres comes into the game, you know that he is going to bring the heat. In his 22 appearances, he struck out the side in six of those outings. His seven saves are already a franchise record.
Entering the break there were six players on this team who had appeared in at least 38 games and were hitting .300 or better. That is a remarkable statistic for this team, so there are many candidates for the selection. However, it is Marcus Chiu who is the selection. The infielder is hitting .306 with 10 homers and 31 RBI in 54 games. He has scored 42 runs as well, and has posted a solid .404 on-base percentage, second on the team. His .914 OPS is third.
Where Will Lake Country DockHounds Be on September 4?
This may have seemed improbable coming out of the first month of the season, but Lake Country is a serious playoff contender. This team could very easily finish second in this division, and that is the prediction here. Huckaby is doing an incredible job and this club is going to be the team no one wants to face in the postseason.
By Robert Pannier