2023 American Association First Half Recap: Milwaukee Milkmen
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 Milwaukee Milkmen including who is their MVP and top pitcher and discusses the prognosis heading forward.
The Milwaukee Milkmen Tale of the Tape
(Ranking in American Association listed in parenthesis)
Overall Record: 35-22 (1st in East, 2nd Overall)
Home Record: 15-12 (4)
Away Record: 20-10 (1)
Last 10: 7-3
Average: .280 (4)
Homeruns: 54 (10)
Runs Scored: 333 (3)
Slugging %: .409 (9)
On-Base %: .365 (4)
Stolen Bases: 131 (1)
ERA: 4.00 (1)
Saves: 16 (1)
Walks: 164 (1)
Strikeouts: 433 (8)
Opponent Average: .254 (4)
Fielding %: .985 (2)
Errors: 31 (2)
First Half Recap
The Milwaukee Milkmen had to feel like they had the Miles Wolff Cup in their hands in 2022, but saw it quickly slip away due to a few costly errors that allowed the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks to battle back from a seven-run deficit, then won in extra innings. That made Manager Anthony Barone focused more on fielding for his team, and the results have spoken for themselves.
Milwaukee is not only second in fielding percentage, but they are an incredible force on both sides of the diamond, ranked first in ERA and third in runs scored. It was a masterful job by Barone and GM Dan Kuenzi to make some significant changes to this club, and they have proven to be gold.
Milwaukee started the season 8-9, but then went 18-8 thanks to a 3.10 ERA in June. The ERA has risen in July (4.06), but the offense has picked up the slack, hitting 17 home runs and posting a .315 batting average to help lead the team to a 9-5 record.
The Milkmen have the best starting rotation in the American Association, and the bullpen has been very good as well. While Nate Hadley has struggled recently, Peyton Gray has picked up the slack and this is why it is not surprising that this team is focused on a return to the championship series.
What Went Right?
It starts with Anthony Barone. He may not get the recognition that some of the other managers in the league receive, but he is one of the top two managers in the American Association. Barone knows how to get the most out of the pieces he has, and the way that he has manufactured runs, leading the league with 131 stolen bases, has made Milwaukee a very tough team to face.
A lot of credit needs to be given to him for the move to send Frankie Bartow to the starting rotation and to take Gregori Vasquez out of the bullpen and add him to the rotation. Vasquez leads the league in ERA (2.46) and four of the top 14 ERAs in the American Association belong to Milkmen hurlers.
Gray has returned to his 2020 form, allowing just five hits and three walks in 19.2 innings. Christian Young has become the ace of the staff, second in the league in ERA (2.73). Bryan Torres is on pace to break the American Association record for stolen bases in a season (62), entering the second half with 41. Torres leads the league in hitting and Roy Morales has been spectacular taking over the catching duties, hitting .328. Cam Balego has been a real find as well, leading the club with nine homers and 40 RBI.
What Went Wrong?
To be honest, not much has gone wrong. This is a very deep team with no holes to be honest. Even if someone were to falter in the rotation, Juan Echevarria is ready to take over should that become necessary. If there is any concern it has been the performance of Hadley. The closer has taken losses in three of his last eight appearances.
Top Pitcher: Christian Young
If the season were to end today, Christian Young would be the Pitcher of the Year. The right-hander has been spectacular full-time in the rotation, going 6-3 with a 2.73 ERA in 11 starts. Young had a stretch where he was not scored upon in 23 straight innings, and has given up two or fewer runs in eight of his 11 starts.
The right-hander has allowed 49 hits and 20 walks in 59.1 innings, striking out 69. Young is third in strikeouts.
Top Hitter: Bryan Torres
It has been the big home run hitters who have garnered much of the attention in the American Association over the last decade, but it could be Bryan Torres breaking the streak, earning the overall American Association MVP award this year. Torres is everything the club could want is a leadoff hitter, leading the American Association in hitting (.355) and in stolen bases (41). He is second in on-base percentage (.452) and has scored 55 runs while driving in 34.
Torres is on pace to break the American Association record for stolen bases, and he is driven to do so. In fact, the infielder is confident he will reach the .400 mark this year. Should he reach that or get near the mark, he may be a lock to be the Player of the Year.
Where Will Milwaukee Milkmen Be on September 4?
At this point, no one is going to catch Milwaukee in the East. This is by far the most complete team in the American Association, and they could get better once the Mexican League season comes to an end, as their bullpen may get an additional arm to make it nearly impossible to come back against this club.
There are no holes with the Milkmen this year, so look for them to return to the championship series, but to win it all this year.
By Robert Pannier