American Association 2021 Mid-Season Report: Lincoln Saltdogs
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 looks at the first half of the season for the Lincoln Saltdogs, looking at top players, areas to improve, and where this team is likely to finish.
Lincoln Saltdogs Reach Midway Point
Record: 24-24 (4, T-7) (Place in Division in parenthesis, followed by record overall)
(Overall ranking in American Association listed in parenthesis)
Average: .252 (10)
Homeruns: 51 (6)
Runs: 251 (9)
Stolen Bases: 62 (1)
On-Base Percentage: .361 (6)
Slugging Percentage: .408 (10)
ERA: 5.55 (9)
Strikeouts: 411 (8)
Opponent Batting Average: .273 (9)
Saves: 14 (T-2)
First Half Recap
The Lincoln Saltdogs have been a perplexing team in the South Division. They have beaten Kansas City six times already, dominating the top team in the division. Yet, Sioux City has beaten them 10 times through the first half.
The team has hovered around the .500 mark which is very impressive considering that Manager Brett Jodie did not take over the team until the beginning of April. He has done a masterful job of learning his players on the fly and adding some additional pieces that have helped to keep this team competitive, just 3.5 games behind the second place Explorers.
The big addition has been closer James Pugliese, who is second in the league in saves and will likely take the top spot with Explorers closer Matt Pobereyko joining the Miami Marlins organization. The right-hander has been virtually lights out and has helped to make this a very formidable bullpen.
The team has gotten a great performance out of ace Kyle Kinman (2.66, 4-1), and Keenan Bartlett (3.53, 2-2) has been a very solid No.2. This team needs a No. 3 to step up. John Richy (2-4, 6.48) looked great in his last start, but they need him to consistently make quality starts if they are going to battle for one of the top spots.
The trio of Forrestt Allday, Josh Altmann, and Curt Smith have been great in the middle of the order. Altmann has been especially good, becoming a real MVP contender. Justin Byrd has been solid at the top of the order, especially with a gaudy .415 on-base percentage.
Altmann has been great, raising his average 30 points in the last three weeks. The power numbers have come with the hot streak, hitting seven homers in July already. Until being held hitless on Sunday, he had scored runs in 12 straight games.
It is hard to say that a guy hitting .323 is struggling, but Allday was hitting .438 in June 20. Since then he has seen his batting average drop 115 including recording a single hit in his last 21 at-bats. Allday can turn it around at a moment’s notice, but the team needs him to get his bat going again.
What They Need
It would be safe to say that everyone needs pitching, but the Saltdogs have the arms to battle. They simply need the arms they have to step up. Richy has good stuff, but has not been able to keep his ERA down. He was putting up solid numbers in High Point (Atlantic League) in 2019 and posted a 4.76 ERA in AAA-Lehigh Valley (Phil.) in 2017, but a year off his him scrambling to get his stuff on track again.
The team also needs to get some more offense from their catchers. No doubt Jodie will take what he can get if the duo of Zak Taylor and Shea Weber get every ounce of talent out of the pitching staff, but this team needs more than a .200 average out of the pair. Weber has driven in 16 in 32 games, which is good, but they need more production.
What to Expect
The Saltdogs need one more starter and production from the bottom of the order. That is the key. Jodie has done a great job of manufacturing runs as the Saltdogs not only lead the league in stolen bases, but have been thrown out trying to steal just eight times in 70 attempts. That is extremely good.
With the Canaries struggling and Houston out of contention, this is a team that is locked into the top four in the division for sure. To be honest, on paper this team is not a top two club, but they have a top three manager. Brett Jodie is the reason this team stays in the hunt, but they will fall just short.
By Robert Pannier