Lincoln Saltdogs: 2019 Season Recap
In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier looks back on the 2019 American Association season of the Lincoln Saltdogs. This includes looking at the top player and pitcher as well as what to expect in 2020.
The 2019 Lincoln Saltdogs Review
The 2019 American Association season for the Lincoln Saltdogs started very much like the 2018 version. The team was right in the thick of things through June, but a tough July eventually doomed the Saltdogs, as they finished in fourth place for the second straight year.
Lincoln finished May at 7-7 and went 13-15 in June, putting them right in the thick of things as all of the teams in the South Division got off to a slow start. However, an 8-18 July coupled with the sudden retirement of ace Nick Tepesch all but ended any chances this team had of competing for a division title.
John Brownell had a stellar year, but the rest of the starting staff struggled. The flaws were being overshadowed by an impressive everyday lineup, but as that group began to slow down midway through the season, the writing was clearly on the wall.
While the team was out of the race by early August, the Saltdogs showed an unbelievable amount of heart to them. By taking two of three games from the Cleburne Railroaders in the next-to-last series before the end of the season, they helped to eventually eliminate Cleburne, the team that entered the series in first place in the division.
The pitching got better in August, but the hitting completely bottomed out. Lincoln hit .228 in the final month of the season. This relegated them to scoring the ninth most runs in the league despite finishing sixth in homeruns.
The disappointing conclusion would cost Manager Bobby Brown his job, which was rather surprising. In his first three seasons with the team, Brown never finished below .500 and had a 201-196 mark with the team.
By the Numbers
(league rankings are listed in parenthesis)
Record: 40-59 (Fourth in South, T-9th in League)
Home: 27-22 (8)
Away: 13-37 (12)
Score First: 24-23
Extra Innings: 5-3
Hitting: .242 (10)
Pitching: 4.53 (9)
Fielding: .981 (T-2)
Batting Average: Forrestt Allday (.311)
Homers: Christian Ibarra, Cody Regis (16)
RBI: Curt Smith (58)
Runs Scored: Christian Ibarra (58)
Stolen Bases: Josh Mazzola (five)
ERA: Evan Korson (1.35)
Wins: John Brownell (8)
Losses: Ricky Knapp (10)
Saves: Reese Gregory (4)
IP: John Brownell (121.2)
Strikeouts: John Brownell (90)
Team MVP: Curt Smith
It would be easy to look at the selection and go, “It’s always Curt Smith.” Ya, it is always Curt Smith and with good reason. Not only is he one of the most professional hitters you will ever find, but he is a leader and standout performer wherever he goes.
Smith put together another all-star caliber year, hitting .288 with 55 runs scored, 14 homers, and 58 RBI. He appeared in 95 games, posted a .344 on-base percentage and an .809 OPS.
Smith was hitting above .300 until a late-season swoon dropped his batting average from .300 on August 22 to its final total. His biggest game of the year was on July 27, when he went 4-5 with three runs scored, two home runs, and five RBI against Sioux Falls Canaries.
Top Pitcher: John Brownell
Two pitchers really stood out on the Lincoln staff this season: Austin Boyle and John Brownell. Either one of these is deserving of consideration as the top picture, but we choose Brownell simply because he became the only dependable starter on the staff. Best of all, he wasn’t just dependable, he was outstanding.
Brownell finish the season 8-5 in 19 appearances, 18 of which were starts. He tossed two complete games and finished with a 3.70 ERA. The right-hander won four of his last five starts. In 11 of his 18 starts he allowed two runs or less, including tossing a five hit shutout against the Winnipeg Goldeyes on July 10.
What to Expect in 2020
This is honestly the question of the day. A new manager has not been named yet, and no indication has been given by the club as to who is even in the running.
What kind of direction the new skipper takes should be interesting. There are a lot of veterans on this team who our still producing. Players such as Smith, Randolph Oduber, and Christian Ibarra have continued to deliver solid numbers.
That may not matter, however. If the new manager is someone who is looking to put his own mark on the team, there could be wholesale changes. That could mean that some of the most well-known faces in Lincoln could be playing somewhere else or maybe opting to retire.
The one message that is clear is that ownership expects to win. Brown won at least 51 games in his first three seasons and that wasn’t enough to keep his job. The message is loud and clear for whoever takes over the team: make it to the playoffs. Anything short of that will be seen as a failure.
By Robert Pannier