Lincoln Saltdogs Mid-Season Report
Record: 39-29, First in Central Division, Third in American Association
Two seasons ago, the Lincoln Saltdogs put together an impressive run that led them all the way to the American Association Championship series. Things were looking good for them for 2015, but injuries and a slow start did not allow the team to rebound and they struggled mightily for the remainder of the year. This season, Bobby Brown has taken over the manager’s duties and the team is back on top again, first in the Central Division of the American Association.
The Saltdogs were on a roll entering the All-Star break. They were 6-6 in May, but slumped to 12-14 in June. In July, the team caught fire, going 21-9 and leaping into a 2.5-game lead over the Gary Southshore RailCats. From June 30-July 4 the Saltdogs won five straight games and, after dropping two, they won seven straight. It has been the Lincoln pitching staff that has really been the key for the team. They are first in ERA (3.40), shutouts, and least walks allowed. It is this pitching staff that is really leading the team and as long as that continues they will be tough to beat.
Mid-Season MVP: Curt Smith
This is a really tough call, because four guys have made a case as the team’s top player through the first three months. Rene Leveret, Robby Kuzdale, and Luis Alen have been keys to the team’s success and, without them, the Lincoln Saltdogs would be near the bottom of the league. However, Smith is the guy that really adds a lot of credibility to this lineup. He leads the team with a .338 average, ranked second in the league, but it is his 11-homers that really put him over the top. That is nearly twice as many as the next highest on the team, and he has only played in 51-games. Smith is second on the team in RBI and first in runs scored.
Mid-Season Top Pitcher: Evan Reed
This is the best pitching staff in the American Association and they seem to be getting better as the temperature has increased. The starting rotation has been impressive, and the bullpen has been amazing as well, really denying opponents an opportunity to battle back against them. Like the team’s top player, a lot of players can make a case as the club’s top pitcher.
Evan Reed is the one guy whose statistics are just ridiculously good. The closer is second in the league in saves (16) and his 0.93 ERA is second among closers, trailing only Connor Overton in Sioux City. He has allowed just 5-walks in 29-innings pitched, while striking out 32, and when he enters games you can see that opponents know that that they do not have much of a chance.
They say that pitching and defense wins championships and the Lincoln Saltdogs can lay claim to being exceptional at both. They lead the American Association in ERA and are second in fielding percentage. This is a close race, but you have to like the chemistry under Bobby Brown and the pitching staff. If this team does not win the division it would be a surprise.
By Robert Pannier