Surge in Homeruns Dominates First Weekend in American Association
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 power surge in the American Association in the first weekend of play.
She’s Going, Going, Gone!
There is a common theme that is discussed each year when the Major League Baseball season gets underway. With hitters taking a little more time to get into a rhythm and cold weather wreaking havoc across much of the north, pitchers often dominate early on. It is not usually until late April or early May that hitters begin to regain their timing and things begin to even out.
American Association hitters must not have got that memo. Or maybe it was that it was already warm enough across most cities this past weekend, but the league saw a huge power surge in its first 36 games, as 47 homeruns were hit, putting the league on pace for 1565 homers this season, easily surpassing last year’s mark of 1218.
Track It Down Marge!
No series saw as many homeruns as what was seen in Winnipeg over the weekend. The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and the Winnipeg Goldeyes combined for 17 homeruns in their three-game series, as the teams scored 48 total runs, produced eight doubles, and both teams came out of the weekend as the only teams in the American Association with a slugging percentage above .500. Fargo-Moorhead posted a .575 slugging percentage while Winnipeg was at .526.
The teams combined to score at least 13 runs in every game, and the loser had at least six runs in all three contests. The Goldeyes scored seven runs in two of the games and nine in the opener.
The crazy part about that series was that it was actually quite cool in Winnipeg over the weekend. Most players were wearing sweatshirts with a hood underneath their jersey, yet the ball was flying out of Shaw Park like it had become the new Coors Field.
Maybe it was bad pitching, some will conclude, but one must realize that Fargo-Moorhead used many of the same guys that helped this staff to the second-best ERA in the American Association last season (4.32). The RedHawks allowed only 97 homeruns in 99 games in 2021, but they have already yielded eight through the first three games of 2022.
Winnipeg has a talented staff as well yet, the Goldeyes staff gave up nine homeruns and they come out of the weekend with the second worst ERA in the league at 8.33.
Houston Is Not the Problem
What makes the numbers even more surprising is the fact that the Houston Apollos are not part of the American Association this season. Last year, the Pecos League team jumped up into the American Association to act as a road team for the year. Houston wound up giving up the most homeruns in the league, 130, but they are not here to take the blame this season.
The Lake Country DockHounds have replaced Houston, becoming a permanent member of the American Association. Yet, no one can use them as a patsy in this situation either. Lake Country has an experience manager in Jim Bennett, and he has a pitching staff that includes five players with extensive professional experience, including Alex McRae, who pitched for the Chicago White Sox last season.
Lake Country is playing with at least 20 players who would easily find themselves on the roster of any other club in this league. This is a well-constructed professional baseball team, so the addition of the expansion team is not the issue.
What Is Leading to the Surge?
At the current pace, nine teams would hit at least 100 homeruns this season. Seven teams reached that mark last season, setting an American Association record. So, if team stayed on this current pace, the teams would combine to set a new mark. As tantalizing as that thought may be, it will likely not come to fruition.
However, it would not be surprising to see last year’s homerun total eclipse. Of all the factors that one can examine, the biggest reason why the homerun numbers are up is likely because of the number of experienced players in the everyday lineup.
Just take a look at Lake Country for a moment. There are 12 pitchers on the roster, seven of which are rookies. One of those pitchers is a veteran, but the other four vets are in the everyday lineup. Six of the hitters have significant professional experience, and Aaron Takacs and Blake Berry spent much of last season playing for the Apollos, so they have a large amount of experience within this league.
This is the story you will find across most rosters. The Gary SouthShore RailCats have 13 on the staff, nine of which are rookies. In the lineup, they have seven players with at least two years of professional experience. The Kane County Cougars have one veteran and four others who have at least two years of professional experience on their pitching staff, employing six rookies. The lineup has no rookies, and only two players with less than four years of professional experience, including three veterans.
This is just a few examples, but it demonstrates that this standard is seen across the American Association. Because of the lack of pitching available, teams are turning to a lot of unproven, raw talent hoping to mold them into a dominating staff. Unfortunately, these pitchers are facing experienced hitters who know how to work counts and make pitchers pay for mistakes.
It is this factor that is likely to drive the homerun numbers further north this season. In a month, it is going to be quite warm throughout the entire league, and the ball is going to carry even more. Wins are going to be stronger in areas like Wisconsin, Texas, Kansas, Iowa, South Dakota, and Nebraska, and balls are going to be flying out of parks. Unless these pitchers can learn to harness their talent much quicker, we are going to see last year’s homerun numbers dwarfed in comparison.
By Robert Pannier