Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Best (Former) Bull Beats Bulls

Season: 41-37; Trip: 1-3
Wrap, Box, Toledo Blade

Not much new in the basics of the game story, much like the last couple of weeks — not all that good of starting pitching (although better than some in recent days), very good pitching by opponents, another loss. That would be nine losses and two wins since the Bulls came home back on June 18th. So lets just jump right to the oddities.

The first Toledo Mud Hen hit of the day, who eventually scored the Mud Hens first run, didn’t come until the 3rd inning. It was a single by their new second baseman, Alexi Casilla. Who? That’s right, Alexi Casilla! It seems that yesterday morning the “data-driven” Rays traded the Bulls' best hitter to Detroit for something not reported (money? player?). Detroit assigned Casilla to the Mud Hens and I’m guessing he just drug his bags from one locker room to the other sometime before the game.

Good Luck, Alexi. Loved watching you play and you helped the Bulls while you were with them.

Something had to give when Tim Beckham finally showed up. However, in keeping with WDBB tradition, we gloriously struck out the other day by naming three, count ‘em, three possibilities. I whiffed on all three. Age before beauty, I guess. Looking back at our hitters chart from a few days ago, three of the “above average” guys are gone — Alexi Casilla, Allan Dykstra, and Eugenio Velez — while all of the below-average crew remains. Don’t get me wrong, I like all of those guys. It’s just that something other than these data are driving the Rays decisions.

Meanwhile Tim Beckham is finally in a Bulls uniform and playing third base. Third base? Well, of course he is. The fact that in 623 minor league games and in 32 major league games he never once played third base should be no real surprise. We’ll see. What’s next? Center field? That’s what was done with the famous Melvin (formerly known as B.J.) Upton. Beckham did get two hits, stole a base, and scored the only run. Oh, he also picked up his first error as a third baseman (a throw in the bottom of the 8th). In fact, we are happy to have him with the Bulls. Here's hoping he stays healthy and shows some of that bat pop he had at the end of last season.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Split in Ohio

Season: 41-36; Trip: 1-2
Wrap, Box 1, Box 2, Columbus Dispatch

The way the first game went, it looked as if the Bulls were back on track with exceptional starting pitching from new guy Robert Zarate and timely hitting from Ryan Brett and Corey Brown. Included in the good news was their first shutout since June 7 (OK, a 7 inning game, but it still looked good). J.P. Arencibia had his game as a catcher in the game as well (no wild pitches, no passed balls, no steals, pretty good).

The Bulls and the Clippers both went to their bullpens for the second game, and that looked OK until Ernesto Frieri could not hold on to the tie game in the 7th.

Richie Shaffer played first base in both games. A rusty Alexi Casilla struck out three times in the second game. New guy Boog Powell got two singles and two walks in the first game, plus a triple in the second game.

The Bulls will play a two-game set against the Clippers in August at the DBAP. Let’s hope they get a grip on themselves before then. This 1- 6 stretch has been tough.

Outside the game—
  • Norfolk now leads the IL South Division.
  • Matt Andriese is reportedly heading back to the Bulls.
  • Scott Diamond has been assigned to the Montgomery Biscuits, but I’m suspicious about that. Smells like a paper transaction to me. He hasn’t been below AAA since 2010. I’m guessing he had an opt out, is looking for another job, or is about to be released. Decent numbers for a 2015 Bulls starter. In fact, he is essentially the best of the surviving three (Floro and Teaford being the other two).
  • Bulls are off to Toledo to see if they have any better luck in that part of Ohio.

Continuing my interest in the Game Score stat, here’s the last 15 games. It shows the pretty dismal performance of the starting pitchers over the last several games. Starting pitching isn’t everything, of course, but it does make a difference.

click on chart for larger image

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Can't Handle the Clippers; Ruggiano Rules

Season: 40-35; Trip: 0-1
Wrap, Box, Columbus Dispatch

Looks like Matt Moore is ready to go to the bigs. As for a AAA team from Columbus, Ohio, not so ready. Against the Clippers he’s 0-2 (10.1 innings, 12 hits, 5 ER, 2 HR, 3.97 FIP, 4.35 ERA).

It’s possibly a measure of how desperate the TB Rays are to have a hitting first baseman that we saw young Richie Shaffer start at that position last night. Shaffer has a grand total of 16 appearances at the position, all in the 2012 and 2013 Arizona Fall League. As for regular season baseball—not ever. Wonder if he even has a glove? But there he was last night, just in time to not quite figure out a popup that dropped for a hit and let two runs across.

Meanwhile, the new Durham Bulls were mostly quiet against the Clippers, losing their fifth game in a row against them. Hak-Ju Lee, of the grand slam home run the other night, was ejected in the 3rd inning for arguing balls and strikes, something that seems to happen a lot to him this year. New outfielder Boog Powell was 1 for 3 in left field.

The scheduled second game wasn’t played because of poor field conditions. The plan is to try to have another double header today, first game at 4:00 today.

Outside the game —
  • For the forty-leventh time this season we are reporting that Tim Beckham is on his way to the Bulls. We’ll believe it when we see it. Who will be the odd man out in the Bulls infield? My money is on Ryan Brett, but the Bulls could give up on Vince Belnome or Hak-Ju Lee. My track record on such predictions is woeful, however.
  • Justin Ruggiano, thought by some to be the best outfielder in Durham Bulls history and who was recently DFA'd down from the Seattle Mariners, hit three home runs at Triple-A Tacoma yesterday.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Rainout; Rosterizing

As the Durham Bulls go into today’s double header at 5:30 (or so) up in Columbus, the team will be looking quite a bit different from the team that left town yesterday.
  • Alan Dykstra and Eugenio Vélez have been released. When we looked at this year’s hitters the other day, neither of them were standouts. What would apparently be more of a problem, however, is that room needed to be made for a talented youngster on his way up and another reportedly talented guy on his way down. Dykstra is 28 and Vélez is 33. Here’s hoping that both of them catch on elsewhere.
  • Nick Franklin is on his way down from the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s been with the Bulls before. He’s got a huge reputation and the Rays traded some valuable stock for him last year. Expect to see him spend time in the middle infield. He has not been doing particularly well with the Rays this year and really hasn’t had much playing time. The Rays just traded for a first baseman and needed room on their roster.
  • Boog Powell is a young (22) player on his way up. He’s been assigned from Montgomery. See this profile from “Dr. Miraculous” over in Montgomery. Stats.
  • In the bullpen will be Enny Romero, back from Tampa Bay. No telling how he will be used. He spent some time with the Bulls in mid-May when he made 3 starts. He was up to TB and then came back to make 2 relief appearances at the end of May. He made four appearances in relief for the Rays this month.
  • Kyle Winkler is the young pitcher who came up from the Biscuits and made three appearances before going back to them a couple of days ago. He’s been traded to the LA Angels.
  • Robbie Knopf over at Rays Colored Glasses has done a profile on young Richie Shaffer.
  • WDBB favorite from 2011 and 2012, Dane De La Rosa, has decided to retire. He was with the Norfolk Tides, but did not make an appearance in any game that we saw this year.
  • Oh, yeah, Matt Moore may get the start in the first game this afternoon.

Friday, June 26, 2015

10 PM Start Time? Dumb Decision

Just for the record. We've missed a couple of games...

Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Season: 40-34; Home Stand: 1-6
Wrap, Box, Toledo

The only adults associated with the Bulls and the DBAP last night were 1) those who never came in the first place or 2) those who left early. In what kind of world does it make sense to start a baseball game at 10:00 pm at night? Who is making these decisions? And why? And this on a day (night) when all concerned have to hit the road, the Bulls up to Columbus, Ohio and the Mud Hens to Norfolk?

For non-local readers, yesterday evening the tarp was on the field at 7 pm as a series of thunderstorms moved through the area. Not a lot of people showed up for the game, even though the “paid attendance” numbers were at 9,027. After a 2:52 delay, the 3:08 hour game was played. In round numbers, that means starting the game at 10:00 pm and finishing it at 1:00 am. That is so late that even the local paper, the Herald-Sun doesn’t have an on-line article. Even a nutcase like myself gave up following the game through streaming about 11:00pm. So essentially all except a very few truly dedicated fans (or dedicated beer drinkers) missed a thrilling 6th inning.

That thrilling inning is sort of my point. In what kind of world do we have 18 professional athletes play a game at midnight with nobody watching? And why should they? Who makes these decisions? Whoever “they” were it’s time they are called out. That was a really dumb decision. You should be ashamed of yourselves. We fans love watching baseball.

The Bulls depart town after what was the worst home stand in recent memory, winning only one out of seven games and dropping from first place in the International League South Division to third place. What happened? Well terrible starting pitching was certainly a factor. Dylan Floro had two miserable starts. Rehabbing Matt Moore may have pleased the Rays with his progress, but he still lost the game. Young Robert Zarate, who had only started a few games in his career came up from A-ball and actually had the best start of the bunch, but still lost the game. The chart shows the ugly drift upwards in the starters' ERA over the last week. What’s missing? Well, maybe who’s missing might be the better question. Matt Buschmann and Ronald Belisario come to mind.

The season is half over and the turmoil down St Petersburg way has been extraordinary. The Bulls are off to play against the very teams that just beat their brains in, Columbus and Toledo. Will they get it back together? We’ll see.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Matchup: Durham Bulls vs. Toledo Mud Hens

The Bulls and second-most-famous team in minor league baseball meet for the first time this year for a three-game series at the DBAP.

The Toledo Mud Hens are the Triple-A Team of the Detroit Tigers. They are not having a good year.
They are currently in last place in the IL West Division. Nevertheless, the teams match up pretty except for the pitching. If momentum means anything, perhaps the Bulls are due to break out of their loss streak. Five in a row is not a good thing, especially the four at home.

Monday, June 22, 2015

How About Them Rays Hitters?

Since I was already building the spreadsheet for the Bulls hitters, I thought it would be interesting to apply the same criteria (50 plate appearances, sorted by wOBA) to the Bulls' parent club. So, how are the Tampa Bay Rays doing?

Joey Butler155.329.888.3869.2
Logan Forsythe275.288.804.3549.3
David DeJesus179.301.805.3515.7
Steven Souza265.225.768.3385.6
Brandon Guyer164.278.745.3332.8
Evan Longoria278.270.760.3283.8
Kevin Kiermaier230.253.717.3110
James Loney118.275.698.302
Tim Beckham105.213.692.296-1.2DL
Jake Elmore95.264.643.282
Asdrubal Cabrera255.208.589.257
Desmond Jennings72.222.544.254-3.2DL
Nick Franklin76.143.468.211-5.9
Rene Rivera195.165.467.208-15.7
Bobby Wilson59.145.349.166-6.7DFA
Source: Fangraphs.com

Answer: Not bad, not bad at all.