Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Tale of Two Pitchers; South Division Struggles

Game 135, Saturday, 27 Aug, DBAP
Gwinnett Braves: 3
Durham Bulls: 5
Season: 58-77; Home Games Remaining: 6
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Game Score: Cobb 46; Average 36 (4 starts, 15 innings)
Tm OPS: Game .682; Season .676; Diff .006

Here' an interesting oddity for regular readers:

We have a pitcher with 4 starts, no wins, 15 innings, an ERA of 6.60, a FIP of 5.87, and a WHIP of 2.00.

We have another pitcher with 27 appearances (12 starts), 6-4, an ERA of 2.68, FIP of 2.77, WHIP of 1.13.

The first pitcher (Alex Cobb) is going to the Rays and, technically, was never a Durham Bull. The second pitcher (Eddie Gamboa) is not going to the Rays. Too bad. If Gamboa ever does go  up you can probably depend on catcher Curt Casali doing everything he can to not be his catcher. Last night Gamboa struck out two batters but passed balls let them get to first base, plus Casali had two more passed balls to drive his totals upwards. Catching knuckleballers is tough.

At this stage of the season and with their status in the division race, you wonder why the Braves started their not-quite-ready-for-Triple-A pitcher. But it looks like Gwinnett is just as hostage to Atlanta as the Bulls are to Tampa Bay.

Outside the game —

  • Mikie Mahtook is coming back. Good news for those of us who would like to see him again even for just a couple of games. He will surely go back to the Rays on September 1. 
  • Former Bull Desmond Jennings has been released by the Rays. Although talented, he had trouble staying healthy even as a Bull and even more trouble as a Ray.
  • Steve Geltz got a call-up. Good luck!
  • Reliever Casey Coleman is coming back.
  • Cameron Seitzer has gone back to wherever he and Mayo Acosta go when the Bulls can't carry them on their rosters.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

What Else Happened?

Game 134, Friday, 27 August, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Gwinnett Braves (Atlanta): 11
Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay): 1
Season: 57-77; Home Stand: 0-1; Home Game Remaining: 7
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Game Score: Pruitt 22; Season Avg 54 (26 starts, 153.1 innings)
Tm OPS: Game .705; Season .676; Difference .029

In keeping with my comments yesterday, let us reflect on the interesting/beautiful things that happened last night.

The 2nd inning was awful; however, it ended on a very nice play. The Braves had runners on first and second base. The batter singled to Dayron Varona in right field. The runner on second scored. Bulls first baseman Cameron Seitzer positioned himself perfectly for the throw home from Verona, cut the throw off, and threw out the Braves runner trying to reach from first to third (runner happened to be former Bull, Reid Brignac).

Speaking of Cameron Seitzer: He's done a lot of bench-sitting, bus-riding this year. Great to see him hit a nice double to start the 3rd inning.

In the Bulls half of the inning, Braves first baseman Sean Kazmar made a very pretty grab of a very hard hit Hank Conger grounder and had no trouble beating Conger to the bag.

In the Bulls part of the third inning they load the bases with one out. Taylor Motter struck out, but Richie Shaffer hit what looked to be a sure single into left field. But a very clean play by Braves Daniel Castro stopped the grounder and he easily threw out Casey Gillaspie at second base.

Neil Wagner, one of those pitchers we would like to see do well, had a clean two innings in relief.

Normally we are annoyed when Patrick Kinas gets into full-blown story-telling mode. But last night was different. The game was a blowout and he had some great stories from the Olympics. I left the game in the 8th and they were nice listening on the way home.

On a somber note, the Bulls are now 20 games below .500. Quite a fall from their end-of-July status of 8 games below .500

Friday, August 26, 2016

Blown Out in Charlotte

Game 131, Tuesday, 22 August, BB&T Ballpark, Charlotte, NC
Durham Bulls (Rays): 2
Charlotte Knights (White Sox): 3
10 innings
Wrap, Box
Game Score: Faria 63; Season Avg 54 (11 starts, 56.1 innings)
Tm OPS: Game .680; Season .674; Diff .006

Game 132, Wednesday, 23 August, BB&T Ballpark, Charlotte
Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays): 5
Charlotte Knights (Chicago White Sox): 6
Wrap, Box
Game Score: Marks 48; Season 52 (21 starts, 121.1 innings)
Tm OPS: Game .773; Season .674; Diff .099

Game 132, Thursday, 24 August, BB&T Ballpark, Charlotte, NC
Durham Bulls: 7
Charlotte Knights: 12
Wrap, Box
Game Score: Schultz 19; Season Avg 53 (26 starts, 126.2 innings)
Tm OPS: Game .819; Season .676; Diff .143

In this visit to Charlotte, the Durham Bulls managed to play themselves out of contention for the South Division championship.[standings] Could they play themselves back in? Only if the Knights and Gwinnett really stumble. The Bulls have six games with second place Gwinnett (currently on the three-game winning streak), two with Norfolk, and three with one of the best teams in the IL, the Columbus Clippers. Simply not very likely.

This visit to Charlotte was their big chance but the pitching crew, which had been a strength of this team, blew it. Neil Wagner could not hold on to a lead on Tuesday. The decision to move Ryan Stanek to a reliever role looks ever more questionable as on Wednesday he recorded his third blown save and 4th loss in relief since the All-Star break. And last night it was starter Jamie Schultz' turn as he gave up a grand slam in the second inning and left the game before the inning was out.

The hitters, for a change, did just fine. Just not enough to hold up the pitching crew.

Why then go to any of the eight remaining home games?

As a Bulls fan, not many reasons at all. As a baseball fan, however, all the usual reasons are still there: a chance to see a well-turned double play; a perfectly executed throw from under the Monster to second base; a stolen base; a home run; a nasty curve ball; a diving catch in center field; a cup of beer; a hot dog.

Outside the game —
  • Patrick Kinas in back from Rio and in the booth. Doesn't seem to have lost a step.
  • Ryan Garton is back from Tampa Bay.
  • Tyler Sturdevant went back up.
  • Richie Shaffer coming back. He got a grand total of 7 ABs while there. 2 hits, 1 walk, 3 K's, and scored a run.
  • Manager Jared Sandberg was ejected for the 6th time this year, in Wednesday's game.
  • The Charlotte Observer, which used to cover the Knights very nicely, is not any more.
  • Not that different from Raleigh's N&O which has foregone next morning coverage altogether in the last few weeks.
Gee, I sound awfully grumpy, don't I?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Big Day at Bat for Bulls

Game 130, 22 August, Harbor Park, Norfolk, Virginia
Durham Bulls (Rays): 10
Norfolk Tides (Orioles): 6
Season: 57-73; Trip: 2-0
Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot

Game Score: Cobb 27; Average 33 (3 starts, 11 innings)
Tm OPS: Game 1.113; Season .673; Difference +.440

From the beginning this was very unusual game. At the top of the 1st inning, in just four pitches, the Bulls hit back-to-back-to-back home runs: Casey Gillaspie (batting left-handed), Taylor Motter, and Jaff Decker. Since Daniel Robertson was on base for Gillaspie's shot, the Bulls were ahead 4-0.

Unfortunately, for him and for the Bulls, Alex Cobb's rehab does not appear to be going well. Over his 4 innings, the Tides came back with four runs on 9 hits, two walks, and no K's. The Bulls came back with two more runs in the top of the 5th, but Cobb started the bottom of the inning giving up a single and was pulled out for Parker Markel. The Tides scored two in the inning leaving the score at 6-6.

In the 7th the Tides' pitcher hit Daniel Robertson and Gillaspie (batting right-handed) hit his second home run of the game, putting the Bulls ahead 8-6. In the 9th the Bulls loaded the bases and two runs scored on a Dayron Verona single.

A couple of important things happened in this game. The Bulls' hitting was as good as it's been this year, the best in terms of total bases at 28. The Bulls have no choice when a pitcher is with them on a rehab assignment. Everything is dictated by the Rays — pitch count, innings, even the baseballs he throws. So it's up to the bullpen to carry the weight. And that's what they did last night. Markel, Eveland, and Geltz only let one run in while the hitters were doing their thing.

Outside the game —
  • Virginian-Pilot reporter Jim Hodges is my kind of guy. Remember our curiosity about why manager Jared Sandberg got tossed at the beginning of Sunday's game? Hodges chased it down.
   For those wondering why Durham manager Jared Sandberg was ejected after only one batter Sunday, be advised that the process actually began a night earlier and 185 miles or so away. From the third-base coaching box on Sunday, Sandberg advised umpire John Bacon that he had missed a strike call a day earlier in Durham. Words over the Saturday call were exchanged between Tides batter Dariel Alvarez and Bulls catcher Curt Casali, and the discussion escalated into a rumble in which both benches and bullpens emptied but no punches were thrown.
    Then the two clubs – and the umpires – moved on to Norfolk, where Sandberg decided that the issue should linger. And Bacon decided it, and Sandberg, shouldn’t linger at all.
   “I don’t know why I was ejected,” Sandberg insisted Sunday. “You’ll have to ask the umpire.”
   International League umpires do not comment about such situations.
  • About those baseballs Alex Cobb was throwing, they are major league balls and they manufactured in Central America. The IL's baseballs come from China. There's speculation that the MLB versions are being juiced

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Win at Harbor Park

Game 129, 21 August, Harbor Park, Norfolk, Virginia
Durham Bulls (Rays): 5
Norfolk Tides (Orioles): 4
10 innings
Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot
Game Score: Gamboa 74; Season Avg 55 (12 starts, 55.2 innings)
Tm OPS: Game .679; Season .670; Diff .009

If anyone knows why manager Jared Sandberg got tossed after the first out of the 1st inning, we'd like to know.According to the game log, Jake Hager had just popped out. What could there have been to argue about? By my count, that was the fifth time this season he's been tossed and the second time in the first inning. The Bulls have won the last three times he was ejected. Trend?

Meanwhile, after cruising into the 9th (mostly), the Bulls needed Jake Hager's first home run of the season to win the game in the 10th. Heroics would not have been necessary except for the two runs that Tyler Sturdevant gave up over the 8th and 9th innings. That led to the very odd statistical quirk that Sturdevant acquired his fifth blown save but also his third win. Seems unfair somehow.

A win at Harbor Park this season is a big deal. The Bulls have only won 4 of 15 games played there.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

At Least the Weather was Hot

Game 126, 18 August, Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham, NC
Norfolk Tides (Baltimore): 8
Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay): 5
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun
Game Score: Marks 9 (season low); Avg 53 (20 starts, 106.1 innings)
Tm OPS: Game .746; Season .669; Diff +.077

Game 127, 19 August, DBAP
Norfolk Tides (Orioles): 2
Durham Bulls (Rays): 3
11 innings
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun
Game Score: Schultz 38; Season Avg 54 (25 starts, 125 innings)
Tm OPS: Game .885; Season .672; Diff +.213

Broke a six-game losing streak, but the next day ...

Game 128, 20 August, DBAP
Norfolk Tides: 4
Durham Bulls: 0
Season: 56-72; Home Stand: 1-2; Games Remaining: 16
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun
Game Score: Pruitt 69; Season Avg 56 (25 starts, 148.1 innings)
Tm OPS: Game .326; Season .669; -.343

Only one Bull got a hit last evening, Casey Gillaspie, and he got three of them. Did not manage to score, though. So the Bulls were shut out for the 18th time this season.

Austin Pruitt appeared to be flagging near the end, but he did reach 97 pitches in his 8 innings. At 148⅓ innings, he has the most innings pitched of any Bulls pitcher this year. However, at 2,158 pitches on the season, he is considerably more efficient than Jamie Schultz, who has used 2,236 pitches to get through 125 innings.

Dylan Floro is back from a lengthy stay with the Rays. Richie Shaffer has gone to St Petersburg after Nick Franklin got hit by a bat and the concussion protocol put him on the DL. Eury Perez is off the roster for the moment.

The International League South standings are not any less bizarre than the last time we looked, although the Bulls are in last place now. The Division could go to any of the teams currently clustering within a couple of games of each other.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Worst Team in Durham Bulls History?

Game 125, 17 August, Huntington Park, Columbus, Ohio
Durham Bulls: 0
Columbus Clippers: 2
Season: 54-71, Trip: 0-3
Wrap, Box
Game Score: Faria 72; Season Avg 53 (10 starts, 51 innings)
Tm OPS: Game .373; Season .669; Diff -.296

The Bulls are back after a dismal trip to Columbus.

The Really Big Picture

The 2016 Durham Bulls are on track to having the worst record in the 19-year history of the Bulls as a Triple-A team.

The Bulls still have 19 games to play, most of them at home. They've done modestly better at home this year, so maybe they won't end up being the worst.

But this last trek to Ohio does not hold out much hope. The pitchers did fine. The hitters only scored 4 runs. Yesterday they were shut out for the 16th time this year.