Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Durham Bulls at the All-Star Break

The Durham Bulls are 90 games into a 140-game season and are doing very well. They lead the South Division of the International League, but just by 1½ games over Gwinnett. They don't have the best record in the league, that would be Cleveland's AAA team, the Columbus Clippers. The South Division is, by far the most competitive division in the league. Gwinnett and Charlotte are 1 and 2 in the wild card standings.

So why am I worried?

What worries me are the ups and downs since mid-June. In the last 21 games the Bulls have 11 wins against 10 losses. In the last 10 games, 4 wins against 6 losses. That's worrisome.

The roster turmoil has been severe over that period. Since June 20 there have been 35 transactions. 19 were subtractions, 16 were additions. Some of that was just back and forth between the Bulls and Tampa Bay, but a few were outright losses (Nick Ciuffo, Andrew Velazquez and Jake Smolinski are just gone).

Will it settle down next week? We can hope.

The trend in run differentials over the last several games may reflect this turmoil. It shows a distinct flat or downward trend over the last several games. And is beginning to fall below the last couple of years.


The pitching crew has done just fine. The team ERA is second best (after Gwinnett) in the International League. The ERA for the starters has been high all year. However, those data are somewhat tainted by the 8 times the Bulls used an "opener" who was only in for an inning or so. They put together a combined 7-inning no-hitter last week, and they've put together 6 shutouts.

The pitching crew also excels in keeping keeping their opponents off base. The Bulls opponents have been held to a very low batting average. Even better, their "secondary average" — essentially extra-base hits and walks — is well below their batting average.


The Bulls have the third-best batting average in the league. At .278 they are just 2 points behind the league leader, Rochester. Their secondary average is terrific as well. However, note that slight downward trend in recent days.


Our homegrown measure of defensive prowess, unearned runs per 9 innings, or uERA, has wavered between excellent and awful this year. In general, it has followed the overall downward trend of the International League as a whole. But there have been a couple of games lost to poor defense

The Hitters

This table is sorted by batting average, but also shows two other measures of hitting, Secondary Average and On Base + Slugging Percentage (OPS). Another measure I've come to regard as important is the difference between batting average and secondary average. That shows, sort of, both extra-base performance, speed, and plate discipline (walks). Small samples can lead to distortions, so the numbers for McCarthy, Bemboom, Ricardo, Perez, and McKay are not very useful.

Kean Wong72289.346.253-.093.910
Jake Cronenworth75295.342.359.017.973
Mike Brosseau‡68249.317.402.085.998
Christian Arroyo‡33121.314.397.083.984
Emilio Bonifacio46146.295.240-.055.767
Nate Lowe‡68241.290.440.150.938
Andrew Velazquez34129.271.240-.031.778Traded
Jake Smolinski67248.270.379.109.864Released
Dalton Kelly2898.265.224-.041.696
Brendan McKay*1549.265.510.245.951
Nick Solak83292.264.349.085.830
Jason Coats53197.
Michael Perez*2272.236.403.167.812
Nick Ciuffo34123.228.195-.033.626Released
Nathan Lukes56166.
Joe McCarthy2385.200.353.153.703
Mac James44129.
Anthony Bemboom┬║1136.167.139-.028.488
Dashenko Ricardo1025.
* 40-man; ‡ w/Tampa Bay; ┬║ on rehab assignment

Overall, this is a very impressive crew. Much as we wish it were not so, we must expect continued back and forth to Tampa Bay. Remember, the Rays are masters at manipulating rosters. The fact that only a few of these players are on the 40-man (and three on this list are with the Rays as I write this) doesn't mean much. Several can expect a shot (or deserve a shot — Kean Wong especially) before the year is out.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Free Scott Pose

Durham Bulls Radio color commentator Scott Pose has had a very (very) old fine catch up with him! He's paying the fine ... but has also started a GoFundMe page


to help the Miracle League of Durham.

Read all about it at the link.

Great cause and good guy ...

... c

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Importance of Run Differentials

Before we get to today's geek stuff, let's give a shoutout to the Bulls and DBAP crew that managed to host more than 30,000 fans this weekend. Very well done. Thank you! Let's not forget just how great the Bulls looked in the first two games of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders series. Let's try to look past the 13 (count'em, 13!) baserunners stranded in the last game.

About Run Differentials

This is a very simple statistic, the number of runs scored minus the number of runs allowed. But it's right up there with won-loss in importance. There's even a variant stat based on run differentials called Pythagorean Expectation, which we won't go into today, but is a lot of fun to track.

This first chart shows the cumulative game-by-game run differentials so far this year. As of today the Bulls have scored 402 runs and have allowed 330 for a run differential of 72, down slightly from Saturday's peak 0f 76. Nevertheless, pretty darn good at game 69 (they are just one game from mid-season).

Why Do They Matter

Look at the last several years. During those years the Bulls won four Governors' Cups (2011, 2013, 2017, and 2018) and won the IL South. Take a look at the run differentials for those years. All of them were positive — for the G'cup years, they were exceptional. Note: The Bulls also won the IL South in 2008, 9, and 10 with positive run differentials, but this chart was already cluttered enough.

Which brings me back to today. The Durham Bulls at midseason are looking very, very good. Their numbers are up there with those from 2017 and 2013, great years for Bulls (and Bulls' fans).

Friday, June 14, 2019

RailRiders Come to Durham

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders come to town today. They are the New York Yankee's AAA team and the buzz is that rehabbing Yankee's stars Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge could join the team in Durham.

But for a Bulls fan, the better story is that the two best teams in the International League are meeting for a 3-game matchup to be followed by a visit to the RailRiders' home field next week.

The Bulls are on a 6-game winning streak and have won 8 of their last 10. The RailRiders had a recent streak broken, but they have won 7 of their last 10. The Bulls are 3½ games up in the South, the RailRiders are 5½ games up in the North Division.

These are very well-matched teams and, with any luck, we could be seeing some of the most interesting baseball of the year this weekend and next week (assuming you've got MiLB TV).

Monday, June 3, 2019

Ugly Home Stand, So Far

This home stand is not going well. So far the Bulls have lost 5 games and won just two. Two key players were called up (congrats to Nate Lowe and Christian Arroyo) and catcher Nick Ciuffo, who was really improving at the plate, got hurt. Otherwise, it's a bit hard to peg just one reason.

Yes, the Bulls got shut out for just the second time this season. Yes, in one game they gave up 3 unearned runs. But the team ERA is virtually unchanged as is the team batting average. About the only metric that I watch that's been a problem is the opponents' Secondary Average. And that's grown quite a bit, reflecting on the 14 (count 'em, 14!) home runs hit by Louisville and Columbus. The Bulls hit 7 in the same period. Maybe that's what's made the difference.

At any rate, the Durham Bulls are out of first place in the South, with three more home games (against Norfolk) to go.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Back to the Bats

The Bulls split their 4-game Memorial Day series over in Charlotte. But the series featured extreme lows and highs in the last two games. In the first, on Sunday, Bulls pitchers had their worst outing of the year. They gave up 12 bases on balls! And 4 home runs. They lost 12 to 4. Then yesterday the pitching crew threw a shut out, only 3 hits and 4 walks. The hitters reversed the scoring by hitting four home runs and scoring 12 runs for the good guys.

Today is the big day for super-prospect Brendan McKay. So go to the game or watch his start on TV.


The Bulls swept the Louisville Bats at their home field last month, and they still match up well against them. The Bats are in third place in the IL West. They come in on a two-game win streak.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Remember — Memorial Day — 2019

Bald eagle on veteran's grave, Fort Snelling National Cemetery. Photo by Frank Gilk, Minneapolis Star Tribune. Stories by Jon Tevlin June 25 and August 10, 2011.
Memorial Day 2019

The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak

     Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses: who has not heard them? 

     They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts. 

     They say, We were young. We have died. Remember us. 

     They say, We have done what we could but until it is finished it is not done. 

     They say, We have given our lives but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave. 

     They say, Our deaths are not ours: they are yours: they will mean what you make them. 

     They say, Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say, it is you who must say this. 

     They say, We leave you our deaths: Give them their meaning: give them an end to the war and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning.
     We were young, they say. We have died; Remember us. 

— Archibald MacLeish