Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Durham Bulls in 2014 — The Hitters — Part 2

In Part 1 we put up a table of all the position players who came to bat in 2014 ordered by the numbers of games they played. Then we discussed four of those players. In this post we'll sort the table by wOBA (less two rehabbers who were left out of the sort) and continue our discussion.

Bulls Player Stats Sorted by wOBA

NameAgeGPAAVGOPSwOBAwRAA
Jerry Sands*
26
54
219
.268
.825
.369
6.8
Kevin Kiermaier*
24
34
143
.305
.823
.369
4.5
Jeremy Moore
27
55
218
.262
.827
.368
6.7
Mikie Mahtook
24
132
550
.292
.820
.366
16.1
Justin Christian
34
127
520
.271
.778
.350
8.8
Cole Figueroa*
27
71
312
.282
.761
.350
5
Vince Belnome*
26
118
492
.245
.740
.341
4.8
Jayson Nix
31
55
216
.272
.748
.339
1.6
Mike Fontenot
34
113
454
.276
.714
.328
-0.3
Curt Casali*
25
46
183
.237
.694
.322
-1
Wilson Betemit
32
111
453
.217
.694
.311
-6.5
Robby Price
26
70
249
.216
.604
.285
-8.6
Nick Franklin
23
27
113
.210
.578
.273
-5
Hak-Ju Lee*
23
93
357
.203
.563
.268
-17.2
Ray Olmedo
33
104
404
.224
.551
.259
-22.3
Tim Beckham*
24
15
65
.258
.572
.256
-3.7
Ali Solis
26
73
266
.203
.514
.234
-19.9
Mayo Acosta
26
32
94
.133
.408
.198
-9.6
Eddy Rodriguez
28
13
49
.152
.443
.198
-5.1
Wil Myers
23
7
31
.250
.961
.409
2
Brandon Guyer
28
5
26
.400
1.238
.533
4.2
   * on the Rays 40-man roster.

Wilson Betemit (111 games) was the rare power hitter in the Bulls lineup this year. But once you crunch all the numbers together he simply did not make that much of a contribution. He played mostly first base and DH and his glove appeared above average. Without drilling too deep into the numbers, our impression is that he was not improving as the year went on. Not likely to be back next year. Stats.

Ray Olmedo (104 games) is an all-time WDBB favorite player. He brings a tremendous amount of energy to the game and the sheer quickness of his hands from catch to release is a great pleasure to watch. This year he extended his repertoire of fielding positions by 20 appearances in the outfield and even had a brief moment at first base (wonder who he borrowed a glove from?). In Ray’s case I’d say the hell with the numbers and bring him back. I just like watching him play. Stats.

Hak-Ju Lee* (93 games) messed up his knee early in the 2013 season and did not return to the Durham Bulls until 23 April of this year. For a long time he has been near the top of various prospect lists, but he was one of the least productive Durham Bulls this year. Was he ready to return? Is his knee up to the job? No fan in the stands is going to be able to tell about that. We don’t think that the Rays are going to give up on the 23 year-old, but here’s hoping that in the off-season they find a way for him to work on his hitting. Stats.

Ali Solis (73 games) is the first of a cluster of four catchers we saw this year. To be perfectly honest, none of them showed Triple A caliber stuff. I hate to say that because I love watching players at that position. Catcher is a tough job at any level, but at Triple A you’ve got pitchers who are (or who think they are) right on the edge of becoming big leaguers. For the last couple of years the Rays system does not seem to be either growing or hiring good catchers. In fact, they seem to be trading some of the good guys away. But that’s for another article. Ali Solis certainly seemed to handle the pitching crew quite well, had a decent arm, and was only charged with seven passed balls. At 26 he’s still young, but his bat needs a lot of work. He did get a callup to the Rays this year and appeared in 8 games. Stats.

Cole Figueroa* (71 games) is another WDBB favorite who had a decent year, mostly at third base. His low number of game appearances with the Bulls is the consequence of his two callups to the Rays in mid-May and six weeks in July and August. He appeared in 23 Rays games after his debut on 16 May.  [Note to self: let’s not rant about the Rays pulling good players up to sit on the bench]. For reasons that are a mystery to us, he does not seem to be part of fanblog discussions over with the Rays. He should be. Otherwise, we would be more than happy to see him back with the Bulls next year. Stats.

Robby Price (70 games) was, by far, the most jerked around player on the Bulls roster this year. It seems every year they Bulls have a player who is kind of a “ghost” player. He’s on the roster for a few days then in a paper transaction is taken off for a few days and then he comes back. Robby Price (and to a lesser extent Mayo Acosta) was that guy this year, he figured in 9 different transactions. The 26 year-old’s numbers aren’t all that great, but without any consistent playing time, how can we judge? The Bulls need a guy like Price on the roster. He even pitched in three games for 2⅓ innings. I’d assume he will be a free agent next year. Here’s hoping he gets a shot with a team that will give him some playing time. Stats.

Jayson Nix (55 games) was apparently brought on board as a deep backup to the Rays infield. The 31 year-old was reasonably productive during his time from mid-May to 1 August. On the other hand we worried about the other infielders available (Price, Fontenot, Olmedo, Lee) who might have lost playing time while he was with the team. Nevertheless, his stats show that he was helpful. He apparently had an opt-out contract. He will likely have some place in baseball trivia questions for his trek from the Phillies to the Bulls to the Pirates to the Kansas City Royals. Not a snowball’s chance he’ll be back with the Bulls next year. Stats.

Jeremy Moore (55 games ) was our joy of the last part of the season. We’d actually forgotten about him being on the non-roster invitee list last spring training, so when he showed up from Montgomery on 25 June we didn’t know quite what to expect. Very exciting guy to watch. Reminded us a lot of Leslie Anderson, not in style, but in the excitement he brought to the game. He started off extremely hot, cooled off a bit, but the Bulls finally had a power hitting outfielder to pair with Mikie Mahtook. With 12 homers in 55 games he was on a league-leading pace. Here’s hoping that the Rays do whatever it takes to bring him back next year. He sure seems like a guy who could do the Bulls (and the Rays) some good. Stats.

Jerry Sands* (54 games) started the season with the Bulls and was doing an extraordinary job. In fact, his stats are among best of any Bull this season. He was called to the Rays at the 1st of June to fill in for an injury down there. On 22 Jun, however, he had a season-ending injury himself. We like what we saw while he was here and we’d love to see him back. We’ve seen very little about his injury status, however. Stats.

Curt Casali* (46 games) was one of the four catchers with the Bulls this year. The 25 year-old came up from the Montgomery Biscuits in early May and was called up to the Rays in mid-July. While with the Bulls he put together some decent numbers, by far the best of any of the catchers this year. His trip to St. Petersburg was not expected to last, but in fact he stayed there for the rest of the year, appearing in 30 games. However, he left Rays’ game on 25 September with a season-ending concussion. Assuming he recovers OK, he is very likely to start next year either with the Rays or the Bulls. Stats.

Kevin Kiermaier* (34 games) was with the Bulls at the beginning of the year and we could not have been more excited. We thought that with Jerry Sands and Mikie Mahtook we were going to see one of the finest outfields in Bulls history. Unfortunately, the Rays could not keep themselves healthy and once Mr. Kiermaier got to the Rays he did everything he could to make sure he would not come back, and he didn’t. He had a terrific year with the Rays, but I sure wish he’d stuck around here a bit longer. Stats.

Mayo Acosta (32 games) started the season with the Bulls and was in the dugout all year. But, as with Robby Price, the young catcher spent much of the year in paper purgatory. We cannot fault a player with such an erratic schedule for never get his timing right. So we are not sure his numbers are actually worth anything at all. Perhaps a better measure of him as a player is to note that he was the guy that got the best relief crew in International League baseball ready to pitch. And then there were the two games where he pitched for 3 innings and got 2 K’s. Stats.

Nick Franklin* (27 games) came to the Bulls as part of the big David Price trade on 1 August. Young Mr. Franklin has a solid reputation. We’ll see. So far we aren’t impressed at all. But apparently the Rays are. He got a lot of September playing time even if he wasn’t hitting. That would imply that he’s on the short list to stay with them next year. Stats.

Tim Beckham* (15 games) returned to the Bulls after surgery and a long rehab on 12 August. We’ve seen a lot of Mr. Beckham over the last few years and we like him. His bat seemed to have a bit more pop than we recall and his speed is still up there. We look forward to seeing him at second or shortstop next year, at least at the start of the season. Next year could be his year. Stats.

Eddy Rodriguez (13 games), the fourth catcher in a Bulls uniform this year, was released in early May when Curt Casali was called up from Montgomery. To be honest, we are a bit surprised he did not catch on somewhere else, but we haven’t found him, so we guess that he’s retired from the game. Update: Thanks to Doug (see comments), we now know he caught on with the Red Sox in a coaching job. Good for him.  Stats.

Wil Myers played in 7 games and Brandon Guyer played in 5 games on rehab assignments. Both did reasonably well and both seemed to be playing hard. Not always the case with rehabbing major leaguers.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Durham Bulls in 2014 — The Hitters — Part 1

This is the first of a two-part piece on the Bulls hitters in 2014.

In 2014 21 different ballplayers came to bat in a Durham Bulls uniform. That’s a couple more than in 2014 (19), but quite a few less than in previous years. Lack of turmoil may have helped the Bulls, at least a little bit. 

Of those 21, two were on rehab assignments, Wil Myers and Brandon Guyer, so we won’t be paying much attention to their numbers.

We’ll put up two tables as we go along, the first sorted by number of games played and in the next post we’ll put the same table sorted by wOBA. The less familiar stats such as weighted on-base average (wOBA) and weighted runs above average (wRAA) are explained at the links. Players with an asterisk are on the Rays 40-man roster. Data sources are Baseball Reference.com and Fangraphs. We’ll talk about the players listed by number of games played.

Bulls Player Stats Sorted by Games Played

NameAgeGPAAVGOPSwOBAwRAA
Mikie Mahtook
24
132
550
.292
.820
.366
16.1
Justin Christian
34
127
520
.271
.778
.350
8.8
Vince Belnome*
26
118
492
.245
.740
.341
4.8
Mike Fontenot
34
113
454
.276
.714
.328
-0.3
Wilson Betemit
32
111
453
.217
.694
.311
-6.5
Ray Olmedo
33
104
404
.224
.551
.259
-22.3
Hak-Ju Lee*
23
93
357
.203
.563
.268
-17.2
Ali Solis
26
73
266
.203
.514
.234
-19.9
Cole Figueroa*
27
71
312
.282
.761
.350
5
Robby Price
26
70
249
.216
.604
.285
-8.6
Jayson Nix
31
55
216
.272
.748
.339
1.6
Jeremy Moore
27
55
218
.262
.827
.368
6.7
Jerry Sands*
26
54
219
.268
.825
.369
6.8
Curt Casali*
25
46
183
.237
.694
.322
-1
Kevin Kiermaier*
24
34
143
.305
.823
.369
4.5
Mayo Acosta
26
32
94
.133
.408
.198
-9.6
Nick Franklin
23
27
113
.210
.578
.273
-5
Tim Beckham*
24
15
65
.258
.572
.256
-3.7
Eddy Rodriguez
28
13
49
.152
.443
.198
-5.1
Wil Myers
23
7
31
.250
.961
.409
2
Brandon Guyer
28
5
26
.400
1.238
.533
4.2


Mikie Mahtook (132 games) led the 2014 Durham Bulls in just about every offensive category. He played in the most games, had the best wRAA, the most RBI, most stolen bases (only 18 though), and more. With maybe just one more hit in the last couple of games he would have finished above .300. He spent about half his time in center field and the rest pretty much divided between center field and left field. In a perfect world we’d like to see a slightly better walk to strikeout ratio. His was 0.34 (the team best, Cole Figueroa, was 1.50). At 24 he is one of the true prospects on the team and we expect the Rays are going to have to put him on the 40-man next season. Even so, we expect to see him back in Bulls uniform next season and we’ll be happy to see him. Stats

Justin Christian (127 games) had a fine year with the Bulls. The 34 year old right hand batting outfielder batted leadoff much the year and fairly equally divided his time between the outfield positions.  That would be because much of the year the Bulls only had two true outfielders and he and Mahtook had to cover the deepest fields of whatever park they were in, while an infielder played the shallowest field. Will he stick with the Rays system? Hard to say. Certainly the Bulls needed him this year and we were glad to have him. Our hope would be for him to return. Stats.

Vince Belnome* (118 games) had a very disappointing year, although things picked up near the end. He never looked very comfortable at the plate and was nothing like the star we watched in 2013, where his numbers eclipsed anyone’s on this year’s team by far. What the Rays (and the Bulls) are going to have to figure out is whether 2013 or 2014 should be the expectation. Mr. Belnome did get his first callup this year, appearing in 4 games with the Rays and picking up a double and an RBI. Will he stay on the 40-man? Hard to say. At a guess, the Rays are going to give the 26 year-old another year. Stats.

Mike Fontenot (113 games) is a favorite of WDBB and we were somewhat surprised at his low wRAA stat. It seemed to us that he was doing better over the year. He did a solid job at second base. I was also a bit surprised to see that he only stole 5 bases. Sure seemed like he was a threat out there. At 34 he’s probably heading back into the free agent pool. He’s given the Bulls two good years and no reason not to have him back for another, depending on what the Rays are looking for in the future. Stats.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Durham Bulls in 2014 — Charts

Over the next week or so we’ll be putting up various charts and tables describing the 2014 season. The Bulls themselves have an interesting summary here that’s worth reviewing. And the David Egbert over at Rays Colored Glasses has taken a look at the season from the Rays perspective.

Overall, the Durham Bulls had 26 pitchers get up on the mound in 2014 and 21 different ballplayers came to bat. Overall stats. We’ll take a look at the individuals later.

The first chart shows the Bulls off to a hot start. Remembering that early in the season the Bulls play mostly against their South Division competitors, those couple of weeks pretty much set the stage for the first half. However, the Bulls peaked at the exact mid-season, game 72 on June 15, at 14 games above .500. A huge fall-off from there to the All-Star break was followed by a fairly stable won-loss pattern for the rest of the year. In the meantime, only the Norfolk Tides (Baltimore) made a serious run at the South Division title, but they peaked at 7 games below .500.

This is a striking difference from last year when the Bulls finished 30 games above .500. Nevertheless, enough to win the South and that’s good.

[Note: in all cases clicking on the chart will get you a larger image]


The cumulative runs scored less runs allowed chart follows a similar pattern and points out that the Bulls simply didn’t score a lot of runs this year.



The Bulls strength this year was pitching. This chart tracks the ERA of the team after the first couple of weeks of the season. Notice how it jumps up at exactly the same time that the Bulls fell off their games above .500 high mark in mid-season. However, as a group, the 2014 starting crew really wasn’t all that good. At their best, the starters were a little above 3.50 and by season’s end they were around 4.25. Again, a distinct difference from the 2013 crew. However, the performance of the relievers was simply stunning. They were extraordinary at the start of the season, had some troubles mid-season, but certainly looked great at the end of the year.



The 2014 hitters, not so good. In fact, the Bulls had the worst batting average in the International League, .248, and were 12th of 14 in team OPS. This busy-looking chart is a plot of the game-by-game OPS of the last half of the season. The red line is a trend. What’s important to note is how rarely it even approaches an “average” OPS. Not a good year at bat.



What's missing from all these charts is the good time we had at the ballpark this year. Lots to cheer about, a lot of terrific baseball was witnessed, and a pretty terrific renovation. More about that later.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Game 5; The Last Hurrah

Wool E. Bull waves good-bye
Chris Baird, WRAL

International League Governors’ Cup (Best of 5); 2-3
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, International League, News & Observer

It seems to strange to not have a game to look forward to, but that is how the end of the season feels.

Last night the Bulls were out-hit and out-pitched and now they’ve scattered, mostly, to their homes.

We are going to be a long time trying to forget how they were one strike away from another championship. But surely the Pawtucket Red Sox feel the same way. I wrote much earlier that sometimes the playoffs come down to who has the better AA team, and that was a piece of it. Two pitchers and a hitter were new to the Sox and they did just fine the last two games. They helped.

The Pawtucket Red Sox took the trophy away. Maybe next year. In the meantime, plenty to like about this year.

I’ll dig back into my numbers and put up some thoughts about this year’s team and this year’s season. All things considered. It worked out just fine.

Outside the game —

  • Nick Franklin, Alex Colome, and C. J. Riefenhauser were called up to the Tampa Bay Rays. Colome will be getting a start with the Rays tomorrow. All the best to all of them. Sure wish that Adam Liberatore had gotten a shot as well.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Game 4 to the PawSox; Tonight's the Night


DBAP, 7 am, 13 Sep


International League Governors’ Cup (Best of Five); 2-2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, International League

It must have been tough to be on the grounds crew last night. A game was lost, but fireworks show went on as advertised. So they had to fix the field and spread the tarp because it looked like rain (and it did). Must have been 1 o’clock in the morning after a long, long losing game. But it looks like they got the job done early this morning. Thank you!

Merrill Kelly is up tonight. One more trek back to the DBAP. Here’s hoping the weather holds and the Bulls come back. Last chance.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Game 3 to the Durham Bulls; One More for the Cup!

Wool E. Bull and friends dance for the crowd last night.
Chris Baird, WRAL

International League Governors’ Cup (Best of Five): 2-1
Wrap, Box, Providence Journal, Herald-Sun, International League

The moment that I circled on my scorecard last night was Cole Figueroa’s at bat in the 3rd inning. Justin Christian had led off with a double and the Bulls were down 0-2 after the Pawsox scored single runs in the 2nd and 3rd innings. The Sox’s Henry Owens wasn’t quite cruising, but he had not seen any real trouble either. Figueroa stretched him out to at least 8 pitches (my count may be off) and on the 9th pitch he hit a very sharp grounder to short. Christian took off for 3rd base. Shortstop Deven Marrero chose to throw to 3rd, threw it high, and the Bulls ended up with runners on 1st and 3rd, nobody out. Jeremy Moore’s single brought Christian home. Tim Beckham’s double brought Figueroa and Moore home. As it turned out, Nick Franklin’s solo home run in the 6th was the key run, but the Bulls had to get those first three runs across first.

What a change to have a starting pitcher set the stage. For the second time in the playoffs Matt Adriese did his job and did it well, going a full six innings. In the 5th he was going so well that he struck out the side. In the 6th he was still looking good, but his pitch count was into the high 90’s and it was time to change.

Both relievers had pitched on Thursday night’s marathon, but they were back and did just fine. I thought that the game was in the bag after C.J. Riefenhauser got out of trouble in the 7th and had a clean 8th. However, as he often does, Josh Lueke provided some last-minute, not particularly welcome, thrills.

The unearned run that scored in the 9th was the first run of any kind against Bulls relievers in this entire series, something like 16+ innings. That’s a testimony to the relief corps even as it says something sad about the starting crew.

I also want to call out Wilson Betemit’s glovework at first base. For some reason everyone, right and left handers alike, were slapping stuff towards right field last night and a couple of them went right down the line. Betemit grabbed at least two that I recall that if not stopped would have created real problems.

Now What?
  • Weather is threatening tonight and it looks even worse for tomorrow. 
  • Mike Montgomery, who had a pretty decent outing back on August 28th, is scheduled to be the starter. 
  • New guy Bryce Stowell is in the bullpen since Nathan Karns starts tonight for the Tampa Bay Rays and the Rays finally took him off the Bulls roster. 
  • You have to expect both managers to go all in tonight. All of Durham’s relievers except Riefenhauser and Lueke are available. Even, as Scott Pose suggested last night, Enny Romero could be available for a batter or two for a couple of 98+ fastballs. 
  • The Pawtucket starter is making his first appearance at Triple A level. 
  • The Bulls could take it all tonight, and wouldn’t that be grand?


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Nice Look for Tonight

Scott & Co are doing us proud.

click for larger view