Thursday, July 20, 2017

IronPigs Come to Town

The Bulls did a fine job against the leading team in the IL West, the Indianapolis Indians, taking 2 out of 3 games. And they stayed well on top of the IL South.

But today they come up against a rarity for 2017 — a team with a better won-loss record than themselves. The Lehigh Valley IronPigs are the Phillies' AAA franchise and they have been having a great year. They come to town having won 6 of their last 7 games, and firmly back in contention for the IL North leadership. About the only area where there's much of a gap between the two teams is in defensive performance.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Bulls at the All-Star Break

The All-Star break ends for the Bull over in Norfolk tonight. By the way, the PCL won the All-Star game 6-4. Bulls players did pretty well. Box. Patrick Leonard at 3B drew two walks; Willy Adames, at short, was 2 for 3, with a home run; and Mike Marjama started at catcher, but was 0 for 2.

Bulls at the break.


They are solidly in first place in the IL, 21 games over .500 and 10.5 games ahead of second place Gwinnett.

click on chart for larger image


The Bulls ERA ranks third in the IL, but they are much better than the league average and the relievers have simply been doing a superb job. Note the blip among the relievers is entirely the result of one very bad inning a couple of days ago.

Hitting - Team

Overall, the Bulls rank 6th in the IL in OPS, well behind Scranton/WB's .787. But they are doing OK.

Hitting - Individual

The interesting feature of this table is how much Willy Adames has improved his numbers as the year has gone by. Another player worth point ing out is Mike Marjama. Have the Rays finally produced a hitting catcher?

Source: FanGraphs


Here's our home-grown measure of defensive play — the Unearned Run Average. That is, how many unearned runs per 9 innings. As can be seen, letting in an unearned run is a pretty rare event this year for the Bulls, a very good thing.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Matchup: Bulls v Mud Hens

The Toledo Mud Hens are back for the second time this season. That's a very rare event, unprecendented in my experience, for an out-of-division team to visit twice in one year. At any rate, the Bulls and Mud Hens are 3 and 3 on the season.

The Mud Hens are in 3rd place in the IL West and their weakness certain appears to be their hitting. Otherwise, their base numbers are bad at all.

The Bulls, of course, are coming off a hitting gem, but pitching disaster yesterday.


Durham Bulls: 7
Charlotte Knights: 11

Box, Herald-Sun, Play-by-Play

We haven't been writing much about individual games this year. Last night's spectacular one-inning blow-up is going to be an exception.

The convenience-store (7-11) outcome was driven by the two-pitcher, 9-run, no-out beginning to the 8th inning that followed a brilliant start by Austin Pruitt in his new role as a starting pitcher (perfect through 4 innings).

Pruitt was followed by two clean innings by Neal Wagner, and one by Danny Farquar in his first appearance back with the Bulls. Meanwhile the Bulls had put up 4 runs and were cruising toward yet another shutout and win over the Charlotte Knights.

But then in the 8th Danny Farqhuar hit a batter with his first pitch and gave up a single. He left the game with runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs. Diego Castillo came in and, without a single out being recorded, let 8 runs score. His relief, Andrew Kittridge, let one more in.

How bad was it? Well, it was bad enough to move the ERA for all the relievers on the Bulls team from 2.93 to 3.16 — in one game! This is on a season where the relievers have pitched 325 innings so far. To say nothing of Diego Castillo's ERA, which went from 2.12 to 5.29. Of course, that came from allowing 6 runs without recording an out (plus two inherited from Farquhar). Farquhar, by the way, begins his season with the Bulls with an ERA of 18.00.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Home for the 4th

The Bulls are home to celebrate the 4th with a game against the Charlotte Knights.

They come home firmly in first place in the International League South Division.

click on chart for larger image
Four Bulls were picked as All-Stars and to participate in the July 12 All-Star game between the International League and the Pacific Coast League All-Stars out in Tacoma, Washington. That's the best showing of Durham Bulls players in my memory. They are shortstop Willy Adames, third baseman Patrick Leonard, catcher Mike Marjama and relief pitcher Andrew Kittredge. Congratulations!

The road trip went pretty well, 5 wins and 3 losses: 2-2 against the Indianapolis Indians and 3-1 against the Norfolk Tides.

The Hitters

I wanted to put this up to show the impressive improvement at the plate by shortstop Willy Adames. He's breaking out.

Roster changes included:
  • Blake Snell and Adam Kolarek went up to Tampa Bay. 
  • Wilson Ramos and Brad Boxberger finished their rehab assignments.
  • Pitchers José Alvarado and Austin Pruitt were optioned down to the Bulls. Oddly, Pruitt has gone into the starting rotation.
  • Pitcher Jeff Ames went on the temporarily inactive list, but I didn't hear the reason.
  • And reliever Drew Smith came up all the way from the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
Note: WDBB favorite Dayron Varona has caught on with the York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League. He's playing alongside former Bulls (and WDBB favorites) Joel Guzman (Joel is 32 now) and Alexi Casilla. Dayron is doing pretty well with an OPS of .822 over 12 games.

Matchup: Bulls v Knights

What jumps out from these numbers is that the Knights are hitting pretty well, but their pitching and fielding (as measured by unearned runs given up) aren't helping them at all.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Bulls Bats Bludgeon Opponents

Well, that was one heck of a homestand. the Bulls split four games with Norfolk and then blew Charlotte out of the ballpark the last three games. About the only dark smudge on the series was Yonny Chirinos' tough start on the 22nd. The hitters were exceptional. Just compare today's OPS chart with the one from just three days ago.

The Bulls are in Indianapolis tonight for the second time this season. I don't think that I've ever seen two visits to an out-of-division team in a season before. Not sure why that would be. By the way, the Bulls went to Indy via an overnight bus ride and they are coming back to Norfolk by another overnighter later in the week (why go outside the division for just one series? Don't know). At any rate, the Bulls and Indians are well-matched. Should be a good set of games.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Durham Bulls at Mid-Season

Hard to believe that the Bulls are halfway through their season, but they are. In AAA only 142 games are played in a season and yesterday afternoon was game 71. Let's take a look at where they are.

Most importantly, they are in first place in the South Division of the International League. Standings. And they are 7 games ahead of Gwinnett.

click on chart to enlarge

Run Differential

The Bulls' run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed) reflects the team's performance. Nothing like the 2010 or 2013 teams, but still pretty darn good.


Overall, the Bulls team ERA of 3.50 is 2nd best in the IL and much better than the league average of 4.02. However, the starting pitcher performance is worrisome.

That gets a bit more worrisome if you look at the starting pitchers' Game Scores. Game score is one of those newish stats (it's in the box scores of every game these days) that crunches together innings pitched, hits, walks, runs and strikeouts into a single number. A score of 50 is average. As this chart shows, 7 out of the last 15 games have been below average.


The hitters are doing a good job. By the way, we use OPS simply because it's better known and we are looking for trends. Although wOBA is probably a better stat, the trends are about the same. Bulls' OPS ranks 5th in the International League.

Recently we started tracking the OPS of individual Bulls and some interesting patterns have shown up. Note that .700 is considered "average" and .800 "above average". Willy Adames, for example, has seen a nice improvement up to the .763 point. Shane Peterson is having a terrific impact, staying very close to the .850 level. Johnny Field, Mike Marjama, Jake Bauers, and Patrick Leonard make up a very impressive 5-player cluster.

The second cluster of Curt Casali, Kean Wong, Michael McKenry, and Casey Gillaspie are players we want to see doing much better. Not shown is infielder Alec Sole, whose OPS is .310.


Recently, we invented a "back of the envelope" measure of fielding effectiveness, the "Unearned Run Average". The idea is that if the pitcher is responsible for the earned runs, then the rest of the team is responsible for the unearned runs. And it turns out that there are differences among IL teams. This chart shows the IL average and shows that the Bulls have been doing very well this year. In the last month, only two unearned runs have been scored, even though 14 errors were recorded.