Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The New Durham Bulls Win Another

Season: 70-68; Home Stand: 4-2
Wrap, Box

The new Durham Bulls kept up their late season pace last night. Only two of the new players were on the field, José Constanza in left field and Cameron Seitzer at first base. Constanza had two hits and a RBI. Seitzer had his first AAA hit. Old hands Corey Brown, Ryan Brett (who had a 4 for 5 night), Nick Franklin, Jake Elmore, plus new guy Joey Rikard contributed RBI.

This was the best outing that Scott Diamond has had since back on July 6. And it was, by far, his most efficient. He went 7⅓ innings on only 87 pitches. That is a stellar 3.95 pitches per out. He was already the most efficient starter on the team at 4.90, but this was an exceptional outing. Parker Markel gave up his first run.

Outside the game —
  • Here’s a bit more discussion of Hak-Ju Lee. At a guess, another team is going to claim him, but my guesses aren’t usually accurate.
  • Congratulations to Taylor Motter for making the International League All-Star team! Yet another argument for a call-up for him. He was 1 for 4 with a walk while playing shortstop last night.
  • J.P. Arencibia made the Orioles pay for dumping him at the beginning of the season. He started at catcher last night up in Baltimore and picked up 6 RBI on two singles and a home run in an 11-2 win, while catching Drew Smyly in Smyly’s best performance since finishing his rehab with the Bulls a couple of weeks ago.
  • And a small rant about the Herald-Sun. First, they messed up their website so I had to make several calls to get to it. Then they didn’t bother to send a reporter to last night’s game and did a cut and paste job from the Bulls wrap. I’ve come to expect that of my hometown paper, the N&O, but Durham’s?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Rosterification: Round 1

  • Hak-Ju Lee was designated for assignment, probably to make room on the Tampa Bay 40-man roster for Luke Maile. If he passes through waivers then he could get in a game or two as a Bull before the end of the season
  • Ernesto Frieri came off the disabled list.
  • Jared Mortensen is a 27 year old Canadian right-hander who has started 17 games this season for the Montgomery Biscuits. Has been in the Rays system since 2013. Stats.
  • Cameron Seitzer  is a 25 year old mostly first baseman and designated hitter for the Biscuits the last two years. .308/.383/.475, pretty good. Stats.
  • Alec Sole is the youngster of the crew, only 22. The infielder (ss, 3B, mostly) is jumping up from the Charlotte Stone Crabs. He started the season in Bowling Green. Stats.
  • Wilmer Dominguez a 24 year old catcher who has been with the Rays system since 2009. He has only played in one game this year (at Montgomery), so there’s a story there. Stats.

Back Above .500

 Wrap, Box

Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Season: 69-68; Home Stand: 3-2
Games Remaining: 7; Home Games: 4
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The last two of these games kept the Bulls within reach of a respectable .500 season. They did get eliminated from the wild card, but that was a bridge far, far, too far. And the Bulls’ win last night certainly put that out of reach for Gwinnett.

From now on expect chaos in the lineups. From our point of view we are likely to find the candidates for this year’s Moonlight Graham awards. The awards were not granted in 2014 for reasons that escape me at the moment, surely a good reason, though. Leading candidates at the moment are: Infielder Juniel Querecuto (4 games back in late May, 12 plate appearances) and pitcher Kyle Winkler (3 appearances in mid-June, 3 innings).

As mentioned earlier today, 6 Bulls have been called up and, so far, only one replacement has been announced, veteran José Constanza. We’ll see what happens next.

Meanwhile, let’s make note of the work of Bradin Hagens last night. His post All-Star performance had been something of a disaster. In his first six starts after the break he had 5 losses and a no-decision. However, on August 20 he had a nice 5 inning start and a win; on Aug 26 he had another good start and went 6⅔ in a win; and then last night he went another 6⅔ for another win. So something is on track and he has made a big difference as the Bulls crawled out of that 7 games below .500 hole they’d been in.

So now (and this weekend) is the time just to go out to the park and take a look at next year’s players.

Six to the Rays

The first round of September call-ups were announced last night. This is going to get complicated today and over the next couple of days as we find out who's going to be filling in.

  • Matt Moore
  • C.J. Riefenhauser
  • Kirby Yates
  • Mikie Mahtook
  • Richie Shaffer
  • Luke Maile
All except for Luke Maile are are the Rays 40-man so nothing needs to be done there except to make room for Maile. That will probably be announced today. Worst case, for the Bulls, is for a current member of the Bulls team to be designated for assignment, which would mean that he could not play for a few days, if at all.

Note that the Biscuits clinched the second half win are in the Southern League playoffs. They likely will be making the case that they not get stripped of their best players.

Today is José Constanza's 32nd birthday. He will be celebrating in a Bulls uniform. If the name is familiar, he spent much of last year in a Gwinnett Braves uniform and the early part of this year in a Louisville Bats uniform. Last played in mid-July. Stats.

Long-time Durham Bull Justin Ruggiano is back with the team that drafted him, the LA Dodgers.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Fun While It Lasted

6th Inning: Hak-Ju Lee slides safely under/past the tag of Knights’ 1B Dayan Viciedo as pitcher Brad Penny and 2B Michah Johnson cluster in frustration. Thanks, Sue

Season: 67-67; Home Stand: 1-1
Games Remaining: 10; Home Games: 7
Wrap, Box

Each of the three Durham Bulls pitchers allowed at least one earned run last night and that was enough to break the streak. Those fans inclined to seek good news at the far reaches of probability, possibility, and plausibility are slowly coming back to earth. But wasn’t that a pretty run?

About that photo up at the top by our good friend Sue Roth (who sits not far from first base, obviously) — I am not a fan of even the idea of sliding into first base and have been pleased to see it seemingly disappear from most player’s trick bag. But this time it made sense. As the first batter in Durham’s piece of the 6th inning, Hak-Ju Lee made a hard bunt between pitcher and first base. Thereafter there was a gathering of Knights: Pitcher Brad Perrry, First Baseman Dayan Viciedo, and Second Baseman Micah Johnson. Viciedo has the ball and Lee is sliding under and past the tag to reach the base. A fraction of a second later Johnson kicks Lee in the head and they had what I hope was a friendly discussion about that.

Back to the rest of the game.

Matt Moore had brilliant innings followed by not very good innings all night. And easy 1st inning, then two walks and two K’s in the 2nd. In the 3rd a single, a run-scoring double, and two wild pitches let two runs score. Three up, three down in the 4th. Same in the 5th. In the 6th a single, then an error by Richie Shaffer, and another single loaded the bases. Moore hit the next batter for another run. Kirby Yates gave up a run on 2 hits in his 1⅔ innings. Andrew Bellatti gave up a home run in his inning.

But the hitters did have their chances. After being absolutely shut down for 14 outs, a double by Cory Brown broke up the perfect game Brad Penney had going. Then in the 7th the Bulls scored two runs before Mikie Mahtook struck out with the bases loaded. That got the Bulls within a run, but the Knights got two more runs before the Bulls even threatened in the 9th and that fizzled out.

Nevertheless, an 8-game run is a big deal. Thanks, Bulls, for the thrills as the season winds down.

Friday, August 28, 2015


Season: 67-66; Home Stand: 1-0
Games Remaining: 11; Home Games:8
Wrap, Box

The Bulls kept their streak alive at the DBAP last night. Remarkable.

Both managers pushed their luck, though. Jared Sandberg got away with it. The Knights’ manager, Joel Skinner, did not. The question both managers faced was how long to leave a struggling pitcher in the game. The Bulls Scott Diamond got out of a bases loaded situation in the 4th inning with a lineout to left field. However,  in a bases-loaded no-outs situation in the next inning, he got the first out on a popup, his second out on another popup, but the next batter singled and two runs scored. By that time Diamond had faced 27 batters and thrown 90+ pitches. The Bulls were down 3-2 going into the 6th.

Over on the Charlotte side their pitcher, Kyle Drabeck, went into the 7th inning, but a walk and two singles later he faced the same situation, bases-loaded, no-outs. He wild-pitched in a run, got a K, but then a two-run single by Luke Maile put the Bulls ahead 5-4. He left the game at 27 batters and 104 pitches.

Neither starting pitcher had stellar Game Scores: Diamond’s was 38, Drabeck’s was 40.

But the Bulls' relief crew only gave up one hit. Jim Miller was particularly impressive. I don’t think I’ve seen him more focused on each pitch this year. Two K’s and a pop-up and he got the save

Kudos to Luke Maile for his game-winning single in the 7th and to Mikie Mahtook for his two-run double in the 3rd.

Outside the game —
  • J.P. Arencibia started at catcher for the Rays last night and Joey Butler, who helped win the last two games for the Bulls, joined him in the lineup as the DH. The two of them made the difference in the Rays win before just 9,000 fans in St. Petersburg (the Bulls had almost 8,000 in Durham). Arencibia drove in run with a sac fly. Butler hit a game-tying RBI and then scored the winning run on a wild pitch.
  • Along with Butler leaving, José Dominguez is back. He passed through waivers. I didn’t notice him in the bullpen last night, but he was probably there.
You can get headaches trying to figure out the combinations and permutations of the next 11 games. However, I think that it’s safe to say that Columbus and Indianapolis have a lock on the Wild Card and IL West championship. Indianapolis certainly looks like the winner, but one or the other would have to lose almost of their remaining games to fall out of the wild card lead. Standings.

Norfolk, on the other hand, has lost their last four games and is only ahead of Gwinnett (who they are now playing) by two games.

Here's the pattern since mid-season (game 73).

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot

Season: 66-66; Trip: 2-0
Wrap, Box

The Bulls reached .500 for the first time in almost exactly a month (July 26) with their seventh win in a row, the longest streak of the year. On game six of the run, Tuesday night, Joey Butler broke it open in the 11th inning, and he had a lot to do with Wednesday afternoon's win. Names we’ve grown to love this last week looked terrific, Taylor Motter, Richie Shaffer, and Butler all had hits in the 11th and Hak-Ju Lee brought in the third run with a sacrifice fly, a run it turned out the Bulls would need as Kirby Yates made the bottom of the 11th a bit more thrilling than necessary.

Then yesterday Joey Butler was at it again, this time with two home runs in support of Bradin Hagens. Along with Mikie Mahtook’s 4 for 5 day at the plate, a timely sacrifice fly by Taylor Motter, and a disruptive stolen base by Lee.

Both games were also bit unusual for Jared Sandberg’s tactics or, rather, his use of some traditional tactics he seems to have avoided this season.

For example, he has only called for 8 intentional bases on balls all season. He did so in the bottom of the 9th on Tuesday and it worked.

Similarly, he has not been a big fan of pinch-hitting, but yesterday in the critical 7th inning, when the Bulls were behind 3-4, he put Nick Franklin in to bat for catcher Mayo Acosta. Hak-Ju Lee had singled with one out and Acosta has a dismal batting average. A few pitches into the at bat Lee stole second base and Franklin then drew a walk (note that the Tides’ catcher set up well off the plate for a 3-1 pitch so it was an unintentional, intentional in hopes of getting a double play). When Mikie Mahtook hit a double to bring in Lee and Franklin and the winning runs, Sandberg looked like master tactician.

Pitching? Blake Snell was terrific on Tuesday and Bradin Hagens got his second win in a row, getting past two important errors by Bulls fielders.

Outside the game —
  • J.P. Arencibia went up to the Rays! Congratulations. It turns out that his recent time behind the plate with the Bulls will serve him well. See this link for more than you probably want to know about how they pulled off the roster moves.
  • Desmond Jennings is hurt, again. That opens the door for any number of Bulls on the 40-man, to include Joey Butler, Mickie Mahtook, or Richie Shaffer
About these seven wins and the next 12 games —

This has been a remarkable run. The team ERA dropped from 3.99 to 3.90 (with 132 games played, it takes a lot to move the averages that much). The starters went from 3.92 to 3.88, while the relief crew outdid themselves with a drop from 4.09 to 3.93. The hitters moved the team seasonal wOBA from .317 to .321 over the seven games. That may not seem like much, but, again, at this point in the season that’s a big move. The team wOBA hasn’t been that high since July 22. The last time the team pitching has been in this range was back on July 16th.

The rest of the Bulls dozen games are against South Division opponents and 9 of their final 12 games are at home. The Bulls start with Charlotte, have a couple of games against Gwinnett, a few more with Charlotte, and end up with Norfolk. Recently Norfolk has fallen off its terrific run to the top and Gwinnett, which had been making quite an attempt, has also fallen off. With roster turmoil coming for all four teams, who knows what the future holds. For the time being, let’s celebrate a return to .500 baseball.