Tuesday, February 24, 2015

All-DBAP 3B - ????

Well the choices for All-DBAP third baseman are out and they give me a chance to rant a bit. I think I mentioned earlier that we are likely to see a “two eras” breakout as this went along, and that sort of explains the choice of Scott McClain, who played in 1998 and 1999, but not really the others.

Let me remind readers that this blog’s focus is on the Durham Bulls and, mostly, the guys who have played here over the years. Thus, we lean towards performance as a Bull and not performance in other times and places.

In the Bulls' list we have:
As I said, Scott McClain makes some sense. But look at these guys, all of whom have both more games as a Bull and more time at third base than Huff or Longoria.
And a couple of guys who played some 3B and made significant contributions, such as:
And let’s not forget Angel Chavez (Angel who??), who had a season with the Bulls, played in 114 games, 73 at 3B.

My point is that I’m somewhat disappointed with our choices this week. Guess I’ll give Scott McClain my vote ... but I would rather have had more choices.

Monday, February 16, 2015

All-DBAP - 2B - Elliot Johnson

The Bulls have put up their choices for All-DBAP second base over on their blog.

Let’s face it, this vote is going to mostly be Montoya-era (Elliot Johnson) vs Evers-era (Brooks Badeaux) Bulls teams. We think Elliot Johnson should get the nod. I really like Cole Figueroa, but I always saw him as a third baseman and he simply doesn’t have the number of games or the hitting record of the other two.

If we look at the tables we put together a couple of years ago we see that both Badeaux and EJ made the list (note: So did Jared Sandberg!). Ranked by number of games played (not all at 2B) EJ had 410 games (#3 on the list) and Badeaux had 326 (#8 on the list). When we sort the list by OPS, EJ is at #14 with .735 and Badeaux #17 at .648. Of course, not all those games were at second base. They both played a good bit of shortstop and other positions as needed.

Certainly Badeaux has the affection of the long-time fans in my section of the stands, but that was before my time. He was undoubtedly well-liked and was frequently mentioned with fond regard. I never saw him play.

On the other hand, in my time in watching the Bulls, we got to watch Elliot Johnson make a difference in a many a baseball game and we like him a lot and we'd love to see him make the All-DBAP team.

Monday, February 9, 2015

All-DBAP First Base - Chris Richard, Of Course

As might be guessed from an earlier post, Chris Richard is one of my all-time favorite Durham Bulls. And this is the week we get to vote on the first base position.

Over at the Bulls blog they’ve got four solid candidates, two of whom we’ve written a lot about since we started this blog, Dan Johnson and Chris Richard. The other two, Steve Cox and Kevin Witt, were certainly terrific Bulls, although if I were making the list, I’d certainly have put Leslie Anderson in the group.

But why Chris Richard over Dan Johnson? A couple of reasons.

I’ll acknowledge that over his 450 games (DJ had just 304) Richard had a slightly lower OPS, .906 to .965. But, since we are voting for first baseman, let me point out that he played 303 of those games at 1B. DJ  played just 102 games at first base. Said another way, 68% of Chris Richard’s playing time with the Bulls was as a first baseman, while Dan Johnson (while he added a lot to the Bulls) played just 34% of his games at 1B.

We will, of course, admit to being a serious Chris Richard fan. We have even suggested retiring his number, which was 27. I wasn't the only one to note his contribution on the sad announcement of his retirement, for example here.

His biggest night of his Bulls career had to be May 15, 2009 when he hit two grand slams agains the Louisville Bats. (story, story). A great night.

He’s got my vote. I think he should have yours too. Over at the Durham Bulls facebook page.

Update: Chris is in! Yahoo! See link here.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Kudos to the Bulls; Signs of Spring

Spring is Coming?
Fans of the Durham Bulls Baseball club are on their way to becoming the best-informed in minor league baseball. No other minor league club that I’ve encountered works nearly as hard digging out, and publishing, information we fans need (or at least want) to help us through the winter. This year their work has been exceptional.

Case in point, a recent post on their Hit Bull Win Blog about spring training invites.

Why are spring training invites so important? Well, if history is any indication, the start-of-the-year roster of our Durham Bulls will come almost exclusively from two groups of players — those already on the Tampa Bay Rays 40-man roster and players with “minor league contracts with an invitation to spring training.” The list probably isn't complete, but it's close.

Consequently, as spring training cranks up these guys are the players we Bulls fans most likely to be seeing in April. Now, there will be a few quirks. For example, the major league spring training camp is knee deep in pitchers, so there will be a few extra catchers on the list. Also, the details of the contracts are rarely released and sometimes have “opt out” clauses where the player and/or the Rays can pull the plug at a specified time under specific conditions, such as the end of spring training. And sometimes a player gets so hot in the spring that he makes it onto the active roster.

We’ll be writing about these guys as the spring goes along, but a couple we already know.

Vince Belnome had a terrific year with the Bulls in 2013 earning his way onto the 40-man roster. He fell off a bit in 2014. We like him and have high hopes he’s back on form for 2015.

We’ve seen a lot of Brandon Gomes over the years. And we like him. He will be competing for a slot on the Rays active roster in the spring.

But the big deal, and the one that speaks to us all, is the obvious dedication the Bulls front office has to informing the fans. We here at WDBB really appreciate their work.

Keep it up!

[Note: WDBB reserves the right to continue to rant from time to time on various topics, but, for now, take a bow. You deserve it!]

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

All-Time AAA Durham Bulls Catchers

This is going to be fun!

The Bulls have started up a terrific way to think about the team’s 20 years at the DBAP by letting us put together an all-star team as part of the celebration. The way it will work is that each week they will put up a position for a vote, naming some candidates. We then have to go over to their Facebook page to vote. Sounds like a lot of fun. They are starting out with a vote on the top catcher.

We will have to note a couple of things along the way. Here at WDBB we have already done a lot of the work back in early 2013 when we gave out opinions with a greatest hitters and greatest pitchers list. We even speculated that it would be fun to put together a team. But we don’t have near the readership of the Bulls facebook page, so more power to them.

They are starting out with the catching position. Here are the players. I’ve made my vote, although I have to note that back when we made up our greatest hitters list, no catchers made the cut. It seems that catchers just don’t stick around very long.

They are then going to move on to first base and [Chris Richard] there's little doubt [Chris Richard] who our favorite [Chris Richard] first baseman choice is going to be: Chris Richard.

So, keep an eye on the Bulls Facebook page and have fun.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Jared Sandberg Back, As the Boss

Photo by Christine Nguyen, Durham Herald-Sun
By now most readers of this blog know that the Bulls have a new manager, Jared Sandberg. Sandberg may be young, just 36, but he’s been playing or coaching in professional baseball since he was 18 years old, and for parts of 5 of those years he was one of the stalwarts of the Durham Bulls.

A few years back we dove into Bulls history and came up with a “greatest hitters” list of 17 Bulls. Jared Sandberg’s on that list as #6 by one sort and #12 on another sort. So, we fans are getting a guy who’s played a lot of baseball in the International League and understands some of the special dynamics of Triple A baseball.

Sandberg’s major league stats are here and minor league stats are here. But the press releases are pointing out his success at several levels in the Rays system, and that’s probably what should be important to us.

For more info, here are several links:
What now? As we’ll get to later, probably next month, the Durham Bulls manager and most (all?) of his coaching staff participate in spring training as part of the big league training camp. Consequently, we are unlikely to hear much more about or from the Bulls new manager until the team shows up in Durham in early April, if then. For that matter, we will not know the composition of the Bulls roster until the Rays break from spring training.

That said, we were impressed with his comments and what he had to say. He seems comfortable with the press and he has obviously given a lot of thought to his new job.


Do we have anyone out there who remembers Sandberg as a player?


About 18 minutes into the Bulls YouTube video, Sandberg mentions that he has chatted with both Steven Vogt and Craig Albernaz since his selection. That’s interesting.

Also, Craig Albernaz is back in the Rays system as a coach for the Princeton Rays. Could not be happier for him. Nice to know that he’s back. Bet he’ll have fun down at spring training this year, this time not in catcher’s gear.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Pitch Clock Coming to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park?

Photo - MiLB.com
Up amongst the big guys who watch major league baseball they keep kvetching about how baseball is a slow game, and getting even slower. Now, with laser-like attention to detail, major league baseball is taking a look at—wait for it—time between pitches. 

Are they going to look at, for example, replay? Or pitcher changes? Or batters spending a couple of hours re-Velcroing their batting gloves?

Nope. What they apparently plan to do is put pitch clocks in every AA and AAA stadium. Why in the minor leagues? Because they can. See, if they tried something like this in the major leagues they’d have to get the players union to agree. In the minors they don’t. Sort of like the batting helmets that minor leaguers have to wear. But there's a bit of skepticism out there.

This year’s Arizona Fall League ran clocks (and other time-saving rules) and we have the comments of one AAA manager regarding them. In this link we have a video of a clock in action, so looks like the software/hardware set up is doable. 

But will it speed up the game? Well, out in the Arizona Fall League when the clock was in use it saved a whopping 10 minutes(!) per game. That’s roughly the amount of time in my life I’ve spent watching Jonny Gomes twitch at the plate — and that’s just during a couple of games at the DBAP back in 2008 when he was here on a rehab assignment. Think about what it would mean for all of baseball if Gomes actually had to stay in the box these last few years? Think about it. Gomes has had 3747 major league plate appearances. Assume that he takes at least 30 seconds per plate appearance twitching around (low guess in my opinion), that's 31 hours — hours! — lost to baseball from just one player. 

Nevertheless, the clocks are coming to the DBAP. Inevitably we will get a ball four based on the clock count. That’ll be a day for puzzlement among the fans not listening to the radio. (Heads up Patrick Kinas! Gonna have some ‘splaining to do.)

I’ve annoyed more than a few folks seated near me by shouting “play ball” at pitchers and batters who waste time, but I honestly don’t remember but a couple of Bulls who were guilty of excessive twitchiness. The aforementioned Gomes, of course. And then Josh Lueke was something of a human rain delay. I don’t remember David Price being particularly slow to the plate, but apparently he leads the majors in time-between-pitches for starters nowadays. And I seem to remember Chris Archer having outings when he’d spend a good bit of time between pitches. However, pitching coach Neil Allen was apparently of the belief that pitchers should set a quick pace and, while here, that’s seems to be what most Durham pitchers have done. Of course, I wouldn't be yelling about Durham players anyhow. 

Another rule that may be implemented is that a batter will have to keep one foot inside the batter’s box. Now, how in the world is that going to be enforced? Seems to me that the first round of hitters do everything to obscure/erase the batters box lines, so that by the 2nd inning or so it’s pretty hard to tell where the box is.

Want to speed up the game? Here’s a new rule. Only 3 pitchers per game. Now that would speed up the game. Of course, advertisers would go nuts. They love pitching changes.