Monday, May 4, 2015

Matchup: Buffalo Bisons vs Durham Bulls

Today is the first day off for the Durham Bulls this year. We are reminded of just how relentless the pace is for those who play this game. For the last 25 days the guys have suited up and (with weather exceptions) gone out on the field every single day. It’s a tough job.

Tomorrow the Buffalo Bisons, the Triple A team of the Toronto Blue Jays, are in town for their only visit of the year. The Bulls will play them here for three games and then they’ll play three games next week (May 11-13) up in Buffalo. And that’s it. They will not see each other again this year unless they meet in the playoffs in September.

Just now the Bisons hold the best record of any team in the International League, and they have the best pitching in the league. That means that we should be seeing some interesting baseball, including another early morning “education day” next Thursday.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Great Trip; Bulls Headed Home

Wrap, Box, Providence Journal

To be honest, I spent all day Saturday getting ready for, and then enjoying, a Derby watch party. Although there was some big stirrings on the web that I’ll get to later.

But we did note that Matt Andriese had his first appearance in a Bulls uniform. Last year he was the Bulls hardest working starting pitcher, starting 25 games and pitching 162 innings with a stellar WHIP of 1.24. The Rays gave him two starts and 3 relief appearances, but just 13 innings so far this year. At least with the Bulls he will get some innings in.

Wrap, Box, Providence Journal
Season: 14-11, Trip: 5-2

Nice end to a very successful road trip, particularly the 2 out of 3 against the PawSox.

Not to take anything away from the Bulls hitters, but the game was charted to be Boston pitching prospect Brian Johnson’s show. Instead, after just 2⅔ innings his season’s ERA blew up from 0.86 to 3.42. That’s a bad day.

Mikie Mahtook’s first home run of the year, a deep fly ball that the wind blew out of the park, put the go-ahead runs across. By that time, however, Johnson’s lack of command was evident. On the short day he had 3 wild pitches and 5 walks to his credit.

The odd, and somewhat sad, stat of the day was Vince Belnome’s first RBI of the year. He drew a bases-loaded walk. Have not yet seen Mr. Belnome look in synch. We can hope.

Outside the game —

The Humberto Quintero (a catcher playing for the PawSox) story blew across the web Saturday morning.

After we wrote it up here, we got a tweet from Snorting Bull that there was video of the incident on the PawSox’s Facebook page. We put up a comment here.

We were not alone.
  • Cork Gaines over at RaysIndex expressed his outrage.
  • Daniel Russell at DRaysBay had some choice words and then chased down the encounter with Hak-Ju Lee and posted that.
  • Mark Tompkin of the Tampa Bay Times talked to Rays manager Kevin Cash.
  • Dan Perry at CBS and Mark Townsend at Yahoo commented.
We noticed that Mr. Quintero did not play in either Saturday’s or Sunday’s game. Probably a good idea.

Rosterization —
  • Joey Butler, who was having a good year with the Bulls, got put on the Rays 40 man and called up. He went 1-3 today. 
  • Interesting comments about soon to arrive Grant Balfour at Rays Colored Glasses.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Pawsox Bragging?

The incident was mentioned in an earlier post, but I didn't expect this. Are the PawSox, by posting this on their Facebook page, bragging about the egregious behavior of their catcher?


Sorry, don't know how to embed a video from Facebook and their instructions didn't work.

Bats Alive in Rhode Island; Hitting Trends

Season: 13-10; Trip: 4-1

After a very early day game in Allentown, Pennsylvania the Bulls were off to Pawtucket, Rhode Island. There Jim Patterson flew in from “extended spring training” for his second start of the year. He did just fine. And he was followed by young Jhan Marinez (terrific), Bryce Stowell (premier middle reliever), and Ronald Belesario.

Meanwhile the Bulls hit three home runs, something they’ve only done once before this year. The first was a game-opening hit by Taylor Motter. The second was a three-run affair by J.P. Arencibia. And the third was a solo shot by Corey Brown.

We saw the very ugly, and endlessly replayed, play by Pawsox catcher Humberto Quintero. Mikie Mahtook was on second and attempted a steal of third. Luke Maile was at bat. Maile simply stood in the box and Quintero launched his throw to 3B right into Maile’s gut. Not OK, and Maile obviously felt it. But much worse was Quintero acting as if it was Maile’s fault. Would expect better from a 35 year-old veteran. Then things got very testy after a collision between Quintero and Hak-Ju Lee at second base later on in the game.

It was May 1 and the speed of game changes are in effect. A Pawtucket batter had a strike called in him because he was not in the box when he should have been.

Rosterizing —
  • As noted, Jim Patterson is back from extended spring training
  • Matt Andriese, who had five appearances with the Rays (two starts)  has been optioned to the Bulls to make room for Alex Colome. Probably will show up soon.
  • Grant Balfour, a once great closer, and former Bull, has signed a minor league deal with the Rays and will be coming to the Bulls to see if he can regain the form he had with the Rays and the Athletics. The Australian should be fun to watch.
  • Everett Teaford, who went up a couple of days ago, is on his way back.
  • I don't think I've mentioned that Kirby Yates has gone on the disabled list. Fits with what we've seen since he came back to the Bulls.
Chart — Hitting

This is one way to look at the Bulls’ hitting performance. I’m using OPS (on base percentage + slugging) as a metric. That’s not my favorite batting stat, but for my purposes of trying to discern team trends, it’s OK. 

What is OPS? Well, it’s a combination of numbers you see on the scoreboard at each game. It is an effort to measure a player’s batting skill beyond batting average. It starts with On Base Percentage, essentially how often a player gets on base when he comes to bat — hit, walk, hit by pitch. And then you add to it the Slugging Average, which is the number of bases per at bat. One way to help understand slugging is that if you look up on the scoreboard and see a batting average that’s the same as the slugging average, it means he’s only hit singles so far this year.

There’s another stat I like better, called Weighted On Base Average, and I plot them both. But as far as trends go, I’m not seeing much difference.

This plots the OPS for each of the last 15 games. Included is the International League average over the last 3 years. The slight upward trend is a good thing. The Bulls’ overall OPS on the season is .690, which ranks them 6th out of 14 teams in the league.

click for larger chart

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Big Inning; Pitching Chart

Season: 12-9; Trip: 3-0
Wrap, Box, Morning Call

The Bulls play an early morning game today, at 10:35, and then move on to a 3-game set in Rhode Island before they come home. So far the trip has been a good one, including last night.

Last night was a game with a sudden dramatic series of events in the 4th inning and then a good job of keeping things on track. With two outs and two runners on Taylor Motter, Alexi Casilla, and Mikie Mahtook drove in five runs to put the game away.

Today's Chart - Bulls Pitching - ERA

This chart looks at the ERAs of Bulls pitchers. ERA (earned run average) is a stat that has gone out of fashion among the sabremetricians, and for a lot of good reasons. Our purposes, however are a bit different from most. What we’re interested in is team pitching performance and trends. For that purpose, the number of earned runs per nine innings — ERA — is a decent metric. We’ll chart a couple of others as the season goes along.

What we have here is the cumulative ERA of the team, the starters, and the relievers, over the last 15 games. That is, after each game we add up the total number of innings and earning runs and calculate the ERA. This is a very small sample size, so you can expect (and you can see) a good bit of variability this early in the season. But a few things are obvious, one being that the relief crew isn’t doing all that good a job at the moment. We should not put too much stock in that just yet because the sample size problem is even worse. Relievers have pitched 71 innings to the starters’ 112 ⅔. Note that the Bulls have had 17 different pitchers on the mound so far this year, ranging from Matt Buschmann’s 25 ⅔ innings to Jose Dominguez’s 2.

The team ERA of 3.09 ranks the Durham Bulls as 5th in the International League, below league-leading Buffalo’s 2.06 and well above the league-worst Louisville’s 4.93.

click on chart for larger image

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Motter Runs; First Chart

Season: 11-9; Trip: 2-0
Wrap, Box, Morning Call

All I was able to catch of last night’s game was the 9th inning. The links provide the basics. Have to point out, however, Taylor Motter’s 3 stolen bases, double and two walks. He was playing second base last night.

And there was the thrill of closer Ronald Belisario, after two quick outs, letting runners get to second and third base before getting the third out. Good for the listener’s heart.

First Chart of the Year

As regular readers know, I love trying to put together pictures of how the Bulls are doing. What I mostly like to do is find a way to show a trend, and I prefer trying to describe team stats rather than individual stats.

Today’s chart is an example of that way of thinking. Rather than a static standings box, I like seeing where a team has been by showing games above/below a .500 win/loss average. That gives you a quick look, for example, at the great run the Bulls have been having over the last week. And it’s a quick glance at how they are shaping up against the rest of the division. To relate back to the usual table, each tick mark in the spread between teams is ½ a game. The Bulls are, thus, 2½ games ahead of Gwinnett, a ½ game back of Norfolk, and a full game back of Charlotte, just as it shows in the conventional standings.

click on chart for larger view

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

It Was a Dark and Windy Night, But ...

Season: 10-9; Trip: 1-0
Wrap, Box, Allentown Morning Call, Noise Nation

It was a miserable night in Allentown, 55° and windy, and from the first it looked as if the IronPigs would have the edge. Do you get used to that windy, cold place? Maybe not. Especially in the 4th when the wind helped former Bull Russ Canzler to a double and he eventually came around to score.

Speaking of Russ Canzler, since he broke into AAA with a great year with the Bulls in 2012 he has become possibly the leading expert on International League ballparks and locker rooms. He’s had playing time with the Columbus Clippers (Cleveland), the Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh), the Norfolk Tides (Baltimore), the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (New York), and he is now in his second season with Philadelphia’s Lehigh Valley IronPigs. He had a pretty good spring. We liked him as a Bull. Always a threat since those days.

It was the 6th inning that did in the IronPigs. Wind starting helping rather than hindering when Mikie Mahtook tripled and then came home on a Joey Brown Butler [Sorry, Joey] double. Then an error (the ‘Pigs had 4 on the night, one by each infielder) put runners on first and third. A Luke Maile sacrifice fly brought in another run. A Eugenio Velez single put runners on first and second. But a spectacular catch by ‘Pigs center fielder Bugusevic kept things on track. However, a double brought home both runners and the Bulls had four runs in. Then the wheels really came off. The ‘Pigs changed pitchers and reliever Adam Loewen walked the next four batters, pushing in two more runs. Pitching change and a popup ended the inning.

That was enough. An ugly win, but still a win.

Rosterfication —
  • I’m losing track of all the roster moves, but for the record, Alan Dykstra is now with the team.
  • Reliever José Dominguez is back from Tampa Bay.
  • Reliever Jhan Marinez has been called up from from Montgomery to pitch for the Bulls (he got in an inning Sunday night).
  • Pitcher Jim Patterson has been sent to “extended Spring Training”, which is sort of like being assigned to Hudson Valley. Wink, wink, he’s probably still around, just can’t come into a game.
  • Have I mentioned that Everett Teaford got called up the other day? He pitched in the Rays loss at Yankee Stadium last night.