Friday, September 22, 2017

The Durham Bulls in 2017 — Part 1

The Durham Bulls started the season winning three games in a row and never looked back. There was a moment back on April 22nd when the Gwinnett Braves were in a tie, but that was the last time the Bulls did not lead in the South Division of the International League.

click on chart for larger image
Tracking their net runs scored over the year was equally impressive, if not as much as a couple of other years.


Pitching

What stood out in 2017 was the Bulls' pitching staff. This chart shows the running ERA of the starters and relievers over the last half of the season. The Bulls ended the regular season with a team ERA of 3.37, just behind Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's 3.36. And a good bit better than the league average on 3.97. And just look at the relievers! Their ERA at the end of the year was just 3.13. That explains the observation that of the 15 "bullpen days" (games that were started by relief pitchers instead of starters), the Bulls won 12.


Hitting

Hitting was not a strength of this year's Bulls team. They had a hitting streak going at mid-season, but they "regressed to the mean" by the end of the year. The team OPS of .719 matched the league average for the year. That goes a long way toward explaining the Runs Scored chart above.


Defense

We invented a stat this year to try to get a grip on team defense, calling it the "Unearned Run Average". It's simply a running average of unearned runs per 9 innings and fairly easy to calculate. The Bulls were a standout this year. Errant glove work and wild pitching did not have too much of an impact on games lost this year.


How about that post-season?

These stats do not reflect a post-season where the Bulls took three out of four in the first round, took three out of four in the second round to win the Governors' Cup, and then won the AAA National Championship. They outscored their opponents 39 to 22 and pitched two shut-outs. And who could forget a grand slam to win the AAA game!

2017 is a fine addition to the Durham Bulls history.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tampa Bay Rays in the Postseason

I keep reading elaborate explications of how the Rays could get into the post-season.

Check out their performance since  September 1.

Not likely ...



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Best in AAA Baseball — The Durham Bulls

Scranton Times-Tribune


Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay): 5; Memphis Redbirds (St Louis): 3
Wrap, MiLB, Scranton Times-Tribune, WRAL, Herald-Sun, Box, Play-by-Play

By now you will have heard about Kean Wong's heroics and his well-deserved accolades.

But there's more ...

For example, Jeff Ames came on in the 2nd inning with the bases loaded and just one out. An Adames-Wong-Bauers double play ended the threat. Ames stayed for another inning, recorded a five-out appearance, and a season as the Bulls best middle reliever.

Kean Wong could just as easily been the games' goat. He got a single in the 1st inning and then got thrown out trying to go first to third on a Willy Adames single. However, in the bottom of the 4th all was forgiven with that very pretty grand slam. Then there were two nice bits of defense as the game went on.

Rehabbing Xavier Cedeno was the Bulls fourth pitcher and I was already composing a full-blown rant in my head if he had not done well. But he did a fine job inducing ground balls and stranding a runner on 2B after an error.

Brent Honeywell did a fine job and got credit for the win. I'm not sure why that would be since Chi We Hu pitched the top of the 4th, Cedeno pitched the top of the 5th, and the winning run was scored in the bottom of the 4th. Maybe someone would enlighten me on that rule.

Pretty day. Nice game. Wonderful end to a great year for our Bulls.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bulls v Redbirds Matchup

The St Louis Cardinals AAA team, the Memphis Redbirds won the Pacific Coast League championship (story here). So they are going to show up for tomorrow's AAA championship game up in Moosic, Pennsylvania at the home field of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the place where the Bulls just won the International League Governors' Cup.

Just to establish a modest amount of credibility up front — the idea of a one-game "national championship" makes no sense at all. That said, if the Bulls win, I'll wear the T-shirt.

These numbers are the end-of-season stats for the Bulls and the Redbirds. The teams are pretty close, but the Memphis crew has a substantial edge in hitting, while the Bulls pitching looks pretty good.



But that's at the end of the season. Now both teams have two rounds of playoffs behind them and they both won their championship in hostile territory.

So intangibles will rule.
  • Which starting pitcher will do best after the longest rest period either of them will have had all year? Same goes for the relievers. 
  • Are any of the players looking for a call-up? The Cardinals are 4½ back in the NL wild card; the Rays are 5½ back. Maybe not.
  • The Bulls have been hanging out in Scranton for several days; perhaps taking bp and working out every day. The Redbirds possibly went back to Memphis enroute to Moosic.
  • Which manager will make the best calls and the best moments? 
For us, we all need to hope that the TV broadcast crew is better than the last time. For that game, they went off into off-topic story-telling and completely ignored events on the field. Have not heard if Patrick Kinas will be broadcasting on the radio. Hope so. If he does, that will be the place to find out how these teams match up.

By the way, back in 2009 the Bulls played this same team for the AAA National Championship.
And we wrote about it. The Bulls won. In the 11th inning. Check out the box score for a trip down memory lane. Elliot Johnson, Justin Ruggiano, Ray Olmedo, Joe Dillon, Desmond Jennings, Jeremy Hellickson, Joe Bateman, Mitch Talbot. Quite a crew.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Durham Bulls Win Governors' Cup



Durham Bulls: 6; Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders: 4
Box, Wrap (Durham), Wrap (SWB), Wrap (MiLB), Scranton Times-Tribune, Durham Herald-Sun

At the beginning it looked like the Bulls were going to run away with this game, but the RailRiders kept coming back. In the end, however, the Bulls prevailed.

This is a very good team and I want to thank them for all the thrills they've given us this year. It's been a lot of fun.

I would be remiss if, in WDBB tradition, if I didn't point out a few oddities of this last game.

The pitching crew was not (mostly) the crew that got the Bulls into the playoffs.
  • Starting pitcher, Burch Smith, only had three regular season appearances for the Bulls and had pitched just 16⅓ innings. 
  • He was followed by Adam Kolarek, who was an exception. Kolarek had 41 regular season appearances with the Bulls for 43⅔ innings. He had three post-season appearances.
  • Hunter Wood was also an exception. Wood made 19 regular season appearances (including 6 starts) for 53⅓ innings. In post-season he had 3 appearances and got the win last night.
  • Jonny Venters had 1 appearance for 1 inning in the regular season, but 3 in the post-season.
  • Mike Broadway had 6 appearances for 15 innings in the regular season and 3 post-season appearances. 
  • Diego Casillo, who got the save, came up in June and was a stalwart of the regular season with 30 appearances for 42⅔ innings. He had three appearances with 2 saves in the post-season.
On the other hand, the offense were mostly team regulars.
  • Daniel Robertson, who got the big hits of the night (4 RBI) was an exception since he only had 11 regular season games (but he had 116 in 2016).
  • Kean Wong, Jake Bauers (who got the Governors' Cup MVP award), Shane Peterson, and Justin O'Conner all got hits and scored runs.
My understanding is that the Bulls are going to hang out in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area until Tuesday, waiting for the winner of the Pacific Coast League Championship to show up for the Triple-A National Championship game to show up.

Regarding that:

El Paso Chihuahuas: 2; Memphis Redbirds: 0
Box, Wrap
Redbirds lead series 2-1.

Note: 2017 Governors' Cup T-Shirts are in the Ballpark store.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Bulls Win; Lead Series 2-1

Durham Bulls: 6; Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders: 2
Wrap(D), Wrap (SWB), MiLB.com, Scranton Times-Tribune, Box

Brent Honeywell looked really, really good (even when his infield got sloppy), Shane Peterson crushed one over the center field wall, Patrick Leonard made a perfect throw from left field to home (video at the MiLB link), and the Bulls are one game away from the Governors' Cup.

Meanwhile ...

Memphis Redbirds: 2; El Paso Chihuahuas: 0
Wrap, Box

Memphis won in extra innings and is heading to El Paso with a 2-0 lead in the PCL Championship.

Notes:
  • Whoever plays in the "Triple-A National Championship" to be held in Moosic next week can only hope that the TV crew gets a serious upgrade. Guess we are spoiled by the quality of the setup at the DBAP, but the folks up there need some help to improve the shot angles, on-screen graphics, and more.
  • I think I heard Patrick Kinas say that if the Bulls win, they are just going to stay up in  Pennsylvania until Tuesday's game.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bulls-RailRiders Split Shutouts; Off to Moosic

Durham Bulls: 6; Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders: 0
Wrap (D), Wrap (SWB),  Box

Ryan Yarborough's shaky start redeemed by double play and the Bulls never looked back.

Durham Bulls: 0; Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders: 4
Wrap (D), Wrap (MiLB), Box

I suppose you could complain about the Rays dumping two (count 'em, TWO!) rehabbing pitchers into the Bulls lineup in a playoff game. But Nathan Eovaldi and Xavier Cedeno weren't why the Bulls lost the second game. The Bulls lost to an exceptional pitching performance by the RailRiders Domingo German who only allowed one hit of seven innings.

I've made a bit of fun about how the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders do not play in either Scranton or Wilkes-Barre. They play in Moosic. Here's why and it actually makes a bit of sense (even if the name of the team does not). Click "view larger map" for context.



Meanwhile, over in Memphis the Redbirds won against the Chihuahuas 6 to 4. That would be the St Louis Cardinals AAA team the Memphis Redbirds and the San Diego Padres AAA team the El Paso Chihuahuas. Weather is giving the PCL championships fits, so they play at noon today and head off to El Paso.