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.


Pitching

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.



Hitting

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.


Fielding

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.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Back From the West

Over the last several days, the teams of the International League South Division all played teams from the IL West. They did not do well.

The Bulls were 2 and 4 (1-2 against Columbus; 1-2 against Toledo). Gwinnett was also on the road and did a bit better going 3-3 (3-0 against Toledo; 0-3 against Louisville). Norfolk, at home, were 2-4 (0-3 against Indianapolis; 2-1 against Louisville). Over in Charlotte, the Knights went 3-3 (2-1 against Louisville; 1-2 against Indianapolis).

The result? Not much change over the last week. Today the Bulls start a home stand against South Division opponents (Norfolk and Charlotte).

click for larger image
Meanwhile, to our surprise, the Rays aren't doing too bad this year. They're being helped immensely by young Jacob Faria, who is 3-0 since being called up a few days ago.



Matchup: Bull v Tides
Looks at bit like it did a few days ago.



Friday, June 16, 2017

On the Road in Ohio

Lots of very odd things going on up in Columbus, Ohio.

But let's start with the greatest loss to Bulls fans: Craig Albernaz is gone from the roster. Now, that happens to be a very good thing for Mr. Albernaz — he's off to be the manager of the Hudson Valley Renegades. That's a big deal. And we wish him the very best.

Replacing him as a coach is Rafael Valenzuela, about whom we know very little.

About those three games in Columbus ...

The first point to be made is that we sure hope the Bulls don't meet the Clippers in the playoffs, in seven games this year, the Bulls have lost six. In these recent three games, the Bulls lost two, but had their best hitting night of the year in the third.

For weirdness, it was hard to beat the first game that the Bulls lost 3-2. The starting pitcher (Yoel Espinal in a spot start) had a no-hitter for his entire 2 1/3 innings pitched, but also walked 7 batters and left the game with 2 runs scored and took the loss. The third run scored was unearned (in the 8th against Jeff Ames).

As mentioned, in game 2 the Bulls hitters had one of their best days of the year and shut out the Clippers 11-0, the biggest run differential this year. Unfortunately, last night the Bulls turned around and got shut out 8-0.

They are off to Toledo for three games against the Mud Hens (and the Rays are just down the road in Detroit). The Mud Hens have lost their last three games and don't match up well against the Bulls. In Durham last month the Bulls took two out of three games.



Thursday, June 8, 2017

Bulls Hitters So Far

Overall, the Bulls hitting crew is tied with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs for batting average, and is 4th in the IL in OPS. This list is limited to those players with more than 50 plate appearances and is sorted by wOBA (weighted on-base average). Another stat in the table isn't very typical either, wRAA, which purports to measure a player's contribution.


What jumps out at me is how miserable a year Casey Gillaspie is having, so far. Undoubtedly he will improve, but it has to be extremely frustrating for him this year. Another prospect who is not having a good year at bat is Willy Adames, but not as bad as Gillaspie.

Of course, I have to point out that Dayron Varona was making a significant contribution to the team before getting released.

Update: I failed to credit the source of these data. My apologies to Fangraphs


Bulls Sweep Charlotte; Home Tonight

In addition to winning three games in a row (and improving their record to 8 of last 9 games), a couple of interesting things happened while in Charlotte.

Starting pitcher Jacob Faria, who was doing a fine job for the Bulls got called up to Tampa Bay and had a very successful debut last night down in St. Petersburg. Looks like he will come right back, though.

Reliever Yoel Espinal provided some thrills with an ugly start to the 9th inning last night — a walk, a home run, another walk — and then he struck out the side.

In the same game, Blake Honeywell had his best start of the year and Shane Peterson's two home run game was a big deal.

Overall, the Bulls return for four games against the Norfolk Tides before heading off to Columbus, Ohio.


Matchup

The Tides are not having a good year, and the issue looks to be pitching, although their fielding is nothing special.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Nice Time at Home; Off to Charlotte

That was a very successful home stand. The Bulls won 5 out of 7 in mostly well-played games. As a result, they are 13 games above .500 and well ahead of the Gwinnett Braves, who are 6 games back.

Notable for the homestand was the appearance yesterday of the 26th (!) pitcher to appear on the mound in a Durham Bulls uniform this year. He was young Mr. Diego Castillo who came up from Montgomery for his first AAA appearance.

Also of note was the arrival of Alec Sole, winner of last year's WDBB Moonlight Graham Award. He got his first AAA hit! Congrats!

On a sad note, Dayron Varona was released. I really liked watching him play this year and last year, but time and competition with youngsters coming up were not in his favor. Here's hoping he finds another team.

Matchup

The Bulls are off for a short visit to Charlotte. The Knights are just back from a not-very-successful trek up North. They lost five games in a row. Their defense isn't helping. .66 unearned runs per 9 innings is not a good number.




Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Roadkill

Well, that was a disaster of a road trip. The Bulls lost five and won just one game. And the Bulls come back to play seven games against the very same teams (double header tonight!). Here's hoping they can do better at home.

What went wrong? Let's start with ...

 Pitching

Starting pitching has not been the Bulls strong point this season, but they're still a pretty good crew. Also, they've stayed below the league average in ERA. Nevertheless, over the six-game trip, their combined ERA went from 3.47 to 3.78 and they took the blame for two of the five losses. The relief crew, a great bunch by any measure, went from 2.63 to 2.73 and took the blame for three of the losses.

Particularly noticeable was the starting pitchers giving up 6 home runs (the relievers gave up 2) and the poor road performance of Blake Snell and Brent Honeywell.

Overall, Rochester and Pawtucket scored 30 runs (all earned, so you can't blame the defense) and the Bulls scored just 14. The team ERA went from 3.09 to 3.30.

Click on chart for larger image

Which brings me to ...
Hitting.

The hitters did particularly poorly over the duration of the trip. The team OPS (On Base Percentage plus Slugging) dropped from .759 to .728.



Meanwhile, the Gwinnett Braves were at home winning 6 of 7 games and climbing back to within 2½ games of the Bulls.