Monday, September 21, 2015

The 2015 Durham Bulls in Charts

The 2015 Durham Bulls ended the year at 74-70, tied for third place in the International League South Division, four games behind the division winner, the Norfolk Tides. As the first chart shows, the Bulls peaked at 12 games above .500 back on June 15 (game 66) when they began a slide down to 7 games below .500 in mid-August. Then began a fun-to-watch climb that lasted until the end of the season.

[Note: clicking on a chart will get you a larger image]

This was a season with considerable roster turmoil, mostly driven by injuries in the Tampa Bay Rays system that started in spring training  and continued throughout the season. Thirty-one different players came to bat for the Bulls this year and 36 different players pitched (including a couple of position players). That compares to 21 hitters and 26 pitchers in 2014; 19 and 16 in 2013.

What happened to the Bulls in mid-season? In a word, pitching. The starting pitching this year was never very good and, as a team, did not really improve. The relievers had a terrific start and showed some hope at finish, but the middle was awful. Note that these are cumulative numbers. They really should not be showing so much variance except for the above-noted roster turmoil. The end-of-year team ERA was 3.82, 11th in the 14-team International League. They did lead the league in strikeouts (1,117), but also led the league in home runs awarded (116).

Durham Bulls hitting fell off the edge of the cliff at about the same time as the pitching. However, it recovered very nicely and, excepting a hiccup in August, ended well. [Note for stats geeks: Our interest is in team performance here and team wOBA is a pain to keep track of. Plus it follows essentially the same path this year, as far as I can tell.] The Bulls’ team OPS was tied for third place in the International League and at .715, well above the league OPS of .689. Note also that the league as a whole wasn’t hitting all that well this year. The Bulls’ 123 home runs were in second place, as were its 263 doubles. That really helped the OPS, since the team batting average (.250) was 12th in the league. My superficial impression that the Bulls were a running team was off by a good bit. With 160 attempts (119 successful) they were well behind Indianapolis who tried 236 times (168 successful).

At the end of the day, a team has to score more runs than their opponents. In 2015 the Bulls did not. This chart is a running total of the net runs scored minus runs allowed for this year. We get the statistical quirk of ending the year at exactly zero.

The Bulls have done worse, most notably in recent years in 2012. The oddity in this chart is last year, 2014. Last year the Bulls were also barely above .500 (75-69) but that was enough to win the South Division. The South Division of the IL was much more competitive this year, we got to watch four very good teams go at it all year.

Next: Pitchers and Hitters

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Governors' Cup Goes to the Wire

Congratulations to the 2015 Governors' Cup Champions
The Columbus Clippers

Indianapolis and Columbus fans witnessing a terrific championship series. Every game has been decided by just one run and that run scored in the last or next to last inning.

We have to point out that a lot more Columbus fans watched the two games in Columbus (more than 23,000) than the two games so far in Indianapolis (7,200). That reflects a very successful experiment by Columbus leadership to open the gates for the playoffs.

Meanwhile the baseball has been a huge amount of fun for all concerned. Two very deserving teams battled each other all year are going for the championship tonight. Seems only appropriate. So far the home teams have won every game, but it has been a fight to the wire.

Game 1 at Columbus, Sep 15
Columbus Clippers 6; Indianapolis Indians 4
MiLB wrap, Box, Columbus Dispatch, Indianapolis Star
Attendance: 11,408. Attendance story.
[Note: The Columbus Dispatch goes behind a paywall after of couple of visits. Too bad for them and us]

Game 2 at Columbus, Sep 16
Clippers 5; Indians 2
MiLB Wrap, Box
Attendance: 11,894 (Governors’ Cup Playoff record?)

Game 3 at Indianapolis, Sep 18
Indians 6; Clippers 5
MiLB Wrap, Box, Indianapolis Star
Attendance: 3,845

Game 4 at Indianapolis
Indians 5; Columbus 4
MiLB Wrap, Box, Indianapolis Star
Attendance: 3,417

Game 5 at Indianapolis
Columbus 3; Indianapolis 0
MiLB Wrap, Box, Indianapolis Star

Monday, September 14, 2015

Bulls in the Bandbox by the Bay

Unless I’ve misremembered or miscounted (likely) ten Durham Bulls went “up” to the Rays this month, or just at the end of August. Six were position players and four pitchers. How are they doing?

I guess that depends on your point of view. So far in September the Rays have played 11 games, won only 4 of them, losing 7. Except for the last 3, they’ve all been road games, so they really haven’t spent much time in the bandbox by (or at least near) the Bay.

Of this crowd I have to say that only one of them has had much of an impact, J.P. Arencibia. And he was actually called up on August 26 and got in 5 games before the rest of the crew showed up. Among the pitchers only Andrew Bellatti has done particularly well. The rest? Not so much. Most of the numbers here are for September, unless otherwise noted.

Also note that with nearly 40-players on the bench, the Rays have been doing a lot of pinch-hitching and pinch-running. Does not seem to have made much difference in the won-loss column, though.
  • J.P. Arencibia: 15 games (Aug-Sep), 39 plate appearances, 14 hits, 3 doubles, 5 HR, .368/.359/.842
  • Mikie Mahtook: 10 games, 24 PA,  6 hits (double, triple, home run), two complete games. .228/323/.509 on the year (66 pa)
  • Richie Shaffer: 9 games, 26 PA, 4 hits, (double, home run) four complete games. .209/.320/.442 on the year (50 PA)
  • Nick Franklin: 4 games, 3 PA, no hits. .133/.198/.438 on the year (81 PA)
  • Joey Butler: 5 games, 6 PA, 1 hit. .272/.325/.719 on the year (265 PA)
  • Luke Maile: 6 games (1 start), 10 PA, 1 hit (a double) .100/.100/.200
  • Matt Moore: 2 starts, no-decision and a loss, games scores of 51 (OK) and 23 (not good)
  • C.J. Riefenhauser: 4 games, 3.1 innings, 2 ER, no decisions.
  • Kirby Yates: 3 appearances, 4 innings, 2 ER, no decision
  • Andrew Belatti: 4 appearances, 4.1 innings, 0 ER, 1 loss, 1 win

Thursday, September 10, 2015

2015 Governors' Cup

International League Governors' Cup - History
2015 Background

North vs. Wild Card
Scranton/WB RailRiders (NYY) v. Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh)

Sep 9: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre@Indianapolis
Indianapolis 7; Scranton 3
Box, Indianapolis Star, Scranton Times-Tribune,
Attendance: 2,333

Sep 10: RailRiders@Indians
Indians 6; RailRiders 1
Box, Indianapolis Star, Scranton Times-Tribune, MiLB
Attendance: 3,706

Indianapolis one win away from Governors' Cup finals.

Sep 11: Indians@RailRiders
Indians 4; RailRiders 2
Box, MiLB, Indianapolis Star, Scranton Times-Tribune
Attendance: 4,507

Indianapolis sweeps Scranton/WB. Update: Sep 14, still hanging out in Indy.
Nice feature on Manager Dean Trainor here.

South vs. West
Columbus Clippers (Cleveland) v. Norfolk Tides (Baltimore)

Sep 9:  Columbus Clippers@Norfolk Tides
Columbus 5; Norfolk 2
Box, Wrap, Virginian-Pilot, Columbus Dispatch
Attendance: 1,459

Sep 10: Columbus Clippers@ Norfolk Tides
Suspended by storm. Game resumes today, Sep 11, at 4:30pm, then travel to Ohio
Virginian-Pilot, Columbus Dispatch

Sep 11: Columbus Clippers@Norfolk Tides
Tides 6; Clippers 1
Box, MiLB, Virginian-Pilot, Columbus Dispatch
Attendance (9/10): 1,777

Sep 12: Norfolk Tides@ Columbus Clippers
Clippers 6; Tides 2
Box, MiLB, Virginian-Pilot, Tides Wrap, Columbus Dispatch
Attendance: 3,131

Sep 13: Norfolk Tides@Columbus Clippers
Tides 6; Clippers 5
Box, MiLB, Virginian-Pilot (Columbus Dispatch), Tides Wrap
Attendance: 2,468

Sep 14: Norfolk Tides@Columbus Clippers
Clippers 5; Tides 0
Box, MiLB, Virginian-Pilot, Tides Wrap
Attendance: 10,734 (Free ticket idea paid off)
Note: Columbus Dispatch is behind a paywall, but story is reprinted in Virginian-Pilot

Governors' Cup Finals

First game: Sep 15
Stories: Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Indians

Columbus Clippers (Cleveland) v. Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Bulls Wrap Season With a Shoutout

Season: 74-70
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Taylor Motter finished the Bulls’ season with a bang, actually two bangs — his first two at-bats were solo home runs. And he scored the third of the  Bulls’  six runs of the game when he was hit by pitch in the 6th inning and came home on Nick Franklin’s single. As we’ve remarked before, he is our favorite for a non-roster September call-up, but we admit it’s unlikely. But who am I to guess about that? Two of the guys who I didn’t think would make it (J.P. Arencibia and Luke Maile) are playing with the Rays today.

New guy Jared Mortensen did a terrific job in his second AAA start. He had one of the longest outings of any Bulls pitcher this year, 7⅔ innings, and did not allow a run. Nice to see that the crowd knew how well he had done. In fact, it was a terrific end-of-season bunch there at the DBAP. We had a proposal and a tear-inducing father home from deployment moment that was shared with all of us.

And then we had the battery of Dominguez (José) and Dominguez (Wilmer) to close things out. This was only the third game this year that Wilmer Dominguez has caught. I think that he has been playing essentially a Mayo Acosta role down in Montgomery this year. But he might have gotten the start because he knew Mortensen from Montgomery. He took advantage of the opportunity. He threw out Norfolk’s very quick outfielder Julio Borbon trying to steal (Borbon came in the game with 23 steals under his belt). On his first at bat he alertly took off for first base when Norfolk’s catcher could not handle the third strike, and made it. Then in his third at bat he hit a two-run single and he singled again in the 8th. Pretty good for only your second AAA game ever and only your third game this year!

With Gwinnett’s win over Charlotte, the Bulls ended the year in a tied for third place and 4 games above .500. Considering where they were just a few weeks ago, pretty good.

Things got a bit testy in the 6th. Hard to tell just why. Norfolk’s pitcher was obviously not ready for prime time and had an awful debut into AAA baseball. Maybe next year.

We’re still sorting out this year’s stats and opinions. Let me know what you thought of the DBAP and this year’s team.

Opening Day: April 7, 2016. Only 212 days away!!!

Outside the game —

  • The St. Pete Times is reporting that Nick Franklin and Andrew Bellatti were called up after the game.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Norfolk Takes Title

Season: 73-70; Home Stand: 1-1
Wrap, Box, Norfolk Wrap, Virginian-Pilot, Herald-Sun

I don’t want to write about that first inning. Those masochists among you can get the play-by-play here. Let’s go on to something different.

Congratulations to the Norfolk Tides for winning the South Division. They’ve had a great year and we’ve seen some good games between the two teams. Today should be fun.

Yesterday saw the Triple A debut of Kyle Bird. He came up the Bowling Green Hot Rods, Rays A affiliate, to fill in for Jim Miller. Did just fine in his 1⅓ innings.

Kyle Bird

Outside the game—
  • The West Division championship remains undecided! Standings.
  • Some years ago the Bulls played their last game with all players using the same bat, until it got broken. Wonder if they will do that again today?
  • If the Gwinnett Braves beat the Charlotte Knights today, and the Bulls win, the Bulls will end the year tied with the Knights for third place. 
  • I’ve been a bit critical of the Herald-Sun this year, but Brooke Pryor’s piece on Jared Sandberg's year is a very nice job. Thanks.
  • The Bulls started the year down in Gwinnett with the umpiring crew of Jon Byrne, Jansen Visconti, and Doug Vines. They are ending the year with the same crew.
  • This promotion by the Gwinnett Braves could have some some odd unintended consequences. Can imagine a taxi pulling up outside the stadium and a guy in a Braves hat dragging his wife into the stadium. ... well you get the picture ...

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Two Pitchers; Two Styles; One Result

Season: 73-69; Home Stand: 1-0
Wrap, Box

I loved this game. Two very different pitchers at work, few mistakes, pure baseball.

The Bulls guy, Bradin Hagens, is a pitch-to-contact guy. By that I mean that the opposing hitters are going to get a chance. And they did last night. But they just mostly hit the ball to Bulls fielders. Hagens did not give up a single walk in his 7 innings and had only one strikeout, the last batter. He even took on some of the fielding work himself with an unassisted putout in the 2nd and fielding two comebackers in the 3rd. Stats geeks will love him as well. His Game Score was 70, one of the best by a Bull all season. To top it off, he is finishing the season with four wins in a row.

The Tides guy, Chris Jones, was a bit more conventional and ended the night with 6 out of 7 innings of solid pitching, including 7 K’s with his 1 walk.

If not for the 1st inning, things could have been 0-0 when both pitchers left the game. But the 1st was enough. Rehabbing Steven Sousa (broken hand) was dh-ing and batting second. He got a hit. Taylor Motter walked. Sousa scored on a Corey Brown single. Motter scored on a Cameron Seitzer single. And that was essentially it for the rest of the game.

Yes, reliever Robert Zarate provided some thrills in the 9th. But a little cardio work is good after you’ve been sitting all that time.

I’m liking two of the new guys a lot. The first, who’s been here a while, is Joey Rickard. Quick hands at bat. Good in the outfield. Have not seen his arm tested yet. The second is recent arrival Cameron Seitzer, who appears to be a real pro at first base, in spite of last night’s E, and a decent left handed bat.

With this win (actually with Friday’s win) the Bulls are sure to finish the season above .500. Good news.

The Bulls set a new season attendance record with well over a half a million fans through the gates.

Outside the game —
  • Hak-Ju Lee passed through waivers and has been assigned to the Bulls. At a guess he will be in uniform either tonight or tomorrow. Not sure of the rules.
  • Gwinnett lost to Charlotte last night, but neither the South Division championship nor third place in the division is set. Nor has the West Division championship been decided. Standings.