Saturday, May 30, 2015

One Hit Wonder

Season: 27-23; Home Stand: 3-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

This was billed as a pitchers’ duel and, in its way, it was. At least Matt Buschmann showed up for the gunfight. His opponent, the Chiefs' A.J. Cole, decided to commit suicide after the first three innings. I don’t know that I’ve seen a pitcher come so thoroughly unraveled as the Chief’s Cole did in the 4th. After getting a pop-up from J.P.Arencibia to start the inning, he then proceeded to walk the next five, count ‘em, five batters to drive in two runs and leave the bases loaded when he was pulled out at last. And they were not close calls, by the last three BBs the pitches were unreachable by the batters. A ground out by Ryan Brett scored the third run, before the inning ended with another ground out.

And to be clear, the Bulls were not hitting all night. In fact, the team only had 1 hit (by Juniel Querecuto in the 3rd inning) in 23 ABs. That’s a batting average of .043! Throw in the walks and hit batsmen and you get an OPS of .356. Not the worst of the year, but still less that half the league average.

Speaking of hit batsmen, the Bulls' Brett was hit, but Buschmann and Romero combined to hit three Chiefs for a season high.

We are beginning to expect a solid performance from Matt Bushmann, and we got another one last night. His Game Score of 70 is his fourth +50 start in a row and his 8th of the year. He has had only 2 starts with a less than 50 GSc.

Enny Romero is back and showed up in long relief after C.J. Riefenhauser got in his one inning of rehab. Romero had no walks and 4 Ks. And a lot of heat. Several 97 mph fastballs in the mix, but it did take him 50 pitches to get through his 2⅓. Ronald Belisario got his 11th save with a three-pitch, two batter appearance.

Mikie Mahtook’s 3 strikeout, 0 for 4 night just adds to our worries about the young man. He looked just fine in right field, but May has been ugly at the plate. In his last 44 ABs he has had 19 strikeouts and no walks. In fact, on the year he has drawn just 9 walks and only 1 this month. Yet, from the stands, he does not look all that awkward at the plate as hitters in slumps often do. As with much of the rest of this team, hitting coach Dave Myers has some work to do.

Outside the game —
  • Everett Teaford has been sent down to Montgomery. The weakest of the Bulls starting crew, we wish him well.
  • Ryan Brett officially came off of his rehab assignment. As we saw, he was in the game at 2B last night. Like essentially everyone else, he was hitless last night, but he did get an RBI as he drew one of the 4th inning walks.
Comparing Bulls Teams

Fifty games into the season, how do these Durham Bulls compare to previous teams? By the net Runs Scored measure, only so-so, but much better than the 2012 gang. Considering all the roster turmoil and injuries, things are doing better than might be expected.

click on chart for larger image

Friday, May 29, 2015

Matchup: Syracuse Chiefs vs. Durham Bulls

The Washington Nationals’ Triple A team, the Rochester Chiefs, come to Durham today start a three-game series, the last the teams will play each other this year. The Chiefs are coming off a pretty awful run that saw them losing 12 of their last 13 games, including a 4 game sweep over in Norfolk earlier this week.

The Bulls and Chiefs played a three game series up in Syracuse earlier this month and won two out of three.

In the matchup, there’s been some change over the month, much of it not favoring the Bulls. The Chiefs stayed last in batting average; the Bulls dropped from 7th to 11th. The Chiefs also stayed 13th in the IL for OPS; the Bulls dropped from 3rd to 8th. The Chiefs were at #8 in ERA and dropped to #9; the Bulls dropped from #2 to #7.

The Chiefs have seen even more turmoil than the Bulls, as hard as that is to imagine. They have had 25 different players come to bat this year, but “only” 20 different pitchers. The Bulls have just 19 different ballplayers come to bat, but lead the Chiefs with 22 different pitchers.

The Chiefs’ parent team is breaking out of a slump. The Chief’s look to break out of theirs.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Win Streak Ends; Pitching Picture

Season: 26-23; Home Stand: 2-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Rochester Wrap

We’ve been putting up a lot of stats lately that seem to back up the idea that starting pitching is important. This game was a good example because veteran (31) Everett Teaford never quite got a handle on the game. The 4th inning was particularly painful because he had two outs and none on base before things fell apart. Four doubles, a single, and a walk later he finally got the last out with two runners on base. Four runs had scored. The game was then pretty much out of reach given that the Red Wings starter was cruising. Note: The two runs in the 1st inning were scored after two outs had been recorded.

The Bulls did pull off a couple of double plays yesterday and, as was pointed out on twitter, the combination of Querecuto-Reginatto-Arencibia has a melodic turn. The 4-4-5 beat fits nicely into a song.

Otherwise, all the new guys didn’t do any better than the old guys and the rehabbers. Ryan Brett was back and did get a double and a walk at DH. Rehabbing C.J. Riefenhauser pitched an inning and gave up two hits, but no runs. Richie Shaffer came down from the clouds with a 0 for 3 day. Juniel Querecuto was 1 for 3. About the only hitter who had a good day was J.P. Arencibia who went 3 for 4 with an RBI.

Outside the game —
  • The Bulls’ 5-game winning streak came to an end. They get a well-deserved day off today. Hope the weather stays nice.
  • We could hope that the roster will stabilize, but there’s too many players on the disabled list here and with the Rays for that to happen. Eventually, you have to think folks are going to get healthy and stay healthy. Until that happens we can expect the constant shifting and changing of this team to continue.
  • For example, yesterday it was announced that pitchers  Enny Romero and Preston Guilmet are coming back from the Rays.
Pitching Chart

This is a traditional stat, ERA-Earned Run Average, shown in a non-traditional way — as it changes over time, in this case over the last 15 games. Remember that less is more when it comes to ERA and the drift upwards shown in the team ERA is not a good thing. Today’s 3.60 puts the Bulls 7th in the 14-team International League. The Bulls lost 9 of these 15 games and obviously the pitching was a big piece of it. However, that’s a nice little downward trend in the starting pitcher ERA (not counting yesterday, of course). Overall, the reliever trend is very worrisome, especially as it was trending upwards even as the Bulls were winning. But, remember that it’s mostly relievers who have been spending all that time in the RDU and Tampa airports this month. 

click chart for larger image

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Brown Hits the Bull

Season: 26-22; Home Stand: 2-0
Wrap, Box, Rochester Wrap

Dylan Floro had a solid outing, scattering Red Wings' hits around, and Cory Brown hit the Bull. First time this year.

I couldn’t make the game, and I regret it. Looks like it was fun to watch.

Outside the game —
  • Two ballplayers who started the year with the Bulls are back — Ryan Brett and C.J. Riefenhauser. Both of them were called up to the Rays in April, broke something while there, and went on the disabled list. If I understand the rules, they are officially here on a rehabilitation assignment and don’t count against the Bulls roster, but they are on the 40-man roster of the Rays and once they finish their rehab something will have to happen. There’s a good chance that they will stay here. 
  • Meanwhile, they will give the Bulls' bench a small break. However, each comes with a little tag attached to them that tells the manager what the player can, and cannot, do. Possibly a pitch count for Riefenhauser, but Brett played a full game yesterday, so maybe he’s ready to go.
  • The clock would be ticking for Mr. Querecuto, making him a leading candidate for this year’s Moonlight Graham award.
  • A couple of sources are reporting [MLB Trade Rumors, Rays Index] that Grant Balfour has opted out of his contract with the Rays. Too bad. We liked watching him even if he looked dissatisfied with himself most of his time here. He kept checking the pitch speed clock and never seemed to be that into the game. On the other hand, he put up some decent, but not great, numbers in his 8 appearances as a Bull. Good luck. Maybe he will catch on with another club.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Welcome to the New Durham Bulls!

Season: 25-22; Home Stand: 1-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

When the Bulls took the field last night not one of the players on the infield started the season with the Bulls. Not one. We won’t count catcher Luke Maile. Starting pitcher Matt Andriese has only had three appearances with the Bulls. First Baseman J.P. Arencibia’s first game was in mid-April. At second base was Leonardo Reginatto who began the season with the Montgomery Biscuits and played his first game for the Bulls on April 23, but he has gone back to Montgomery once along the way. At shortstop was Juniel Querecuto, who was called up from the Single A Charlotte Stone Crabs just yesterday. And at third base was Richie Shaffer who was called up from the Montgomery Biscuits on Sunday.

This, of course, reflects the chaos down in St. Petersburg, but the Bulls have a few of their own homegrown problems. On the DL and leaning against the dugout railing last night were, as reported in the Bulls Game Notes,  Hak-Ju Lee (left hand laceration), Vince Belnome (shoulder), and not seen, but on the list, Alexi Casilla (hamstring).

Meanwhile on the field the Red Wings’ Jason Wheeler went 5 innings allowing only one baserunner, Luke Maile. But the 6th didn’t go so well. Maile led off with a single. New guy Juniel Querecuto hit a double; Taylor Motter singled those two home. Leonardo Reginatto singled. Eugenio Velez singled. Curt Casali doubled home 2 runs. That was then end of Wheeler’s night. But after a K and an intentional walk of Corey Brown, the other new guy, Richie Shaffer, hit a sacrifice fly to bring in the last run.

By the way, after his extraordinary start where he had a slash line on his first appearance of 800/.800/2.200 (Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging) to go with 3 RBI; Richie Shaffer’s numbers have plummeted to: .571/.500/1.571 with 4 RBI on 7 at bats. Still not too bad.

Outside the game —
  • As mentioned, there’s chaos down in Tampa Bay. Tim Beckham got turned around on his way to Durham and started at shortstop for the Rays last night. He went 1 for 3 in their loss to the Seattle Mariners. Jake Elmore was called up from the Bulls, started in left field, and was 2 or 2 with a walk.
  • By the way, note who is playing center field for the Seattle Mariners: Long time Durham Bull, and member of the All-DBAP team,  Justin Ruggiano. I had lost track of him.
  • The really important news is that the Bull Durham Beer Company is brewing and serving. I am far from expert on the subject of beer, but I tried the Lollygagger Kolsch and liked it.
  • Speaking of beer, I commend to you the dedicated research and explication reflected in the "Beers of Coca-Cola Park" by fellow Triple-A blogger KramsKorner up Lehigh Valley way. If there's someone out there who'd like to take on the challenge of doing something like this for the DBAP, please let me know. But the bar has been set pretty high, I'd say.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Newest Durham Bull Runs the Bases

Season: 24-22; Trip: 4-4
Wrap, Box, Times-Tribune

Young Richie Shaffer was called up from the Rays AA team, the Montgomery Biscuits (stats), and very likely blasted his way into Durham Bulls history. Playing third base, Shaffer hit two home runs, a double, and a single in 5 at-bats in his very first AAA game. That’s an amazing “slash line” of .800/.800/2.200 (Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging), an OPS of 3.000, to go with 3 RBI. Those are going to be really cool numbers to see on the scoreboard when he first comes to bat at the DBAP, possibly late this afternoon.

Meanwhile, his recent Biscuits colleague, Leonardo Reginatto, playing 2B, was also having a great night going 2 for 3 with 2 RBI. Not to mention the rest of the team. Only two Bulls did not get an RBI in a game where the Bulls scored the most runs in a single game this year. Allan Dykstra and J.P. Arencibia contributed a home run each.

Nevertheless, the RailRiders batted around in the 9th inning and scored 4 runs off of Andy Oliver, causing Jhan Marinez to be called in to save the game.

Outside the game —
  • The Bulls have won three in a row and got a 4-4 split on this road trip. Extraordinarily good work, especially given the roster turmoil and injuries. 
  • The Rochester Red Wings (Twins) are in town today. The Bulls just had a 1-3 series against them in Rochester, so they know each other well.
  • Doesn’t look like fans out there love their teams as much as we love our Durham Bulls. Average attendance at the Bulls’ 29 away games this year has been 5,459; for the 17 home games 7,573. That’s a pretty large 2,114 fan per game difference.
  • When I checked in to the game I found that the radio stream was running the Indy 500, as was both AM and FM radio. Fortunately, Patrick Kinas responded to a Tweet and pointed out where I could find the game being streamed by WRAL. Seems to me that the Bulls could have done some Tweeting themselves and put something on their website. All the normal links via MiLB went to the Indy 500. Very poor job on the part of the Bulls, unless I missed something else. Not everyone is on Twitter and I don't think I'm the only one trying to listen to Bulls away games.

The Bulls come home tied with the Norfolk Tides for second place in the South Division. Not bad given that ugly losing streak they went through recently.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Bald eagle on veteran's grave, Fort Snelling National Cemetery. Photo by Frank Gilk, Minneapolis Star Tribune. Stories by Jon Tevlin June 25 and August 10, 2011.
Memorial Day 2015

The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak

     Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses: who has not heard them? 

     They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts. 

     They say, We were young. We have died. Remember us. 

     They say, We have done what we could but until it is finished it is not done. 

     They say, We have given our lives but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave. 

     They say, Our deaths are not ours: they are yours: they will mean what you make them. 

     They say, Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say, it is you who must say this. 

     They say, We leave you our deaths: Give them their meaning: give them an end to the war and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning.
     We were young, they say. We have died; Remember us. 

— Archibald MacLeish