Friday, July 3, 2015

Wet Late Night Win

Season: 43-38; Trip: 3-4
Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot

All-Star Taylor Motter led the Bulls to a late night victory over in Norfolk with all the Bulls’ RBI.

We have not written all that much about young Mr. Motter this year, but it has been fun to look around the field to see where he’s playing each evening. Mostly right field, but just about everywhere else over the course of this season. Last night was his chance to shine at bat (as he’s done several times). He got his first RBI with a ground out that scored Boog Powell from third.  He got two more in the 8th with a home run with Tim Beckham on first. And his last two in the 9th with a double that scored Ryan Brett and Boog Powell.

We are noticing, as the Bulls surely are, that young Boog Powell does his job as leadoff man. His On Base Percentage is a very nice .409 since coming up from Montgomery. He scored 2 of the runs last night. Also, Tim Beckham has been looking awfully good since joining the Bulls, 3 doubles out of his 5 hits, 2 walks, and an OPS of 1.266. That will drift downward over time, but still nice to see.

Matt Andriese is back with the Bulls and he had his 5th start. Here’s hoping he hangs around for a while.

By the way, in keeping with my skepticism regarding intentional walks, the Tides tried it last night and it didn’t work for them. You could say that it lost the game for them. In the 9th with one out, Ryan Brett had singled and stolen second base. The Tides gave an intentional walk to catcher Bobby Wilson (batting average .154) to set up a double play. Boog Powell obligingly hit a grounder, however not enough to set up the double play. Brett ended up on third base and Boog Powell was on first. Tim Beckham drew a walk (note: the Tim Beckham we used to know probably would have been swinging, no matter what), loading the bases and setting up Taylor Motter’s game-winning two out double that scored the runners from third and second.

Bulls hitting has been on the upswing. This chart shows the team Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) on a game-by-game basis for the last 15 games. Nice little upwards trend these last couple of days.

Today's Chart

click chart for larger image

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Not Too Soon, Bulls Leave Ohio

Wrap, Box

Season: 43-38; Trip: 2-4
Wrap, Box, Toledo Blade

The Bulls finished off their trip to Ohio with a bang, three home runs (Arencibia, Motter, and Shaffer), and a fine pitching effort by Scott Diamond.

Their travels and travails these last couple of weeks may not be over as more roster moves have happened and likely more are coming. We have to admire the skills of Jared Sandberg even keeping a halfway decent team on the field during this period. And we have to admire the players whose every day starts and ends with uncertainty about their future. You have to think that their only thought is just to get out between the lines and play some baseball.

Nice to see Luke Maile back in the lineup yesterday. He’d been missing for a couple of days.

The Bulls will play Norfolk in Norfolk for two games, then come to Durham for a couple of games. Norfolk is now in the lead in the International League South Division. Their run up pretty much matches the Bulls’ fall over the same time period. See chart below for a picture of this season.

Moves —
  • Pitchers C.J. Riefenhauser and Preston Guilmet to Tampa Bay
  • Pitcher Kirby Yates to Durham
  • First Baseman Marc Krause to Durham. Marc Krause played 4 games and got one hit for the Rays before getting sent to the Bulls . As a first baseman, he’s going to find a crowd over in that corner of the field — Shaffer, Arencibia, Belnome (and the recently departed Alan Dykstra) — unless the Rays make some room. July seems to be the month for dumping folks as the Rays invalid list seems to be improving. Stats.
  • Ronald Belisario who did so well for the Bulls this year, has been DFA’d by the Rays. Will he end up back with the Bulls? Who knows.

click on chart for larger image

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Best (Former) Bull Beats Bulls

Season: 41-37; Trip: 1-3
Wrap, Box, Toledo Blade

Not much new in the basics of the game story, much like the last couple of weeks — not all that good of starting pitching (although better than some in recent days), very good pitching by opponents, another loss. That would be nine losses and two wins since the Bulls came home back on June 18th. So lets just jump right to the oddities.

The first Toledo Mud Hen hit of the day, who eventually scored the Mud Hens first run, didn’t come until the 3rd inning. It was a single by their new second baseman, Alexi Casilla. Who? That’s right, Alexi Casilla! It seems that yesterday morning the “data-driven” Rays traded the Bulls' best hitter to Detroit for something not reported (money? player?). Detroit assigned Casilla to the Mud Hens and I’m guessing he just drug his bags from one locker room to the other sometime before the game.

Good Luck, Alexi. Loved watching you play and you helped the Bulls while you were with them.

Something had to give when Tim Beckham finally showed up. However, in keeping with WDBB tradition, we gloriously struck out the other day by naming three, count ‘em, three possibilities. I whiffed on all three. Age before beauty, I guess. Looking back at our hitters chart from a few days ago, three of the “above average” guys are gone — Alexi Casilla, Allan Dykstra, and Eugenio Velez — while all of the below-average crew remains. Don’t get me wrong, I like all of those guys. It’s just that something other than these data are driving the Rays decisions.

Meanwhile Tim Beckham is finally in a Bulls uniform and playing third base. Third base? Well, of course he is. The fact that in 623 minor league games and in 32 major league games he never once played third base should be no real surprise. We’ll see. What’s next? Center field? That’s what was done with the famous Melvin (formerly known as B.J.) Upton. Beckham did get two hits, stole a base, and scored the only run. Oh, he also picked up his first error as a third baseman (a throw in the bottom of the 8th). In fact, we are happy to have him with the Bulls. Here's hoping he stays healthy and shows some of that bat pop he had at the end of last season.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Split in Ohio

Season: 41-36; Trip: 1-2
Wrap, Box 1, Box 2, Columbus Dispatch

The way the first game went, it looked as if the Bulls were back on track with exceptional starting pitching from new guy Robert Zarate and timely hitting from Ryan Brett and Corey Brown. Included in the good news was their first shutout since June 7 (OK, a 7 inning game, but it still looked good). J.P. Arencibia had his game as a catcher in the game as well (no wild pitches, no passed balls, no steals, pretty good).

The Bulls and the Clippers both went to their bullpens for the second game, and that looked OK until Ernesto Frieri could not hold on to the tie game in the 7th.

Richie Shaffer played first base in both games. A rusty Alexi Casilla struck out three times in the second game. New guy Boog Powell got two singles and two walks in the first game, plus a triple in the second game.

The Bulls will play a two-game set against the Clippers in August at the DBAP. Let’s hope they get a grip on themselves before then. This 1- 6 stretch has been tough.

Outside the game—
  • Norfolk now leads the IL South Division.
  • Matt Andriese is reportedly heading back to the Bulls.
  • Scott Diamond has been assigned to the Montgomery Biscuits, but I’m suspicious about that. Smells like a paper transaction to me. He hasn’t been below AAA since 2010. I’m guessing he had an opt out, is looking for another job, or is about to be released. Decent numbers for a 2015 Bulls starter. In fact, he is essentially the best of the surviving three (Floro and Teaford being the other two).
  • Bulls are off to Toledo to see if they have any better luck in that part of Ohio.

Continuing my interest in the Game Score stat, here’s the last 15 games. It shows the pretty dismal performance of the starting pitchers over the last several games. Starting pitching isn’t everything, of course, but it does make a difference.

click on chart for larger image

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Can't Handle the Clippers; Ruggiano Rules

Season: 40-35; Trip: 0-1
Wrap, Box, Columbus Dispatch

Looks like Matt Moore is ready to go to the bigs. As for a AAA team from Columbus, Ohio, not so ready. Against the Clippers he’s 0-2 (10.1 innings, 12 hits, 5 ER, 2 HR, 3.97 FIP, 4.35 ERA).

It’s possibly a measure of how desperate the TB Rays are to have a hitting first baseman that we saw young Richie Shaffer start at that position last night. Shaffer has a grand total of 16 appearances at the position, all in the 2012 and 2013 Arizona Fall League. As for regular season baseball—not ever. Wonder if he even has a glove? But there he was last night, just in time to not quite figure out a popup that dropped for a hit and let two runs across.

Meanwhile, the new Durham Bulls were mostly quiet against the Clippers, losing their fifth game in a row against them. Hak-Ju Lee, of the grand slam home run the other night, was ejected in the 3rd inning for arguing balls and strikes, something that seems to happen a lot to him this year. New outfielder Boog Powell was 1 for 3 in left field.

The scheduled second game wasn’t played because of poor field conditions. The plan is to try to have another double header today, first game at 4:00 today.

Outside the game —
  • For the forty-leventh time this season we are reporting that Tim Beckham is on his way to the Bulls. We’ll believe it when we see it. Who will be the odd man out in the Bulls infield? My money is on Ryan Brett, but the Bulls could give up on Vince Belnome or Hak-Ju Lee. My track record on such predictions is woeful, however.
  • Justin Ruggiano, thought by some to be the best outfielder in Durham Bulls history and who was recently DFA'd down from the Seattle Mariners, hit three home runs at Triple-A Tacoma yesterday.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Rainout; Rosterizing

As the Durham Bulls go into today’s double header at 5:30 (or so) up in Columbus, the team will be looking quite a bit different from the team that left town yesterday.
  • Alan Dykstra and Eugenio Vélez have been released. When we looked at this year’s hitters the other day, neither of them were standouts. What would apparently be more of a problem, however, is that room needed to be made for a talented youngster on his way up and another reportedly talented guy on his way down. Dykstra is 28 and Vélez is 33. Here’s hoping that both of them catch on elsewhere.
  • Nick Franklin is on his way down from the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s been with the Bulls before. He’s got a huge reputation and the Rays traded some valuable stock for him last year. Expect to see him spend time in the middle infield. He has not been doing particularly well with the Rays this year and really hasn’t had much playing time. The Rays just traded for a first baseman and needed room on their roster.
  • Boog Powell is a young (22) player on his way up. He’s been assigned from Montgomery. See this profile from “Dr. Miraculous” over in Montgomery. Stats.
  • In the bullpen will be Enny Romero, back from Tampa Bay. No telling how he will be used. He spent some time with the Bulls in mid-May when he made 3 starts. He was up to TB and then came back to make 2 relief appearances at the end of May. He made four appearances in relief for the Rays this month.
  • Kyle Winkler is the young pitcher who came up from the Biscuits and made three appearances before going back to them a couple of days ago. He’s been traded to the LA Angels.
  • Robbie Knopf over at Rays Colored Glasses has done a profile on young Richie Shaffer.
  • WDBB favorite from 2011 and 2012, Dane De La Rosa, has decided to retire. He was with the Norfolk Tides, but did not make an appearance in any game that we saw this year.
  • Oh, yeah, Matt Moore may get the start in the first game this afternoon.

Friday, June 26, 2015

10 PM Start Time? Dumb Decision

Just for the record. We've missed a couple of games...

Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Season: 40-34; Home Stand: 1-6
Wrap, Box, Toledo

The only adults associated with the Bulls and the DBAP last night were 1) those who never came in the first place or 2) those who left early. In what kind of world does it make sense to start a baseball game at 10:00 pm at night? Who is making these decisions? And why? And this on a day (night) when all concerned have to hit the road, the Bulls up to Columbus, Ohio and the Mud Hens to Norfolk?

For non-local readers, yesterday evening the tarp was on the field at 7 pm as a series of thunderstorms moved through the area. Not a lot of people showed up for the game, even though the “paid attendance” numbers were at 9,027. After a 2:52 delay, the 3:08 hour game was played. In round numbers, that means starting the game at 10:00 pm and finishing it at 1:00 am. That is so late that even the local paper, the Herald-Sun doesn’t have an on-line article. Even a nutcase like myself gave up following the game through streaming about 11:00pm. So essentially all except a very few truly dedicated fans (or dedicated beer drinkers) missed a thrilling 6th inning.

That thrilling inning is sort of my point. In what kind of world do we have 18 professional athletes play a game at midnight with nobody watching? And why should they? Who makes these decisions? Whoever “they” were it’s time they are called out. That was a really dumb decision. You should be ashamed of yourselves. We fans love watching baseball.

The Bulls depart town after what was the worst home stand in recent memory, winning only one out of seven games and dropping from first place in the International League South Division to third place. What happened? Well terrible starting pitching was certainly a factor. Dylan Floro had two miserable starts. Rehabbing Matt Moore may have pleased the Rays with his progress, but he still lost the game. Young Robert Zarate, who had only started a few games in his career came up from A-ball and actually had the best start of the bunch, but still lost the game. The chart shows the ugly drift upwards in the starters' ERA over the last week. What’s missing? Well, maybe who’s missing might be the better question. Matt Buschmann and Ronald Belisario come to mind.

The season is half over and the turmoil down St Petersburg way has been extraordinary. The Bulls are off to play against the very teams that just beat their brains in, Columbus and Toledo. Will they get it back together? We’ll see.