Friday, March 27, 2015

All-DBAP Comments & More

Bulls first game, at Gwinnett, April 9: 13 days!
First home game, v. Norfolk, April 15: 19 days!

The relief pitcher choices for all-DBAP are up and it sure looks like Lee Gardner is a shoo-in, although I lean in favor of Winston Abreu or Kirby Yates since they were the pitchers I’ve seen. Miss not having Joe Bateman on the list since he was one of my favorites. And who can ever forget R.J. Swindle’s slow curve ball? Still, good men to choose from.

Liked seeing J.D. Martin get the nod for starting pitchers.

Last choice will be for managers and that will certainly be the old fans vs. the young fans.

Meanwhile the Bulls first game is on the road against the Gwinnett Braves on April 9.

The Tampa Bay Rays first game is on April 1, so they will have to sort out their roster by then. April 1 to April 9 seems to me to be an unusually long gap between opening days of major league ball and Triple-A.

We have plenty of clues regarding the Bulls roster as chronicled over on the Bulls’ blog. At least three of the players we like to watch, Hak-Ju Lee, Mikie Mahtook and Vince Belnome, should be on their way back to the Bulls. None of the three was getting much playing time.


Friday, March 13, 2015

All-DBAP Outfield: Weber, Anderson, Ruggiano

I missed commenting on the shortstop selection, but I don’t have any deep objection to the choices, although they missed Reid Brignac who played 303 games for the Bulls (#7) and ranked #14 in WDBB’s all-time OPS list. Personally, I think Melvin (formerly known as B.J.) Upton certainly gave us more thrills than just about any shortstop I’ve ever seen (probably more groans, too). Plus he was #4 on our all-time number of games list and #5 on OPS.

But today the concern is outfielders. The Bulls blog gives us 10 choices.
  • Leslie Anderson*
  • Rocco Baldelli
  • Russ Canzler
  • Carl Crawford
  • Jonny Gomes
  • Desmond Jennings*
  • Andruw Jones
  • Wil Myers
  • Justin Ruggiano*
  • Jon Weber*
Let’s face it, that is quite a list. It may be missing a couple of guys who were thrilling to watch, such as Fernando Perez or Joey Gathright or Kevin Kiermaier, but it’s a good list. Of those on the list, the ones I’ve marked with an asterisk made WDBB’s all-time list as well.

Let me make my argument for my choices.
  • Justin Ruggiano: 476 games and an OPS of .836. He came to bat 2064 times. That’s 200 more times than any other AAA Durham Bull. And he’s got solid numbers to back it up. He made a difference in every year he played here.
  • Leslie Anderson: 267 games, OPS of .769. Our view is that the Cuban National Team star was slightly past his prime when he managed to get to the U.S. Plus he was a bit erratic his first year as a Bull. But when he came around on a pitch he could make it fly. We came to really appreciate him his last year and were sorry to see him go elsewhere.
  • Jon Weber: 264 games, OPS - .827. We just liked watching him play baseball. No player ever understood the Blue Monster better than Weber. He probably caught more runners trying to stretch a hit off the wall into a double than anyone ever at the DBAP. He seemed to be always deeply into every game, never letting up. He represented the Bulls/Rays on the championship USA team in the world cup. 
If you can’t go along with Anderson, then Desmond Jennings or Russ Canzler are good choices among the players we’ve seen at the DBAP.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

All-DBAP 3B - ????

Well the choices for All-DBAP third baseman are out and they give me a chance to rant a bit. I think I mentioned earlier that we are likely to see a “two eras” breakout as this went along, and that sort of explains the choice of Scott McClain, who played in 1998 and 1999, but not really the others.

Let me remind readers that this blog’s focus is on the Durham Bulls and, mostly, the guys who have played here over the years. Thus, we lean towards performance as a Bull and not performance in other times and places.

In the Bulls' list we have:
As I said, Scott McClain makes some sense. But look at these guys, all of whom have both more games as a Bull and more time at third base than Huff or Longoria.
And a couple of guys who played some 3B and made significant contributions, such as:
And let’s not forget Angel Chavez (Angel who??), who had a season with the Bulls, played in 114 games, 73 at 3B.

My point is that I’m somewhat disappointed with our choices this week. Guess I’ll give Scott McClain my vote ... but I would rather have had more choices.

Monday, February 16, 2015

All-DBAP - 2B - Elliot Johnson


The Bulls have put up their choices for All-DBAP second base over on their blog.

Let’s face it, this vote is going to mostly be Montoya-era (Elliot Johnson) vs Evers-era (Brooks Badeaux) Bulls teams. We think Elliot Johnson should get the nod. I really like Cole Figueroa, but I always saw him as a third baseman and he simply doesn’t have the number of games or the hitting record of the other two.

If we look at the tables we put together a couple of years ago we see that both Badeaux and EJ made the list (note: So did Jared Sandberg!). Ranked by number of games played (not all at 2B) EJ had 410 games (#3 on the list) and Badeaux had 326 (#8 on the list). When we sort the list by OPS, EJ is at #14 with .735 and Badeaux #17 at .648. Of course, not all those games were at second base. They both played a good bit of shortstop and other positions as needed.

Certainly Badeaux has the affection of the long-time fans in my section of the stands, but that was before my time. He was undoubtedly well-liked and was frequently mentioned with fond regard. I never saw him play.

On the other hand, in my time in watching the Bulls, we got to watch Elliot Johnson make a difference in a many a baseball game and we like him a lot and we'd love to see him make the All-DBAP team.

Monday, February 9, 2015

All-DBAP First Base - Chris Richard, Of Course


As might be guessed from an earlier post, Chris Richard is one of my all-time favorite Durham Bulls. And this is the week we get to vote on the first base position.

Over at the Bulls blog they’ve got four solid candidates, two of whom we’ve written a lot about since we started this blog, Dan Johnson and Chris Richard. The other two, Steve Cox and Kevin Witt, were certainly terrific Bulls, although if I were making the list, I’d certainly have put Leslie Anderson in the group.

But why Chris Richard over Dan Johnson? A couple of reasons.

I’ll acknowledge that over his 450 games (DJ had just 304) Richard had a slightly lower OPS, .906 to .965. But, since we are voting for first baseman, let me point out that he played 303 of those games at 1B. DJ  played just 102 games at first base. Said another way, 68% of Chris Richard’s playing time with the Bulls was as a first baseman, while Dan Johnson (while he added a lot to the Bulls) played just 34% of his games at 1B.

We will, of course, admit to being a serious Chris Richard fan. We have even suggested retiring his number, which was 27. I wasn't the only one to note his contribution on the sad announcement of his retirement, for example here.

His biggest night of his Bulls career had to be May 15, 2009 when he hit two grand slams agains the Louisville Bats. (story, story). A great night.

He’s got my vote. I think he should have yours too. Over at the Durham Bulls facebook page.

Update: Chris is in! Yahoo! See link here.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Kudos to the Bulls; Signs of Spring

Spring is Coming?
Fans of the Durham Bulls Baseball club are on their way to becoming the best-informed in minor league baseball. No other minor league club that I’ve encountered works nearly as hard digging out, and publishing, information we fans need (or at least want) to help us through the winter. This year their work has been exceptional.

Case in point, a recent post on their Hit Bull Win Blog about spring training invites.

Why are spring training invites so important? Well, if history is any indication, the start-of-the-year roster of our Durham Bulls will come almost exclusively from two groups of players — those already on the Tampa Bay Rays 40-man roster and players with “minor league contracts with an invitation to spring training.” The list probably isn't complete, but it's close.

Consequently, as spring training cranks up these guys are the players we Bulls fans most likely to be seeing in April. Now, there will be a few quirks. For example, the major league spring training camp is knee deep in pitchers, so there will be a few extra catchers on the list. Also, the details of the contracts are rarely released and sometimes have “opt out” clauses where the player and/or the Rays can pull the plug at a specified time under specific conditions, such as the end of spring training. And sometimes a player gets so hot in the spring that he makes it onto the active roster.

We’ll be writing about these guys as the spring goes along, but a couple we already know.

Vince Belnome had a terrific year with the Bulls in 2013 earning his way onto the 40-man roster. He fell off a bit in 2014. We like him and have high hopes he’s back on form for 2015.

We’ve seen a lot of Brandon Gomes over the years. And we like him. He will be competing for a slot on the Rays active roster in the spring.

But the big deal, and the one that speaks to us all, is the obvious dedication the Bulls front office has to informing the fans. We here at WDBB really appreciate their work.

Keep it up!

[Note: WDBB reserves the right to continue to rant from time to time on various topics, but, for now, take a bow. You deserve it!]

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

All-Time AAA Durham Bulls Catchers


This is going to be fun!

The Bulls have started up a terrific way to think about the team’s 20 years at the DBAP by letting us put together an all-star team as part of the celebration. The way it will work is that each week they will put up a position for a vote, naming some candidates. We then have to go over to their Facebook page to vote. Sounds like a lot of fun. They are starting out with a vote on the top catcher.

We will have to note a couple of things along the way. Here at WDBB we have already done a lot of the work back in early 2013 when we gave out opinions with a greatest hitters and greatest pitchers list. We even speculated that it would be fun to put together a team. But we don’t have near the readership of the Bulls facebook page, so more power to them.

They are starting out with the catching position. Here are the players. I’ve made my vote, although I have to note that back when we made up our greatest hitters list, no catchers made the cut. It seems that catchers just don’t stick around very long.

They are then going to move on to first base and [Chris Richard] there's little doubt [Chris Richard] who our favorite [Chris Richard] first baseman choice is going to be: Chris Richard.

So, keep an eye on the Bulls Facebook page and have fun.