Monday, August 13, 2018

Off to the North

We had a couple of thrilling games in this home stand. A blowout of the Columbus Clippers on the 8th. Two games won by walk-off. But a couple of losses that were tough as well. Still, the Bulls left town still in first place in the IL South.

The Bulls are off to Lehigh Valley to face the team with the best won-loss record in the International League, the Phillies AAA franchise, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.  And the only other team that has its very own blogger. Check it out.

Matchup



[Geek Alert!]

Here's the oddity. The Bulls and the IronPigs match up very closely in everything except won-loss records and run differentials. Now, if you run their run differentials through the Pythagorean Expectation formula it turns out that the Bulls "should" be 69-47, not 65-51. And the IronPigs "should be" 67-52, not 72-47. In that case, the Bulls would be the best team in the International League, not the IronPigs. Darn this pesky real world stuff!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Getting Ready for Columbus

The Bulls are back in town after an odd 2 win/2 loss trip to the West and South. They spent a lot of time watching the rain fall on Georgia. They are back with a 4 game lead over Norfolk and some significant changes on the roster (again).


They open tonight against the Columbus Clippers, the AAA franchise of the Cleveland Indians and traditionally a formidable team in the International League West. This year they are tied for second place in their division. For stats geeks they show off the anomalous negative run differential with winning record. Overall, it appears that pitching is their problem.


Former Bulls Brandon Guyer, Johnny Field, and Richie Shaffer have worn Clippers uniforms this year. Guyer is with the Indians. Shaffer is in the Milwaukee system. Johnny Field is playing for Rochester in the Twins system.

Still with the Clippers are pitchers Jeff Beliveau, a pitcher we liked back in 2014, and Mitch Talbot, who made our list of great Durham Bulls pitchers back in 2013 and was a key player in the Bulls' first AAA championship in 2009 (trivia — he won the first and last games of that season). Looks like after joining the Cleveland system in 2010, he's done some serious roaming around including time with Korean teams and independent baseball.

Roster Changes in the last two weeks:
  • 7/24 OF Justin Williams optioned to Durham from Tampa Bay
  • 7/24 LHP Hoby Milner optioned to Durham from Tampa Bay
  • 7/24 RHP Yonny Chirinos recalled by Tampa Bay
  • 7/24 RHP Chih-Wei Hu recalled by Tampa Bay
  • 7/25 RHP Austin Pruitt recalled by Tampa Bay
  • 7/25 LHP Adam Kolarek optioned to Durham from Tampa Bay
  • 7/27 RHP Andrew Kittredge recalled by Tampa Bay
  • 7/28 RHP Chih-Wei Hu optioned to Durham from Tampa Bay
  • 8/1 INF Michael Russell assigned to Durham from Double-A Montgomery
  • 8/1 OF Austin Meadows acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh and assigned to Durham
  • 8/1 INF Christian Arroyo placed on disabled list (retroactive to 7/30)
  • 8/1 OF Justin Williams traded to St. Louis for OF Tommy Pham
  • 8/1 RHP Jake Faria activated from disabled list by Tampa Bay
  • 8/3 LHP Adam Kolarek recalled by Tampa Bay
  • 8/4 INF Brandon Lowe had his contract selected by Tampa Bay
Of all of that list what jumps out for me is the departure of Justin Williams, whose strong right arm from right field was a wonder to watch and the call-up of Brandon Lowe for what may be a quick cup of coffee, but still a big deal for someone who had to have room made for him on the 40-man. Should Kean Wong have been the guy called up? Sure. But let's not take anything away from Mr. Lowe. And we've got a new guy in the outfield, Austin Meadows.

Monday, July 23, 2018

The NEW Durham Bulls Are Back

This season's post-All-Star rosterizing by Tampa Bay seems to be even more frantic than usual. The break ended on July 12. Since then the Bulls have seen 26 transactions (and this list could miss a couple).
  • 7/12 INF Willy Adames optioned to Durham from Tampa Bay
  • 7/12 INF Christian Arroyo had his MLB rehab assignment transferred to Durham from Charlotte 
  • 7/12 OF Johnny Field optioned to Durham from Tampa Bay
  • 7/12 OF Jeremy Hazelbaker cleared waivers and was outrighted to Durham
  • 7/12 RHP Ryan Weber optioned to Durham from Tampa Bay
  • 7/12 RHP Jacob Faria had his MLB rehab assignment transferred to Durham from Charlotte 
  • 7/12 RHP Chih-Wei Hu recalled by Tampa Bay
  • 7/12 INF/OF Ji-Man Choi recalled by Tampa Bay
  • 7/13 C Adam Moore activated from disabled list
  • 7/13 C Roberto Pena transferred to Princeton
  • 7/15 RHP Ryan Weber designated for assignment by Tampa Bay
  • 7/16 INF Christian Arroyo completes MLB rehab assignment and optioned to Durham
  • 7/17 RHP Chih-Wei Hu optioned to Durham from Tampa Bay
  • 7/17 INF Michael Russell transferred to Double-A Montgomery
  • 7/19 RHP Andrew Kittredge optioned to Durham from Tampa Bay
  • 7/19 OF Jeremy Hazelbaker traded to Minnesota for cash considerations
  • 7/20 C Adam Moore had contract selected by Tampa Bay
  • 7/20 OF Johnny Field designated for assignment by Tampa Bay
  • 7/20 C Roberto Pena assigned to Durham from Princeton
  • 7/21 C Mac James assigned to Durham from Double-A Montgomery
  • 7/21 INF/OF Micah Johnson activated from disabled list
  • 7/21 RHP Ryan Weber outrighted and assigned to Durham from Tampa Bay
  • 7/21 C Roberto Pena placed on disabled list
  • 7/21 OF Justin Williams recalled by Tampa Bay
  • 7/22 INF Willy Adames recalled by Tampa Bay
  • 7/22 OF Justin Williams optioned to Durham from Tampa Bay
Not to put too fine a point on it, this seems a bit nuts. By the way, Hazelbaker now playing for the Rochester Red Wings.

With this kind of turmoil, no surprise that since the break the Bulls are 5-6. It says something about the coaching/managing crew that it has not been worse. Note that Norfolk's on a run.



Query: Last night Weber started, pitched 2 innings, and gave up 1 earned run. Jake Faria came in, pitched 3⅓, gave up 4 runs. The Bulls lost 3-5. Weber took the loss. Why?


The Toledo Mud Hens come to town on Tuesday. They lead in the IL West Division and match up well against the Bulls, except for their pitching. But then who knows who will be pitching for the Bulls by the time the game starts.



Speaking of pitching, Bulls starting pitching has been slipping. In the last 8 games, not one starter has achieved an "average" Game Score. That is not good. ERAs have been ticking upwards as well.



Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Importance of Pitching; Matchup Bulls v Bisons

These last two games up in Syracuse (Box Game 94, Box Game 95) provide great examples of the importance of pitching. In the first game, rehabbing Jake Faria and struggling Chih-Wei Hu combined to give up 11 hits, 5 walks, and 11 runs (8 earned) over 6 innings. In the second game, Andrew Moore's five hits (2 home runs) and 2 walks resulted in 4 runs, enough to lose the game. This is continuing an unfortunate trend that started back on Game 91 that has seen the team ERA rise from 3.21 to 3.34. Not the end of the earth, but worrisome.

Today the Bulls are over in Buffalo playing against Toronto's AAA team, the Buffalo Bisons. They can surely expect a few more fans in the seats (one of the Syracuse games only had a paid attendance of 2,600 fans).

The Bisons are in 3rd place in the IL North, but their stats indicate they should be doing a bit better.



Monday, July 16, 2018

Hazelbaker!

Jeremy Hazelbaker
Photo Credit

July 15, 2018
Durham Bulls 7; Charlotte Knights 6
Wrap, Box

We have noted, if only indirectly, that Jeremy Hazelbaker was not having a good year. At the All-Star break, he was carrying a poor .189 batting average and a .647 OPS. He had just been Designated for Assignment by the Rays and it wasn't clear if he'd be back after his July 5 game in Charlotte.

He did make it back and if the two games he played since his return are any indication, he may have turned a corner. Including his walk-off double last night, he has 6 hits in 9 at-bats (3 doubles last night). He's pushed his batting average above the Mendoza Line to .210 and his OPS up 42 points to .689.

Good for him. Good for the Bulls.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The NEW Durham Bulls

What else can you call a team that had 8 (count 'em 8!) transactions over the All-Star break? All but one of them had spent at least some time with the Bulls this year. But even the best need to have a bit of playing time with each other.

In the starting lineup was:
  • Jacob Faria on a rehab assignment as starting pitcher
  • Christian Arroyo on a rehab assignment at 3B (he did have some time as a Bull earlier this year)
  • Willy Adames back at shortstop (commentary about that event here and here)
  • Johnny Field batting leadoff and playing right field.
Not playing, but back on the roster were
  • Pitcher Ryan Weber
  • Outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker who cleared waivers and has been outrighted.
Missing were:
  • Pitcher Chi-Wei Hu went to the Rays and came on in relief of Blake Snell last night and did OK
  • Infielder Ji-Man Choi, who DH'd for the Rays last night and was 0-fer with 2 Ks.
The latest roster is here.

Also missing was broadcaster Patrick Kinas, who was "called up" doing pre- and post-game shows for the Rays.

Oh, the Bulls lost 4-2 to Charlotte. Box. Wrap.

Fortunately, I was watching on TV at home. I'm guessing that if I were at the game (unless listening on the radio) I'd have to wait for the video board to tell me who the players were because they were yet again wearing my least favorite jersey without nameplates.

Congratulations are due Kean Wong who earned IL-MVP honors at the All-Star game. About the game: The IL lost to the PCL 7-12. WrapBox.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Durham Bulls at the All-Star Break; Charts!

The All-Star Break for the International League is not at mid-season. That happened quite a few games ago, but 88 games into the season is not a bad time to take a look at how the team is doing. Only 52 games to left!

Overall, the Durham Bulls have been doing very well this year and at the break are 4½ games ahead of Norfolk in the South Division.

click on chart for larger view

Pitching

Twenty-six different pitchers have stepped up on the mound for the Durham Bulls this year. Ranging from infielder Brandon Snyder (1 inning) to Forrest Snow (88 innings).

As a team, they have the best ERA in the International League. In previous seasons, the comparison of starters and relievers provided some mild insights to the team. In this season, the Tampa Bay style of using "openers" and the Bulls' need to have occasional bullpen days are messing with those comparisons.



The team's WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched) is, by a few hundredths of a point, second to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in the IL. Pretty good.



Runs

Another way to look at team performance is to track run differentials. That is, how many runs are scored compared to runs allowed. In that race, the Bulls are also doing very well this year.



And not only this year. This chart shows run differentials for the last five years at this point in the season. Looking pretty good.



Hitters

Although I am not a big fan of the OPS stat, it does seem to be a decent measure of overall team performance. This chart shows the cumulative team OPS over the last 20 games. The Bulls rank second in the IL, just behind the Indianapolis Indians.



Twenty-three players have come to bat for the Bulls this year. Their plate appearances range from the visiting Tampa Bay rehabber Adeiny Hechavarria (4) to Justin Williams (327). This table is sorted by wOBA, weighted on-base average, and includes another newish stat called RC+, weighted runs created plus. Important to all is just how truly spectacular those numbers of Rob Refsnyder and Brandon Lowe are, but also to note the very small sample size. Neither has been with the team very long at all.



NameAgePAAVGOPSwOBAwRC+
Brandon Lowe
23
128
.330
1.084
.470
203
Rob Refsnyder
27
57
.373
1.007
.447
187
Joe McCarthy ˆ
24
143
.265
.863
.386
145
Brandon Snyder
31
252
.251
.839
.376
138
Kean Wong
23
310
.316
.843
.376
138
Ji-Man Choi †
27
86
.270
.766
.348
119
Andrew Velazquez
23
280
.262
.725
.328
105
Jason Coats
28
276
.245
.736
.327
104
Justin Williams †
22
327
.266
.711
.323
101
Jeremy Hazelbaker
30
226
.189
.647
.295
82
Nick Ciuffo
23
107
.257
.646
.291
79
Roberto Pena
26
36
.265
.600
.278
70
Michael Russell
25
106
.260
.602
.275
68
Adam Moore ˆ 
34
151
.225
.595
.271
66
Micah Johnson ˆ
27
137
.197
.572
.259
57
Source: https://www.fangraphs.com
†=on 40 Man; ˆ= on DL; Hazelbaker has been DFA'd

Defense

Lastly, here's my homebrewed measure of team defense. For much of the year, the Bulls were giving up a lot of runs as measured by unearned runs per game. Lately, they've been doing better. Let's hope that keeps up.



Nameplates!

One more kvetch about the uniforms. Names! Names! Names! I really don't like digging into my program to find out who's on first.