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.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Bulls Return With a Solid Lead in IL South

You really can't have a better outcome when you visit your closest rival and take four games from them in their home park. That's what the Durham Bulls just did over in Norfolk and opened up their lead in the International League South to 5½ games.

The buzz, as it should be, is the continued stunning performance of young (23) Brandon Lowe. His OPS has soared to 1.147 and he has contributed 23 RBI in his 22 games as a Bull. Not far behind is another new guy, Ji-Man Choi who is carrying an OPS of .990. Not to mention All-Star Kean Wong whose batting average of .317 is 2nd in the International League. Choi and Lowe do not have enough ABs to get on the list.





Meanwhile, down in that great bandbox-near-the-sea in St Petersburg, Florida, the Bulls parent club, had a homestand nothing short of amazing. They took 8 out of 9 games against the New York Yankees, Washington Nationals, and Houston Astros! And with only a couple of legitimate starting pitchers. They seem to be having fun.



Monday, June 25, 2018

Good Trip; Coming Home

The Bulls had another good road trip, winning four of six games against the Louisville Bats and the Indianapolis Indians. Perhaps the highlight of the trip was the breakout hitting of young Brandon Lowe. His OPS soared from a pretty dismal .448 to a very solid .929 and included 5 home runs and 9 RBI. His batting average went from .196 to .263 over the six games.

Ji-Man Choi also had a good trip, but left the game yesterday after getting hit in the face by an elbow as a runner passed by. His OPS is a stunning 1.056 over his first 10 games with the Bulls.

Overall, the Bulls seemed to have survived the departure of Willy Adames and Jake Bauers. Now if they could just win some games at home.



Outside the Game

Jake Bauers had a game-winning, 12th inning home run yesterday to beat the Yankees and complete a three-game sweep of the Yankees at home ... and they even had some fans watching the game!

Matchup

The Charlotte Knights were just here and they are back. They are not having a good year, which doesn't mean they don't do well against the Bulls. Just last week they were also in town and swept the Bulls.



Those 2018 Uniforms

OK, is it time to talk about the uniforms? Just for the record, I don't like them. First, I like nameplates on jerseys. What happens if I don't have a program? Or it's a new player? Second, I'm no fan of the new Bull City logo. I get it, Durham paid millions for the stadium upgrade, they get to call some shots. But it's ugly.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Boom!

Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay) 13; Louisville Bats (Cincinnati) 3
Wrap, Box

Last night's performance by Bulls hitters was simply stunning. Seven out of nine hitters improved their OPS, some by substantial margins, in just one game. One, Ji-Man Choi, albeit from a very small sample so far, jumped up 300 points with 2 home runs! Lowe and Hazelbaker had good nights.

Name
6/20
6/21
Diff
Ji-Man Choi*†
.791
1.109
.318
Nick Ciuffo*
.652
.666
.014
Jeremy Hazelbaker*†
.579
.628
.049
Brandon Lowe*
.500
.556
.056
Michael Russell
.711
.739
.028
Brandon Snyder
.815
.822
.007
Andrew Velazquez#
.744
.741
-.003
Justin Williams*†
.698
.690
-.008
Kean Wong*
.872
.879
.007
Team
.731
.739
.008
*=Left-handed bat; †=on 40-man

The Bulls head up the road to second-place Indianapolis where they face a team that is a very close match to the Bulls in most categories. The Indians are a formidable hitting team, a decent ERA, but their team WHIP is not good at all. That may help explain their similar won-loss record, but much lower run differential. Should be a good series.