Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Durham Bulls in 2016: Part 5 - The Durham Bulls Athletic Park

This is Part 5 of our 2016 wrap-up. Part 1- The Team is here; Part 2 - The Pitchers is here; Part 3 - the Hitters is here, and Part 4 - the Tampa Bay Rays is here.



As usual, the Durham Bulls staff and management did a terrific job this year. Please jump in with your comments.

Netting

The most visible change this year was the extension of netting from just behind home plate out to the edges of the dugouts. We sit on the front row of the terrace view section behind the first base dugout, so netting did change our view of the game. At first, it bothered me. However, I have to say that for years what bothered me much, much more were inattentive parents among us. I've seen children sitting on top of the dugout with their back to the game! And that was even more distracting to me than the netting has been this year. Plus, our seats are pretty far back, unlike the netting in the old Durham Athletic Park, which feels like a cage.

Turf

Not a high point this year. After the extreme efforts of a couple of years ago, we expected better. Hasn't happened yet, although the field certainly drains better. A key problem was probably overuse of the field, first by Trinity College (sometimes referred to as Duke University) and then by the ACC tournament. It did seem to play well, but here's hoping they find the right mixture of grass species and usage so that appearances are better next year.

Food and Beverages

I am no expert on beers, but the variety available, including a microbrewery right in the ballpark, seems to be superb. Similarly, when you go to as many games as we do, you can't eat too much ballpark food without turning into a blimp. However, the loss of Rise Donuts pained me. I know they had a poor location and who (other than I) goes to the ballpark for a donut? On the other hand, my other favorite, Durham Coop Market, is still there. I hope they made money and will be back. Overall I'd say there's a tick upwards since Bull City Hospitality took over food operations.

Co-op Market 

Radio/TV

I have grown to really like Patrick Kinas as the Bulls broadcaster and am very impressed with the growth of Scott Pose as the color commentator for most of the home games. They make a very good team. Kinas went off to work the Rio Olympics for a couple of weeks and Pose did a very credible job backing up a stream of stand-ins.

And then there's the Post 50 TV crew, who set a very high bar for everyone in Triple-A baseball. I often check in on the Bulls when they are on the road via MiLB-TV. There I see what the home team is streaming and listen to their broadcast team is up to. Some are awful, some are OK, none of their TV operations come close to what  Post 50 does.

Just a few more watts of transmitting power would be nice for my little radio in the park and for those useless embedded antennas in modern automobiles.

Plus, Kinas did a daily interview of Bulls manager Jared Sandberg that was aired in the pre-game show. We were not able to listen every day and it sure would have been nice to have those interviews available as podcasts. In particular, the Rays are obsessively secretive about player injury status, but they will answer questions ... if asked. And Kinas often does ask. But if you're not listening in that moment, you simply don't know what's up. I get more information about Bulls players status from the Tampa Bay Times than I do from either the Bulls front office or the local paper, the Durham Herald-Sun.

The Bulls communications crew

Does a very good job, particularly on stats, little essays for the programs, and this year's set of "Arrival" videos. This year's fan appreciation video was well done.

All the between innings promotions get a bit old for folks who come to a lot of games.

We are going to miss Bill Law. See the tributes here.

A few nits to pick
  • For several years there was a pre-season "Meet the Team" luncheon for season ticket holders and sponsors. That's gone away. Too bad.
  • Although we've solved the cupholder problem for the front row seats of Terrace View, even I would admit that it looks awfully ratty. 



Lastly, the ACC has pulled its tournament from Durham for 2017. Here's the Bulls' response.
   DURHAM, NC – Our partners at the Atlantic Coast Conference had a difficult decision to make regarding the location of neutral site championships throughout the state of North Carolina. We understand the conference’s position, and support our partner’s decision to remove those championships from North Carolina. We look forward to a resolution of this issue, so that we can welcome the tournament back to Durham in future years.
    We have opposed House Bill 2 from the beginning, and continue to share that sentiment.

Good for the Bulls! We too share that sentiment.

Next Home Game: 200 Days

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Durham Bulls in 2016: Part 4 - The Tampa Bay Rays

This is Part 4 of our 2016 wrap-up. Here are the links to Part 1, 23.  and Part 5, The DBAP.

The Tampa Bay Rays are the Bulls' parent club.

We sometimes forget that all of the players, all the coaches, and almost everyone else in the dugout, work for Tampa Bay. Consequently, it's fair to say that what happens in Durham doesn't stay in Durham. How responsible are the Rays for this year's Bulls' performance? 100%

So, what about them Rays?

They are not a very good baseball team, not this year, not most years since they were formed. At the moment they are 21 games below .500 and in last place in the American League East. Their team OPS of .739 is 10th in the 15-team league; the team ERA of 4.18 is 13th. Most years, the Ray's rep is built around pitching, not so much this year. The most notable statistical oddity about the team is that the Pythagorean Expectation number says that they "should" be at just 5 games below .500. That difference between actual (-21) and expected (-5) is usually attributed to a combination of bad luck and pitching. We'd agree. The hitting is OK. Plus, their defense is OK. The "Defensive Difference Index" of 6.88% is actually better than the league average of 6.95%


But we are interested in the Durham Bulls.

Our view is that there are some systemic problems with the Rays and that those problems are having an effect on both teams. The issues show up in 1) player development, 2) selecting and managing/coaching veteran players, and 3) overall managing/coaching.

For example, so far this season, up in Tampa Bay, if you look at games played by position players [BaseballRef], of the top 7 players only two (Evan Longoria and Kevin Kiermaier) came up through the Rays system and played in Durham. Of the next seven, 3 players (Desmond Jennings, Tim Beckham, and Mikie Mahtook) came up through the Rays system and two others from outside the Rays system (Nick Franklin and Brandon Guyer) spent some time with the Bulls.

For pitchers, the picture is slightly better. Of the 24 (so far) pitchers in Rays' games, seven (the traded-off Matt Moore, late-season call-up Blake Snell, returned from rehab Alex Cobb, and relievers Alex Colome, Ryan Garton, Dylan Floro, and Enny Romero) came through the Rays system. Plus almost all of the rest we've seen in Durham one time or another.

Does the fact that not many ex-Bulls are playing for the Rays help explain why the Bulls have not been very good these last few years? Well, maybe. But that's certainly not all of the picture. As important is probably that they are not doing a very good job of spotting or managing veteran talent. Back in 2013 (with a lot of help) we put together some stats on "greatest" Durham Bulls. (here, here, and here). Unless you happen to be a thorough-going baseball fanatic, you may not recognize many of those names. But Bulls fans do. Our concern is that, without diving into the data too deeply, it doesn't look like any names could be added in the three years since we made up the list. What does that mean? It means that the Rays are not seeking out and finding quality ballplayers to fill out the Bulls' roster. Just exactly what did Kyle Roller, Jake Goebbert, Eury Perez and Carlos Corporan bring to the 2016 Bulls? About as much as 2015's Eugenio Valez, Bobby Wilson, Grady Sizemore, Jose Constanza, and Alexi Casilla. Only Casilla's OPS of .827 is particularly respectable among that bunch, and he got dumped in mid-season.

Then there was the using playing for the Bulls as a "punishment" at the end of the season. Two players on the 40-man were sent down and not recalled after the Bulls season ended, reportedly because the Rays didn't want them around. What does that say about being a Durham Bull?

Management? The record speaks for itself. How much difference does a management crew make? We have witnessed three of the Bulls losing seasons and if there's a thread it's that the "veterans" didn't contribute as much as they could/should. We fans expect the youngsters to have growing pains. But we also expect the veterans to come up with the timely double play, home run, accurate throw from the field, and smart base-running moment that wins games. And a competent job of pitching. However, even veterans need solid coaching and managing. Is coaching/managing another thread that's running throughout the Rays system as an issue? Begins to look like it.




Friday, September 16, 2016

Governors' Cup Update

The final best-of-five began Tuesday in Pennsylvania, then moved to Georgia yesterday. The Braves are on the edge. They are behind 2-1 to the Yankee's franchise.

Game 1, September 13, PNC Field, Moosic, Pennsylvania
Gwinnett Braves (Atlanta): 7
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRider (NYY): 4
Box

Game 2, September 14, PNC Field, Moosic, Pennsylvania
Gwinnett Braves: 1
Scranton/WB RailRiders: 2
A quirky, minor league playoff typical loss for the Braves. Their pitching crew walked in the tieing and winning runs (after putting all of the runners on based with hit-by-pitch or walk).
Box

Game 3, September 15, Coolray Field, Lawrenceville, Georgia
Scranton/WB Railriders: 3
Gwinnett Braves: 0
Box, Gwinnett Daily Post, Scranton Times-Tribune

The Durham Bulls in 2016: Part 3 - The Hitters

As we pointed out in Part 1 of this series, the Bulls hitting was pretty dismal this year. In fact, taken in the aggregate, it was the lack of hitting, more than any other factor, that  made this the worst season in Bulls' history. We discussed the pitching at Part 2. See also Part 4 - The Tampa Bay Rays, and Part 5 - The DBAP.

The Bulls saw 28 different batters come to the plate this year. Two of those were pitchers, Dana Eveland and Eddie Gamboa, only had one plate appearance. Two were short-term rehab assignments, infielders Matt Duffy for 3 games and Logan Forsyth for 2 games. A young minor leaguer, Alec Sole was in three games. We do need to point out that in his one at-bat pitcher Eddie Gamboa got a hit and scored a run ending up with the team-best batting average of 1.000 and OPS of 2.000!

Looking at this chart of OPS numbers we see that we that we have to reach down to the 4th player in the rank-ordering before we find a player above the "average" line and who who had any significant amount of playing time (Jaff Decker).

There was, however, a cluster of promising young players that we'd hope to see again next year: Casey Gillaspie, Johhny Field, Daniel Robertson, and "veteran" 26 year-old Jaff Decker.

Click on chart for larger image


This table is sorted by a more "advanced" stat, Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) and includes another stat, Weighted Runs Above Average (wRAA) that gives us a hint of the player's contribution to the team this year.


Name
Age
G
AB
PA
RBI
AVG
OPS
wOBA
wRAA
Casey Gillaspie
23
47
179
203
23
.307
.909
.407
13.7
Mikie Mahtook
26
27
105
120
7
.305
.821
.371
4.9
Nick Franklin
25
64
240
270
28
.254
.772
.364
2.9
Jaff Decker
26
99
349
417
35
.255
.787
.357
12.7
Johnny Field
24
69
255
285
27
.275
.793
.353
7.8
Daniel Robertson
22
118
436
511
43
.259
.713
.331
5.6
J.P. Arencibia
30
78
309
324
47
.252
.727
.326
2.2
Curt Casali
27
20
63
81
15
.254
.714
.322
1
Richie Shaffer
25
119
428
496
48
.227
.695
.321
1.7
Kyle Roller
28
50
162
187
12
.216
.692
.318
0.2
Taylor Motter
26
88
350
387
46
.229
.686
.311
-1.7
Dayron Varona
28
118
435
463
59
.232
.681
.306
-3.7
Jake Goebbert
28
93
321
364
35
.218
.661
.303
-3.8
Luke Maile
25
58
194
214
12
.242
.650
.300
-2.7
Eury Perez
26
27
88
99
4
.239
.602
.278
-2.9
Juniel Querecuto
23
36
120
129
11
.242
.597
.272
-4.3
Jake Hager
23
71
272
293
21
.228
.592
.266
-11.1
Carlos Corporan
32
20
65
70
9
.200
.554
.255
-3.2
Patrick Leonard
23
42
131
145
6
.198
.528
.250
-7.3
Hank Conger
28
30
109
116
11
.165
.503
.227
-7.8
Cameron Seitzer
26
42
135
144
3
.178
.429
.204
-12.2


The Hitters

Players are discussed in order of games played. "Slash Line" is Batting Average/On Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage. The Bulls played a 144 game season that ended September 5, 2016.

Richie Shaffer (119 games, 496 plate appearances,.227/.329/.367, OPS .695, wOBA .321) did not deliver on his promise from 2015 where he had stellar seasons at Montgomery and with the Bulls. He played in several positions and seems to have a decent arm. Longoria is, of course, in his way at Tampa Bay. Nevertheless, his 27 doubles were in second place on the team (and 14th in the IL), as were his 48 RBI. He also led the team in strikeouts with 135 and drew the most walks at 65. He was up with the Rays a couple of times and went back for September. [stats]

Daniel Robertson (118 games, 511 plate appearances, .259/.358/.356, OPS .713, wOBA .331) was the most promising young (22) player we saw this year. It says something about the Rays that they did not call him up for a "taste" this September. But that does mean that Bulls fans will get to watch him mature next year. In a perfect world, it would be nice if he were a bit quicker  (just 2 stolen bases). And the 100 K's are worrisome. He led the team for being hit by pitches (11). [stats]

Dayron Varona (117 games (118 on FanGraphs site), 463 plate appearances, .232/.274/.407, OPS .681, wOBA .306) provided some of the rare excitement this year. His numbers are not all that great, but he did lead the team in doubles with 32 (5th in the IL) and RBI with 59. Mid-season he seemed to slow down, but picked up at the end. He has a terrific arm and covers right or left field quite well. Not quite as explosive a player as his fellow Cuban defector Leslie Anderson. We wanted to see a bit more plate discipline. Tied with Jaff Decker for most outfield assists (12). [stats]

Jaff Decker (99 games, 349 plate appearances, .255/.366/.421, OPS .787, wOBA .357) meant a lot to the Bulls this year. He was one of the few exciting players on the team, exciting to watch, that is. And was a rare left-handed bat.  As he has several in the last three years (with Pittsburg and San Diego), he managed some major league time, but did not stick. He was #2 in stolen bases with 18, but led the team in getting caught with 7. He tied with Dayron Varona for most outfield assists (12). We'd like to see him back with the Bulls next year. [stats]
Update: Decker put on 40-man and called up to Rays mid-September.

Jake Goebbert (93 games, 321 plate appearances, .218/.299/.361, OPS .661, wOBA .303) added a left-handed outfielder's bat to the line-up, but, unfortunately, not much else. It is true that several of 10 home runs seemed to come at critical moments. Nevertheless, his OPS was almost 200 points below his 2015 numbers in El Paso (San Diego AAA) and he barely got above the Mendoza Line all year. [stats]

Taylor Motter (88 games, 387 plate appearances, .229/.297/.389, OPS .686, wOBA .311) seemed to be more of a Rays' super-utility man in training than a Durham Bull, this year. He had 33 games with the Rays but did not hit very well. His 2016 numbers are well below his 2015 Bulls numbers of .292/.366/.471. Not sure, but think he might be up for his first shot at free-agency this year. From a fan's perspective, if he can regain 2015 form, we'd like to see him back. [stats]

J.P. Arencibia (78 games, 324 plate appearances, .252/.284/.443 OPS .727, wOBA .326) joined the Bulls after 12 games with Lehigh Valley (AAA team of the Phillies). To be honest, after his superb September with the Rays in 2015, we didn't expect him back. At bat, he led the Bulls in home runs with 15, but overall his hitting was off. As a catcher, however, our guess is that he provided quite a bit of added value to the team because, once Luke Maile went up to the Rays, there was not much left to work with the pitching crew. J.P. announced his retirement at the end of the season. We wish him well. [stats]

Jake Hager (71 games, 293 PA, .228/.269/.324, OPS .592, wOBA .266) came to the Bulls in June after 43 games with Montgomery. This was his first time at AAA. He alternated between second base and shortstop with a couple of games at third. He had a piece of 41 double plays, and made a decent partner for Daniel Robertson at short. His bat needs some work, but he's young. Likely to be back next year. [stats]

Johnny Field (69 games, 285 PA, .275/.338/.455, OPS .793, wOBA .353) came up to the Bulls at the end of May for his AAA debut after 45 games with the Biscuits. The young (24) outfielder has had a good year and is one of the few Bulls with a decent OPS. Not particularly quick afoot (3 steals, 6 caught stealings), he was quick enough to lead the team in triples (4) and he ranked third in doubles with 23. Very likely to return next year. [stats]

Nick Franklin (64 games, 270 PA, .254/.322/.392, OPS .714, wOBA .322) was never expected to be a full-time Durham Bull when he came to the Rays system back in 2014. Maybe, maybe this year was the charm. At least he is now playing regularly with the Rays even if he did put in a substantial number of games with the Bulls this year. He did not have a great year at bat as a Bull, he actually has much better stats with the Rays (OPS .836). We don't expect him back. [stats]

Luke Maile (58 games, 214 PA, .242/.310/.340, OPS .650, wOBA .300) began the season with the Bulls, moved up to the Rays in mid-July, and never came back. Catchers are very difficult to evaluate from the stands. We certainly thought that Maile was ready to go as his stats improved throughout June. Just 25 years old, we expect that he's got a solid career ahead of him. As we will discuss later, however, the Rays are notorious for mishandling/misjudging catchers. We are not confident that he will be finding a place with the Rays as a major leaguer. We liked watching him play, though. [stats]

Kyle Roller (50 games, 187 PA, .216/.316/.377, OPS .692, wOBA .318) never quite delivered on the promise he showed in 2014 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (OPS .875), although after leaving the Bulls in mid-June he did just fine in independent ball. Overall, the Bulls would have been better served if the Rays had found better ballplayers than Roller, Jake Goebbert, Eury Perez, and Carlos Corporan to fill out the roster at the beginning of the year. [stats]

Casey Gillaspie (47 games, 203 plate appearances, .307/.389/.520, OPS .909. wOBA .407) was a rare breath of fresh air after he came up from the Montgomery Biscuits in mid-July and stayed for the rest of the year. He appears to be a pure hitting first-baseman (switch-hitter, better as a lefty against righties). At 23 he's young and very likely to be back next year. We hope so. We like watching him play baseball. Note that he only made one error at first base as a Bull. [stats]

Patrick Leonard (42 games, 145 plate appearances, .198/.276/.252, OPS .528, wOBA .250) was much less successful in his AAA debut. However, after starting with the Bulls in April, he went to Montgomery at the beginning of June and had a decent year there. Just 23, you have to think he'll get another shot next year. [stats]

Cameron Seitzer (40 games, 144 plate appearances, .178/.229/.200, OPS .429, wOBA .204) appears to have been thoroughly mistreated by the Rays, although we're willing to stand corrected. As far as we can tell he was a backup infielder-in-waiting who filled a roster hole when it was convenient and then transferred (on paper) elsewhere when it wasn't. He was essentially with the Bulls all year, but only played in 40 games. Unfortunately, when he got his rare opportunities, he did not do very well. [stats]

Juniel Querecuto (36 games, 229 PA, .242/.289/.308, OPS .597, wOBA .272) does not have very good numbers for his visits with the Bulls. He started with the Biscuits, came to the Bulls in mid-May and stayed to mid-June. He went back to the Biscuits for a week or so, came back to the Bulls for late June and early July, back to the Biscuits, up to the Bulls, and ended the season with the Biscuits. That's three promotions to the Bulls this year. Not good numbers, even for an infielder. Young at 23, likely playing winter ball. We'll have to see about next year. [stats]
Update (9/12/2016): Added to 40-man roster and called up.

Hank Conger (30 games, 116 plate appearances, .165/.200/.303, OPS .503, wOBA .227) had a few good moments as a Bull after he was sent down by the Rays in mid-July for the last month and a half, but not many. As we mentioned, we have a hard time judging catchers from the stands, but his hitting numbers were not good at all. Unlikely to return next year. [stats]

Mikie Mahtook (27 games, 120 PA, .305/.383/.438, OPS .821. wOBA .371) spent the first six weeks with the Bulls and then went up to the Rays to spend almost all of the season with the Rays or on the DL (he did come back for 7 games at the end of the Bulls season). Mahtook is a major leaguer (even if his season has not gone well), although it sure would have helped to have at least one or two players of his rising talent with the Bulls this year. [stats]

Eury Perez (27 games, 99 PA, .239/.295/.307, OPS .602, wOBA .278) started the system in the Pacific Coast League with Houston's Fresno Grizzlies. Even at 26, he's been with a lot of teams and systems, coming up with the Nationals, then with the Yankees, Atlanta, and Houston before the Rays. He arrived in June and was on and off the roster a good bit. His last at bat was August 17. He had his moments. He was third in stolen bases, even with his reduced playing time. We have no way of knowing if he has any health issues, so hard to predict if he will be coming back. [stats]

Curt Casali (20 games, 81 PA, .254/.407/.365, OPS .772, wOBA .364) began the season with the Rays and stayed there until early August, when he was sent down, apparently to work on his hitting. He went back to the Rays at the end of the Bulls' season. Hitting was always a bit of a weak point with Casali, and this year did not seem to be that much different. With the Bulls, he was sharing time with two other catchers (Arencibia and Conger) and he did just fine with his limited plate appearances. Hard to tell if he's going to stick with the Rays next year. [stats]

Carlos Corporan (20 games, 70 PA, .200/.246/.308, OPS .554. wOBA .255) started the season with the Bulls, but was released in mid-May. He spent the next couple of months with the New Orleans Zephyrs, Miami's AAA team. Yet another example of the Rays having a hard time picking/developing catchers. [stats]

The Rest
  • Mayo Acosta is essentially the Bulls bullpen catcher. He has been on and off the roster for the last four years, essentially succeeding Craig Albernaz in that role (Albernaz, by the way, is with the Rays' Hudson Valley Renegades as their hitting coach).
  • Tim Beckham got in 5 games and 12 plate appearances at the end of the season.
  • Matt Duffy, an infielder, had 12 plate appearances on a rehab assignment.
  • Alec Sole visited for three games in August while he was enroute from the Charlotte Stone Crabs to end the season with 6 games with the Montgomery Biscuits.
  • Logan Forsyth had two games on a rehab assignment.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Durham Bulls in 2016: Part 2 - The Pitchers

Thirty-four different players pitched for the Durham Bulls this year. As a group, they were not a particularly impressive crew. Our previous post set out some of the aggregate numbers. This one will take a look at individuals. In Part 3, we discuss the hitters, in Part 4, the Tampa Bay Rays, and in Part 5, the DBAP.

The 34 pitchers included four position players: Dayron Verona (1 appearance, 1 inning), Cameron Seitzer (2 appearances, 1.2 innings), Jaff Decker (2 appearances, 2 innings), and Mayo Acosta (2 appearances, 2 innings).

For the rest, we'll go over them one by one in order of innings pitched, throwing a few charts in along the way.

Austin Pruitt (right-handed starting pitcher) led the team in innings pitched with 162.2 over 28 appearances. Only one Durham Bull starting pitcher had a winning record, and Pruitt was not him. He ended the year at 8-11 with an ERA of 3.76 and a WHIP of 1.19. Among his fellow International League pitchers he ranked 12th in ERA, 4th in WHIP, 4th in innings pitched, and second in strikeouts with 149. At 4.92 pitches per out, he was one of the more efficient pitchers on the team. Pruitt was drafted by the Rays in 2013, is now 26 years old and has been working his way up through the system. He has no major league time. This was his first year at AAA. [stats]

Justin Marks (left-handed starting pitcher) put in 140 innings in 25 appearances (23 starts, 2 in relief). As with his colleagues, he ended up with a losing won-loss record (7-11). His ERA of 3.86 ranked him 13th in the IL. His WHIP of 1.27 was 11th. His 127 strikeouts ranked him 8th. Innings pitched were 12th. Marks came to the Rays system out of the Arizona system. He has one brief appearance in the majors with the Royals in 2014. Notable this year was his no-hitter on July 16th. He was added to the Rays 40-man roster and called up in early September. [stats]

Jamie Schultz (right-handed starting pitcher) put in 130.2 innings over 27 starts and ended with a record of 5-6. His ERA of 3.58 was 7th in the IL; his WHIP of 1.39 was 20th. His 163 K's were the best in the IL just ahead of teammate Austin Pruitt. Also like Pruitt he was drafted by the Rays in 2013 and has been working his was up through the system. This was his first year at AAA. [stats]

Eddie Gamboa (right-handed starting pitcher) had 94 innings with the Bulls this year. He had a couple of weeks on the disabled list in May. He is the only Bulls starter with a positive won-loss record (6-4). But we must be fair and point out that 3 of those wins (and 1 of the losses) came in relief. If he had had a few more innings, he would have come in 2nd place in the IL with his 2.68 ERA. He certainly had the best ERA among the Bulls starting pitchers. His WHIP of 1.11 would have placed him in third place. Eddie Gamboa is in his 8th year as a professional ballplayer, all as a pitcher and all in the Baltimore system. But only recently has he focused on his knuckleball. We were somewhat surprised to figure out that he was the Bulls' best pitcher this year. That's probably because his appearances were often disfigured by watching the catcher chase down passed balls or wild pitches. We were very pleased to see the Rays bring him up at the end of the IL season. [stats]

Adam Wilk (left-handed starting pitcher) had 15 starts before he went on the disabled list in mid-June. Although he wasn't getting much in the way of run support his WHIP was a decent 1.12 and his ERA (3.63) was OK as well. An 8-year professional, Wilk came to the Bulls will AAA experience in the Detroit, Pittsburg, and LA Angels systems, with a few moments of major league time with Detroit and the Angels. In keeping with a well-established Durham Bulls/Tampa Bay Rays tradition, we have no idea why he went on the DL or what's happened to him since then. [stats]

Jacob Faria (RHSP) came up to the Bulls from Montgomery just after the midseason (essentially when Wilk went on the DL). He showed considerable promise in his 13 starts and 67.2 innings with the Bulls (he had 14 starts and 83.1 innings with AA Montgomery). His ERA as a Bull was decent at 3.72 and his WHIP of 1.15 was OK as well. His 4.84 pitches per out were the most efficient of any of the Bulls starting pitchers (and the second best on the team). This was his first experience at AAA but he's the only pitcher on the Rays 40-man who did not get a September call-up. Likely the Rays thought that 151 total innings was enough. [stats]

Blake Snell (LHSP) started the year with the Bulls after coming up from Montgomery for eight games at the end of 2015. In his 12 games and 63 innings with the Bulls he carried a 3.29 ERA, a WHIP of 1.33, and a promising FIP of 2.60. He went up to the Rays for one game in April and went up to stay in mid-June. He won't be back. [stats]

ERAs and FIPs

Sorted by number of innings pitched
Click on chart for larger image

Parker Markel (right-handed reliever) led the relief crew in innings pitched. He had 5 games with the Bulls in 2015, started 2016 with Montgomery, came up in mid-May and didn't go back. He picked up 5 wins in relief over 34 appearances and 60.2 innings. With the notable exception of Dana Eveland, his ERA of 2.52 was the best on the team. He is a product of the Rays' system and he'll likely start with the Bulls or with the Rays next year. [stats]

Dylan Floro (right-handed reliever) was a starter all of 2015. The Rays decided to convert him to a relief pitcher this year and the move seemed to be reasonably successful. With the Bulls,  he got in 50 innings in 32 appearances with an excellent ERA of 2.88, 5 holds, and 7 saves (2 blown saves). He went up to the Rays in early July and came back to the Bulls in late August. He had two appearances and then went on the disabled list. No reasons were given. (See Adam Wilk above). [stats]

Neil Wagner (right-handed relief pitcher) started the year with the Charlotte Stone Crabs. Coming off surgery he actually had a pretty good year in some ways. He was the best of the Durham relievers with runners on base. Of the 15 who were on base when he came on, only 3 scored. On the other hand, he only finished 43 innings in 38 appearances, which is pretty short relief. A couple of short, but poor outings, balooned up his ERA and it stuck there most of the year finishing at 4.81. And he had to work awfully hard for his outs, averaged 6.07 pitches per out, one of the worst ratings on the team. At 32 years old he was in direct competition with Dana Eveland as the oldest player on the team. He brought a lot of experience to the Bulls. He's played in the Cleveland, Oakland, San Diego, and Toronto systems. He was out for all of 2015 and 2016 was his testing year. Numbers probably do not describe his worth to the Rays. Hard to guess if he will return. [stats]

Adam Kolarek was that extreme rarity for the Bulls this year, a left-handed reliever. Until late in the year, he was the Bulls' only lefty in the bullpen. He did a decent job with a nice ERA of 3.05 in his 34 appearances and 41.1 innings. Kolarek came over to the Rays system from the Mets in 2015. He started 2016 with Montgomery. He came up to the Bulls in early May, went back in mid-July, came back in early August and stayed. On the year he had 47 appearances. With a WHIP of 1.23, I'd guess he's in good shape for next year. [stats]




Tyler Sturdevant (right-handed reliever) is a puzzle to me. He started the year with the Bulls, went up to the Rays in mid-May, came back for three appearances in late June, then returned the the Rays. Came back in July for 14 games, back to the Rays, back to the Bulls in last August for 4 appearances, then called back up at the end of the season. As a Bull, 34 appearances, 39.1 innings, undistinguished ERA of 3.66, WHIP of 1.30. He had 16 appearances with the Rays prior to September. My only real problem was his 5 blown saves. The Bulls could hardly afford that this year. The 30-year-old Sturdevant came up through the Cleveland system and this was his first season in the majors, so maybe the back-and-forth makes sense. [stats]
[Update: Designated for Assignment 9/11/16]

Danny Farquhar (righty reliever) went back a forth a lot. With the Bulls, he had 32 appearances for 38 innings and did just fine with an ERA of 3.32 and a WHIP of 1.11. He was also one of the more efficient of the Bulls pitchers with a 5.02 pitches-per-out rating. Farquhar has time with the Toronto, Yankees, Oakland, and Seattle systems and 26 appearances this year (as of 9/10/2016) with the Rays. My guess would be that his return next year depends entirely on his relationship with the Rays. He may decide that he should be a full-time major leaguer. [stats]

Mark Sappington (righty reliever) is a young (25) reliever who started with Angels, played all of 2015 with Montgomery and made his AAA debut with the Bulls this year April. He appeared in 29 games for 37 innings with an ERA of 4.86 and a WHIP of 1.68. Not very good. He was sent to Montgomery in late June, where he finished out his year with 13 more appearances. His ERA there was 7.80 and his WHIP was 2.13. I'm not sure he has a future in professional baseball. But I've been wrong before. [stats]

Steve Geltz (righty reliever) split time between the Rays and the Bulls this year, doing much better as a Bull (ERA-3.03, WHIP-1.32) than as a Ray (ERA-6.65, WHIP-1.39). Geltz started out in the Angels system and came over to the Rays in 2013. He did a terrific job for the Bulls that year and in 2014. He spent all of 2015 with the Rays to decent numbers. I'm not sure that his return to Durham this year was because of performance or because he was a Ray "with  options" that was easy to move back and forth. He was called back up at the end of September. [stats]

Matt Andriese (right-handed starting pitcher). Andriese started his career with the Padres, but he joined the Rays system in  2014 with the Bulls and has made a bunch of appearances in a Bulls uniform (72) as both a starter and reliever in 2014, 2015, and 2016. This year he started 6 games, went up to Tampa Bay, and never came back. He did just fine as a Bull (ERA-3.41, WHIP-1.14), not so good with the Rays. He's still just 26 years old. But the Rays have never seemed to be able to figure out if they want him to be a starting pitcher or a reliever. [stats]

Ryan Garton (right-handed reliever) has only five years as a pro; however, he essentially split his year between Durham and St. Petersberg. He had 32 innings as a Bull and 32 innings as a Ray. His numbers as a Bull were just fine, an ERA of 3.09 and a WHIP of 1.28. He did work harder than most with 5.99 pitches per out. It would seem that he has a fine future with the Rays, but we'll likely keep on seeing him as long as he has options left. [stats]

Dana Eveland (left-handed reliever) is the very definition of "well-traveled veteran." We have to point out, however, that his time with the Bulls was extraordinary: 20 games, 29.2 innings, ERA of 0.30, WHIP of 0.74. Eveland started his career with the Milwaukee system and has been with Arizona, Oakland, Toronto, Pittsburg, the Dodgers, Baltimore, Mets, Boston, and Atlanta. He began 2016 with the Rays and came to the Bulls in late June, back to the Rays, then to the Bulls to stay in mid-July. We liked him a lot. But he probably won't be back. [stats]
[Update 9/12/16: He was added to 40-man and called up to Rays on 9/11/16]

Ryne Stanek (right-handed reliever) had been a starting pitcher all of his very brief career with the Rays, until the middle of this year. He came to the Bulls right after the 4th of July and he simply wasn't very good over his 16 appearances and 24.1 innings. Will he be good? Probably. And it's fun, at first, to watch a guy throw in the high 90's. But an ERA of 5.92 doesn't auger well. He did fine with runners on base — of 9 inherited, none scored. He'll surely be back next spring. [stats]

Pitches Per Out
A home-grown measure of pitching efficiency



Alex Cobb (right-handed starter) joined the Bulls for 4 rehabilitation appearances (15 innings). I'd like to complain about how that punched a hole in the Bulls' rotation and caused other problems. However, by the time he showed up in August the Bulls were already doomed. He spent parts of 2011 and 2012 with the Bulls and we wish him only the best in his continued recovery.

Casey Coleman (righty reliever) only got into 11 games. When he was signed in mid-July I was hoping the at least a bit of the good old days of the Rays being really smart about discovering talent. But then Coleman went on the DL after just 6 appearances. Overall, for his 14 innings, he did OK. And ERA of 3.86 and WHIP of 1.29, but the sample size is a problem. At 28 he's seen time with the Cubs, Royals, and Mariners. A maybe for next year. [stats]

Loose Ends —

  • Jhan Marinez, one of our favorites from 2015, made just 6 appearances (8 innings) before being called up to the Rays. When they designated him for assignment, the Brewers grabbed him and he's had a pretty good year in Milwaukee. [stats]
  • Kyle McPherson (righty reliever) started with the Bulls, made 5 appearances. His Wikipedia page reports that he was released on 5/24/16. [stats]
  • Andrew Bellatti (right-handed reliever) started the season with the Bulls and made 6 appearances for 5.1 innings. He went on the disabled list in May, was DFA'd in June and may be out of baseball now.
  • Chih-Wei Hu (right-handed starter) made a spot start for the Bulls on April 23 and went back to Montgomery. He's had a pretty good year with the Biscuits: 2.59 ERA over 142 innings. [stats]
  • Brad Schreiber (righty reliever) came up from the Charlotte Stone Crabs to two relief appearances at the end of June. It was his first time at AAA. [stats]
  • Greg Harris (right-handed starting pitcher) made his Triple-A debut on September 3, coming up from the Charlotte Stone Crabs. [stats]
  • Ryan Webb (right-handed reliever) made three rehab appearances in mid-June, but was then released. [stats]
  • Brad Boxberger (right-handed reliever) put in 1.2 innings in two rehab appearances in May.
  • Kyle Winkler (right-handed reliever) came up from Montgomery for one appearance on July 9, pitched 1.1 innings, and got a win before going back to Montgomery.
Updates 9/12/16: See Eveland (called up) and Sturdevant (DFA'd)

Governors' Cup Update

The first round of the International League Governors' Cup playoffs has finished with the improbable Gwinnett Braves winning over the once inevitable Columbus Clippers. The finals, a best of five series starts Sep 13 at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The RailRiders swept the IronPigs in their three games.

Game 1 (September 7)

Gwinnett Braves: 5
Columbus Clippers: 4
Box

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders: 2
Lehigh Valley IronPigs: 0
Box

Game 2 (September 8)

Gwinnett Braves: 4
Columbus Clippers: 6
Box

Scranton/WB: 7
Lehigh Valley: 0
Box

Game 3 (September 9)

Columbus Clippers: 1
Gwinnett Braves: 11
Box (1,662 fans)


Lehigh Valley: 3
Scranton/WB: 11
Box

Game 4 (September 10)

Columbus Clippers: 4
Gwinnett Braves: 5
Box (1,277 fans), Gwinnett Daily Post

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Durham Bulls in 2016: Part 1

This is the first of several posts where we review the 2016 Durham Bulls season. We'll start with some overall team stats, then take a look at individual players.

Overall, this was not a good year for the Durham Bulls. At 20 games into the season they dropped below .500 and never got back. There was a moment, however, at the end of July that they had a clear shot at winning the IL South Division. But they fell off the edge and never recovered.

See also  Part 2 - The Pitchers, Part 3 - The Hitters, Part 4 - The Tampa Bay Rays, and Part 5 - The DBAP.

Wins and Losses



How bad was it? Well, let's just point out that this was the worst year in Triple-A history of the Durham Bulls.



Pitching

Overall, pitching was decent this year. As the chart shows, the relief crew was not very good for much of the year; however, the team average ERA stayed below the IL average. At the end of the year the team ERA of 3.67 ranked 7th in the International League.

This was not a stable crew.  The Bulls saw 34 different pitchers take the mound. That included four position players and a couple of rehabs.

On balance, however, we have to say that pitching was not the problem in 2016.



Hitting

Durham Bulls hitting in 2016 in a word — awful. Their end of year OPS was .685, 12th in the 14-team International League and .047 behind the league leader Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Their batting average was a dismal .238 tied for worst in the league with the Syracuse Chiefs.

Of the 23 players who came to bat this year (two of them were pitchers with just one plate appearance each), only three played in over 100 games. The best of the bunch was infielder Daniel Robertson who hit .259 with 43 RBI and a decent OPS of .713.

Geek stuff comment: I chose OPS since folks are reasonably familiar with the stat. Plus, when charted in this manner the curve matches the same curve for wOBA very well. For an individual player, by the way, an OPS of .685 is characterized as falling between "poor" and "below average". Obviously, early in the season the hitting was really bad and there was a steady improvement, but not enough to make up for the dropoff in pitching as season's end.



Defense

To discuss defense we had to invent a stat since none of the ones I'm familiar with seemed to get at the issue. In midseason it just seemed like the Bulls were giving away a lot of games.

This is a very simple stat, "Defensive Difference Index". It is the running total of unearned runs as a percentage of all runs allowed. Seems to me that this measure accounts for the fact that a lot of mistakes such as wild pitches, errors, and passed balls don't end up making a difference. Here we see that the Bulls really weren't very good at defense this year, but certainly had a very good run near the end, bringing themselves down to near the IL average.

How did they compare? Well, that's where this stat may have some problems. The Bulls were nearly the worst in the league. They ranked 12th out of 14. But the worst team in the league by this measure was the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, who won the North Division. The best team in the league was the Charlotte Knights, who did not do well at all. However, the Columbus Clippers, the best record in the IL, ranked #4. Guess that it means that it takes everything to have a winning team.