Sunday, May 31, 2009


Game 50: Bulls 5, Bisons 2
Season: 32-18
Wrap, Box

Superb defense made a very shaky 5 innings by James Houser look better than it was. A perfect strike from Jon Weber in left field to Craig Albernaz to tag out Jesus Feliciano in the 1st inning was bookended by a fine play by Chris Nowak at first base to close out the 9th inning. In between were a very nice running catch by Ruggiano in the 3rd, and double plays in the 4th and 5th. I’m impressed by our new crew at shortstop (Chaves) and second base (Mateo).

Of course, we got five runs batting around in the 5th and won yet another game without a home run. I like that we’re able to win games without the homer. Hate to depend on that.

Player moves

  • We got a new outfielder, Rashad Eldridge, up from Montgomery. He was 0-4, but got on base on an error and scored a run. He was started in right field, which is a tough place to play when the sun’s still up. He did OK out there.
  • The wrap above says that Chris Mason is starting tomorrow. I don’t understand that. It was Mitch Talbot’s turn, so wonder if something is going on there. Guess we might find out tomorrow. Mason was relieving in Montgomery. We saw a lot of him last year. Here’s hoping a year’s more experience has made a difference.
  • Reliever Dewon Day is officially on the DL.
  • Chris Richard should be coming off the DL in a day or so.
  • Alex Jamieson has disappeared from the roster again. Guess he’s back to “Hudson Valley”.
Interesting asides in Indy Week's coverage of yesterday's game. Would never have thought that Japanese teams are scouting AAA.

Nice Day for Baseball

Game 49: Bulls 10, Bisons 2
Season: 31-18
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun Story

Perfect weather. Nice crowd. Good baseball. Bulls win. What more could you ask for?

I’m becoming a believer in Carlos Hernandez. Did not walk a single batter. Kept things in check when they could have gotten out of hand in the 4th. Went 8 full innings, the best of any Bulls pitcher this year.

Bateman is looking pretty darn good, too. Neil Solondz calls it a “frisbee pitch” and I’m guessing that right-handers have one heck of a time figuring out just where that ball is coming from/going to. ERA of 0.87 to boot.

But gotta talk about one of my two favorite Bulls, Jon Weber (the other is Chris Richard). Homer, double, walk, 3 RBI, 3 runs scored. What a night for the leadoff man. And with Joyce being called up, probably going to see more time in left field where he rules the Blue Monster. While checking his stats I noticed an interesting cluster of On Base Percentages: Richard .365, Ruggiano .357, Weber .356. Those are good numbers and tells us something about why we’re doing so well this year.

Another nice feature of last night’s game: only three strikeouts.

Some good quotes from Craig Albernaz in the Herald-Sun story linked above.

Player moves:

  • Matt Joyce to Tampa Bay (no surprise there).
  • Dale Thayer coming back. He appeared in three games for the Rays. Did OK. I think he’s better than some in the Rays bullpen, but I’m just a blogger.
  • Chris Mason, re-invented as a reliever, possibly taxied over to Durham from Zebulon where the Biscuits are playing (and losing to) the Mudcats.

Player news: David Price, who didn’t show us much here in Durham, had a great game in Tampa yesterday. Sure would have been nice to have seen that kind of stuff while he was here.

What’s with the Norfolk Tides? Eighteen games over .500! We’ll catch up with them, but how come Baltimore is leaving all that talent down there?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bisons Bash Bulls

Game 48: Bulls 3, Bisons 9
Season: 30-18
Wrap, Box

I’m trying to find something good to say about last night, and not having much luck. How about this? Chris Nowak did a terrific job at third base. He really did, making several very nice plays.

How about the pitching? Well, not much there, in fact one of the worst individual and collective performances this year. The Bison’s team OPS was 1.015, something they can be proud of, I suppose.

How about the hitting? Well, Matt Joyce did have a home run.

I was wondering why Alex Jamieson was playing first base, Nowak on third, and Matt Hall on the bench. Then I saw the method behind it all. Montoyo was saving Hall to pitch the 9th inning. Very crafty, Charlie.

Couple of interesting quotes in today’s Herald-Sun story.

Let it go, guys. Today’s a new day.

Friday, May 29, 2009

They’re Back

Game 47: Bulls 8, Redwings 7
Season: 30-17
Wrap, Box, Indy Week Story

Consider this: All those guys who trekked off to the Rays got to participate in four losses to Cleveland (Cleveland? Cleveland!! Good grief, Cleveland!!!). And the guys who stayed behind had some fun (if you don’t count the weather and stupid umpires). Bulls go 6-2 on the road. Stellar performance. Hats off to all the new (and old) Bulls.

We won the last 3 games without a single home run. How cool is that? Yesterday we had a bunch (6) more doubles. New pitcher Matt DeSalvo had a decent start. His battery mate was ghost catcher Alex Jamieson. Winston Abreu almost gave it away in the 9th, but got a grip and a strikeout to close it out.

Trivia: I guess because it happened on the road, the radio broadcast mentioned that none of the new guys had their names on their uniforms. Got me wondering about just how the Bulls came up with that many uniforms anyhow. Take them out of the laundry bags of the guys leaving and clip the names off? Is there a seamstress on the traveling team?

Have to mention an extraordinary moment in Triangle sports media history: The News & Observer actually ran a story about the Bulls this morning! With a legible box score! Wonders never cease. And over on their sports blog they actually give a profile of some Buffalo Bison players. Won’t last, but still nice that they gave some ink to the two professional baseball teams in the area. (Had a story on Mudcats as well. Who, by the way, are playing Tampa Bay’s AA team this week.)

Elsewhere, a Rays blog runs down some numbers on Matt Joyce.

Indy Week’s Adam Sobsey admits to having possibly jinxed the Bulls home stand (see last paragraph of link above). If so, and if he walks by our seats, I’ll point him out. Save up your peanut shells, just in case.

Hope weather holds off. See you at the DBAP!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Moonlight Graham Award

A few weeks ago a player joined the Bulls for one day and then left. That brought to my mind the old time ballplayer Archie “Moonlight” Graham, who had a notably brief appearance in the major leagues back in 1905. I then had the thought that we ought to find a way to recognize those players who only visit the Bulls, some of whom disappear and some of whom go on to great things. Could be fun and would challenge our ability to dig through baseball history.

We are, therefore, establishing the:

Watching Durham Bulls Baseball Moonlight Graham Award

To be awarded to the player(s) with the shortest time in a Durham Bulls uniform in a given season.

The award is named after North Carolinian Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. Archie Graham achieved lasting fame in W. P. Kinsella’s brilliant 1982 book, Shoeless Joe, later made into the Kevin Costner film, Field of Dreams. In the book the narrator, following the cryptic admonition, “Ease his pain,” kidnaps reclusive author J.D. Salinger (in the movie it’s an equally reclusive fictional author played by James Earl Jones) and takes him to a Red Sox - Twins game. While watching the game they see on the scoreboard a line from The Baseball Encyclopedia describing the career of Moonlight Graham, and hear a new admonition, “Go the distance.”

The message refers to Graham who only had one appearance on the field with the New York Giants and never got to the plate. In the film, Costner and Jones then trek off to Minnesota for encounters with Graham as an elderly ghost (played by Burt Lancaster) and a young ghost (played by Frank Whaley).

Here’s the twist: There really was a Moonlight Graham (you can look it up). He was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1877. He really did make just one appearance in the majors, with the Giants on June 29, 1905, and did not get an at bat — a major plot point in the novel and movie. For those deeply into North Carolina trivia, we can also note that he was a student at the University of North Carolina and that his brother was Frank Porter Graham, President of the University and U.S. Senator from North Carolina. The real Moonlight Graham did go on to be a doctor and practiced in Chisolm, Minnesota until his death in 1965.

Preliminary criteria for the Moonlight Graham Award:

Position player:
  • Cannot be on a major league rehab assignment.
  • Must be spotted in a Durham Bulls uniform.
  • Tie-breaker: Number of plate appearances vs. number of games.

  • Must be a legitimate pitcher, not a position player out there just to finish a game because the bullpen’s empty. (Not sure about this. Comments?)
  • Not on rehab assignment.

Authority (until we find a better one)

Current candidates for 2005 (we’ll work our way into 2009 eventually):

Position player:

  • Chris Singleton, an outfielder, was in one game, had three at bats and one hit. He had two opportunities in the outfield and made both outs. It is possible he was here on a rehab assignment since he was dropped by the then Devil Rays in July of 2005. He had a subsequent broadcast career with the Chicago White Sox and ESPN. Clearly a solid candidate for the 2005 Moonlight Graham Award.
  • Scott Neuberger, an outfielder, was in 3 games, with 6 at bats and two hits, 1 double, 1 RBI, 3 strike outs. He never made it into the majors. A better candidate if it turns out that Singleton was here on rehab.


Two position players made brief appearances as pitchers. You can see why I don’t consider them eligible for the award.

  • A catcher, Tim Laker, pitched 1/3 inning, faced 3 batters, with a walk, wild pitch, hit and 1 run scored. His ERA for the year was 27.00.
  • Jim Deardorff, an infielder, pitched one inning, faced five batters, one strikeout, 2 hits, no runs, ERA of 0.00.
  • But probably the best candidate for the pitcher’s award is an actual pitcher who only pitched one game as a starter, 6 innings, faced 29 batters, 9 hits, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts, 1 wild pitch, 4 runs, and a win. Obscure guy named James Shields. If anyone has any information about what happened to him, let me know.
Note for those into Moonlight Graham and Shoeless Joe/Field of Dreams trivia: It’s possible that Graham played against Shoeless Joe! See here for the assertion. Really cool if that did happen. Talk about fantasy baseball!

Doubles, Doubles, Doubles

Game 46: Bulls 13, Redwings 2
Season: 29-17
Wrap, Box

Common sense did not prevail at Frontier Field last night. Top of the 9th. The Bulls were ahead 13 to 2, lightning was flashing out in the distance and the rain started pouring down. Kevin Oklabzija, a Rochester sportswriter captured the moment, “If no one sees the final outs of a blowout defeat, did the loss really happen?” After one out they pulled the tarp and there was an hour plus delay. According to Oklabzija, less than two dozen fans watched the final five outs. Game over at 11:35 PM, today’s game at 11:05 AM. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I’m going to have to start keeping an eye on umpire Damien Beal. He’s not dealing with a full deck.

The game story is Mitch Talbot pitching his way out of trouble in the second and doubles, doubles, doubles.

The Bulls hit eight doubles last night. Matt Joyce hit three. Henry Mateo, Chris Nowak, Jon Weber, Ray Sadler, and Matt Hall each had one. Then there was a triple (Albernaz), and eight singles for the Bulls best hitting performance this year. If you’re into quirky stuff, and I am, the box score reveals that our ghost catcher Alex Jamieson (guess he’s back from Hudson Valley) came in to pinch hit for Justin Ruggiano in the 9th (after the rain delay) and then in the bottom of the 9th stayed in to play first base. Nowak (at first) went to left field, Joyce (in left) went to right, Sadler (in right) went to center.

New guy shortstop Brandon Chaves went 4 for 4. Very nice.

  • Neil Solondz interviews Winston Abreu, and Matt Hall. Guess I now know why Matt Hall doesn't have much of a record. He just signed last year. A couple of interesting comments about coming to AAA.
  • Fernando Perez writes about his songs [Thanks, Adam].
  • Sixty Feet, Six Inches rhapsodizes about baseball.
  • The Rays Party takes what seems to me to be an unkind shot at Joe Dillon.
  • Adam Sobsey writes about the Bulls press box in the print edition of Indy Week (and online).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Who’s On First?

Game 45: Bulls 2, Redwings 5
Season: 28-17
Wrap, Box, Indy Week Story

Pitchers do OK, but Orvella gives up a home run in the 8th. All the new guys do OK, but not enough to win.

Adam Sobsey makes a very good effort at detailing all the changes over in his story. Let me give it a stab here and maybe between the two of us we can help make sense of it.

This feels like entries I was making back at the beginning of the year.

Here’s an annotated version of last night’s starting lineup, new guys in bold:

  • 1 - Jon Weber, DH. Last night not so good (0-4). With all the changes and injuries, the Bulls are going to be depending on Weber, Joyce, Ruggiano, and Sadler to produce runs over the next several weeks. He’s basically on track in the last few games. Just hope he keeps his focus on getting on base rather than hitting homers.
  • 2 - Henry Mateo, 2nd Base. First game was against Lehigh Valley on the 24th. Sort of a replacement for Adam Kennedy, Joe Dillon, Ray Olmedo, or Reid Brignac (take your pick). On the surface seems to be a prototypical “journeyman” AAA’er. Unknown quantity.
  • 3 - Justin Ruggiano, Center Field. Another key guy to keep the Bulls sorted out. Very erratic so far. Great nights and not-so-great nights (like last night with 3 strikeouts).
  • 4 - Matt Joyce, Right Field. Having a very solid year. We need him backing up what may become a porous infield. Problem is that if someone down in Tampa Bay gets an ingrown toenail, Joyce is gone.
  • 5 - Ray Sadler, Left Field. Rounds out the outfield. So far, so good. We kinda know most of these guys, so far.
  • 6 - Chris Nowak, 1st Base. Chris has played first a couple of times this year, and apparently quite a bit when he was in Montgomery. So, if he can get a bit more consistent at the plate, we’re still OK.
  • 7 - Brandon Chaves, 2nd Base. See entry above for Henry Mateo for who he's replacing. Not much of a record to look at, but at first glance he appears to be a “journeyman” AA’er, which would not be good for the Bulls. We’ll have to see.
  • 8 - Matt Hall, 3rd Base. Up from the Bulls A team at Port Charlotte, Florida. He’s had very little playing time in A and AA over last two years. Not sure why.
  • 9 - Craig Albernez, Catcher. We sort of know Craig. Interesting ballplayer. Beginning to like him a lot.

As Sobsey pointed out this morning, three out of the four infielders in last night’s game were not with the Bulls five days ago.

Bench? What bench? Do we need to line up some wheelchairs to get them out for the National Anthem? The rest of the position player roster consists of exactly one, count ‘em, one healthy player, catcher Alex Jamieson, and there’s a chance he’s actually back on the Hudson Valley roster. Olmedo, Richard, Jaso, and Johnson are suffering various aches and pains. By the way, Bulls, please update the team roster on website.

Pitchers (sigh): Davis, Thayer, and Choate are gone. If the Rays keep having more troubles I’m not sure how long we’ll keep Davis, Talbot, and Abreu. Sobsey reports that Matt DeSalvo has been signed. I’m betting one or two may show up from Montgomery soon.

Jeremy Cummings where are you? We need you!

For the next several days/weeks, pitching and defense are clearly going to be our challenges.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Where the Bulls Are — Frontier Field

View Larger Map

This is Frontier Field in Rochester, New York. Home of the Redwings. In 1998 Ballpark Reviews visited and were not impressed.

Going Back to the 20th Century

Game 42: Bulls 5, Iron Pigs 4
Box, Indy Week Story
Game 43: Bulls 6, Iron Pigs 2
Box, Indy Week Story
Game 44: Bulls 3, Redwings 2
Wrap, Box, Indy Week Story
Season: 28-16

A weekend in the North Carolina hills — no cellphone signal, no internet, no TV, no newspaper. Great days. I do admit to coming down off the mountain, or out of the “cove” as little North Carolina valleys are called, yesterday on the pretense of checking out the farmers’ market. Fired up the cellphone and got the scores. Looked very, very good. Back up into the hills and to silence, broken only by the sound of mild cursing when a cork shattered inside the neck of a bottle and had to be dug out with a pocketknife.

Back to home through the monsoon. Seem to have brought it with me.

A blizzard of roster changes and injuries. Can’t get my head around them just yet. But the Bulls are 4-1 on the road. Maybe I should take another trip.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bulls Lose; Price Gone?

Game 41: Bulls 3, Iron Pigs 5
Season: 25-16
Wrap, Box, Indy Week Story

Adam Sobsky at Indy Week has got the story and discusses the various goings on down in St. Petersburg that will have an effect on us.

I missed the entire game so I only have the box score to go on. Still, I have to point out, with my eye for quirks, that Iron Pigs shortstop Jason Donald came to the plate five times and had zero recorded at bats. Talbot plunked him twice and he drew three walks. Since he went on to score two runs and we only lost by two runs, that seems to have made all the difference. Overall, Talbot simply isn’t looking as good this season as last.

As noted by Sobsky, we can expect David Price to be gone any day now (today?). Jason Cromer and Jeremy Hellickson are doing well in Montgomery. Maybe we’ll see one of them?

Stacy Long over in Montgomery reports Price’s departure as a done deal and says that Jason Childers and Julio DePaula will be starters tonight. We saw a "starter by committee" a couple of times last year. Always, it seemed, while Bulls were on the road. Long speculates on replacements for Thayer, but doesn’t mention possible call ups from Biscuits to Durham.

  • Lots of chatter about yesterday’s activities out there. I’ll just limit myself to one link to RaysIndex where he discusses Dale Thayer’s appearance (literally), Brignac’s hit, and Jonny Gomes promotion to the big leagues (Reds).

I’m leaving town for a couple of days, but I’ll probably put up a couple of more long-range posts before I go. Here’s hoping that whoever stands in for Price does well.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thayer, Brignac Off to Tampa Bay

Adam Sobsky just broke the story that apparently originated in Tampa Bay’s front office.

Reid Brignac and Dale Thayer are off to Tampa Bay, at least for a while. I might have guessed Dale Thayer, but, for me, Reid Brignac is a bit of a surprise. The Rays seem to have plenty of infielders even with an inter-league series coming up. Wonder if we’ll get anything in return, or just have to suck it up for a while. Can Joe Dillon play second base?

What a Rotation!

Game 40: Bulls 6, Iron Pigs 2
Season: 25-15
Wrap, Box

This time through the rotation (Talbot, Price, Davis, Hernandez and Houser) has been nothing short of spectacular. We’ve won 4 games out of the 5 and the one we lost was only by one run. Two of the starters (Davis and Hernandez) got wins (relievers Choate and Day got the other two, Childers took the loss). If you chart our pitching staff’s performance over the rotation, every game is better than the season average to date. Just great work on the mound.

And the hitters have been no slouches either. Joe Dillon got his first home run last night, Brignac, Joyce and Nowak all got doubles (Joyce got two). Durham leads the International league in home runs and doubles, is second in total bases, and has the league’s second best slugging percentage.

  • The Bulls GM has this cryptic comment in his twitter feed, “+@#” and *#@+;!“ just got called up to the bigs”. I don’t have any more information. Will post it when I do.
  • In the meantime, Rays Index speculates as does DRaysBay.
  • An Iron Pigs blog is really not happy with Phillies’ management.
  • Rays starting pitching has been a problem this year. Rays the Stakes thinks Scott Kazmir should be sent down to the Bulls. John Romano of the Tampa Tribune thinks Andy Sonnanstine should be sent to the Bulls.
  • If you are a fan of ACC baseball (I'm not), the N&O has a blog that is following the games.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Where the Bulls Are — Coca-Cola Park

(Photo Courtesy of Brian Merzbach)

This is Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The park is so new that the Google satellite shot doesn’t show the location. I found the photo, and several more, on Brian Merzbach’s fascinating website. He’s got photos and reviews of more than 400 ball parks there and clearly he loves what he does.

His comments on Coca-Cola Park are here.
Coca-Cola Park is a nice enough new venue, resembling many other new ballparks built in the past decade. It is on the small side for a AAA park, which does make it more intimate.

If you’re interested, he visited Durham in 1997 and commented on the DBAP and the old DAP. By the way, does anyone know how the renovation’s going?

Most AAA teams don’t have any bloggers following them. Phillies’ affiliate, the Iron Pigs, has three that I’ve found: The Pork Roll, the Hog Blog, and Ironpigpen. Only Ironpigpen, so far, has taken note of the Bulls coming town.

As you will recall, their daddy beat our daddy in last year’s World Series. As far as I can tell, the only Bull on our roster that was on the Rays’ roster for the series is David Price. Not sure about their roster.

Former Bull, Jorge Velandia, one my all-time favorite Bulls, is on the Iron Pig roster.


  • Adam Sobsky has a terrific story on Monday afternoon’s game and the last home stand. Recommended reading. Very good on clubhouse dynamics as he observed them. I was particularly interested in the comments by pitcher Carlos Hernandez and catcher Craig Albernaz. I’m having second thoughts about my posting on that battery that I made earlier. In the larger view, it seems to me that Albernaz is in a particularly tough spot. Jaso’s having a crummy year (at bat, doing fine behind the plate), but he’s a “prospect” and on the 40-man. The persistently injured Shawn Riggans is on Tampa Bay’s disabled list, and Michel Hernandez is doing a fine job at Tampa Bay (a better job than their first stringer Navarro). So that’s five catchers between Tampa and Durham, and I’m not counting Alex Jamieson, our “Hudson Valley” player. This is a huge puzzle for the Rays to figure out. My hope is simply that “our” catchers, John, Craig, and Alex, can keep their focus.
  • I’m a big fan of local radio guy Dick Gordon, who hosts a nationally syndicated interview show called, The Story, produced across from the DBAP at WUNC’s studies.. One of his shows captured the story of some serious LA Dodger fans. They collect and recycle the debris from around their seats to pay for their tickets. Interesting podcast.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where We Stand

(click on chart for larger view)

This being a day off for the Bulls, I thought it would be a good time to see where we stand.

Charted is the track of the Bulls won-lost record over the 39 games to date as well as the other teams in the Southern Division of the International League. Obviously we’re doing just fine. We’re 9 games above .500 and solidly in second place, 2½ games behind Norfolk. The remarkable run by Norfolk this month is shown as well. They’ve won 14 out of their last 16 games and all of their last 9.

For the league as a whole, Scranton leads the North Division (26-13) and Columbus leads the west (20-20). If the Governor’s Cup playoffs were to start tomorrow, we’d be the wild card team.

The Bulls team ERA (3.72) is fifth in the league. Our team batting average (.256) is fourth in the league, as is our team OPS (.758). Chris Richard is second in the league in home runs (9), fourth in RBIs (31) and sixth in OPS (.945).

The Bulls are off to play Phillies affiliate the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs and Rochester for the only visit to their parks this season. For a look at the IL and scheduling, see my earlier post.

This last time through the rotation (not quite complete since Houser starts on Thursday) our starters have done a terrific job. Several of our batters seem to have come out of their slumps. In fact, the only one who seems to be struggling at the moment is John Jaso. Everyone is above the Mendoza line, a very good sign (Tampa Bay, for instance, has two of their regulars below the Mendoza line and one right on it).

All is right with the world. Have a great trip, Bulls!

Game 39 Update

To my surprise, the Durham Herald-Sun covered yesterday’s game and picked up some quotes from Carlos Hernandez regarding his pitching performance; and from Justin Ruggiano regarding some chit-chat on the field at the bottom of the 5th.

Also reported was that Rochester pitching coach was tossed for arguing balls and strikes.

Here’s hoping that things are settled down before Bulls get to Rochester for their only visit next Monday.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pitching! And Hitting!

Game 39: Bulls 10, Redwings 1
Season: 24-15
Wrap, Box

This has been one heck of a home stand. 6 wins, 2 losses, can’t ask for much more than that.

Carlos Hernandez pitched a superb game, Joe Bateman and Chad Orvella did OK in relief. The hitters were great. Only Ray Olmedo had a problem at the plate. Heck, we were up three runs by the end of the 1st inning and never looked back.

So lets look at an interesting moment. Leading off in the bottom of the 3rd, Jon Weber hit a single. The Redwing’s catcher, Drew Butera, snaps a throw to first baseman, Justin Huber. Huber sweeps the tag down and whacks Weber in the head. Umpire Jason Klein missed the fact that Weber’s hand was on the bag before the tag and signaled Weber out. Weber, whose helmet had rolled onto the field, stands up and certainly looks as if he’s pissed about the tag, but doesn’t know he’s been called out. He looks to the ump, who thumbs him out. Weber goes slightly (well, maybe not slightly) nuts. He points to his face, his jaw. Can’t hear what he’s saying. Hitting coach, Dave Myers, who’s coaching first, gets between them. But Weber’s not about to lay off the ump. He is, of course, tossed from the game.

Chris Richard comes into the game and, if it hadn’t been for the weird wind, would have gotten yet another grand slam in the 6th.

Which brings me to the wind. I cannot figure out the wind with the new Diamond II building. Flags above the left field wall blow one way, the flags in the passageway between Diamond View I and II blow in another, and the winds aloft moving the flag on top of the SunTrust building are blowing another way. We saw it today. Fielders almost running in circles. An easy pop foul was dropped. Any windy day is going to be really tough in the DBAP. Sure wasn’t helping the hitters today, either.

Maybe that’s what got folks so stirred up. We saw the ump and a Rochester coach arguing, but no flamboyant gesture by the ump. According to the box score, the Rochester pitching coach was tossed. Pitchers on both sides got warnings. No clue why.

The Bulls are off tomorrow and then hit the road for eight days.

How do you know when you’ve spent too much time in the DBAP?

When you find yourself in a deeply serious discussion over whether the Wool E. Bull on Monday, who didn’t do a cartwheel coming out, or jump on the sumo wrestlers, or failed to do a decent spin-out of the RoadRunner go-cart, is the same Wool E. Bull who was on the field on Sunday. As I said, way too much time at the DBAP.

Pitching! Pitching! Pitching!

Game 38: Bulls 1, Redwings 0
Season: 23-15
Wrap, Box, Indy Week Story

If a pitching duel is your baseball thing, then last night was your night. It was a great one. Our Wade Davis was just a little bit better than Rochester’s Brian Duensing, but not by a lot.

With his pitch count limit raised to the 90s, Davis went 6⅔ innings and threw 93 pitches, 61 for strikes. Rochester didn’t get a baserunner until the 4th, a two-out single by Hughes, who then stole 2nd base and was left stranded. The next base runner didn’t come until the top of the 7th, also a single. That was followed by a strikeout, fly out, and a walk (his only walk). Winston Abreu came in to finish the inning. Masterful, just masterful. Davis faced 17 batters and only 3 even got on base.

Winston Abreu really slammed the door. He pitched 2⅓ innings and didn’t let anyone on base. Abreu seems to get better with every appearance. His Opponent’s On Base Percentage is .160. That means only 16% of the batters he sees even get on base. Fifteen appearances, 5 walks, 27 strikeouts, only 7 hits, 1.27 ERA.

The line score doesn’t quite convey the terrific performance by Rochester pitchers. Duensing only let 7 runners on base. With the exception of the 3rd inning when we got a runner to third base with two outs, and maybe the 7th when Joe Dillon led off with a double, we were never a threat. If it hadn’t been for Chris Nowak’s homer in the 5th, who knows how long the game would have gone? Duensing threw 101 pitches, 68 for strikes, and stayed for seven full innings. Their reliever, Bob Keppel, shut us down in the 8th, 3 up, 3 down.

Here’s a question for you baseball strategists/tacticians out there. I don’t have an answer, even though I like the way it turned out. I’d like to hear what you think. Was this a good call, assuming Montoyo put on a steal sign?

5th inning. Nowak hit his homer. Jaso hit a single. Sadler strikes out. Olmedo hits a grounder back to the pitcher who throws out Jaso going to 2nd. Olmedo at first on a fielder’s choice. Brignac at the plate. Count is 0-2. Olmedo has one stolen base this year and has been caught three times. If Olmedo goes on the pitch, then here’s what could happen (disregard a foul ball): 1) strike, batter out, inning over; 2) ball, stolen base, runner in scoring position; 3) ball, caught stealing, inning over, but one of your better hitters leads off next inning. Option 3 is what happened, and Brignac led off with a walk in the 6th. Unfortunately, Ruggiano then hit into a double play. What do you think?

My first criticism of Montoyo (I think) this year. At the top of the 7th Joe Dillon hit a double to right. He was then thrown out going for third after Chris Richard’s fly out to right field. Unless Joe did it on his own (unlikely), that was a bad call. Montoyo should have known something about Rochester’s right fielder’s arm. Beautiful throw, by the way.


  • Indy Week story linked at the top has some interesting comments from Wade Davis and Charlie Montoyo on last night’s game, and learns the DBAP’s radar gun reads high.
  • Rays of Light takes a look at the Bulls, focusing on Rays’ prospects, of course.
  • Tampa Bay made it up to .500 (20-20) for the first time since April 13th.
  • Yesterday on Rays Index Justin Ruggiano and David Price made his “Who’s Hot” list; John Jaso and Wade Davis made his “Who’s Not” list. Regarding Davis, oops!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Price Shows Up For the Game, Bulls Hitters Don't

Game 35: Bulls 4, Redwings 3
Wrap, Box
Game 36: Bulls 2, Redwings 3
Season: 22-15
Wrap, Box, Indy Week Story

A couple of days ago I learned I could get the Bulls on television. So last night, for the first time ever, I watched the game at home. For those locally who are hostage to Time-Warner, home games are on Channel 251. The camera angles are OK and the play-by-play and commentary is the same as on radio. Terrific view of empty stands. The weather was not good all day and I just got lazy. Looked like a lot of other people had the same idea.

If we’d had other media coverage of the game last night, the big story would had been David Price. He finally brought his game to Durham and it was very, very good: 5 innings, no hits, 2 walks, no runs, 82 pitches, 50 for strikes. Just superb pitching and for the first time I saw what folks have been talking about. In particular, I liked what I saw after he gave up two walks in a row. He walked back of the mound for a bit. Then struck out the next batter. He left the game with the Bulls ahead 2-0.

I was just as interested in whether or not we were going to win the game. We didn’t.

The 6th inning was a mess. Former Bull Jason Pridie hit a one-out homer off of former Redwing Julio DePaula. Then a walk, triple (run scores), hit by pitch, walk, bases loaded. Then an ugly, but effective, play when DePaula slipped going after a come-backer but threw out the runner coming in from third and Jaso got the double play at first. DePaula left the game with a blown save. 2-2.

According to the broadcasters, the Redwings’s second baseman Alexi Casilla is down from the Twins on a punishment tour for not running out hit balls. Guess he was showing his stuff. I still can’t figure out how, after getting a single in the top of the 8th, he got all the way from first to home on a not very hard hit single into center field. He must have taken off on the pitch and run like hell. Showing Twins’ management he’s ready come back? [Oops! As pointed out in comments, Casilla went to second on a flyout to right field. So his dash was from second to home.] It was enough to win the game.

Webworld: Some interesting stuff out there today.

  • Chris Richard was named International League Player of the Week.
  • Mike Potter, long time Durham Herald-Sun reporter left the press box.
  • Jason Isringhausen finished his rehab assignment and is going down to Tampa Bay.
  • In the Rays’ 7-5 win over Cleveland yesterday, former Bull and starting pitcher Andy Sonnanstine ended up having to bat in Longoria’s slot in the batting order because of a mistake in the lineup card. He hit a double and got an RBI. See Her Rays take on the game and The Tampa Tribune’s.
  • Rays Party takes a deeper look at Tampa Bay’s situation and thinks that Chris Richard, Jon Weber, or Ray Sadler should be called up. He also looks at the Bulls in general, and provides a detailed look at Justin Ruggiano.
  • Lastly, we get a look at what can happen when you park too close to the DBAP.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Singing at the DBAP — Update

Click on chart to enlarge image

We are midway through this home stand, so it’s time for an update on the performers of the National Anthem. For a review of our rigorously scientific approach, our methodology, and discussion of our rating criteria see the original post.

I’m pleased to see that the best performance came on Armed Services Day and that the trend is distinctly upwards.

To other business:

Last night’s game was the last time this season that we will see the Louisville Bats in the DBAP (unless we see them in the playoffs). Bon Voyage.

The Rochester Redwings are in the house tonight. Former Bull Jason Pridie seems to have a role with the Twins somewhat similar to current Bull Justin Ruggiano. As much as I liked Jason when he was with us, here’s hoping that his visit will not as annoying as Jonny Gomes’s and Wes Bankston’s.

Oh Ye of Little Faith

Game 35: Bulls 13, Bats 9, 11 innings
Season: 21-14
Wrap, Box, Indy Week

The “ye” in the headline is me.

I am so not looking forward to greeting John, Sue, and Dave at the DBAP tonight. In my defense, I made up my mind to leave the game in the middle of the 4th. The Bulls were down 8-1. I’d pitchforked about 20 cubic yards of mulch around my house the last few days and prospects for the Bulls coming back in the game were not looking good. Ray Olmedo did hit a homer with Ray Sadler on base to make it 8-3, but that didn’t change my opinion that the game was a lost cause. It’s true that I’d just taken a shot at one of us for missing last night’s game to watch a bunch of gap-toothed, ice-skating thugs get through a round of the NHL playoffs. The gods must have overheard me. As I walked out last night I’m betting that Chris Richard saw me leaving and made a rude gesture. If he didn’t, he should have.

I listened to the rest of the game and, after getting home, followed it on Game Day. For a take on the full story, see Indy Week link above. Let me add a few bits from what I heard and read, and one rant.

All hail Chris Richard! TWO grand slams, a single, a walk, 8 RBIs!

The bullpen was terrific. Montoyo used six relievers and the Bats were only able to score one run. Joe Bateman has appeared in just three games, pitched 3-1/3 innings, and has two wins.

I have great respect for any player who takes one for the team, but off the batting helmet? That’s above and beyond the call, Jon Weber. And when you tried to score in the 9th, you at least made Bats catcher Castillo pay for the out. Did he hear the ghost of your footsteps when he dropped the pop up in the 10th?

Justin Ruggiano continued to show terrific plate discipline and batting eye by drawing three walks, hitting a double, and scoring two runs.

A triple from Craig Albernaz? Who’d a thunk it?

For more, check out the video on the Bulls website and story on Chris Richard at

Rant: Not one of the local papers carried the story. The N&O didn’t even have the box score. I know that, for local media, the Hurricanes are the story, but come on guys, two grand slams? Possible explanation for the Herald-Sun’s lapse is at the end of the Indy Week story.

  • Even worse, the Bulls story is lost in Rays world in the euphoria over B. J. Upton’s walk-off dinger in the 9th last night. Check out any of the Rays website links I’ve got off to the side here. Or here.
  • RaysProspects looks at first basemen. Guess who’s looking pretty good? Who else? Chris Richard.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bulls (and Fans) Have Fun. Johnson DL Extended.

Game 34: Bulls 11, Bats 6
Season: 20-14
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun Story, Indy Week Story

On my way out of the park yesterday I encountered a young couple. I asked them how they enjoyed the game. One responded, “This was my first baseball game ever. It was fun.” The other said, “Yeah, he was having some trouble understanding the rules.” (Forgive me if I’m a bit confused about gender here. At my age I have trouble sorting out the tattoos, hair styles, and other adornments. Nice kids, though.) I responded, “Well, you got to see just about everything a baseball game has got to offer. I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

This game did have it all. Walks, singles, doubles, a triple, and home runs; stolen bases, strike outs, bunts, sacrifice flies, a double play, and a manager getting thrown out of the game. About the only thing that didn’t happen was a batter getting hit by a pitch.

First, let me acknowledge the great night that Justin Ruggiano had. He showed sound plate discipline in drawing two walks; executed a perfect bunt (not sure that was a good call by pitching coach X. Hernandez, standing in for Montoyo, but it worked); a nice hard hit single; and a triple. A triple in the DBAP is hard to do. Unlike other parks, the DBAP doesn’t have any quirky corners for the ball to die into. So you’ve got to whack the ball really hard and a bit low to get it over the head of either the right or center fielder (ain’t gonna happen in left), and then run like hell. Ruggiano also stole two bases. Oh yeah, got 3 RBIs.

Every other Bull, except for catcher John Jaso, got at least one hit. Newcomer Joe Dillon DH’d and drew a walk, hit a single and a double, and collected 2 RBIs. Ray Sadler got yet another game-tieing home run.

Carlos Hernandez managed to give up 5 runs in the first three innings, 4 of them due to homers. But even then he was collecting strikeouts. In the next three innings he struck out 5 more (8 for the night, the best strikeout performance for a Bulls’ pitcher this year).

From the stands it sure looked like Montoyo was having fun ranting at the umpire in the 3rd. Doesn’t matter that the radio was reporting that the umps got it right in calling Weber’s home run a ground rule double because of fan interference (come on guys out in right, let the ball land!). Apparently his argument was, “If I didn’t see it, how could you see it?”. He lost the argument. The Bulls got five runs in that inning and three in the next.

We saw Isringhausen again. That’s five appearances as a Bull. Bit of trivia: 27 batters, 7 hits, 2 walks, and, odd for a closer, no strikeouts.

Thayer came on the the 9th. After his last appearance I’ve got to admit that I was worried. We only had a five run lead. But this time Dale was Dale again. He did give up a hit, but he also struck out two and covered first nicely for the last out.

Elliot Johnson out for an extended period.

Back on May 6th I put up a post reporting that Elliot Johnson was being put on the disabled list. This morning a comment came into the posting that I will quote here:

“... needs surgery and will be out for an extended period.”

Bulls management has verified the comment.

That’s not good news. Our little group of fans (OK, maybe just me) was beginning to get more positive about Elliot this year. This is a real setback for him. Wish him well and hopes he returns as soon as possible. As an aside, we never did hear just how the injury occurred.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Andrew Friedman Is In the House

Game 33: Bulls 4, Bats 3
Season: 19-14
Wrap, Box

Well that was better than last night.

First a couple of observations on the game.

For the first time this year (I think) almost everyone in the lineup was hitting above the Mendoza line (.200). The lone exception was Bulls’ newcomer Joe Dillon, who comes to us from Sacramento through the Adam Kennedy trade. But even Joe made his contribution by taking one for the team in the 7th inning and then scoring a run off of Chris Richard’s game-winning homer. Otherwise, he went 0 for 2 at the plate.

We got our first look at Joe Dillon and Joe Bateman. Dillon did OK at third handling three (as I recall) opportunities, including starting a double play in the 8th for Jason Childers. Bateman came on in the 6th with two outs and the bases empty. Walked a guy, hit the next batter, but then got a strikeout. He stayed through the 7th giving up a double to the second batter, before Childers came on in the eighth. Since Richard hit his dinger in the bottom of the 7th, Bateman got the win. Not bad, seven batters, 23 pitches, and a win.

Winston Abreu, who closed it out in the 9th after pitching yesterday, continues to impress me. Three batters, a grounder to 3rd and two strikeouts. Wade Davis worries me. Of the 12 outs he recorded only one was a grounder, the rest in the air. On the other hand, he threw 97 pitches, which might the the most by any Durham pitcher this year.

Now to get to the reason for the headline. Andrew Friedman is the Tampa Bay Rays Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, and the man generally credited for putting the Rays team together over the last several years. He was in town for two days and you can hear his comments in a Neil Solondz interview here.

What I’m wondering is if Jonny Gomes, who was with the Rays all last year (and who got his American League Championship ring here yesterday) and Wes Bankston, who had a solid year with Durham a while back, knew Friedman was in town and wanted to show him what he let go? Jonny had a home run, double, single and 3 RBIs yesterday and another double today. Bankston had a single and a walk yesterday and a single and RBI today. A further irony is that the guy who’s got Jonny’s place in the Red’s big league team is Darnell McDonald, also a former Durham Bull.

Of course, what matters to us in the near term is when or if Tampa Bay is going to pull either David Price or Wade Davis out of here (or for that matter a reliever). He doesn’t say anything in the interview that gives a hint, although he seemed to see a lot in Price’s performance yesterday.


  • Over at Rays the Stakes they have a piece about Rays starting pitchers, with an extensive discussion of former Bulls Jeff Neimann and Andy Sonnanstine, and current Bulls David Price and Wade Davis.

Let’s Change the Rules

Game 32: Bulls 6, Bats 7
Season: 18-14
Wrap, Box

Why not have baseball games last 8 innings instead of 9? If that were true, then this story would read something like this:

Last night was the story of two Chris’s, Chris Nowak and Chris Richard. David Price did get his first decent start of the year, going all the way into the 5th inning with 5 hits, no walks, and 5 strikeouts. But the big story was Chris Nowak with a homer, double and a single in four at-bats and Chris Richard with a homer, double, single and walk. At the end of the 8th the Bulls had it well in hand leading the Bats 6-2. Game over.

Unfortunately baseball goes for 9 innings, Chris Richard couldn’t start the double play, Reid Brignac playing 2nd base couldn’t get the ball out of his glove, Dale Thayer couldn’t shut them down, and Jonny Gomes (why was I ever interested in seeing him back in the DBAP?) picked up 3 RBIs including a game-winning double.

But, hey, it’s baseball, new day, new game.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Armed Services Day

Got an email from my favorite service organization the other day — the USO. They are taking part in the Durham Bulls Armed Services Day this Friday, May 15. A good deal for anyone you know who is serving or who is retired from the military. I quote from an email from Jon Bishop of the Bulls,
“All active and retired military can receive a complimentary admission, courtesy of Bank of America, by showing an ID at the Durham Bulls Box Office.”

Sounds like a good deal.

Caused me a bit of a problem though. The USO is going to have a table at the game and they were looking for volunteers. Fortunately for me I procrastinated long enough that all the slots were filled up. So I can watch the game and go by the table and cheer on the volunteers. What could be better?

For those who don’t know much about the USO here’s their website. They run a center out at the airport that provides a place for our troops and their families to take a break while waiting for a plane or waiting for a ride. Terrific organization that does a wonderful job for our troops.

The Bulls Are Back in Town

Game 30: Bulls 4, Braves 3
Wrap, Box
Game 31: Bulls 0, Braves 4
Season: 18-13
Wrap, Box

The Bulls are home with something of a new look on the field.

Tonight David Price is pitching against the Louisville Bats and Jonny Gomes. Louisville, the Reds AAA team, leads the IL’s West Division and has won their last three games.

Not much to say about yesterday’s game. We got outpitched. Mitch Talbot is having a lot of trouble keeping guys off base in his last two games. Yesterday his OBA was .435 with 6 hits and 4 walks in 5 innings.

A bunch of transactions while the Bulls were on the road. I don’t know anything about these guys yet, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. In the case of Matt Hall, though, maybe not.

  • Matt Hall comes to us from the Rays’ Charlotte Stone Crabs (as in Port Charlotte, Florida). He started at 3rd in yesterday’s game and was 0-3. However, according to something I heard just this morning, he’s been sent back. Have no idea what’s going on there. Maybe Montoyo didn't like what he saw.
  • Reliever Joe Bateman comes to us from Hudson Valley. To be honest, I’m not sure that’s even a real team. Maybe somebody can help me out with that. He pitched in the 9th yesterday and, according to the box score, struck out two looking and got the third out on a foul pop-up. Welcome to the Bulls, Joe!
  • Joe Dillon comes to us in the Adam Kennedy trade from Sacramento in the Pacific Coast League. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t played this year. An infielder.
  • Lastly, showing on the transaction list is Alex Jamieson going to Hudson Valley. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s actually gone anywhere. It does mean that he can’t play in a Bulls game. Look to see him warming up pitchers in the bullpen.


  • It looks like Stacy Long came over from Montgomery to interview David Price. Price is supposedly working on a new pitch called a “spike curve”. Cork Gaines thinks that is the new name for the knuckle curve. Whatever works, I say.
  • Justin Ruggiano talked about his three-homer game with Bulls broadcaster Neil Solondz. What I found interesting was his comments about Carlos Hernandez later in the interview. Not to put too fine a point on it, a pitcher who works quickly keeps the outfielders from getting bored out there.
  • For more on the transactions (particularly Joe Dillon), see Adam Sobsky over at Indy Week.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Ruggiano Rules!

Game 29: Bulls 7, Braves 0
Season: 17-12
Wrap, Box

Ruggiano’s the story here. I was only able to listen to the 3rd and 4th innings, but they were terrific innings to catch. First was a grand slam in the 3rd (his second this year), then he hits another homer (back to back with one by Reid Brignac) in the 4th. Then he hits another in the 6th! 3 homers, 6 RBIs! Maybe those days off did some good. Whatever it was, do more of it!

And we got shutout pitching from Carlos Hernandez, Jason Childers, and Winston Abreu.

What a change from the previous night.

To follow up on my last post. My better half reminded me that it’s possible that some readers of this blog don’t know who Joey Gathright is. Let’s put it this way, he’s faster than Fernando Perez. In fact, he’s about the fastest base-runner I’ve ever seen. He was with the Bulls a couple of seasons ago, went down to Tampa Bay near the end of the season, and was traded to Kansas City after that. I tried to follow him in 2007 and it seemed he was going back and forth from Kansas City and their AAA team in Omaha. Then I lost track of him. Really fun ball player to watch. Never a lot of power at the plate and not a great arm. Guess that’s what’s kept him from sticking in the majors. We’ll probably see him the next time we play Norfolk.

Gathright to Norfolk

Game 28: Bulls 1, Braves 7
Season: 16-12
Wrap, Box, Indy Week Story

I wasn’t going to write anything today since the game has been well-covered over at Indy Week (see link above). Then I checked Stacy Long’s blog and noticed something of great interest to Bulls fans — Joey Gathright’s going to the Orioles organization and likely to show up playing for Norfolk. Probably a good thing for our catchers and third basemen, cause he’s really going to test their throwing arms. I’d lost track of Joey after he went to the Kansas City organization. Didn’t even know he’d been traded to the Cubs. So guess he’s become one of those guys who can’t quite stay in the majors. It will be fun to see him run, as long as it isn’t from third to home, or snagging chip shots into the outfield.

So since I’m writing, might as well say something about Adam Kennedy. Pretty sure this will end up being played as yet another bright move by Andrew Friedman, the guy who calls the shots for Tampa Bay. He grabs Kennedy, hangs on until someone really needs him, then does a deal. Potentially a win-win for the organization and, hopefully, only a temporary loss to the Bulls. He sure was doing a good job for us in the field and at the plate.
“It’s an extended opportunity for Adam and we weren’t going to stand in the way,” said Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman. “We feel like we’re going to get a guy that’s going to help us some depth-wise, and that was our understanding with Adam coming in – we’re not a group that’s going to stand in the way of someone, especially someone that hadn’t played in the minor leagues in 10 years.”

See preliminary stories by Marc Lancaster and Marc Topkin. Notice that Shaw Riggans’ rehab isn’t going well, which means that Michel Hernandez isn’t coming back any time soon, which may mean that our “ghost catcher” Jamieson might see some more playing time.

I’m wondering what the story is on Ruggiano. He’s missed the last couple of games.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Advice to the Bulls

Game 27: Bulls 2, Knights 10
Season: 16-11
Wrap, Box, Indy Week Story

David Price’s Numbers: W-L, 1-4
Season: Games - 6; Innings Pitched - 24.2; Batters Faced - 112; Hits - 24; Walks - 16; Strikeouts - 21; OBA - .366; ERA - 4.74
Last Night: Innings - 4; Batters - 22; Hits - 6; Walks - 5; Strikeouts - 0; OBA - .500

OK, guys, here’s the deal. You would know better than I if he’s going to be a great pitcher. The fact is that as a Bull he isn’t. Not last year, not now. Maybe next game, maybe the game after that.

He pitches once every five games. Even if you do your job, a lot of the opposing team's players are gonna get on base. Even when you get two outs, odds are he’s gonna walk at least one or two after that. And, he’s not going anywhere, anytime soon. Tampa Bay’s not about to call him up looking like this and they sure aren’t going to send him down to Montgomery. So you’re stuck with him. Suck it up.

For the old hands, it’s kinda like last year when Chris Mason got a start. Your job, in the early innings, is to do what you can to limit the damage — a couple of double plays after the walks would help. That’s if he at least manages to have them hit grounders. Then you’ve got to absolutely hammer the opposition’s starting pitcher and relievers. Also, a few early hits might get him a chance to collect himself in the dugout. Not sure that will help, but what the hell, give it a try. What have you got to lose?

The good news is that he’s only going to be in the game for a couple of innings, so you’ll have five or six innings with our relievers out there. Sometimes, like last night, that doesn’t work out at all. As it happens Orvella’s had a lot of trouble in his last three appearances, but that’s another story. Not much you can do about a pitcher giving up a bunch of doubles. I don’t have any advice there.

Nevertheless it looks like when it’s a David Price start, you’re going to have to carry the water. Get a lot of runs, make every double play you can.


John Weber story, all baseball, all the time; Matt Joyce interview; speculation about Joyce.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


click on chart to see larger size

We’re just past five rotations so time to update my charts. I’ve included yesterday’s 8-7 win at Charlotte.

The good news about the performance chart is that the trends for both hitting and pitching are improving.

I’ve plotted ERA points to the pitching chart along with the On Base Average (the opponent’s on base percentage) numbers. Interesting to note that all the starters’ (Talbot thru Houser) OBAs are above the team average, so the relievers are still carrying the water for the Bulls. The biggest changes were in the numbers for Childers and Orvella. Almost all of that can be attributed to that awful 1-14 loss to Columbus back on the first of May. Have to think that Montoyo left both of them twisting in the wind since there was little hope to catch up, and they both got hammered. Another interesting number is Choate’s thirteen appearances! That’s half of our games so far. Tough guy!

The last chart is the cumulative runs for and against the Bulls this year (and the plots for the last two years as well). As can be seen, we’re doing a good bit better so far this year than in previous years. Most of the time this plot is spookily similar to a plot of above/below .500. At the moment it isn’t (we’re 5 games above .500). Hard to say just why, but my best guess is that, as a team, we’re committing fewer mistakes than our opponents. By mistakes I mean events such as errors, wild pitches, passed balls, and stolen bases. Not completely sure of that since I’m too lazy to chase those numbers down. Important, however, is the trend, which has just ticked upwards.

By the way, an interesting interview with Manager Charlie Montoyo after the recent home stand.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Johnson to DL

Have heard that Elliott Johnson has been put on the disabled list because of a broken hand. Have no more information than that. Will post more if/when I learn it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sunshine On Another Rainy Day

Bulls 8, Knights 2
Season: 15-10
Wrap, Box

The Bulls leave town today for yet another tour to the Charlotte Knights and the Gwinett (?) Braves. Will be back home to the Louisville Bats and Jonny Gomes on the 12th.

The good: Starting pitching; relief pitching; home runs by Ruggiano, Brignac, and Richard; discipline at the plate (7 walks).

The not-so-good: Runners on third base in 2nd and 3rd innings, none scored; bases loaded in 7th and 8th only 1 run scored; two more K’s by Ruggiano (27 and 28).

The awful: Rain all through the game. Had to have been tough on everyone, even the umpires (one of whom who blew a call in the 2nd). The tag by Albernaz was clean ump!

After a basically shaky 1st and 2nd inning (a hit by pitch to first batter, a walk to the fourth batter in the 1st; a double and a single in the 2nd) we were wondering just why James Houser is on Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster. Maybe, just maybe, he showed why in the next 3 innings. Isringhausen, Choate, and Thayer closed out things nicely.

4 R’s Meets 5 R’s?

Stacy Long with the Montgomery Advertiser is reporting that Shawn Riggans, the injured Tampa Bay catcher Michel Hernadez is replacing, will be reporting to the Biscuits for a rehab assignment.

Jason Isringhauser is still with us (I think).

Does that mean that a rehabbing Rays right-handed reliever could be in the lineup with rehabbing Rays right-handed receiver Riggans?


Rain and Who is Watching the Bulls

Game 24: Bulls 3, Knights 8
Season: 14-10
Wrap, Box

Well, it rained and by the time it started raining I was ready to go home. I was on my way to the parking deck behind Diamond View II when the Bulls rallied, so I stayed a bit longer up there under the bull to see how things went. Not bad, but then they started pulling the tarp and I went home. To offer a variant on Adam Sobsky’s headline over at The Independent Weekly, their Carlos (Torres) beat our Carlos (Hernandez). More on Adam’s piece later.

About the only bright spot in a bleak day, and that more of a “gray” spot, was Reid Brignac retaining enough situational awareness that, after he bobbled a grounder of the Knight’s Dawkins, he then was able to throw out Lucy heading for home from third. Hardly a great play, but what can I say.

So instead of discussing the game, thought I’d write about Bulls coverage, such as it is.

The only actual print coverage I see is the News & Observer and when it comes to the Bulls, it’s dismal. At best it will be a cut & paste from the AP wire, but mostly this year they have only printed the IL standings and the box score. They did have a couple of articles earlier in the year about David Price but that’s about it. For whatever it’s worth, the Mudcats aren’t doing any better. For an overview of the N&O in general, see the Indy Week feature here.

Last year the Durham Herald-Sun at least covered the home games. This year it has been hit and miss, at least as far as what I’m able to find on their web site. Some games they cover, some they don’t. Seems to usually be Mike Potter doing the writing as it was in last night’s game.

WRAL usually has a Bulls story on but it’s just a cut & paste from the Bulls website. Not really a surprise since the same company owns the Bulls and WRAL.

However, since I mentioned the Bulls website, let me point out Neil Solondz’s podcasts. They are essentially audio of the interviews you can see if you get to the game early, and they are pretty good. For example, this interview with Jon Weber the other day. Sometimes the video highlights capture interesting moments.

The vast majority of Bulls-related information on the web is from websites and bloggers following the Tampa Bay Rays. As a consequence, their interest in the Bulls generally extends only to those players on the Bulls roster that have the potential of going down to Tampa Bay and helping out. Still, a couple of good writers out there. I’ve got links to the ones that I like on my sidebar.

The bright spot is over at the Independent Weekly. Although not alone, Adam Sobsky is doing most of the writing and it’s very good. For example, in today’s piece he really tries to get at what I’ve called the Montoyo Merry-Go-Round, the constant shuffling of position players. The explanation is that Tampa Bay already knows what these guys can do at their primary position, what about someplace else? So the carousel is a very deliberate attempt to develop a broader range of skills for possible call-up. OK, I can buy that. More than that, I can’t honestly say that it has been hurting us. We are, after all, at 14-10, which is pretty good.

Once the Bulls go on the road we’re stuck with what we can discern from the wrap (often written by broadcaster Solondz) and the box score. If I’ve got the time and inclination I can get a decent sense of the game by listening to the radio on the web and following the “gameday” graphics. And occasionally I can find an article in local newspaper. So far I haven’t found any bloggers following IL teams closely. If they’re out there, let me know.

Not relevant to any of the above, but it’s fun: Over at Rays Index he’s doing a lot of rabble-rousing regarding an incident in the last inning of a game Sunday.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday at the Park

Game 22: Bulls 4, Clippers 2
Wrap, Box
Season: 14-9

Let’s just mention some of the little things that keep me coming to the park.

In the 5th, Ray Olmedo, playing 3rd base, chases a foul ball over the tarp roll and into the stands. And brings the ball back. In the top of the 6th he cuts in front of Brignac, dives into the grass to stop the grounder, jumps up and throws the runner out.

Back in the 2nd, Montoyo calls for a squeeze play and catcher Craig Albernaz’s bunt does the job. Sadler comes home from third.

A Bulls starter, Wade Davis, lasts into the 5th. We still use four relievers, but they handle it well.

Jason Isringhausen finally makes his appearance in the 6th. His name is so long it barely fits on the back of his Bulls jersey. He does a very nice job. Three up, three down.

Winston Abreu comes on in the 8th with one out and a runner on second. And smokes ‘em. Two K’s. (OK, a bit of a thrill there when a passed ball let the runner get to third.)

2 hours, 11 minutes. Home before dark.

Radio Night

Game 21: Bulls 1, Clippers 14
Game 22: Bulls 6, Clippers 10
Season: 13-9

Now would be the time to write something clever or insightful or even deeply philosophical about the last two games.

How about — Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrgh!

That’s better.

I came to last night’s game with the semi-insider knowledge that Columbus was in trouble. Three of the key players from Friday’s game had been called up by the Indians. They would have to go to the bench in a big way. Guess what? The guys on the Columbus bench decided it was their turn to shine. They jumped on two early errors and literally ran away with it. A 9th inning rally by the Bulls wasn’t enough.

So let’s talk about the radio broadcast.

I really like Neil Solondz, the Bulls radio broadcaster. In previous seasons I have had the chance to compare him to some of his AAA colleagues and he’s the best of those I’ve heard. Good at balls and strikes. Informative on player’s background. Not too speculative.

In the first five innings or so last night, however, he was joined by another broadcaster whose name I didn’t catch. I think they may have been calling the game for TV at the same time. So there was much more back and forth. My problem is that they spent almost all that time trying to explain away the less-than-stellar performance of David Price. Yes, it wasn’t his fault that Brignac and Olmedo opened the game with two throwing errors. OK, I get that. But what about the three steals, three walks, and four hits? And reaching his pitch limit (75) in only 3+ innings? And how many times did he have two strikes and was unable to close the deal? Neil and his partner seemed to spend more time on Price’s potential than on the reality in front of them. Even going to the great length of commenting on his athleticism when all he did was handle two simple come-backers and toss them to first (that was just after getting tagged for a double, but before walking a batter, and getting pulled in the 4th). Price isn’t really showing us much this year.

Neil Morris at Indy Week made a similar observation.

On the other hand, for the later part of the game Neil was joined by Gary Hunsicker, a Rays executive, and between them they did a terrific job talking about baseball and the Bulls. Including, I should add, some sharp comments from Hunsicker about how the Bulls were going to have to come together as a team to get things back in order. (So maybe I should back off my earlier comments a bit.) Since I was listening at the same time I was trying to watch the game, I’m not going to claim what follows as direct quotes of Hunsicker, just paraphrasing. If either Neil or Gary sees this and disagrees, I’ll be happy to correct them. Other Hunsicker comments:

  • Reid Brignac: Hunsicker noted that scouts have been pointing out to him for years a difference between a Latin and North American approach to playing shortstop and that Brignac exemplified the North American approach (i.e., get behind the ball to make the play). Very high on Brignac’s potential.
  • Very complimentary of Chris Richard and what he brought to the Bulls. He noted that, unfortunately for Chris, first base was a position essentially reserved for big strong guys (and Neil pointed out that the Rays’ Peña was having a great year). Thought that there was a place for him in the big leagues.
  • Really high on Matt Joyce (who got a home run and two singles last night before striking out with bases loaded in the 9th). Said that Gabe (didn’t catch which Gabe, TB has two of them) should be looking over his shoulder.
  • And vented over the 75 pitch count limit, and pitch limits in general. Noted that Major League Baseball had been shown up in the World Baseball Classic, that the season is too much of a grind at major and minor league levels.

I’m wondering how much the Bulls have missed the energy of Jon Weber batting leadoff these last two games and, forgive me, not having Elliott Johnson in the game?

Lastly, the reclusive rehabbing Rays right-handed reliever Isringhausen did not make an appearance. Is pulling a muscle while on rehab make you a rehabbing rehabber?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Michel Gets Some Love

When I started this blog I promised myself that I would write as little as possible about the Rays and do my best to focus on the Bulls. But today I’ve just got to spend a bit more time on Michel Hernandez. If there’s anyone on our team who fits the profile of “journeyman” it’s Hernandez. At least I can hope that he’s on our team — after last night he just might stay with Tampa Bay.

In ten years in professional baseball he’s played with 6 different AAA teams, including stints with the Bulls in 2007 and, briefly, 2008. I think I mentioned some time ago how pleased I was to see him on our roster because I thought our young pitchers could use an experienced hand calling the game (and, for that matter, our young catchers could learn something from him). But the Rays’ rather fragile catcher Shawn Riggans gave Hernandez yet another chance at the big leagues. Michel was called up for last year’s run into the World Series because of Riggan's aches and pains. The same thing happened in the middle of this April, for the same reason.

Then came last night, his fourth game since being called up. First at-bat, 3rd inning, strikes out. Second at-bat, 4th inning, first pitch, home run (his first major league home run), RBI. Third at-bat, 5th inning, single and RBI. Fourth at-bat, 7th inning, single. Fifth at-bat, 8th inning, double, RBI. What a night!

Here comes the love:
  • First, You can watch a video of his home run here.
  • Marc Topkin in the St. Petersburg Times quotes Rays manager Joe Maddon, “He had a good month tonight.”
  • Joey Johnston in the Tampa Tribune backgrounds Michel’s escape from Cuba and adds a bit more locker room color.
  • Tommy Rancel on DRaysBay compares him to the regular Rays catcher Dioner Navorro and Michel comes out looking very good.

By the way, buried in the Marc Topkin piece is the note that rehabbing Rays right-handed reliever Jason Insringhousen didn’t pitch last night because of a mild abdominal strain he suffered while playing catch (how do you do that?).