Friday, June 26, 2009

The Durham Bulls at Midseason

Seventy-two games (last Tuesday) is the midpoint of the International League season. So here’s a modest effort to put things in perspective for first half of the year.

Where are we this so far this year? The answer is, and this may surprise you, better than last year. Last year at mid-season (72 games) we were 4 games above .500. At no time during the year did we get more than 9 games above .500. This year (except for the first 3 games) at no point have we been below 4 games above .500. At 72 games we were 6 games above, and we've been as high as 16 above twice. Last year we moved into first place in the South Division in early June and never looked back. At the end of the season we were 6 games above .500 and 9 games ahead of our nearest competitor in the Division (Norfolk).

Our offensive performance (OPS) this year is .011 better. Our pitching performance (Opponent’s OPS) is .031 better, compared to end of year numbers for 2008.

When you look at it from a fan’s perspective, the only problem this year was the last home stand. That was really painful to lose 7 out of 8 in mostly crappy weather before huge crowds — and we had to bring in a ringer from Tampa Bay to do it.

So what needs to be done to make things even better?

Top of my list is seeing the guy who contributed so much to last year’s team come back up to the plate. Justin Ruggiano is not the same player. I’m not sure what’s happened this year, whether it’s physical (he had eye surgery in the off-season) or mental. The power’s obviously there, but from the far distance I watch him from he just doesn’t look comfortable. I had a brief chat last year with the Bulls hitting coach, Gary Gaetti. I asked him just what does he do? His answer was interesting. He said, “I wait for the batters to come to me.” So here’s hoping that if that is Dave Myers’ approach to the job, Justin asks for help. This season seems to me to be more than a slump.

Last year Justin was part of lineup that had some real horses in the middle of it that could blow a game apart (Guzman, Ruggiano, Richard, Johnson, et al). This year the middle of the batting order is nothing like the threat last year’s was. But we win more games.

Other tweaks:
  • Wish we had more speed. It makes the game more exciting to see guys stealing bases and stretching singles into doubles.
  • I’d like to see fewer base running blunders. I’m gonna blame Montoyo for that. This is AAA and he calls the shots out there at 3rd base.
  • I’d like to see Mitch Talbot back on the mound and back in last year’s form. AAA has the interesting luxury of not having the press constantly pressing for answers. But I’d sure like to know more about our guys on the disabled list.

Otherwise, you gotta go with the numbers. This is one hell of a team this year. Clearly we are a Governor’s Cup contender.


  1. Good stuff. The stolen bases are down by about a third, although speed's a little overrated, I think. The baserunning blunders, which I've gone on and on about, have cost the team at least three games (off the top of my head). And as for the injuries, whenever I ask Montoyo about a hurt player -- Richard, Talbot, Jaso, et al -- I get an answer so calculatedly vague that it's obvious that the official policy is to say as little as possible. There are lots of reasons for that, but suffice it to say that we won't ever know very much.

    Not only is Talbot a good pitcher, but his return probably means a demotion for Houser, so that's addition by subtraction as well as by addition. Also, I suspect that we'll get Abreu or someone back once the Rays sort out the Kazmir cards -- unless a trade is made...

  2. Problem, re getting info about injuries, may be that you're the only guy asking. If the rest of the Triangle media were beside you asking, I'd bet they'd eventually be more forthcoming.

    I tend to agree about stolen bases, but they sure are fun to watch.

    About Abreu (and Choate, for that matter). I've read somewhere that he's out of options. If I understand that, it means that he would have to pass through waivers to get back to us. I suppose that could happen, but doesn't he have some sort of say in it as well? Plus Bradford's going up today as well. Things are gonna get complicated over the next couple of days.

    As far as I know (and I could be wrong) the only two guys the Rays can easily send to us are Price and Sonnanstine. Seems to me that either is unlikely, although, as I think I've said elsewhere, I think it would do Price a world of good to spend the rest of the season with us and then go up to the Rays in September to stay. Doubt it will happen, though.

    Couldn't agree more re Houser, but think he's perceived as a "prospect". Maybe try him out as a reliever?