Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bulls Below the Border

And out in Arizona ...

Inspired by some of the posts over on Rays Prospects I started digging around in the Winter League data, going from team to team looking for guys who played for the Bulls last year. I found several of our guys scattered around the Caribbean and Arizona and made up a list of how they’re going. Then, of course, I found a link that pretty much summarized everything I’d been looking for and more. Here’s all the Rays players currently playing Winter league baseball.

Of the position players listed, we saw Ray Olmedo and Henry Mateo last year. Neither are on a major league contract, so there’s no guarantee they’ll be back. The oddity is Tampa Bay infielder Willy Aybar. Hard to guess why he’s playing winter ball. Shouldn’t be for the money.

A bunch of the pitchers we saw last year are down south and out west: Bateman, dePaula, Medlock, Oliveros, Phillips, Rollins, and Talbot. One to watch is Mitch Talbot since he spent so much time on the DL last year. Seems to be doing OK.

Missing from any of the stats (although initially on rosters) are Justin Ruggiano and Jon Weber. Don't know what the story there may be.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rays Roster Speculations

Cork Gaines aka "The Professor" over at Rays Index has put up his projected 40-man roster for the Rays. Why should we care? Because if Cork has guessed right then we are very likely to see most of the players on the 40-man, but not on the 25-man, in Durham in 2010. In addition, in his footnotes he provides an explanation of “options”, surely one of the most confusing terms in baseball.

Interesting to note how many of the players on both 25 and 40 man rosters are former or current Bulls.

Of importance to Bulls fans is that Elliot Johnson, Mitch Talbot, and Chris Richard are listed as being “out of options.” (So why is Mitch pitching in the Arizona Fall League, you ask? Got me.) That won’t keep them from playing for the Bulls next year (ask Elliot and Chris on Wednesday night), but it does mean a good bit of negotiating is at hand for them before we know.

Another feature of the tables is the estimated salaries.

Worth taking a look at.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Odds and Ends

Over at RaysProspects he’s got some winter league stats.

Rays Index puts together a 25-man roster for the Rays. If he’s close to being right, we could keep a solid core (Johnson, Brignac, Richard, Dillon, Weber, Jennings, and others) for 2010. Of course, that assumes no trades and new contracts for a couple of those guys.

Mark Topkin in the St Pete Times discusses Sean Rodriguez, implying we are not likely to see him back in Durham.

Nice photo of the DBAP and more promotion of next Wednesday’s celebration at Note to Self and the Bulls facebook page.

Interesting chart over at flip flop fly ball that compares innings by starters and relievers in 2009. Doesn’t appear to be much of a relationship between length of start and winning games.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rays - Bulls - Rays - Bulls: Position Players

A couple of days ago I started a series looking at just how much the Rays and Bulls helped each other this year. The first was a look at the rehabilitation assignment players who passed through. The second looked at the pitchers. This one will look at position players. Note that all stats are for regular season only.

Only seven position players spent time on both the Rays and the Bulls rosters this year: Matt Joyce, Michel Hernandez, Reid Brignac, Joe Dillon, Shawn Riggans, and Chris Richard got into games. John Jaso was up for 4 days, but did not come to bat.

Matt Joyce
  • Bulls: 111 games, 417 AB, .273/.373/.482, OF
  • Rays: 11 games, 32 AB, .188/.270/.500, OF
Matt started the year with the Rays, but only stuck with them for three appearances in which he got one hit (a home run). He went back up at the end of May and played in 8 games before coming back to the Bulls and finishing out the year. As mentioned elsewhere on this blog (more than once) the Rays are going to have to decide about right field and how they want to play it. Matt seemed to get caught up in their confusion this year.

Michel Hernandez
  • Bulls: 13 games, 46 AB, .196/.273/.196, catcher
  • Rays: 35 games, 99 AB, .242/.292/.323, catcher
Michel started the season with the Bulls, but he didn’t stay long. He went to the Rays on April 14 and stayed there until early August when the Rays obtained Greg Zaun from Baltimore. What the stats don’t show is his effect on the pitching staff, which appeared to be very positive for the Bulls.

Reid Brignac
  • Bulls: 96 games, 415 AB, .282/.327/.417, SS (88), 2B (8)
  • Rays: 31 games, 90 AB, .278/.301/.746, SS/2B
Reid spent a good bit of time with the Rays this season, mostly in response to injuries on the Rays squad. He went up in mid-May for almost a month (21 games), made a one day visit in August, and was called up on September 7 to finish out the season. This looks like a win-win for the Bulls and Rays this year. Reid is certainly an improved shortstop from last year, and he did a decent job at the plate. Looks like he did the same with the Rays.

Joe Dillon
  • Bulls: 35 games, 123 AB, .244/.340/.333, 1B(17), 2B (4), 3B (13), SS (1)
  • Rays: 15 games, 30 AB, .300/.400/.400, 2B/3B [note: only started 1 game]
Joe is a real puzzle when it comes to how the Rays manage their players. He came to the Bulls in early May from the Oakland system, appeared in a couple of games, and went to the Rays on May 26. From then to mid-August he mostly sat on the bench and waited to pinch hit. For the Bulls he was a critical guy in the final days of the season and in the post-season. A very solid, professional ballplayer that certainly made a difference to the Bulls. Hard to tell if he helped the Rays out or not.

Shawn Riggans
  • Bulls: 11 games, 40 AB, .200/.238/.325, catcher
  • Rays: 7 games, 14 AB, .143/.143/.357, catcher
Shawn came to the Bulls from Montgomery in August, having essentially been in rehab all season and he did a short stint on the DL while with the Bulls. He went up to the Rays with the September call-ups. Really hard to make any judgments on Riggans since he really hasn’t been healthy for a couple of years now.

Chris Richard
  • Bulls: 100 games, 365 AB, .263/.364/.521, 1B-DH
  • Rays: 13 games, 19 AB, .105/.261/.105, 1B
Chris got called up on September 7 after the Rays’ Carlos Peña was injured. He started 5 games at first, but mostly the Rays used utility man Willy Aybar at first and Chris sat on the bench. He obviously did not hit well when he got the opportunity. Hard to tell what would have happened if he’d had a chance to see a bit more pitching.

How much help were the Bulls to the Rays this year? Not much. From the look of it, only Reid Brignac and Michel Hernandez were of any real value. But there were some dynamics down there on the Bay that had an effect. The emergence of Ben Zobrist made a huge difference. Suddenly they had a guy who could not only play just about any position, but bang out hits on call. Why call up, say, Elliot Johnson, when Zobrist can handle second base for a while? And Willy Aybar, with Zobrist, covered the absence of Iwamura very well.

The sheer stubbornness of Rays management can’t be discounted. Long after several approaches were clearly not effective (Upton as leadoff, platooning RF, Burrell as DH) they stuck with them. However, looking at the Bulls for help in any of those areas (other than RF) didn’t find much help. Justin Ruggiano had, for him, a very difficult year. The Rays clearly don’t think that Jon Weber is a major leaguer, so they won’t use him. There are systemic problems at catcher, third base and first base all down through the Rays system, so there should be no surprise that there’s no “star” in Durham at those positions.

On the other hand, the Bulls did great! Guys that the Rays wouldn’t call up on a bet (and some that they did, such as Chris Richard) sure showed that they know how to play the game. Henry Mateo, Ray Olmedo, Joe Dillon, Jon Weber, Craig Albernaz, Brandon Chaves, and Rashad Eldridge. Then there were a couple on the 40-man that never got a shot this year, Justin Ruggiano and Elliot Johnson who did just fine or us.

I must, reluctantly, admit that we did just fine by the Rays this year.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rays - Bulls - Rays - Bulls: Pitchers

A couple of days ago I started a series looking at just how much the Rays and Bulls helped each other this year. The first was a look at the rehabilitation assignment players who passed through. This one takes a look at the pitchers. Note that all stats are for regular season only.

David Price, Andy Sonnanstine, Wade Davis, Randy Choate, Dale Thayer, Jeff Bennett, Joe Nelson, and Winston Abreu each spent some time with the Bulls and the Rays this year. That’s eight of twenty-one pitchers who were on the mound for the Rays, and eight of thirty-four pitchers who wore a Durham Bulls uniform.

David Price
  • Bulls: 8 games, 1-4, ERA 3.93, 34 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.340
  • Rays: 23 games, 10-7, ERA 4.42, 128 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.348
David Price started the season with the Bulls and went to the Rays in late May. Looks like he did more for the Rays in terms of winning games than he did for us. Some of that is surely because early in the season the Rays had all starters on low pitch counts and, in the case of Price, had him working on specific tasks in each outing.

Andy Sonnanstine
  • Bulls: 9 games, 5-3, ERA 4.40, 57 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.343.
  • Rays: 22 games (18 starts), 6-9, ERA 6.77, 99 ⅔ innings, WHIP 1.656
Andy Sonnanstine began the season with the Rays as a starter. He came to Durham in early July and went back to the Rays on September 1 (he spent some time on the DL while with the Bulls). On his return to the Rays he had three starts and all four of his relief appearances. Very helpful to the Bulls as we made our run for the Governors’ Cup.

Wade Davis
  • Bulls: 28 games, 10-8, ERA 3.40, 158 ⅔ innings, WHIP 1.254
  • Rays: 6 games, 2-2, ERA 3.72, 36 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.266
Wade Davis started the year in Durham and stayed here until September 2. He did a superb job for the Bulls, and not too shabby for the Rays in his six starts.

Randy Choate
  • Bulls: 21 games, 3-0, ERA 3.72, 19 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.293
  • Rays: 61 games, 1-0, 5 saves, ERA 3.47, 36 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.073
Sidearming left-hander Randy Choate started the season with Durham and went to St Pete on May 25th. He stayed with the Rays the rest of the season. What’s interesting about Choate, and several other Rays relievers, is that he has considerably fewer innings than appearances, meaning that it was typical for him to face only a few batters and get only a few outs in an appearance.

Dale Thayer
  • Bulls: 51 games, 2-5, 17 saves, ERA 2.27, 63 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.168
  • Rays: 11 games, 0-0, ERA 4.61, 13 ⅔ innings, WHIP 1.390
Reliever Dale Thayer made 3 trips to the Rays. He went up on May 22 and came back on May 31, appearing in three games. He went up again on July 23 and came back on July 28, after appearing in three more games. He made his third visit in September, going up September 8 and staying until the end of the season. He made five more appearances. Except for the oddity of sitting on the Tampa bullpen bench for some thirteen days in September (12th to 26th), Dale seems to have done a decent job for the Rays and been one of the few relievers that stayed in for more than a few batters at a time. Of course, for the Bulls Dale was a horse with a bunch of saves. The only problem I noted was that when he came back from the Rays it took him a couple of games to get back into it.

Jeff Bennett
  • Bulls: 3 games, 1-0, ERA 4.76, 11 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.676
  • Rays: 11 games, 0-0, ERA 9.95, 12 ⅔ innings, WHIP 2.763
Bennett made his first appearance with the Rays on August 1 and came to the Bulls on August 18 after seven appearances with the Rays. He stayed with the Bulls until September 1 when he went back to the Rays. As a Bull, Jeff was a starter (mostly in those “committee” games). With Tampa Bay he was exclusively a reliever. Bennett had been with Atlanta this season before going on the DL and then being released after two rehab appearances with Gwinnett. Something of a wash on who he helped the most.

Joe Nelson
  • Bulls: 13 games, 2-2, ERA 6.23, 17.1 innings, WHIP 1.904
  • Rays: 42 games, 3-0, ERA 4.02, 40 ⅓ innings, WHIP 1.463
Nelson was optioned to Durham on August 4 after spending the season with Tampa (and doing what appears to be a decent job). With the Bulls in the regular season he never seemed to get on track. Have to note, however, that he had three appearances in the playoffs (two against Louisville and one against Scranton) and didn’t allow any runs.

Winston Abreu
  • Bulls: 37 games, 3-1, 15 saves, ERA 1.94, 51 innings, WHIP 0.765
  • Rays: 2 games, 0-0, ERA 2.45, 3 ⅔ innings, WHIP 1.365
I saved the best for last. Winston Abreu was arguably the most important pitcher on the team to not get a real chance with the Rays. He started the season with the Bulls and appeared in 23 games before going to Tampa Bay in mid-June. He made two appearances with the Rays and was traded to Cleveland where he made three appearances before managing to get back to the Bulls for a game on August 7. We could not have been happier. He was in 14 games and picked up four saves. Then he made 6 appearances in the Bulls 9 post-season games, picking up 4 saves. In his last appearance he only faced one batter before coming out because of an injury.

So, what can we say overall about how well the Bulls-Rays relationship worked in the pitching department this year? Looks like a win-win for the starting pitchers. We did OK and so did the Rays. As far as relievers are concerned, the Bulls did fine with the ones who began the season in Durham, but only so-so with the ones who were sent down. I think it’s fair to say that the Rays bullpen was their most significant weakness this year and that it was a matter of both talent and management, particularly late in the season. It sure looked like the Rays were trying to trade/buy relief talent rather than take a close look at what they had in Durham. That’s OK with me.

Next: Position players.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Updates, News, Etc.

A few odds and ends that have been accumulating in my notebook.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tampa Bay Rays - Durham Bulls - Tampa Bay Rays - Durham Bulls: Rehab Assignments

The purpose of the Durham Bulls Baseball Club, other than being the economic engine that drives the entire Triangle region, is to serve the needs of the Tampa Bay Rays. In a perfect world we’d like to see a mutually beneficial relationship. I thought I’d take a look at the comings and goings between the Bulls and the Rays this year and see if any judgments could be made on who helped whom.

Most of the numbers are from the Bulls website, but a few come from the game notes that Bulls broadcaster Neil Solondz put together for the AAA championship game, and a few from

First we have to deal with the rehabilitation assignments. We had 3 pitchers and 2 position players spend some time with the Bulls as they were recovering from an injury. The up side of a rehab assignment is significant. We get to see a bona fide major leaguer at the DBAP and, if he has a good night, he helps us in a game. The down side is that our manager’s hands are pretty much tied on just how much he can use the player and in what situations.

The pitchers:

Chad Bradford (mid June, 4 appearances), Jason Isringhausen (late April, 6 appearances), and Scott Kazmir (late June, 1 appearance) visited the Bulls this year. As a group, they did OK by the Bulls: 17 ⅔ innings pitched, ERA of 4.08, 2 wins, 0 losses.

Position players:

We only had two position players come through on rehab assignments, and both of them in August. Second baseman Akinori Iwamura and outfielder Fernando Perez played in 11 and 13 games and were very helpful as we were making our run for the Governors’ Cup. Each had ten hits and two RBIs. Both of them had an unusually high number of walks (Iwamura 9, Perez 10). Perez stole an exceptional 8 bases while only being caught once. And they both managed to get all the way around the bases a lot, Iwamura scored 9 runs and Perez scored 10.

So I’ve got to conclude that sending the rehabbers through Durham helped us this year.

In future posts I’ll take a look at the pitchers and position players who went back and forth in 2009.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Moonlight Graham Awards — 2009

Mike Wlodarczyk

Matt Hall

Some time ago we announced the establishment of the Watching Durham Bulls Baseball Moonlight Graham Award. As noted at the link, the award is named in honor of North Carolinian Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. Graham had a notably brief appearance with the New York Giants in 1905. He achieved greater fame through W. P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe and the film Field of Dreams; and has achieved book-length attention in Friedlander and Reising’s Chasing Moonlight.

The Moonlight Graham Award goes to the player who spent the least amount of time as a Durham Bull in a given year. Here are the criteria.

Position players:
  • 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 on rehab assignment.

Our problem for 2009 is whether or not to include the playoff game appearances. We decided that we would.

Candidates for the position player award.
  • Infielder Matt Hall had two short stints with the Bulls early in the season. He finished out the year with the Charlotte Stone Crabs. With the Bulls he appeared in 8 games and had 21 plate appearances.
  • Second baseman Sean Rodriguez came to the Bulls following the Rays’ trade of Scott Kazmir to the California Angels. Rodriguez only played in 5 games in the regular season, but he played in all 9 of the post-season games.
Candidates for pitcher:
  • Chris Mason came up from Montgomery early in the year and got in 4 innings. For those of you who are following Chris’ career, you might be interested to know that he finished out the season in AAA as a Buffalo Bison with a 1-1 record as a starter.
  • Michael Wlodarczyk, however, edges out Mason with only 2 innings in the regular season. and 1 ⅓ innings in the playoffs.

We know we rigged the rules, but honorable mention must be given to the position players who stepped to the mound for the Bulls this year. They include Matt Hall (1 inning), Craig Albernaz (1 inning), Alex Jamieson ( 1 ⅔ innings), and Ray Olmedo (2 innings).

And the winners for 2009 are:

Matt Hall and Mike Wlodarczyk