Friday, December 24, 2010

Rays Roster Projections

Cork Gaines over at RaysIndex has a pretty good track record at thinking through where the Rays might be going. Recently he posted his 25-man and 40-man roster projections and they are worth looking at. I particularly like the way that Cork puts these together. And a lot of interesting information is buried in the notes.

Why should we Bulls fans care?

A couple of reasons.

First of all, if this is the way it shakes out, a huge number of 2010 Bulls are going to be playing in the big leagues in 2011: Dan Johnson, Elliot Johnson, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, Justin Ruggiano, Jeremy Hellickson, and Mike Ekstrom were all Bulls regulars last year. That’s a huge transfer of talent from minor to major leagues. I’d bet it is easily the biggest shift in Bulls’ history — but I’ll defer to any careful reader out there with a better handle on history than I. Note also that John Jaso, Reid Brignac, Ben Zobrist, Wade Davis, and Jeff Neimann are barely out of their Bulls uniforms.

The second, and more interesting, reason to take a look is that the Bulls’ 2011 roster will come from two pools of players — those players on the 40-man but not on the 25-man roster, and the group of players labeled “non-roster invitees” (that is, the guys who get invited to spring training by the Rays). We have little information on the non-roster invitees so far.

However, if Gaines is close to being correct, and the Bulls continue to carry 12 position players in 2011, only four position player slots are filled. He’s got Anderson on first, Ashley and Lobaton catching, and Perez in the outfield.

Interesting times.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Weaving

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.

Rogers Hornsby

Back in 2009 most of the Durham Bulls promotional gear was Tampa Bay Rays-themed. We happened to have two Diamond Club memberships that year and we ended up with a lot of Rays t-shirts.

In 2010 the emphasis went back to the Bulls. As a result, we ended up with more t-shirts than we would ever wear.

It's winter. Time to indulge my other obsession.

First, take a bunch of those Rays t-shirts.

Then cut them up to strips.

After that, get some very strong cotton yarn in baseball-ish colors and string up my loom.

Then start weaving the strips of t-shirts into the red and white yarn.

A few days later, cut it off and here you are with a Tampa Bay Rays/Durham Bulls placemat. Suitable for fine dining, or maybe just a hot dog.


Winter isn't over, so we'll have to find a few more projects to get us to spring.

In the meantime:

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Elliot Johnson Interview

As careful readers know, things are looking up for veteran Durham Bulls infielder Elliot Johnson. He's on the 40-man and looks to be a regular middle infielder for the Rays next year.

Steve Slowinski over at DRaysBay has just put up a terrific interview with Elliot and his wife, Nicole (one of our favorite bloggers). Here are a couple of quotes just as teasers. You really should head over and take a look.

On stealing bases:

Charlie [Montoyo, Bulls manager] is actually a little conservative when it comes to stealing bases believe it or not.

On his late development as a shortstop:

We had a guy by the name of BJ Upton playing short during the time when I was in the minors, so they developed me as a second baseman and we all know how that played out. So I only started playing short regularly late in the ‘09 season.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Charlie's Back ... and More

The Bulls website is reporting that Charlie Montoyo is coming back to Durham for the 2011 season. Dave Myers, hitting coach, is back for his third season. To replace pitching coach Xavier Hernandez, who left the Bulls at the end of last season, Neil Allen has been brought up from the Rays' Single-A franchise, the Charlotte Stone Crabs.

Good news. We speculated some last year that Charlie, who has garnered just about every award a minor league manager can earn, might be due to move up to the big leagues. We're happy to have him back.

In the meantime ...

Over at RaysProspects we were pointed to a terrific article at that mentions a bunch of last year's stars. The author obviously spent a good bit of time talking with Montoyo and he got some great quotes. Montoyo had good things to say about Chris Richard, Dan Johnson, Elliot Johnson, Justin Ruggiano, Leslie Anderson, and Desmond Jennings. Particularly telling was this quote about Jeremy Hellickson:

“The joke in the clubhouse was, ‘Is Jeremy gonna work today or is he gonna pitch?’ because they always had him working on this pitch or that pitch instead of just pitching a game, and he still had a really good year.”

There's also a hint that Chris Richard might be back for 2011. We can hope.

Then over at DRaysBay we have FreeZorrilla with a first-rate interview with Alex Cobb. With any luck, we're going to see a lot of Mr. Cobb next season.

Back at RaysProspects we find their Top 30 list. These are the guys to keep an eye on during spring training. A couple of them will end up with the Rays, but a few will be spending a lot of time in Durham next year.

Update: The Durham Herald-Sun apparently called Charlie and picked up a couple of quotes.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Richest (Best) Bull Ever?

Carl Crawford is probably the first AAA Durham Bull to have a shot at the Hall of Fame. You can bet that after signing that $142,000,000 contract with the Red Sox all of his major league career, past and future, is going to be scrutinized and watched. I'd say he's got a great chance of making it in.

He didn’t spend much time with the Bulls, as far as I can figure out. Looks like he started the 2002 season with the Bulls and played 85 games before being called up to the then Devil Rays. At the time he was 20 years old. He never looked back. Pretty good numbers as a Bull — .297/.335/.456; 26 stolen bases; 17 doubles, 9 triples, 7 home runs.

Still can’t get my head around that other number — $142,000,000. The Rays are never going to be able spend that kind of money. What they can do, and what makes it fun for a Bulls fan, is keep on looking for and finding the young and mid-level guys that know how to play the game and play it well.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Three Bulls Back with Rays Organization; One Gone

Good news from the Rays today. J.J. Furmaniak, R.J. Swindle, and Richard de Los Santos have all been signed to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training. [Tampa Bay Rays]

We looked at J.J.'s season with the Bulls here; Richard's season here; and R.J.'s here. Here at WDBB we are really happy to hear they have a shot with the Rays and would be pleased to see them back with the Bulls in 2011.

Two other players were also signed, infielder Russ Canzler and RHP Cory Wade. Don’t know anything about them, but expect we may be seeing them in the coming year.

Meanwhile, to darken an otherwise pleasant day, DRaysBay is passing on a report that Winston Abreu has signed a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Given the terrific year he had with the Bulls in 2010, and the apparent lack of interest from the Rays, you had to expect that he would be looking elsewhere.

We wrote about Winston's 2010 season here. If the report is true, at least the Bulls won’t have to face Abreu if he ends up in AAA, the Blue Jay’s AAA team is Las Vegas.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Getting Through the Winter

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.

Rogers Hornsby

For those who may be stopping by looking for a baseball fix, here's a couple of links to keep you going:

Rays Prospects is starting an analysis of their 30 top prospects in the system. Those on the list we haven't seen already, we have a good chance of seeing in the future.

Over on Rays Index, Cork Gaines recently summarized various trade rumors.

Several days ago the Rays did some maneuvering around with their 40-man roster to protect a few youngsters from the "Rule 5" draft. See the items at DRaysBay and theSt Pete Times. Of interest to Bulls fans is that Aneury Rodriguez has not been "protected". That implies that the Rays think they can get along without him if another team wants him badly enough.

As a reminder, Rays Prospects is keeping track of Rays players playing winter ball.

Lastly, for the truly desperate baseball junkies who might be passing by, here's a lead on the reorganization of the Independent Leagues.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2010 Moonlight Graham Awards

It’s time, at last, to announce this year’s winners of the Moonlight Graham Award.

The Moonlight Graham Award is given each year to the ballplayers (hitter and pitcher) who spent the least amount of time in a Durham Bulls uniform. In the interest of fairness (not that fairness is really an abiding interest here at WDBB) we have established a few criteria for our selection. We exclude players who participated only in playoff games, players who passed through Durham on a rehab assignment, and (for the pitcher award) we exclude position players who pitched in late innings to save the bullpen for another day.

The 2010 winners are:

Position Player

Catcher Craig Albernaz

Although he spent most of the playoffs with the Bulls, his only regular season appearance was way back on April 14, at Gwinnett. He went 1 for 4 that day. Craig has faced an uphill battle in the Rays organization for the last couple of years, but we have always admired his spirit and his very pretty snap throws to first and second base. Wouldn’t mind seeing him with the Bulls in 2011.


Right-handed Reliever Justin Garcia

In fact, Garcia never quite made it to Durham. Back in June, when the Bulls were in Indianapolis, he came up from Montgomery, appeared in two games in relief, 4 2/3 innings, and then was sent to Charlotte, Florida. He spent July in Florida then went back to Montgomery to end the season. We have never seen him pitch.

Congratulations to Craig and Justin!

About “Moonlight” Graham

Archibald Graham achieved lasting and national fame as a character in the W.P. Kinsella novel, Shoeless Joe, and then became even more famous when he was played by Burt Lancaster (and Frank Whaley) in the Kevin Costner film, Field of Dreams. As a ballplayer he got two innings in the major leagues as a right fielder for the New York Giants in 1905. He never came to bat.

The interest here is that he was a North Carolina native (born in Fayetteville, grew up in Charlotte); graduated from UNC (where he played baseball); and was the older brother to UNC President and US Senator Frank Porter Graham. If you find him an intriguing character, the Wikipedia article is a good start. Then there’s a nice NBC piece done on him a couple of years ago. And a terrific book by Fayetteville writer (and Bulls fan) Brett Friedlander and Robert Reisling, Chasing Moonlight. Copies of the book are in the Wake County Library system and I found my copy at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh just last week.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Minor League Free Agents and the Durham Bulls

As careful readers of WDBB will know, we are less than knowledgable regarding the ins and outs of the business of professional baseball, but we’re tryin’.

In that regard, we have the recent report in RaysProspects that lists Rays minor leaguers who have “qualified” for free agency. What does that mean? Follow the link to find a helpful (?) quote from Rule 55. But here’s my understanding — these players can now do a deal with anyone they want to, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

So here are 2010 Durham Bulls who are now free agents. It’s quite a list:


  • Winston Abreu
  • Joe Bateman
  • Jason Cromer
  • Richard De Los Santos
  • Darin Downs
  • Carlos Hernandez
  • Bobby Livingston
  • Heath Phillips
  • Brian Shouse
  • R.J. Swindle
  • Dale Thayer
  • Virgil Vasquez

Position Players:

  • Alvin Colina
  • Angel Chavez
  • Joe Dillon
  • Chris Richard
  • Rashad Eldridge

Does this mean that none of these guys will be back? No, not really. It just means that their 2010 (and earlier) contracts have run out. Many (most) of these guys were minor league free agents at the beginning of 2010. Obviously, WDBB would be happy to see all of the position players back, and most of the pitchers. This crew did just fine by Durham last year.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Elliot Johnson Back on Rays' 40-Man

At the beginning of the 2010 season Elliot was passed through waivers and landed with the Bulls for all of the year. And a terrific year it was. Now, according to reports out of St. Petersburg, he's back on the 40-man. Elliot is playing winter ball down in Mexico at the moment. This should brighten his day.

Marc Topkin in the St. Petersburg Times:

The Rays also selected the contract of INF Elliot Johnson and put him back on their 40-man roster. He was taken off the roster at the end of spring training since he was out of options and wasn’t going to make the team, then cleared waivers and had a strong season at Triple-A Durham.

Ray's Press Release:

In another move, the Rays selected utility player Elliot Johnson and added him to the 40-man roster. Johnson hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2008, when he had 19 at-bats during a seven-game stint with the club after making the Opening Day roster.

Johnson, 26, was named Most Valuable Player and an International League All-Star for Durham in 2010. He hit a career-high .319, which ranked fourth in the IL and third among Rays Minor Leaguers, with 11 home runs and 30 stolen bases. He appeared in 109 games at shortstop, second base, left field and right field. The switch-hitter has spent all nine seasons of his professional career in the Rays’ organization.

Monday, November 1, 2010

More Bulls Below the Border

Several more current/prospective Durham Bulls are showing up in the winter leagues. Jim Donten over at Rays Prospects is doing a terrific job with daily coverage of how they are doing, so I won’t repeat that here. However, to add to the list originally reported, catchers Jose Lobaton and Dioner Navarro, and pitchers Brian Baker, Joe Bateman, Carlos Hernandez, and Aneury Rodriguez are spending time in Mexico, Venezuela, and the Dominican.

For a glimpse of the life, keep an eye on Nicole Johnson's blog, Life of the Baseball Wife, which has a entry on a Mexican League game and another on what it's like to be called up for the playoffs.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Durham Bulls in the World Series

This is something of a trivia question about the Giants/Rangers match-up.

The difference is that we don't know the answer. Maybe someone out there does.

Josh Hamilton (Rangers) never made it to the Bulls during his time as a Devil Ray (although he did play in the DBAP in 2007 as a Louisville Bat).

Aubrey Huff (Giants) did play for the Durham Bulls in 2000 (108 games), 2001 (17 games), and 2002 (32 games), mostly at third base.

So here's the trivia question. Is there anyone else in the world series who has worn a Durham Bulls uniform?

Update: From Carl Crawford Cards and Doug Milhoan — Jorge Cantu played for the Bulls in 2003 (60 games), 2004 (95 games), and 2007 (24 games).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Several 2010 Bulls to the Rays?

Cork Gaines over on Rays Index has put up a 25-man roster projection that is sure to stir the pot. He's got Elliot Johnson, Justin Ruggiano, Desmond Jennings, and Dan Johnson all in the starting lineup.

From our perspective we thought neither of the Johnson's were likely to return to the Bulls under any circumstances; we thought that Desmond Jennings might be back for a couple of weeks at the beginning of the 2011 season; and we were guessing that Justin was shopping himself around after all these years on the the Rays 40-man.

In sum, we weren't figuring on any of these guys coming back to the Bulls. If they could make it onto the Rays 25-man, then more power to them. The commentary on Rays Index should be fun to follow.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bulls In Wintertime

Several 2010 Durham Bulls and likely Bulls-to-be are playing winter ball out in Arizona and down in Mexico and Venezuela. For a daily fix, check out Jim Donten's updates over on Rays Prospects.

For readers who want to chase things down on their own, here are a couple of leads:

For players who are in the Rays system, check out the links put up by MLB.

Players of interest to WDBB include:

Playing in the Arizona Fall League for the Peoria Seguaros:

  • Leslie Anderson (on the 40-man);
  • Jose Ruiz, a first baseman we did not see last year, but he is on the Rays 40-man and has a good rep;
  • Henry Wrigley, an infielder who was with the Biscuits last year (and may still be with them next year), but considered one of the Rays top prospects;
  • Alex Cobb, the pitcher we saw at the end of the year and who we are all hoping we get to see a lot of next year.

Playing in the Mexican Pacific League

Playing in the Venezuelan Winter League

For some insights into the life, check out the Life of a Baseball Wife blog, which is telling stories about life in Mexico.

We are a bit skeptical that any of the players outside of the Arizona Fall League guys will be coming back to Durham next year, and that would include Jon Weber, who is apparently trying to get his career back on track.

Nevertheless, worth keeping an eye on them. I mean, what else have we got to do? As Rogers Hornsby famously said:

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Great Poster!

Bulls fans, Rays fans, you gotta take a look at this great image over on Rays Index.

More Voting

Since Jeremy didn't win the pitching vote, we are beginning to think this voting is just a gimmick to get folks to take a look at the MiLB website.

Nevertheless, voting for hitters is going on and Dan Johnson is on the list. Worth a click and a vote.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Durham Bulls 2010 Charts

With the Rays just hanging out down in St. Pete as they wait for tomorrow night, let's dump these charts on the world just to remind ourselves what a great year the Bulls had.

First there was the season here in the International League's Southern Division:

And then there was the underlying run scoring and defense that backed up that record:

All in all, a very impressive year.

Also during the year we kept a running chart of the cumulative ERA and FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching).

Obviously very erratic for both metrics at the start of the year. However, it sure looks like Team FIP is a more stable than Team ERA. On the other hand, at the end of the season when the great guessing game each day was trying to figure out who the starting pitcher was going to be, the upward slope of the Team ERA seems to more accurately show what was happening. Guess we'll end up tracking both next year.

Meanwhile, to give them their due, the guys down in St. Petersburg had a decent year as well.

The Rays started off with one heck of a run, but then the Yankees went on a tear that was hard to keep up with. But then the Rays did too, even with a shaky end of the season. Note that for the simple reason that it messes up the chart, Baltimore was left off.

Finally, the Rays runs chart.

Good year. And this chart also shows that the last three years have been pretty darn good. At a guess, the Rays are by far the best small-market team in baseball in those years. And it shows.

[See guys, I really can say nice things about the Rays. But what the heck, it's the post-season. Wait 'till next year and we'll get back in form.]

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Johnson & Weber

Elliot Johnson Working Out With Mazatlan Deer

Here’s a tidbit to distract you from today’s game in Arlington — Elliott Johnson and Jon Weber are playing ball together again. They are both on the Mazatlan Mexican Pacific League team this year.

There’s this piece from a Venados de Mazatlan press release (Google translation)

After four wins in as many preseason games, Mazatlán Deer trained on Monday at the Teodoro Mariscal Stadium attended by Jon Weber, Elliot Johnson, Matt Clark, Freddy Sandoval and Rogelio Noris.

Weber and Clark took his first practice with the team, while Elliot Johnson coached for the second time as Freddy Sandoval, who is indeed fully recovered from surgery on his right wrist which was submitted by the organization of the Angels Los Angeles.

Weber's arrival was noted in a Mexican baseball blog called Baseball Mexico.

Just exactly how this works out with Weber's suspension we can only speculate.

In the meantime, Elliot's wife, Nicole. and son, Blake are traveling with him.

Good luck and have fun down there!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Navarro Out; Ashley In

Apparently Dioner Navarro, who spent the end of the year with the Bulls, decided that the Rays weren't treating him right and turned down a backup role for the Rays during the playoffs. [St. Pete Times]

That means that Nevin Ashley, who played with Bulls at the end of the season after a full year with Montgomery, will be hanging out in St. Pete and probably Texas for the next few days. Background on Ashley here. That also means that all the roster manipulation involving Jose Lobaton that was going on at the end of the year may have been for real, otherwise you'd think it would be Lobaton, not Ashley, as a backup.

Lastly, we're a bit surprised at the hostility shown by some bloggers towards Navarro. Speaking strictly from the Bulls point-of-view (is there any other?), he did a good job for us and we wish him well.

Minor Leagues Awards Voting

Thanks to Jim Donten over at RaysProspects we hear about a vote going on for best minor league pitchers of the year. Apparently parent organizations nominate and MiLB screens and then puts up for a fan vote. At any rate, here's a chance to help Jeremy Hellickson collect even more stuff for his great year.

Voting takes place at the MiLB website.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2010 Durham Bulls on the Rays Postseason Roster

The Tampa Bay Rays waited until the last minute to announce their postseason roster (they have to crunch down from the September 40-man limit to a 25-man limit). Just two of the August-September call ups from Durham made the cut, Dan Johnson and Desmond Jennings. At a stretch, I suppose Rocco Baldelli sort of fits that category, but he really wasn't with the Bulls for very long. Interesting choices for the Rays to make.

In addition, a couple of pitchers are reported to be "with the team" a category that does not make a whole lot of sense to us, but must to the Rays— Jeremy Hellickson and Jake McGee. Called up 2010 Bulls sent home were Mike Ekstrom and Dioner Navarro.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

DBAP Review

Just to heap the praise a bit higher and drive the nails in a bit deeper, I thought I’d summarize the comments from the end of the season in one place. Most of these are from an earlier post but a couple just came to mind.

This isn’t a very scientific survey, obviously. On the other hand, readers of this blog do go to and listen to a lot of Bulls games. That can be taken as a strength or weakness, I suppose.

Starting with the praise:

  • The staff that interacts with the public does a terrific job — the folks at the gates, at the entrances, the fan assistance people — well done.
  • The idea of getting local choral groups to sing the National Anthem was inspired. We heard some terrific renditions this year (and fewer embarrassing, off-key, off-time performances). Good idea, good execution.
  • Responsiveness — a couple of times during the year we passed on a problem to the front office (fans blowing us out of our seats, loudspeakers doing the same) and got an immediate response.
  • Field conditions started out looking good and were kept that way all year. Congrats to the grounds crew for a good job.
  • Wool E. Bull was in great form this year. Amazing to see him out there on the great tarp escapade doing his thing.
  • Webcam improvement helpful on rainy days.
  • Several readers pointed to the great job Neil Solondz does at the radio, and that’s true. Master of Bulls trivia, terrific play-by-play, sorely missed when he went off to St. Pete a couple of times. Here’s hoping the front office appreciates what an asset he is to the fan experience.
  • Coverage by AM 620 is an improvement over last year, but sure would be nice if it reached further into Wake County. Often could not quite get it when I was away from my computer.

Areas to work on:

  • Green Team video got really old, really fast — and not necessarily a very good idea to begin with.
  • This year’s pizza wasn’t very good. Lots of folks didn’t like it as well as previous vendor.
  • One reader, an apparent aficionado of sausage (with a name like Fritz, he should be), pointed out that the brat ain’t brat and volunteered to assist setting standards for next year. Which reminded me that there once was a serious vender of sausage in the concourse behind first base. Wonder what happened to him?
  • Similarly, it looks like the healthy foods vendor wasn’t able to make a go of it. Too bad.
  • Had occasion to watch a couple of the games on TV this year and while the Explorer Post 50 crew is pretty good, and it’s probably expensive, an upgrade of the equipment and production skills would help.
  • A Bulls iPhone app would be really neat. Noticed that the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs have one that looks very cool. Can track the scores throughout IL all the time as well as the team’s games. Not sure if it streams the broadcast, but that would be nice as well.
  • Better coverage by local media. Know that this concern is probably shared by all the Bulls staff, but keep chipping away guys. Maybe someday the N&O will notice there are two professional baseball teams in the area.
  • Given the connection to Capital Broadcasting, why can’t we get more Rays games broadcast in the area? Build the Rays fan base and the Bulls fan base goes up with it. Know that this is an old problem — we’re all supposed to be Baltimore fans according to the media dictators — but fight the good fight.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Looking at 2010 — 5 — Pitchers (cont)

Let's see if we can wrap this up.

Mike Ekstrom (26). RHP. Reliever. 58 Innings (3 2/3 postseason). 39 Games (1 start). 6-1. 6 holds, 1 save. ERA 2.79. On Rays 40-man.

  • Ekstrom started the year in Tampa Bay and came to the Bulls in a swap for Joaquin Benoit in late April. He went back up to the Rays for a couple of weeks in early August, again in early September, came back for one round of playoffs, and went back to the Rays. Not quite sure why he was around all year given the somewhat erratic quality of the Rays bullpen, but nice to have him with the Bulls and he did a good job. Seemed to handle the back and forth better than most we’ve seen around here. He’s young. He’s only got two years of AAA under his belt. If he doesn’t stick with the Rays he might be back next year.
  • Stats.
Winston Abreu (33). RHP. Reliever. 55 1/3 innings (3 1/3 postseason). 40 games. 0-4. 2 holds, 23 saves. ERA 2.28.

  • A great deal of the Bulls’ success over the last two years can be attributed to Winston Abreu. If his number of saves seems a bit low (tied for 3rd in the IL), remember that in the early months of the season there were few save opportunities with the Bulls on a record-setting run scoring pace. Very, very important to the Bulls to know that if they had a lead going into the last inning, Abreu was there. At a guess, it’s up to Abreu whether or not he wants to put in another year with the Bulls. Certainly the team (and this fan) would love to have him back.
  • Stats.
R.J. Swindle (26). LHP. Reliever. 55 innings (5 innings postseason). 40 games. 2-4. 12 holds. 2 saves. ERA 2.79.

  • There was not a pitcher on the crew that was more fun to watch this year than R.J. Swindle. He got a late start on the season, not showing up with the Bulls until May 10. Impressive control right out of the gate. He didn’t walk a single batter until his eighth appearance. R.J. is famous for his slow curve that loops across the plate at much less than 60 mph, while his “fastball” barely approaches 80 mph. No pitcher on the Bulls staff could mix it up as well as he could. One or two inning guy, real asset to the team. Still young. He could be a real help to the Bulls in years to come if Rays want to keep him around.
  • Stats.
Darin Downs (25). LHP. 40 1/3 innings (5 1/3 postseason). 23 games (1 start). 6-2. ERA 4.46.

  • Downs joined the Bulls from the Montgomery Biscuits in late June. His numbers with the Bulls were much less impressive than his 1.67 ERA at AA level. On the other hand, this was his first visit to AAA baseball and he seems fully recovered from his injuries. Pretty sure that he’s going to be on the Rays “Let’s wait and see” list. Maybe Biscuits, probably Bulls next year.
  • Stats.
The next several pitchers were in the 20 inning range, so let’s try to wrap this up with some one-liners.

Bobby Livingston (27). LHP. 27 2/3 innings (5 postseason). 5 games, no decisions. Livingston filled in some gaping holes in the Bulls starting lineup on August, and did a pretty good job for us. He’s been banging around AAA for the last couple of years — Indianapolis, Columbus, Norfolk, Buffalo, and Albuquerque — so have to think there’s a story there we don’t know about. Still, liked what we saw in August and September. Stats.
Heath Rollins (25). RHP. Started the season with the Bulls and appeared in 13 games (23 innings), but did not do well. Was sent down to Montgomery where he also did not do well. Stats.
Jake McGee (23). LHP. Started the season with Montgomery as a starter. Came to the Bulls in August to work as a reliever (17 innings) and did very, very well. Went to Tampa in mid-September. On 40-man. Likely to start 2011 with the Bulls. Stats.
Ramon Ortiz (37). RHP. 17 innings. 4 games. Much like Bobby Livingston, brought in at the end of the season to fill some holes in starting lineup. Less successful than Livingston. First time we’ve ever seen a pitcher tossed from a game for something he apparently said, not something he did (August 30). Did not appear in the postseason. Stats.
Brian Shouse (42). LHP. Reliever. Signed in mid-August to fill some holes and possibly back up the Rays bullpen. 10 games, 12 innings. Was of little help to Bulls. Stats.
Jeff Bennett (30). RHP. Starter. Started the year with Durham. Pitched one game, faced two batters in his second start and went on DL. Had one more start on May 11 and was released. Total of 10 2/3 innings. Stats.
Paul Phillips (26). RHP. Came up from Montgomery and got in 3 appearances (10 2/3 innings) before the end of the season and two in post season (6 1/3 innings). We like Phillips, but he’s running out of time. He could easily come out of spring training on the Bulls roster. Or just as easily disappear. Stats.
Joaquin Benoit (33). RHP. Likely to become a trivia question if he keeps up his terrific performance as a Rays setup man. He did spend a couple of weeks with the Bulls at the beginning of the year, making 8 appearances for 9 2/3 innings, 2 saves and a loss. Swapped out for Mike Ekstrom. Stats.
Jason Cromer (29). LHP. 8 innings. 4 games. A favorite of WDBB, Jason could not get his arm/elbow working right this year. He did show up for four games in late May/early June. He on the books as pitching a couple of games/innings in mid-August down in the Gulf Coast League, so we can hope. But have to say that it doesn’t look well. Jason’s running out of time. Stats.
Justin Garcia (24). RHP. Reliever. 4 2/3 innings. If you been reading this far, this is the punch line. Justin Garcia, as far as we can tell, has never been to Durham, NC. He came up from Montgomery and pitched two games in relief against Indianapolis, then went from there to the Charlotte Stone Crabs. Obvious candidate for the Moonlight Graham Award. Stats.
Alex Cobb (22). RHP. Starter. Alex did not play for the Bulls in the regular season. He did come up for the postseason and took a loss in his first appearance. Nevertheless, he is a very, very promising young pitcher, one of two on this year’s Biscuits squad on the Rays 40-man (Jake McGee being the other one). If we’re lucky, we’ll see a lot of him next year. Stats.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Looking at 2010 — 4 — Pitchers

Twenty-seven ballplayers stepped onto the mound for the Durham Bulls in the regular season. That compares to just 17 so far for the Tampa Bay Rays. We’ll take two of those off the list, since infielders Angel Chavez and Omar Luna were thrown to the wolves in the last inning of two games. Interestingly, they both did just fine. And we'll add one to the list, Alex Torres, who pitched a couple of postseason games.

We’ll look at the rest in order of innings pitched, since with only a couple of exceptions the Bulls seemed to be a bit confused over who was going to be a starter and who was going to be a reliever this year. It will probably take a couple of posts to get through these guys.

Richard De Los Santos (26). RHP. Mostly a starter. 148 1/3 innings (7 innings, postseason), 28 games (23 starts), 14-5, ERA 3.52.

  • De Los Santos started the year as a reliever, making his first appearance in the Bulls’ third game. He started a game on May 1 and eventually set a Durham Bulls record of 14 wins in the regular season. How good is he? Pretty good. In a year where all except one other starter went on the DL, De Los Santos certainly showed durability and a very respectable ERA. Furthermore, as the season went on he was going further into games, although he never got past the 7th inning. We’ll have to see how the Rays treat him next year. My guess is that he will be back with the Bulls and we should be happy to have him.
  • Stats.

Heath Phillips (28). LHP. Starter. 139 1/3 innings. 24 games. 8-7. ERA 4.07.

  • Phillips has been a “wait till next year” kind of guy for quite a while now. We like him. But then there’s the 21 home runs he gave up (the most, by far, of a Durham pitcher). He was in the starting rotation from the beginning of the year and we are somewhat surprised that he put in as many innings as he did. He went on the DL in mid-August and sat out the remainder of the season. He’s been pitching in AAA for 4 years now, so he may have reached his limit. Nevertheless, big left-handers are a treasure, so expect him back next year.
  • Stats.

Jeremy Hellickson (23). RHP. Starter. 117 2/3 innings. 21 games. 12-3. ERA 2.45. On Rays 40-man.

  • A terrific pitcher and a pleasure to watch. Deserves all of the awards he got this year for his minor league performance. Unlike David Price’s tour as a Bull, when he was clearly working to some kind of Rays program and not necessarily focused on game situations, Jeremy made a big difference in the Bulls won-loss record. Very, very impressive young man. More than that, there’s a chance that he will at least start the season with the Bulls next year depending on how their year works out. Called up in August, he had a couple of very successful starts and then went to the bullpen where he is having no success at all, so far.
  • Stats.

Aneury Rodriguez (22). RHP. Mostly a starter. 113 2/3 innings (7 2/3 post-season). 27 games (17 starts). 6-5. ERA 3.80.

  • For Rodriguez I would judge his season as one of him wondering just what the Bulls expected of him. He was pressed into service after starter Jeff Bennett went on the DL in April. He had two brilliant games as a starter, then a couple not-so-brilliant, and then worked as a reliever and starter the rest of the year. Overall, an asset to the Bulls.
  • Stats.

Brian Baker (27). RHP. Long relief, spot starter. 105 innings. 37 games (12 starts). 9-5. ERA 3.86.

  • Even though he seemed to run out of steam at the end of the year, we were very impressed with Mr. Baker. Poised on the mound, smooth delivery, slightly generous with home runs (10), but not too bad. Note the number of innings he pitched relative to the rest of the team. Good job.
  • Stats.

Carlos Hernandez (30). LHP. Starter. 90 2/3 innings. 18 games (17 starts). 6-5. ERA 4.17.

  • I want to like Hernandez, I really do. But for two years we’ve been wondering if he was going to make it to the park for his next start. Something started going wrong in mid-June and even though he pitched in four games in July and one in August, he was really out for the season. Overall, he hasn’t been a very effective pitcher for the Bulls for the last two season. His ERA is up almost a full run from last year as well (3.29 to 4.17).
  • Stats.

Joe Bateman (30). RHP. Reliever. 76 innings (6 2/3 postseason). 54 games. 7-0. ERA 1.66. 7 holds. 4 Saves.

  • Bateman is one of my all-time favorite Bulls pitchers (the other being Winston Abreu) and this year he was even better than last year. More efficient, hit fewer batters (5, down from 9), and seemed to not get himself into as many difficult situations. We have always thought it odd that he has never had a chance with the majors. He still pitches a good game as far as we are concerned and we hope that he makes it back.
  • Stats.

Virgil Vasquez (28). RHP. Starter. 66 1/3 innings. 12 games. 6-2. ERA 4.88.

  • For his fourth AAA season (two with Toledo, one with Indianapolis), Virgil got off to a bad start when he broke both wrists in a traffic accident early in the year. That happened after just three games and he didn’t make it back until June 29. He went back on the DL in mid-August. Seems a likable guy, but his stats are nothing special.
  • Stats.

Dale Thayer (29). RHP. Reliever. 60 innings (7 1/3 postseason). 46 games. 4-1. ERA 3.43. 5 holds. 2 saves. On Rays 40-man.

  • This was not Dale’s best year. He did get to Tampa Bay twice, but only pitched in one game. He did a good job for the Bulls this season, just not as dominant as he has been in the past. He was outrighted to Durham September 1 (i.e., dropped from the 40-man) which means he will be a free agent at some magic day soon. Doubt that he will be back with the Bulls next year.
  • Stats.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Looking at 2010 — 3

This should just about wrap of this year's position players. We'll put off to another post any speculation regarding how many, if any, we think might be coming back.

Alvin Colina (28). 2010 was his fourth year as a AAA catcher. Last year he was with Gwinnett.

  • Played in 51 (201 plate appearances) games with the Bulls before blowing out a knee on July 22nd. 7 HR, 28 RBI, .231/.279/.390, wOBA .274, bRAA -7.3. Postions played: C-37, DH-13.
  • As with Jose Lobaton, we find it hard to evaluate a catcher from the stands. Nevertheless, we find a lot to like about Mr. Colina. He appears to handle pitchers well and he appears to handle younger catchers well. We haven’t had an update on his condition since July, but we would not mind seeing him back with the Bulls next year.
  • Stats

Ryan Shealy (30) played 48 games at first base and as a DH for the Bulls before opting out in June. Decent numbers, wOBA .373, bRAA 6.5. He helped the Bulls get off to a good start. He went to the Pawtucket Red Sox, got in a few games with Boston, went back to Pawtucket, and was released in early August. Stats.

Dioner Navarro (26) showed up in Durham in late June and left the beginning of September. Apparently struggling as the Tampa Bay Rays starting catcher, he came to the Bulls for the opportunity to sort things out. And pretty much did.

  • Played in 43 games (169 plate appearances) during his stay. 2 HR, 21 RBI, .284/.387/.390, wOBA .369, bRAA 4.6. Positions played: C-35, DH-7. We don’t expect to see Dioner back any time soon. Good catcher. Certainly an asset to the Bulls while he was with us. The best numbers of any of the Bulls’ catchers.
  • He is likely to be remembered for his first game as a Bull when he took a 102 mph fastball from the then Louisville Bat (now Cincinnati Red) reliever Aroldis Chapman.
  • Stats

Omar Luna (23) joined the Bulls (from Montgomery) in mid-June and stayed until the end of the year

  • 40 games (149 plate appearances). 1 HR, 9 RBI, .291/.306/.369, wOBA .315, bRAA -2.7. Positions played: SS-26, 2B-12, P-1.
  • Luna played at three levels this year, the Stone Crabs, Biscuits, and Bulls. As much as he was around this year, he didn’t make much of an impression until the end of the season. Then he was terrific. He’s young and looks pretty good on the field. Not much of a bat, however. Would imagine he’s got a good shot to start either in Montgomery or with the Bulls next year.
  • Stats

Rashad Eldridge (28). As in 2009, outfielder Rashad Eldridge spent time with the Bulls and Biscuits.

  • 34 games (124 plate appearances). 1 HR, 3 RBI, 20 runs scored. .215/.309/.308, wOBA .297, bRAA -4.2. Positions played: RF-17, CF-2, LF-17, DH-1.
  • Montgomery’s center fielder has, I think, run out of time. He is a very good outfielder and has decent speed. He seems to be pretty much stuck at the AA level, with an occasional callup.
  • Stats

Leslie Anderson (28) joined the Bulls in August after stints with the Stone Crabs and the Montgomery Biscuits.

  • 30 games (129 plate appearances). 2 HR, 12 RBI, .328/.359/.418, w0BA .338, bRAA 0.2. Positions played: LF-16, 1B-9, RF-1, DH-4.
  • Cuban defector Leslie Anderson was being touted as a candidate for the Rays Carlos Pena’s job when he was signed. We don’t think so. He does bat for average, and, so far, doing pretty well. The question would be, at his age, is he on his way up or down?
  • Stats

Hank Blalock (29) played 26 games, went up to the Rays, and went on his way.

Matt Joyce (25) played 25 games with the Bulls and it now looks like he is finally sticking with the Rays. About time, we’d say.

Rocco Baldelli (28) was in 11 games, Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach (30) visited for 4 games while rehabbing, as did shortstop Jason Bartlett (30) for 1 game. Another outlier was pitcher Bobby Livingston who DH’d twice.

Catcher John Jaso (26) started the year with the Bulls, but went up to the Rays in April and stuck there. Good for him.

That brings us to four interesting guys from whom we are going to have to pick this year’s Moonlight Graham Award.

  • Catcher Nevin Ashley (25) came up from Montgomery for 7 games in the regular season and 5 more in the postseason. There is a lot of potential in this guy even if his hitting was not stellar while with the Bulls. Stats.
  • Catcher Craig Albernaz (27) only had one regular season game, but 4 in the postseason. We have always like Albernaz. Maybe he’ll spend a year with us next season. Stats.
  • Catcher Kyle Holloway (22) in his first professional season had 4 games with the Bulls at the end of the year. Not much of a chance of seeing him again for a year or two. Stats.
  • Outfielder Emeel Salem (25) had three games with the Bulls when they were playing Gwinnett. We speculated at the time that his visit might have had as much to do with proximity to Montgomery as the fitness of the Bulls outfield crew. Stats.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Voting Opportunity

A careful reader has let us know about a local sports blog — Capital Sports Report — that has put up a poll asking for Favorite North Carolina-Based Professional Sports team.

The Charlotte Knights, Asheville Tourists, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Hickory Crawdads, Kinston Indians, Winston-Salem Dash, and the Burlington Royals aren't on the list, but the Durham Bulls are. So, if you're interested, click on the link and let them know that there's lots of Bulls fans around here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Looking at 2010 — 2

Continuing on with our look back on 2010 with summaries of five more of the Durham Bulls position players. In order of number of games played.

Desmond Jennings (23). Came to the Durham Bulls in late 2009 (32 games). Called up to Rays 1 Sep 2010.

  • Played in 109 games (458 plate appearances). 3 HR, 36 RBI, 37 SB (team best), 82 runs scored. .278/.362/.393. wOBA .354. bRAA 6.7. Positions played: CF-90, RF-8, LF-8.
  • Jennings has been a top prospect from the day he joined the Rays system and he really is a good ballplayer. Batting leadoff, he does a decent job of getting on base (although a lower number of Ks would be nice). Obviously not a power hitter, most of his extra bases (25 2B and 6 3B came from speed). He is fast, and he was only caught stealing 4 times in 41 tries. He covers center field very nicely.
  • Seems unlikely that he will return to the Bulls next year, even if he does not make the Rays postseason roster.
  • Stats

Dan Johnson, Joe Dillon, Jose Lobaton
strolling to dugout after a Lobaton home run July 5, 2010

Dan Johnson (30). Played almost all of 2008 as a Bull. Spent the 2009 season in Japan. Called up to the Rays in early August.
  • Played in 98 games (426 plate appearances). 30 HR, 95 RBI, .303/.430/.624, wOBA .421, bRAA 30.3 (!). Positions played: 3B-36, DH-30, LF-22, 1B-14.
  • Dan Johnson was our superstar this year. His home run and RBI pace was extraordinary and he collected a whole bunch of AAA awards even though he didn’t even play the last month of the season. It is a bit puzzling that the Rays did not notice that for the last two years he was mostly a third baseman, not a first baseman. This year he only made one error in 36 games at third. We were also more that a little surprised that he wasn’t traded off during the year, but that could easily just mean that we don’t really understand the business of baseball very well. We are having great fun watching him play for the Rays and have high hopes he will go to the postseason with them.
  • Stats

Joe Dillon (34). With the Bulls at the end of 2009 (35 games) and all of 2010. Numbers slight up from 2009, but below his AAA career (8 seasons) averages.

  • Played in 96 games (400 plate appearances). 9 HR, 57 RBI, .262/.334/.405, wOBA .321, bRAA -5.3. Positions played: 2B-75, 1B-12, 3B-5, DH-3, C-1.
  • I already liked Joe Dillon a lot before his heroic crawl to the plate on May 27th, but after that he was one of my favorite Bulls on the year. He was not quite a regular player after that injury and in the last games of the playoffs it was reported that 2010 would be his last year. If so, here’s to him. I grew to enjoy watching that rolling gait as he trotted onto the field, his steady presence, and his willingness to play any position, to do just about anything to win.
  • Stats

J.J. Furmaniak (30). Started the year on the Durham Bulls disabled list. Went to Montgomery for a while then came to Durham on May 28 when Joe Dillon when on the disabled list. Veteran minor leaguer playing at the AAA level since 2004 (with a year in Japan).

  • Played in 77 games (334 plate appearances). 1 HR, 22 RBI, .264/.366/.352, wOBA .342, bRAA 1.7. Positions played: 2B-42, SS-21, 3B-14, RF-2, DH-1.
  • J.J. is a very good infielder and was a real asset to the team all year. After the early tours of Ryan Shealy and Hank Blalock (which was part of why J.J. started the year in Montgomery), the Bulls had several players they could rotate around all the infield positions, giving Montoyo a lot of flexibility throughout the year. J.J. was also spectacular in the playoffs, playing in every game and accumulating terrific numbers over the nine games — .353/.463/.529 — with a home run, triple, and double. I’m pretty sure he was a non-roster invite to the Rays spring training this year. On his record, seems to me he has a good chance of that happening again in 2011.
  • Stats

Jose Lobaton (25). Jose Lobaton is part of the Rays confusing (to me) catcher situation. In his case, it started when he was claimed from the Padres in 2009. He began the 2010 season in Montgomery, but came up to the Bulls in early April when John Jaso went to the Rays. Jaso stayed with the Rays, Lobaton stayed with the Bulls. He is on the Rays’ 40-man roster.

  • Played in 72 games (271 plate appearances). 7 HR, 33 RBI, .261/.337/.394, wOBA .334, bRAA -0.7. Positions played: C-62, DH-8.
  • In some ways Lobaton is just now getting started as a professional ballplayer, even though he has eight years behind him. This was only is second season in AAA. In general, he looks pretty good from our place in the stands and we haven’t noticed him make any bad decisions on the field. He is more fit than his recored would indicate. In addition, we are unsure of our own ability to evaluate catchers, given the success of John Jaso with the Rays. When Dioner Navarro got sent down by the Rays, that cut into Lobaton’s playing time quite a bit. Assuming he’s back next year, we can expect him to be the Bulls “senior” catcher.
  • At the end of the Bulls’ season, he was subject to some Tampa Bay gamesmanship that limited his ability to help the Bulls in the playoffs.
  • Stats
Note: wOBA and bRAA stats are from StatCorner.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Looking At 2010 — 1

Time to finally getting around to wrapping up the season.

Let's start with the position players, listed in order of number of games played. This is going to take a number of postings to get through, but the look back is fun.

Justin Ruggiano (28). With Bulls since 2007 (4 seasons). Numbers up from 2009. Strikeouts down. On Rays 40-man roster.

  • Tied for most games (117), led in plate appearances (507). 15 HR, 70 RBI. 24 SB, BA/OBP/SLG: .287/.357/.453. wOBA .344. bRAA 3.4. Brief visit with Rays. Don’t think he had an AB while there. Post-season: 9 games, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB. Positions played, regular season: RF-63, CF-29, LF-26, DH-3, 3B-1 (2 errors on year).
  • Justin has been on the Rays’ 40-man for a couple of years and has yet to be given an honest shot at playing for the Rays. At a guess, assuming the Rays let him go, he will be looking for employment elsewhere. Defensively, he is among the best we saw this year on any team and he is very fast on the bases. 70 RBI are nothing to sneeze at. He’s got the tools to be attractive somewhere else. But maybe he likes the Rays system.
  • Stats

Chris Richard (36), also with the Bulls since 2007. Numbers in every category up from 2009.

  • Played 117 games in the regular season and accumulated some striking numbers. 20 HR, 79 RBI, 39 2B, .300/.390/.535, wOBA .395, bRAA 24.6 (!). Positions played: 1B-82, DH-25, LF-10, RF-1.
  • Chris is under-rated as a first baseman. He only had 4 errors on the year (down from 7 in 2009) with a fielding percentage of .995. I don’t know how to chase it down, but I suspect he has to be among the best, if not the best, first baseman in the International League. His only competition might be 20 year old Freddie Freeman with the Gwinnett Braves who had a fielding percentage of .994 in 111 games at first, but he’s 16 years younger than Chris!
  • What is Chris going to do? He seems to like it here in the Triangle. He sure is physically fit enough to play baseball with the youngsters. On the other hand, you’d think the local universities would be anxious to have him on their staff, or maybe a place somewhere in the Rays coaching system. Guess in this era you don’t have player/coaches. My hope is that he and the Rays can come to an agreement for another year.
  • Stats

Fernando Perez (27), with the Bulls almost all of 2008 (129 games), did not play most of 2009, numbers down in every category from 2008. On the Rays 40-man roster.

  • Played 116 games with 426 plate appearances. 4 HR, 32 RBI, 24 SB, .223/.280/.299, wOBA .269, bRAA -24.2. Positions played: RF-43, CF-33, LF-42.
  • By any measure, Fernando had an awful year. You have to think that he and the Rays will be coming to a new understanding over the winter. For those of us who enjoyed, actually thrilled, at watching him play in 2008 he is not the same player. A lot has changed, of course. He was working on his switch-hitting in 2008, but that has gone by the board. We can’t tell from the stands if his injuries of 2009 are still bothering him. What we can see is that his swing has been off all year and the sheer exuberance he seemed to show is not obvious to us in the stands. I’d guess that there’s a less than 50-50 chance that he’ll be back next year. But I sure would like to see the Fernando Perez of 2008 in a Bulls uniform again.
  • Stats

Angel Chavez (28), 2010 his first year with the Bulls. Numbers up in most categories.

  • Played in 113 games. 9 HR, 55 RBI (6th best on the team), .275/.329/.387, wOBA .317, bRAA -7.4. Positions played: 3B-73, SS-39, 2B-4, 1B-1, DH-1, P-1 (ERA-0.00!)
  • To oversimplify a bit, Angel started the year at shortstop and moved to third base after Hank Blalock moved on. He shared time at both positions with Elliot Johnson (SS), Dan Johnson (3B), and J.J. Furmaniak (SS). Chavez is a very good baseball player and he made major contributions to the team. About the only blemish on his record this year was his unfortunate tendency to hit into double plays. But that has to be something of a statistical anomaly or possibly a function of his place in the batting order. He doesn't seem to have great range and yet if the ball is near him he makes the play. An oddity was that he often didn’t seem to be playing all that hard and yet somehow the ball always got to the first baseman ahead of the runner. He doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s prospect list, which means that, if the Rays don’t have some hot shot infielder coming through the system, he might be back next year. If only for his fielding skills, we hope the Rays take a close look at Angel.
  • Stats

Elliot Johnson (26), with the Bulls since 2007 and on the Rays 40-man roster much of that time. Passed through waivers and signed minor league contract this year. By any measure, 2010 was his best season as a professional baseball player.

  • Played in 109 games with 481 plate appearances. 11 HR, 56 RBI (5th best), 30 SB (2nd best), .319/.375/.475, wOBA .373, bRAA 14.8. Positions played: SS-64, 2B-16, LF-21, RFK-14.
  • Back in 2008 we were unimpressed with Elliot’s play. In 2009 it seemed as if he spent a lot of time injured. But he sure blossomed this year. He won all sorts of awards, and deserved them. As a shortstop he seems to depend on his glove and his arm, and they serve him well. What was important to the Bulls this year was to have such a solid, dependable, and well above average player available to play so many positions. He hit with some power, got on base, and moved around the bases. His 72 runs scored was 3rd best on the team. My guess is that this was his last year as a Bull, and I regret that. Elliot’s off to play winter ball in Mexico and, I’d bet, to eventually sign a contract with an invitation to spring training with a very solid shot of playing in the majors next year. The oddity is that he’s a better ballplayer that some currently with the Rays (Jason Bartlett and Willy Aybar come to mind), but he’s not going to get a chance to prove it. We’ll try to keep an eye on him this winter.
  • Stats

Saturday, September 18, 2010

It Wuz the Hats

Durham Bulls 2, Columbus Clippers 13
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week,Columbus Dispatch,

I think we'll leave the serious analysis to the folks at the links. We were there. It wasn't exactly fun, but a bad day at the DBAP — no mistake about it, it was a bad day — is still a good day. And there won't be any more this year.

Should we have been annoyed at the announcement that blared out just before the teams took the field?

  • Durham Bull Dan Johnson named Tampa Bay Rays Minor League Player of the Year.
  • Durham Bull Jeremy Hellickson named Tampa Bay Rays Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
  • Durham Bull Desmond Jennings named Tampa Bay Rays Minor League Defensive Player of the Year
  • Durham Bull Elliot Johnson named Tampa Bay Rays Triple A Player of the year.

What's that? Only three one of those guys was actually playing for the Durham Bulls last night. Really?

OK, we know the whole point of AAA is to send guys to the majors, but sometimes, especially when you're in the process of getting your head handed to you, it hurts.

So, why did it happen? It wuz the hats.

I mean, have you ever seen an uglier hat? Can you imagine having to go out and play in front of discerning fans such as we have at the DBAP wearing that critter on your head?

I rest my case.

In the meantime, WDBB is working on a year-end summary, preparing for the Moonlight Graham Awards ceremony, and getting ready for another trip to the mountains tomorrow.

One area needs your help. I'm pretty sure the Bulls front office reads our posts, so if you've got some DBAP gripes and praise, let me know and I'll pass them on.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bulls Win Game 3; Stay in the Hunt

Durham Bulls 3; Columbus Clippers 2
Wrap, Box

If the idea was to break the hearts of the Columbus Clippers, then the Bulls gave it their best shot. Clippers’ pitcher Yohan Pino was was brilliant. With the exception of the 5th inning, Bulls hitters were being set down on three or four pitches. In eight full innings he faced only 28 batters and threw only 81 pitches.

And in almost every inning Columbus was threatening. They got runners to third base in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd innings, but could not push across a run against Alex Cobb.

Nevertheless, even though Bulls hitters were swinging at everything, it wasn’t until the 5th that they were able to score. Angel Chavez got a double. Rashad Eldridge singled Chavez home (and got to third base on a fielding error) and Eldridge came home on a sacrifice fly by Fernando Perez. That put the Bulls up 2-0. R.J. Swindle baffled the Clippers in the 5th and 6th, all except Wes Hodges who smacked a homer over the bull. But Joe Bateman struck out the side in the 7th and all seemed well.

Perhaps just to extend the agony, Joe let a run sneak in in the 8th for his first blown save of the year. The game was tied 2-2, setting the stage for Winston Abreu to get his first win of the year. Winston struck out the side in the top of the 9th.

Bring on bottom-of-the-9th heroics. Josh Judy came in for the Clippers. Elliot Johnson worked a walk. Justin Ruggiano hit a single to right that was deep enough for Johnson to get to third. That led to an intentional walk of Chris Richard, loading the bases with none out. Infield and outfield were drawn in, but Leslie Anderson’s fly out to center was just far enough to let Elliot get home.

The Bulls live to see another day.

Odds and ends:

When Xavier Hernandez strolled out to the mound in the 6th inning just to stall a bit while Joe Bateman warmed up I had this thought. "This could be the last time he does that." But with the win, X will get another chance to make that stroll at the DBAP.

Sure seems like Columbus thoroughly scouted the middle of the Bulls lineup. Elliot Johnson, Justin Ruggiano, Chris Richard, and Joe Dillon are not doing well. Maybe the fun they had in 9th will be a turn around moment.

Paul Phillips, who got a win for the Bulls in Game 4 of the Bats-Bulls series is reported to be starting tomorrow.

We were surprised to see that Stacy Long, a writer for the Montgomery Advertiser, and who does a terrific job covering the Biscuits, was in town. His blog has several notes from the game and some post-game clubhouse commentary.

Bulls Lose Game Two; Headed Home

Durham Bulls 0; Columbus Clippers 4
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun,

... momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitching.

Charlie Montoyo in the Herald-Sun

Sounds good to me, Charlie, 'cause things are beginning to look a bit worrisome.

As a crew, Bulls pitchers usually don't give up many home runs, but they've given up 7 in the last two days. Down in Montgomery, Alex Cobb (tonight's starting pitcher) only gave up 7 in 119 innings. So perhaps that aspect of the game might be under control.

And then there's the fact that only once in this entire season have the Bulls lost three games in a row to the same team (Toledo, May 15-18).

So all isn't lost. But worried? You bet. The Bulls need to win three in a row. The Bulls have done that 8 times this season, most recently against Norfolk August 22-24 (actually that was the last three of a six in a row run, but who's counting?).

We'll be there tonight. This could be the last game of the season for Bulls fans and no matter what happens it has been a lot of fun. Great baseball. Great fans.

Speaking of great baseball, Dan Johnson finally showed the Tampa Bay folks what he could do last night when he hit two two-run homers to score all the runs in a 4-3 win over the Yankees.

And lastly, in an absolutely unrelated to baseball bit of trivia: If you have been wondering 1) Who the heck Miranda Lambert is and/or 2) what those songs playing in every game delay on the video board were actually about, then these two links will more or less explain.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bulls Lose Game 1 of G'cup Finals

Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, News & Observer,Columbus Dispatch,

How bad was it? Here's a clue — Omar Luna pitched the 9th 8th inning.

How bad was it? Another clue — Four out of five Bulls pitchers gave up home runs.

How bad was it? Final clue — For the first time this season, the Raleigh News & Observer put a Bulls game on the front page.

I'm not enough of a sadist to give any masochists out there any more pleasure. Instead, I think we will mention the three double plays, Justin Ruggiano's grand slam, and our wonderment at umpire Chris Conroy throwing Richard De Los Santos out of the game. Deliberate? Really? What game were you watching?

Meanwhile, down in St. Pete the always mysterious manager of the Rays, Joe Maddon, gave Jake McGee his introduction the the major leagues in the 5th inning with runners on first and second and two outs. Not a good start. McGee walked the bases full and walked a runner across before striking out Derek Jeter. He walked the first batter he faced in the 6th and was taken out.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Governors' Cup Finals

The Bulls pulled in to Columbus some time yesterday. Less a starting pitcher, but possibly with Mike Ekstrom on the way to take Jake McGee's place.

I posted early yesterday, so in case you missed them, here are a couple of end-of-first-round stories.

Taking a look at the Clippers:

The Bulls had a tough four-game set back in July. Stories are here, here, and here. We remarked then that the Clippers were a very young team. A somber note from that matchup, the last game of that series was the game Alvin Colina tore his knee up. We haven't seen Mr. Colina since.

Because of all the turmoil, post-season stats are hard to make sense of, but what the heck? Here are a few tables to look at:

Over at Rays Prospects Jim Donton has put together an interesting table that looks at the seasonal stats for the two teams.

Steve Wiseman at the Herald-Sun has some getting on the bus quotes as the Bulls left for Columbus.

Up in Columbus, Jim Massie of the Columbus Dispatch takes a look at the upcoming series. He notes the considerable turmoil in the Clippers' ranks.

Closer to home, Adam Sobsey at Indy Week takes an in depth look at the lineups and makes the case that starting pitching and veteran at bats will make the difference.

The International League has a six-page preview that can be downloaded from its site. I'm guessing it will also be available from the Bulls site in a few minutes as well. Nice piece of work.

Not to be outdone, here at WDBB we have done some number-crunching on just the playoff games.

This table shows just team wOBA for the Bulls and Clippers, and the team wOBA of their opponents for the Bulls 5-game series with the Bats and the Clippers 4-game series with the Yankees. Unfortunately, about all these numbers tell you is that the teams match up pretty well. I like the fact that the Bulls difference in the wOBA is larger and I like the fact that the Bulls FIP is smaller. Here's hoping those differences translate into runs across the plate.

One last point. The game starts at 6:35. Air time is 6:20 and the game is on FM 99.9 The Fan, not the usual AM 620 (But I could be wrong on that. If you don't find it on one, try the other).

Monday, September 13, 2010

McGee to Tampa Bay?

Marc Tompkin of the St. Petersburg Times is reporting this morning that Jake McGee might be called up today. Unfortunately, I have to admit that the call-up makes sense. The Rays are starting an important series against the Yankees tonight in that bandbox between the beach and the bay.

Could be a tough introduction for Mr. McGee, but from what we've seen here he's up to it. Fits with Indy Week's Adam Sobsey's speculation noted yesterday.

Is that why McGee sat back down last night? Sure thought I saw him get up just after Abreu went in. If we hear more, we'll just update this post.


For more commentary on why the Rays might want to bring McGee up, see Jason Collette at Dock of the Rays. Or Steve Slowinski at DRaysBay.

Neither mention that the Bulls are playing for the Governors' Cup!!! (sigh...)