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.