Friday, May 28, 2010

Dillon, Furmaniak

Working on the assumption that most of the readers of WDBB are not obsessive checkers of the Bulls transaction page, I thought I'd put this up.

Joe Dillon has been placed on the disabled list. No guesses on how long.

J.J. Furmaniak has been called up from Montgomery. Furmaniak started the season on the dl, although he had a decent spring. Furmaniak has been around a while (stats), last season with Lehigh Valley. I think he is probably a decent second baseman, although I have to say that I prefer Elliot Johnson in that slot.

The Good, The Bad, The Odd

Game 47: Durham Bulls 3, Rochester Redwings 4
Season: 26-21
Wrap, Box, Indy Week

For a more linear view of the game, see Adam Sobsey in the Indy Week link. For me, I’m still trying to get over my disappointment in Jason Cromer’s first appearance. But, surely no more disappointed that Jason himself.

Good:
  • Aneury Rodriguez. Although hitters were giving his pitches a lot of hard rides, they landed in the fielders’ gloves. A solid 5 ⅔ although he left a couple of runners on for Cromer.
  • Joe Dillon. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player crawl his way to home, but Joe did. After stealing second base in the 6th, Joe was dashing around third on an Angel Chavez single. Something went seriously wrong and he collapsed several feet from the plate. Sobsey reports that it was a hamstring and that Dillon will be out for a while. The only good is that he scored the run. Otherwise, everything else about the incident is not good.

Bad:
  • Jason Cromer. Can’t sugar coat it. He came on in the 5th and got his batter out. In the sixth he loaded the bases with walks and left with one out.
  • Angel Chavez’ error. Chavez was playing second base after the odd shuffle that resulted from Joe Dillon’s injury. Dan Johnson, who started the game as the designated hitter, move to third base and Chavez moved to take Dillon’s place at second. Although second isn’t his usual spot, he’s been there a couple of times this year. With the bases loaded he let a ball get by that resulted in two runs scoring.
  • Joe Dillon’s absence. Joe has made a difference this year, and last. He’s gonna be missed. We have no idea when we will hear what about his injury.
  • Fifteen strikeouts against the team with the worst ERA in the International League

Odd:
  • Because the designated hitter, Dan Johnson, moved to third on Joe Dillon’s injury, the pitcher was eligible to come to bat. I’d like to think that if the game had not been at risk Charlie Montoyo would have allowed it just for the oddity of it all. In practice, Chris Richard came to bat as a pinch hitter in the 8th (he struck out).
  • Catcher, baserunner, umpire and several others standing around home plate until Colina apparently hears the folks screaming at him and tags out the Redwing baserunner, who had apparently not touched home plate.


This is likely the last blog entry for a few days. We are off for a visit to one of the country’s most interesting institutions — the John C. Campbell Folk School. We think a lot of the place and have written about it previously. Although I will be able to track the Bulls and could probably make entries from time to time, seems like the whole point of going there is to get away from technology for a while.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cromer; Rollins

It's official, per an email from Bulls' front office.

Heath Rollins has been assigned to Montgomery.

Jason Cromer is officially off the disabled list.

For those who were not with us for 2009, Jason was one of our stalwarts. A left-handed starting pitcher, Jason had 19 starts and put together a 7-3 record with a 2.25 ERA. He's been knocking around the minors for a good while, stats, but it seemed like he usually came through when needed last year. We here at WDBB were particularly taken with him and have been looking forward to his return. No word on when he will get his first start. My guess, and it is a guess, is in the next day or so.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bulls Win Series; Cromer Returning?

Game 46: Bulls 8, Red Sox 5
Season: 26-20
Home Stand: 3-1
Streak: W2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

The links have most of the story, the ‘wrap’ is, I think, particularly good today.

Wasn’t that a nice night at the park? Even though we kept glancing at the horizon expecting black clouds to come boiling up, they didn’t.

Wool E. Bull seems to be back to his old self. Not noticing any limps.

We left at the 7th inning, with the Bulls up 6-2, but were able to keep up on the radio. Scary moments in the 9th.

Heath Phillips had what could have been his best start of the year. Nevertheless, he gave up another homer and a lot of long outs. Worrisome.

We were listening when Thayer had his awful experience. So very uncharacteristic of him, walking four batters. Thanks to Mike Ekstrom for shutting things down as effectively as he did.

So, on to the news. Jim Sumner in the Durham Herald-Sun, in what is the first baseball-related “scoop” for that paper in memory, is reporting that Heath Rollins is being sent to Montgomery to make room for Jason Kromer [sic]. We will assume they mean Jason Cromer. Since Jason is my all-time favorite Bulls pitcher (along with Winston Abreu, of course), sure am happy to hear that he’s coming off the disabled list and I’m full of hope that he has recovered from whatever was wrong. The question will remain, who goes into the pen, Rodriguez or De Los Santos? I’ve got a 50-50 chance of getting that one right so I’ll go with Rodriguez to the pen. Unless, of course, Sumner got it wrong and it’s Heath Phillips who’s going to Montgomery.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Starting Pitcher, 25 May

Since we last looked at Heath Phillips’ chart he has had a win against Columbus and a loss to Toledo on the 20th. Other than his unfortunate tendency to give up the long ball (10 so far this year), he seems to have leveled out. What would be nice for tonight is for him to start working those curves downward.

Question for readers: Are these charts of any particular value to look at prior to a game?

Rays Index Trade Value Index

Cork Gaines over at RaysIndex has just published his 2010 Tampa Bay Rays Trade Value Index. It amounts to a very interesting methodology for rank ordering players in the Rays system, primarily players on the 40-man roster, but he plugs in a few deeper prospects as well.

Seven current Bulls are on the list: Jeremy Hellickson (2), Desmond Jennings (9), Jose Lobaton (24), Mike Ekstrom (29), Fernando Perez (33), Justin Ruggiano (34), and Dale Thayer (36).

I don’t consider myself enough of a Rays fan to ponder the deeper implications of this list, except perhaps to notice that a couple of very high quality ball players we Bulls fans know well are not on the list — that is, most of the seventeen other players on the Bulls roster.

More evidence, if readers needed any, that I don’t have much of a grip on the business of baseball.

Remember This

Game 45: Durham Bulls 1, Pawtucket Red Sox 0
Season: 25-20
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

Next year for sure, and maybe even later on this year, we brave few (3,404 paid, but you know what that means) are gonna be able to tell our seat mates that we were there when Hellickson threw his one-hitter against the Pawtucket Red Sox. I am continually amazed at the way this fragile-looking young man just seems to get better and better. We could (and did) second guess the walk called in the 7th — they really were in there ump, both the 2-2 pitch and the 3-2 pitch, but the single was clean enough.

For the first time this year, I think, Winston Abreu went back-to-back days. He’s gone back-to-back innings, with notable lack of success. Three up, three down in the 9th. But not without an exceptional array of mound-pacing, eyeglass-wiping, cleat-cleaning distractions. He is something to watch out there. Must drive the batters nuts.

In a quiet, pretty game like this one my focus sometimes drifted to what I hope are transient concerns. Justin Ruggiano made a very nice play in left field in the 8th, but he struck out all three times he came to bat. Fernando Perez got two hits in the Bulls blowout of the PawSox on Sunday, but they (plus one in Columbus on the 17th) are the only hits in his last 31 at-bats. Neither player looks comfortable at the plate.

In the realm of trivia, we note that the Bulls have played in three 1-0 games this year, winning one and losing two (PawSox and Redwings). The Bulls have had 10 one-run games winning four and losing six. So it seems that close games are not our thing this year. Blowouts, which we will arbitrarily set as games won by more than four runs (one grand slam), are another matter. The Bulls have been in 18 of those, winning 13. That just tells us what we already knew. The 2010 Bulls are a big inning team.

Regarding last night’s game, let me commend Bryan Strickland’s piece in the Herald-Sun and Mike Potter’s in Indy Week. Both get good quotes from Montoyo, Hellickson, and others (Warren Harding, Mike?).

On another matter, I had to DVR the last episode of “24” last night. That means that I don’t yet know if my man Jack Bauer has, yet again, saved us from the evil-doers of the world. Gonna have to find some time to take a look.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Splish, Splash

Game 43: Durham Bulls 18, Pawtucket Red Sox 1
Wrap, Box

Game 44: Durham Bulls 0, Pawtucket Red Sox 1
Season: 24-20
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

The park was nearly empty at four o’clock Sunday afternoon. We were guessing that maybe the word had not gotten out about the plan to finish up Saturday’s game first, then play a seven-inning second game. The Red Sox took the field and we settled into our seats. Bulls were ahead 5 to 0 from the previous day. Desmond Jennings on second, Elliot Johnson on first, Justin Ruggiano at bat. On the first pitch of the restarted game Red Sox pitcher T.W. Large plonks Justin and we are off. Dan Johnson comes to bat and hits a single and gets his second RBI of the game (he got one the day before on a sacrifice fly). By the end of that inning (the second) the Bulls are ahead 10-0. The next time Justin comes to bat (the next inning as it happens) Jennings and Elliot Johnson are on base again, this time Jennings on third and Elliot on second. T.W. [T. J.] Large hits Justin again. Dan Johnson comes to bat again. This time he hits a grand slam, picking up four more RBI. At the end of that inning the Bulls are ahead 14-0. In the 5th inning Ruggiano comes to bat with nobody on base, does not get hit by a pitch, does hit a double and is on second with Dan Johnson comes to bat. Dan hits another home run collecting two more RBI. Pretty good day(s) for Dan and for the team after losing five in a row. By now the park is pretty full.

From a pitching point of view this game (and the next) looks really odd. Aneury Rodriguez got the start, but only went two innings because of the rain and Richard De Los Santos picked it up on Sunday and went five innings for the win. Winston Abreu, who had not pitched since May 18th got an inning in as did Heath Rollins, who had also not pitched since May 18th.

Can’t wrap up this game without mentioning the spectacular catch against the wall by center fielder Desmond Jennings to end the 7th inning. Only fair that it was a deep fly ball of Red Sox center fielder Josh Reddick, who made a couple of nice catches himself during the day.

The second game was to be a nice, short seven inning affair started off by Carlos Hernandez who was, as noted earlier, due for a good day. It was Negro League Day and both teams were in replica uniforms. Off in the distance black clouds kept boiling up until they boiled over in the second for the Bulls third rain problem in three days. On Friday in Toledo the game was cancelled. On Saturday the game was postponed until Sunday. And on Sunday the game was delayed by an hour and a half.

When the Bulls got back on the field, I was at home watching on Channel 251. Usually I like a low-scoring game, but this really didn’t have the feel of a pitcher’s duel. Could be all the fidgeting the pitchers were doing in their ill-fitting uniforms. Pitcher’s discomfort seemed to reach a peak in the sixth [fifth] when the Red Sox Cabrera [Paranto] got face to face with home plate umpire Fran Burke. But somehow Pawtucket manager Lovullo got tossed instead of Carbrera [Paranto] (TV did not pan to argument).

Jeremy Hellickson is on for tonight. The weather forecast, unfortunately, looks almost exactly the way it has for the last two nights. Here’s hoping that we can get in a full game for a change.

Update: A sharp-eyed reader has noted several errors in today's post. Corrections are in italics. It was Paranto that got into it with the ump, and it was in the fifth not the sixth. And it's TJ Large, not TW Large. I guess that there's a reason why Terry W. Large wants to be listed at T.J., probably something along the lines on why B.J. Upton is called B.J. At any rate, messed that up a bit. Can't even plead that the rain screwed up my score sheet, since I was home by the time of the dustup with umpire.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Starting Pitcher(s), 23 May

Although it is not absolutely certain that Richard De Los Santos will be picking up the game that was stalled last night, it seems likely. So here’s his chart. He had been getting his ERA under control until his last game. With any luck he will continue on. Too bad that Aneury Rodriguez didn’t get but two innings last night. He was looking OK.

Grumbling in the sky outside. Hope that we are not in for a repeat.

Carlos Hernandez’ last six starts have been 7 innings, 4 innings, 7 innings, 4 innings, 7 innings, 4 2/3 innings. So we are due for a 7 inning start. Since it’s a 7 inning game, we could be in luck.

Webworld
  • RaysProspects took a look at the Bulls week. Not pretty.
  • DRaysBay has updated their “watch list”. A couple of Bulls on it.
  • We knew baseball players were famously superstitious. We didn’t know it extended into the stands.
  • Jason Hanselman over at RaysIndex takes a very close look at former Bull Ben Zobrist.

Twenty Hour Rain Delay

Tarp Pull, Durham Bull Athletic Park, 22 May

I clipped the image above just before leaving for last night’s game. My plan was to use it to show the world what a clever guy I am. What you see is the Bulls crew starting to take the tarp up at about 6:20 last night. I got to the game just as an Aneury Rodriguez pitch to Pawtucket’s Josh Reddick got whacked foul beyond the stands on the left field side of things.

Rodriguez got a one-two-three inning and then the Bulls we know and love this year came to bat. Four hits, three stolen bases, and four runs later things were looking good. We even had a spectacular sound and light show going on to the north of us, with lightning bolts reaching out of the sky towards the SunTrust building.

Rodriguez let a runner on with a walk in the 2nd, but otherwise wasn’t having a problem (worrisome long fly balls, though). Perez led off our half with a single, stole second, went to third on Jenning’s single, and scored on Elliot Johnson’s single (his second hit of the night). Have I mentioned that Pawtucket’s Boof Bonser seemed to think he was pitching batting practice?

Nobody out, one run in, runners on first and second, coach (manager?) coming out to the mound, couple of lightning strikes nearby, ump waves his mask at everyone. Game delayed. Bulls are ahead 5-0.

Double-agent and reporter Mike Potter reported the beginning of the game for the Providence Journal and for Indy Week. What kind of gig is that? But he does pick up a couple of good quotes from both managers.

So today, if the rain goes away, we can settle in for maybe five hours of baseball! Yahoo!

The suspended game starts at 4 o’clock and goes normal 9 innings. Next game starts 30 minutes (or so) after and goes for seven innings. Should be home by midnight.

Looks like Richard De Los Santos will start the suspended game and Carlos Hernandez will start the second game.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Starting Pitcher, 22 May

Aneury Rodriguez has been erratic. His first two games were terrific, but he’s been variable since. He lost his last start, but so did every other pitcher on the Durham roster. The Bulls' team FIP is 3.99 and the team ERA is 3.72, so Aneury is one of the guys pulling the numbers up. Let’s hope for a good day.

Our opponents are the Pawtucket Red Sox. They come in at 19-23 with a team wOBA of .328. Our team wOBA is .362. Their team ERA is 4.58. Boof Bonser (no kidding, that’s his name), ERA 7.64, is scheduled to start for the PawSox, who have lost the last three in a row.

So, we’ve got a statistical edge and we are, after all, the friendly home town crowd.

Updated Charts

Since the Bulls are back, time to look at how they are doing. On the season, the Bulls are 23-19, four games above .500. Although the Bulls have had a bad stretch, as you can see, our opponents in the South Division have been waiting for us. Five teams in the International League have better records than the Bulls now, they just aren’t in the South.


Run production and run differential is way down over the last several games, enough to start pushing the trend in an ugly direction. Some of that might be that we had a terrific run and now are seeing some falling off. This next home series against Pawtucket and Rochester should give us some clues about the future.

This shows the cumulative Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) of the Bulls in green and the cumulative wOBA of their opponents in red for the last 20 games. As expected, as the season goes along, these curves start to flatten out (the Bulls have had some 1644 plate appearances so far this year). If this chart is to be useful, the trick will be to tease out trends and point out what changes, if any, seem to be occurring. This chart sure seems to show that the problem over the last several games has not been our defense/pitching (the red line), but rather our offense. That is, we aren’t getting many extra base hits. Another way of saying that is that the problem has been more our lack of run production, not keeping our opponents from scoring.


Lastly, just for grins, here are the wOBA plots for the last 20 games for the Rays. What jumps out is the difference in the Opponents wOBA numbers. That is, the Rays pitching and defense is really good. The hitting? Could be better.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Good-bye Toledo

Fifth Third Field, Toledo, Ohio

Rained out! Details.

We will not be seeing the Mud Hens or Toledo again this season, except maybe in the playoffs. Come on home, Bulls. Let's get this sorted out Saturday night against Pawtucket.

Durham Bulls Left Bats Behind?

Game 42: Bulls 0, Mud Hens 4
Season: 23-19
Trip: 2-5
Streak: L5
Wrap, Box, Toledo Blade

The key bit of information we need this morning is whether or not the Bulls paid the overnight shipping fees needed to get their bats shipped to them from Durham. Obviously they left them behind (did Blalock take them with him to St Petersburg?).

How bad has it been? How about two shutouts in five days? How about only 6 runs (three of those in the 9th inning) in five days? How about 0 home runs in five days. Zero. None. Nado. Zip. The Bulls hit 51 homers in 46 games, then none for five days.

This cries out for something like the shower room scene in Bull Durham except that 1) these guys are real pros, so not likely to do much good and 2) they’ve all seen the movie — a bunch of times.

Here’s an “insight” for you. Back before the season began we were salivating over the prospect of an outfield of Justin Ruggiano, Desmond Jennings, and Fernando Perez. Be careful what you wish for. Guess who has been in the outfield for the Durham Bulls for the last five games? As near as I can figure, May 16 was the first time that we got all three out there this season — and for the next five games they've been out there. Could this all be my fault? I got my wish and the gods of baseball looked down and said, we’ll show you.

Is there something positive to come out of this? Well, maybe. The bullpen has been getting a break. The last five games have only gone 8 innings for us, so our relievers have caught up on their tweets, etc.

Heath Phillips had, mostly, a good night. So two decent games in a row. Can't help pointing out, however, that he leads the Bulls in giving up home runs, 10, by a bunch. The next worst is a tie at 4 between Aneury Rodriguez and Carlos Hernandez.

I don’t think I’m going to trust the Wall Street Journal for my baseball insights any more. They told me that this guy Scherzer was in trouble this year. He sure picked a heck of at time to figure it out what was wrong (see the Toledo Blade link).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One of These Mornings ...

Game 40: Durham Bulls 3, Toledo Mud Hens 5
Wrap, Box

Game 41: Durham Bulls 2, Toledo Mud Hens 5
Season: 23-18
Trip: 2-4
Streak: L4
Wrap, Box

Grumble, grumble, grumble.

I wasn’t going to post today. I’ve been in a funk ever since I got back home yesterday about two o’clock and discovered that the Bulls had already lost. According to the Toledo Blade, the Mud Hens won because they are better at gettin’ up in the mawnin. Yeah, right.

Grumble, grumble.

Hellickson struggled. Charlie got thrown out of the game.

I wonder how that works. Is there a hierarchy among the coaches? Based on what? Tenure? In that case X. Hernandez takes charge. Age? Dave Myers by a bunch of years. Coin toss?

Four in a row. Could the oddity of having four umpires have anything to do with it?

Breath deep. Game time in a couple of hours. Go Bulls!


Webworld:
  • J.P. Howell, a former Bull in 2006-2007 (as a starter) and an important figure in the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen, is out for the year. Doesn’t look like we will see a short term effect in Durham, but it does reduce the Rays flexibility a bit. Some of the speculation is over at DRaysBay.
  • Lucky the Wonder Dog is retiring. Ceremony to be held this Saturday. Lucky Jr is apparently in line to take over.
  • Neil Solondz has had a couple of interesting interviews recently, including Dan Johnson after a 4-hit game in Columbus and Justin Ruggiano about getting back from his bicep injury.
  • Baseball Geek Alert! Interested in the upcoming draft? Really interested in the upcoming draft. Really, really interested in the upcoming draft? Then this is for you.
  • I’ve often wondered just how much difference velocity makes. Michael Salfino in the Wall Street Journal has some numbers that seem to show that absolute velocity might not matter too much, but velocity change might. That is, Matt Garza and James Shields are throwing harder this year and their ERA is down; others are throwing softer and their ERAs are up. One of his examples is the pitcher we are facing tonight — Max Scherzer.
  • Lastly, some traveling tips from the Baseball Wives. Here’s a question for my readers. Is there another profession left where a spouse is by definition a wife?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Let’s Just Move On Down the Road


Game 39: Bulls 1, Clippers 5
Season: 23-16
Trip: 2-2
Streak: L2
Wrap, Box, Columbus Dispatch

What can we say? This is what the field looked like yesterday evening. If the game had been a home game, it would not have been a game. Things were a bit stormy down here while the Bulls were in Columbus.

Not much to say about the game except that we finally scored a run, that Carlos Santana really likes Bulls pitching, and that once again we outhit our opponent and lost. But that’s baseball.

Instead, let’s go with quirky:

Last night down in the jukebox by the bay in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Rays were playing the Cleveland Indians, the Clippers parent club. The new guy on the Rays team, Hank Blalock (remember Hank) hit a grounder to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera managed to break his arm on the play. Shortly thereafter, up in Columbus, Clipper second baseman Jason Donald is told that he’s been called up. Not sure what it all means. Odd sort of vibe to the events.

Clipper pitcher Mike Gosling took the occasion of pitching six shutout innings to announce his retirement from baseball. Pretty decent eight year career, mostly in AAA (stats).

Bulls are off to Toledo, which may or may not be recovering from a made-for-TV visit by Crystal Bowersox. Who’s Crystal Bowersox you may ask? All I can say is that if you don’t know, you may be better off for it.

Now about that Mud Hens mascot guys ...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Streak Ends

Game 38: Durham Bulls 0, Columbus Clippers 5
Season: 23-14
Wrap, Box, Columbus Dispatch

I can’t improve on the info in the wrap at the link above, that pretty much says it all. Dan Johnson, playing third base, had a great night at bat. The Bulls hit into five (5!) double plays and end up with the oddity of outhitting the Clippers 10-7 yet losing 0-5.

One bright(ish) light was that Heath Rollins had a decent relief appearance. That’s two in a row.

Yet another oddity was that our pitchers didn’t record a single strikeout.

Columbus and Durham are now tied with the best records in the International League.

Today’s game is at 6:35.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Clipping Clippers

Game 36: Durham Bulls 8, Columbus Clippers 1
Wrap, Box, Columbus Dispatch

Game 37: Durham Bulls 7, Columbus Clippers 3
Season: 23-14
Streak: W4
Wrap, Box, Columbus Dispatch

Jeremy Hellickson was back in form Friday: six innings, eleven strikeouts, no walks. Very pretty. And well backed up (well, sort of) by Joe Bateman and Mike Ekstrom. Joe gave up his first home run in 14 appearances (20+ innings). Ekstrom hasn’t walked a batter yet (3 appearances, 4+ innings).

Lots of doubles (Richard, Jennings, Chavez, Shealy) and a couple of home runs (Shealy, Richard) drove the offense. Hellickson’s pitching and a couple of double plays kept Columbus off the board.

Then Heath Phillips stepped to the mound yesterday (Saturday). Heath had his best game of the year, marred only slightly by a 7th inning when he arguably should not have even been in the game. Probably Charlie was saving his bullpen for another day and assuming that the game was in hand (score 7-0 at the time), but a single, wild pitch, single, home run put three runs on the board very quickly. Still a fine day for Heath.

Other interesting features of the game: Ryan Shealy hit a grand slam, the first grand slam for the Bulls this year. Last year it seemed like we hit one every time we got the bases loaded. Chris Richard most memorably hit two in one game. So it was fun to see our first one of the year. Also good to see Shealy have two good days in a row. Shealy really hasn’t had a very productive year so far, but it’s been somewhat hidden by the stellar performances of Dan Johnson, Hank Blalock, Chris Richard, Angel Chavez, and company. Maybe now that he’s out of the shadow of Blalock he can blossom.

Justin Ruggiano was back in the lineup and had a ground out RBI and a walk. We’re going to need his bat pretty soon now.

So we are 2-0 in Columbus, have a 1:05 game today with (probably) Aneury Rodriguez getting a start. As seems to be usual, we can expect at least of couple of transactions while on the road.

Transaction Speculation

Let’s start with what we know: Blalock is gone. An infielder we’ve never seen, but who has been on our roster since opening day, J. J. Furmaniak has been activated and put on the Montgomery Biscuits roster. Seen as a Bull, that is. Furmaniak was with Lehigh Valley last year.

We usually carry 12 position players. So we’ve got room for two. Down in St. Petersburg things are fairly complex and those considerations will, of course, have an impact on us. [St Petersburg Times] So I’ll just put a few names in play here — catcher John Jaso could come back, infielder Sean Rodriguez might get sent down to give him some more playing time, outfielder Matt Joyce will surely at least visit on a rehab tour if not an assignment. Furmaniak’s physical condition could be really good and so maybe just a short visit to Montgomery before coming to the Bulls. Pat Burrell, in an extraordinary act of penance to Rays fans, donates $6,000,000 to earthquake relief and comes to the Bulls to learn how to play team mascot. (“I’ve been a fan of Wool E. Bull all my life. It’s going to be an honor to study with him this season. I’ve heard that he’s on the DL, so maybe I’ll get an even earlier shot at a performance that I expected.”)

Update: A modest correction or two to today's post. It was noted that at the bottom of today's "wrap", Neil provided us with the name of today's starter and it is, indeed, Aneury Rodriguez. Secondly, a slight difficulty with my enumerative skills was noted in that the Bulls usually carry twelve position players (I got that right) and they have 12 position players. Other than that, I guess I got things right...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Blalock to Rays

Several sources are reporting that Hank Blalock is on his way to join the Tampa Bay Rays.

St Pete Times, Rays Index, and probably others.

Update: A couple of new links -- St Pete Times and DRaysBay.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bulls Pitching




The Bulls ought to be in Columbus, Ohio by now and possibly getting in a nap before game time. We are exactly seven times through the starting rotation, so let’s take a look at our pitching.

The top chart is the cumulative Fielding Independent Pitching and ERA numbers for the team as a whole. The last 20 games are plotted. Also plotted is a trend line for the FIP. I’m hoping that the statisticians among you don’t go nuts at plotting what amounts to a trend of a trend. But it does help illustrate the fact that our pitching has not been all that great the last 20 games. We have won 9 and lost 11 of those games and certainly the pitching contributed. On the other hand, you can see a distinct tick downwards that started before our last two wins. That’s a very good sign.

The second chart shows the individual pitchers’ FIP along with the team FIP. Easy to see why the Heath’s (Phillips and Rollins) are a concern. Otherwise, we know (hope) that Aneury Rodriguez is improving among the starters and similarly that De Los Santos may be settling down. Please note that the sample size, especially for relievers, is very small, so these numbers aren’t very useful except as a snapshot of where we are at the moment.

An oddity is that only four saves have been recorded. That’s because we have had very few close games. Only 7 1-run games, and we lost 5 of those. Another indicator of pitching performance is shutouts. We’ve only had one of those, a Rodriguez, De Los Santos, Thayer game back on April 20th.

The last chart is a sorted graph of strikeout to walks ratios. That's just for the heck of it since over at RaysProspects they just put up a table of similar data and we thought they might like to see what it looked like in a picture, at least for the Bulls.

Much more useful, except that we’ll never hear them, would be the opinions of Xavier Hernandez or Charlie Montoyo. Too bad we won’t hear anything but cliches from them. Actually, I don’t recall X. ever speaking on the record about anything.

Carlos Emerging?

Game 35: Durham Bulls 6, Toledo Mud Hens 1
Season: 21-14
Home Stand: 4-4
Streak: W1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

I think we’ve given plenty of hints here that, in spite of a couple of decent starts, we were skeptical about Mr. Hernandez’s prospects this year. Last night, however, was one heck of a pitching performance. Very efficient at only 82 pitches in 7 innings, no earned runs, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts, one heck of a job. Things are looking up in the starting pitching category. Couple of good quotes from Hernandez in the Herald-Sun and Indy Week links.

The Johnsons, Dan and Elliot, are worth comments. Dan almost hit for the cycle, with a home run, single, and double in his first three at bats — although there was considerable speculation on just how Dan would make it to third base for a triple. Maybe the ball gets into the right field corner and hides itself for a few seconds. Elliot got a RBI, but was snakebit in the field, making two errors. Not like him. Hope he gets over it.

Time to comment on what appears to be the sheer strength of catcher Alvin Colina. He’s got a serious arm. Don’t think I’d want to be the pitcher taking his throws back to the mound. And when he gets a hit, the bat just cracks. A line-drive hitter, his hits get over the wall from time to time, but mostly, as yesterday, they reach the wall as doubles, seven so far this year. Really like the combination of Colina and Lobaton. Not sure that I’m looking forward to Jaso’s return.

That was a really scary moment in the 4th, wasn’t it? Toledo catcher Max St Pierre let fly with a bullet throw on an Elliot Johnson steal attempt, and hit his pitcher, the unfortunate Lauren Gagnier, in the head. To be honest, I didn’t see it, I was watching Elliot dash for second base. What I did hear was the radio report by Neal Solondz, who apparently was looking at a TV replay. Fortunately, he was able to walk off, but we got no further reports on Gagnier’s condition. For trivia buffs, this was the first Triple A start this season for both catcher and pitcher, the first Triple A start ever for Gagnier.

Hank Blalock, subject to more speculation here, here, and here, went 0 for 4.

Warning: The following material suitable for adults only!

We need to follow up on the deep philosophical implications of our inquiries last night. Is Wool E. Bull real? Is he even a he? Is Wool E. simply a product of our collective imaginations, our psyches? Is he an Archetype? Or, is he just a guy in a suit?

In a related question we note Syd’s comment on yesterday’s post:
I don't like how the Blue Monster didn't step in and back up his teammate after his incident. This is how dissension filters into a clubhouse
We agree. We should have pointed that out yesterday. Where was the Blue Monster?

We (that is, our group behind first base) watched Wool E.’s entrance and noticed that he didn’t do a cartwheel. We further noticed that when he passed the Mud Hens dugout things were quiet (too bad — the last opportunity of the year). We were also carefully inspecting everyone in Bull employee shirts and earpieces moving around the stands last night.

We noted one wearing a knee brace. So, what else could I do but sidle up to the guy and ask, “Hi. How are you doing? How’s the knee?” He said, “It’s OK.” Then he looked at me, “You must be a season ticket holder.” I said that I was and that we had been looking for somebody who looked like they worked for the Bulls and was wearing a knee brace. But when I asked him if he was Wool E., he shook his head and pointed at Wool E. Bull out on the field.

So there you have it. Who is Wool E. Bull? Is he a suit or a man? Or even a man? Is Wool E. Bull just an Idea dancing out under the lights?

Who said baseball is boring. Great, even profound, concepts are there for the pondering on summer nights.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Durham Bulls Starting Pitcher— Thursday 13 May

Some modest changes in Carlos Hernandez's numbers since our last look. Carlos’ ERA actually improved while his FIP stayed about the same, and he lost a game. Go figure.

Just for the record, here’s the current starter/reliever set up as of today, at this moment, before warm ups start, before someone gets injured, before someone in St Petersburg gets an inspiration. Only notable change is that Rodriguez slips into Bennett slot (he had 3 innings in relief of Bennett on Tuesday, 7 Ks, 2 BBs).

Starting Pitchers
  • Hellickson
  • Phillips
  • Rodriguez
  • De Los Santos
  • Hernandez
Long Relief
  • Baker
  • Rollins
Short Relief/Closers
  • Bateman
  • Eskstrom
  • Swindle
  • Thayer
  • Abreu
Despite some questions about Phillips, Rodriguez, and Rollins, you’ve got to admit that’s a pretty good-looking list.

Hit Bull, Lose Steak

Game 34: Durham Bulls 5, Toledo Mud Hens 2
Season: 20-14
Home Stand: 3-4
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

Wool E.’s going on the D.L. He’s day-to-day. We’ll see how long it takes him to get back.
— Bulls Manager Charlie Montoyo as reported in Indy Week

During the first game of the series the Mud Hens dissed Wool E. Bull by tossing cups of water at him as he came by their dugout. That continued into the second game. Wool E. escalated at the bottom of the 1st last night by dragging a rubber Mud Hen around on the end of a leash. The Mud Hens retaliated with water balloons as he came by their dugout, but not all of them broke. Wool E. picked a couple up and threw them back into the dugout as Mud Hens cowered in the back. But then Wool E. slipped on the grass and went down and — was actually hurt. It took a while to realize that and he had to be helped off the field. Looked like a twisted knee.

Fortunately, he was back walking and dancing around the stands later in the game. Unfortunately for the Mud Hens, they did not get the steak dinners promised after the bus got them to the DAP late on Monday night. The dinners were sent to the Bulls clubhouse instead. See Herald-Sun and Indy Week stories for more details.

Baseball?

Oh, yeah, the reason we were there at all was to watch a baseball game. In a switch from earlier games we got a very slick pitching performance from a starter. Richard De Los Santos pitched a very credible 5 ⅓ innings. Ekstrom, Bateman, and Abreu kept the door shut.

Angel Chavez bounced one off the top of the centerfield fence for a double in the 4th, then got it over at almost the exact same spot in the 6th. He had his best night in a long while with 2 RBI. Nice balanced attack overall with homers by Chavez and Shealy, doubles by the Johnsons and Chavez, and thirteen hits overall.

No more fresh info on Jeff Bennett’s release or Hank Blalock’s future. Nor have we seen any info regarding the Bulls starting pitching situation. We remain one short and then there’s Heath Phillips. We have not heard a thing about Jason Cromer (on the DL since the beginning of the season). Maybe he’ll show up to fill in one of those slots. Maybe the guys over at RaysProspects would like to speculate on who might get called up or swapped for Heath Phillips. Or maybe the Rays will troll around the Independent Leagues.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Durham Bulls Starting Pitcher — Tuesday, 11 May — And More

Richard De Los Santos has had a couple of good appearances recently. Will be interesting to see how he does tonight.

In the meantime, in a further confirmation of how little I really understand the business of baseball:

  • Jeff Bennett released.
  • Hank Blalock’s agent is stirring the pot. Extensive discussions at Rays Index and DRaysBays of interest mostly to Rays fans. Of interest to Bulls fans is that it doesn’t look like Hank will be with us much longer.
  • Shawn Riggans has been released by the Mets leading to speculation that he might show up with Rays. If there’s a player who’s been on the DL more than Jennings it’s got to be Riggans.

Slippery Slope

Game 33: Durham Bulls 4, Toledo Mud Hens 5
Season: 19-14
This Home Stand: 2-4
Streak: L4
Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

This is not good. How do you lose when you get 10 hits (including two doubles, a triple, and a home run) and strike out 13? Answer: Give up 9 walks and leave 10 runners on base. Not good.

Happy to have a starter, Jeff Bennett, back from wherever he was, but then Charlie Montoyo pretty much left him twisting in the breeze in the 5th. Rodriguez was warmed up, but Jeff just kept on giving, filling up the bases with walked batters. That three runs scored on a double should not have been a surprise.

We stayed in the game, but Montoyo also sounds a bit defensive in the Herald-Sun article when it comes to the decision to send Colina home in the 8th. We experts in the stands thought he should not have. Not sure that it would have made much difference. Toledo’s closer, Sborz, was superb. He completely shut us down.

Bright spot was seeing Aneury Rodriguez in relief. He did a fine, fine job.

Negro League Night is scheduled for May 23. Here’s hoping some of the reporters chase down a good story or two.

New Supreme Court nominee has baseball background. Is that a new credential, female baseball enthusiast?


Update: I left out a beautiful, glad-I-was-at-the-game moment. Here it is:

4th inning. Toledo’s got runners on first and second. Batter sends a shot right up against the Blue Monster but Chris Richard makes a leaping catch, perfect throw to Elliot Johnson who makes a perfect relay to Ryan Shealy to catch the runner off first. Pretty, pretty play.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Return to the DAP

Photo courtesy News and Observer

Game 32: Durham Bulls 2, Toledo Mud Hens 6
Season: 19-13
This Home Stand: 2-3
Streak: L3
Wrap, Box

“The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.”
Ooops! Wrong Kevin Costner movie. But the sentiment remains.

Let’s talk about the game before getting to the nostalgia.

Just like he did up in Rochester on May 4th, Heath Phillips gave up five runs in the first inning then pitched pretty well. My seatmate provided this thought. On Heath’s day in the rotation why not take our best one inning pitcher and have him start the game (Winston Abreu comes to mind), then bring in Heath in the 2nd inning? Make sense? Does to me.

Unlike May 4th, Bulls bats stayed pretty quiet.

For the first time this year, the Bulls have a left-handed reliever on the roster, R.J. Swindle. He got in two innings last night and I’ve got to admit that he is going to be fun to watch. All sorts of odd-looking pitches looping in there.

That’s about it for the game. How about some nostalgia?

First my own take on the DAP. I’m one of those newcomers to the area. I only saw one game in the DAP, so not much nostalgia for me, just a look at what’s there today. The field is in really, really good condition. I liked being close to the game. I liked not being inside a jukebox with a sound system blowing my ears out. I could listen to real people cheer and boo. Fans were into the game, at least at first. The biplane flyover was cool. I liked the visuals, the sense of a park built to fit its surroundings. I didn’t like the feeling of being inside a cage. That pretty much spoiled it for me. To get a sense of the park I had to walk out behind the netting.

For much, much better looks at the history angle, take a look at these links.

The News and Observer brought in a former Durham Morning Herald reporter to cover the game. And posted some terrific photos on their website. Indy Week’s Adam Sobsey recounts some long-standing associations with the DAP. And Danny Wild covered the game for MiLB.com and they posted a bunch of photos.

By the way, I won’t have a starting pitcher chart today. Adam Sobsey is reporting that Jeff Bennett will start, Aneury Rodriguez has been moved to the bullpen, and Richard De Los Santos will stay in the rotation. We don’t have enough info on Bennett to do a chart.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Durham Bulls Starting Pitcher — Monday, 10 May

Tonight’s game at the Durham Athletic Park is likely to be a freak show at the under any circumstances, so Heath Phillips is probably as good as any other Bull to have on the mound. Should I point out that he was four years old when the movie Bull Durham was released? That every time our catcher goes out to the mound the crowd will be shouting Crash Davis-Nuke LaLoosh quotes? That I really, really wouldn’t want to be the guy in the Wool E. Bull costume tonight?

Heath’s numbers are a bit above the team’s (3.89 FIP, 3.81 ERA). He seems to be a bit home run prone as well. Stats.

Cold At the DBAP — Let’s Go To the DAP



Durham Athletic Park in 1940s and 2008
Photos courtesy Herald-Sun and Endangered Durham

Game 31: Durham Bulls 3, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees 9
Season: 19 -12
This Home Stand: 2-2
Streak: L2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

Even with the temperature dropping, we expected hot bats and hotter pitching last night. That’s pretty much what we got — except not by the Bulls. We’ve seen Jeremy Hellickson struggle before but that time Justin Ruggiano led the Bulls to a come from behind, super-exciting win. This time Jeremy left the game in the 6th with no one out and the bases loaded. Mike Ekstrom could not hold ‘em and all of them scored.

Nevertheless, the 6th did have two glad-I-was-at-the-game moments. Situation: bases loaded, five runs have already scored, still nobody out, Reegie Corona at bat. Jose Lobaton rockets a throw to shortstop Angel Chavez and picks off Yankee Robby Hammock for first out. A pitch or so later, Yankee Golson tries to steal second. A strike from Lobaton to Dillon catches him. Two outs. Corona grounds out and we’re finally out of the inning. Pretty, pretty throws by Lobaton.

The last time Winston Abreu tried to go two innings he lost the game. This time the game was not at risk, but Charlie pulled him after 1 ⅔. Radioman Neil Solondz thinks that Winston’s got to demonstrate that he can go two innings if he wants to be called up. Indy Week writer Sobsey thinks that Abreu hasn’t recovered from aneurysm surgery. Back to the gym/weight room Winston. We need you.

OK. Toledo is coming to town. This second-most-famous club in minor league baseball (we were a movie, they were a logo in a long-running TV show), is a Tigers affiliate and usually pretty good team.

The baseball, however, will be taking second fiddle to nostalgia tonight. And appropriately so. Here’s one piece from the Herald-Sun.

Webworld:

DRaysBay watching a couple of our Bulls.
Leslie Anderson, the Cuban defector whom we’ll probably see sometime this season, is making his way up through the Rays system.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Durham Bulls Starting Pitcher — Sunday, 9 May

(click chart for larger image)

Jeremy Hellickson is having a stellar year. His numbers are superb across the board, and he’s winning games. He’s by far our best pitcher and among the best in AAA baseball. We are fortunate Tampa Bay doesn’t need him right now.

On a related topic (stat-geek warning!) Carlos Hernandez’ performance last night was pure fodder for the baseball numerologists. Going into the game his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) was 4.68, his ERA was 3.10, and his won-loss record was 2-0.

He took the loss and is now 2-1.

But, since the play in which an error was committed could have ended the inning, all the runs scored thereafter were “unearned”. Hernandez lasted two more innings. So, for the night he had 0 earned runs and his ERA dropped from 3.10 to 2.73.

Of course, no one watching could call it a strong performance (except for the seven strikeouts — that was impressive). He took 94 pitches to get through 4 innings and he gave up a home run and two walks. His FIP barely changed, from 4.68 to 4.65.

So, you’ve got to score one for the sabremetricians on this one, the FIP sure looks like it judges pitchers better than ERA, at least in the case of Hernandez.

Bulls Go Quietly; Ready for DAP?

Photo courtesy Durham County Library and Endangered Durham

A hundred years ago parking was a problem at El Toro field. Wonder how it will be tomorrow?

Game 30: Durham Bulls 2, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees 4
Season: 19-11
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

Last night was to have been a big night for two players who have been out of the lineup for a while, Angel Chavez and Desmond Jennings. Chavez had only missed a few days, but Jennings has been out for a couple of weeks. Jennings had a good night — single, double, RBI, stolen base. As for Chavez, well, his return to shortstop could have been better.

In his first at bat in the 2nd inning Chavez hit a solid single, but tried to stretch it into a double and got thrown out for the last out of the inning. In the 3rd Scranton had runners on first and third with one out. A classic “strike ‘em out/throw ‘em out” play didn’t quite work. Carlos Hernandez got the strike out and the runner from first was caught in a run down. But Chavez threw the ball away when the runner on third broke for home. So, instead of being out of the inning, Scranton had a run in and a runner on second. Hernandez walked the next batter and gave up a three-run homer to Scranton’s Winfree.

But all was not lost. In the 6th inning Chavez came to bat with runners on first and second and one out. Of course, this being his night to be the goat, he hit into a 3-6-1 double play.

Shake it off, Angel. Shows you what a quirky game baseball can be.

A very bright light in the evening was Heath Rollins. He had what was, by far, his best outing of the year. He went 3 ⅓ innings with 2 walks, 4 strikeouts, and used a reasonable 54 pitches to get there.

Clearly Charlie Montoyo is a member of the crowd that thinks stolen bases count for something. The bottom of the 3rd last night was a classic example of how that approach can work. With one out, Rashad Eldridge drew a walk. Eldridge stole second during Jennings’s at bat, then scored on Jennings’ single. Jennings then stole second and scored on Elliot Johnson’s single. Elliot Johnson stole second, but neither Joe Dillon or Hank Blalock could bring him in. Still, our only runs last night came off of stolen bases.

Pretty sure I saw Jeff Bennett leaning against the rail in the Bulls dugout last night. Bennett has not been seen here since April 15th when he left the game after facing two batters. Is he back? Would be nice if he were, assuming he’s healthy.

Today is the last time to see the Yankees this year, unless we meet in the playoffs.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Durham Bulls Starting Pitcher — Saturday, 8 May

click chart for larger image

Most baseball statistics are static. By that I mean when you look at them you don’t know if the player is getting better or getting worse. So I thought I’d try to draw a picture of changes over time for our starting pitchers. I’d appreciate some readers’ comments. Is a chart like this useful? I’ll keep it up through at least one rotation and then revisit. Seems to help me get my head into the day’s game.

Carlos Hernandez has had five starts this year. He’s pitched 29 innings and has a 2-0 record. He is the only left handed pitcher on the Bulls roster.

The chart plots his FIP and ERA as they changed over those five games.

FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is a number built around what a pitcher can control: home runs given up, walks, hit batters, strikeouts and innings pitched. Hernandez has given up 3 homers, walked 12, hit 2, and struck out 19. What’s worrisome is that the current trend is upwards.

ERA is really affected by small sample size and the vagaries of the team behind the pitcher, meaning the quirks of “earned” vs. “unearned” rulings. Over time, these two curves should start getting closer together. But that growing FIP curve is not a good for the future. The dropping ERA is tricky to evaluate. We'll have to see about that after a few more innings.

What does this say about Hernandez? Well, these aren’t particularly good numbers. And he’s averaging less than 5 innings per start. Hernandez ended up in 2009 with an ERA of 3.29 over 112 innings, so realistically we shouldn’t expect too much more than what we’ve seen so far. If the Bulls keep up their run production, that should be enough in most games. Still, it would be nice if he could go longer in the games.

Pitcher Emerging?

From “Baseball’s Hometown Teams: The Story of the Minor Leagues” by Bruce Chadwick and posted on Endangered Durham

Game 29: Durham Bulls 9, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees 3
Season: 19-10
This Home Stand: 2-0
Streak: W4
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

No reason to stop worrying about our starting pitching, but maybe we can be a little less worried. Richard de los Santos really looked good last night, going well into the 6th inning. If his ERA of 4.56 looks a bit high, remember that after his first appearance of the year it was 27.00. He is billed as a “spot starter” as in, “We don’t have anyone else, so throw a reliever to the wolves.” This is his second start. He took the loss the last time out, but it was five innings in a 1-0 loss to Rochester, hardly a typical Bulls game this year. Last night Bulls had seven runs across before Bateman came in with two outs in the 7th.

About those 7 runs — we got two more in the 7th and 8th — the amazing year continues. The Bulls have scored 42 runs in the last four games. The run differential against our opponents is 67, another amazing number. Then there’s last night with 14 hits, including 5 doubles and 2 home runs (and 5 walks). Or the last four games with 99 total bases. We’ve had 500 total bases this year. The team OPS is .850!

Take one player, Joe Dillon. In the 1st inning he drew a walk with Elliot Johnson on 2nd. He then went to 3rd base on a Hank Blalock single (Elliot scored) and then scored on a Dan Johnson single. In the 3rd inning he hit a single to lead off the inning, got his first steal, but was left on base. He grounded out to lead off the 5th. He was Durham’s sixth batter in the 6th inning, coming up with two outs and Elliot Johnson on second and Perez on third. Perez zipped home on a wild pitch, Dillon alertly signaling that the Yankee’s catcher couldn’t find the ball. He then hit a double, sending Johnson home from third. Hank Blalock sent Dillon home with a single. To top it off, in the 8th he banged a homer off the bull. Pretty good day, 3 for 4, 2 RBIs, a walk, and 3 runs scored. And yet Joe's batting average of .316 is fifth among Bulls hitters! His OPS of .933 is sixth. Tells you something about this team.

Bench: Jennings (14, got another 1/2 inning in), Ruggiano (4), Chavez (5), Colina (1). Think that Luna is back to Charlotte without an at bat.

WebWorld:

  • Photo above is from a website we were alerted to by the Bulls’ George Habel at his blog, Notes to Self. The website is Endangered Durham and it has some really cool old photos of El Toro Field and the Durham Athletic Park.
  • The Wall Street Journal takes a look at that burning issue, how come we have two major leagues?
  • Her Rays is having trouble dealing with the late night games the Rays are playing on the west coast. You just gotta click on the link. Trust me. You’ll love it.
  • Great story-telling continues over at The Life of a Baseball Wife, including this one about coping with a husband off playing winter ball.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nice To Be Back Home


Game 28: Durham Bulls 13, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees 8
Season: 18-10
This home stand: 1-0
Streak: W3
Wrap, Box

The Bulls had another extraordinary run-producing game. Simply amazing what they are able to do with a bat this year.

But first let me rant about the pitching, because if that isn’t sorted out you have to think things are going to drop off the edge some day soon.

After two terrific starts, Aneury Rodriguez has had two crummy starts. Not possible to guess why, but it sure would help if he were backed up by the bullpen. But until we got to Mike Ekstrom, the fourth pitcher of the day, none of the relievers were helping at all. Particularly egregious was how the number 8 and 9 batters in the Yankee’s order were treated. In their first 8 plate appearances they got seven walks and a single. Four, count ‘em, four of the walks later scored. That is simply terrible pitching. Here’s hoping that they get it out of their systems.

On the other hand, a ton of those guys that our pitchers let on base, stayed on base (13).

On our side, you have to admire the way we kept coming back. Up a few runs, down a few runs, up a few runs. Colina’s homer in the 6th was particularly timely and pretty. Hank Blalock’s three-run shot into the seats in the 8th was just beautiful. And congrats to Jose Lobaton for his first home run as a Bull (also in the 8th, and the winning run).

On the Bench: Jennings (13) (Note: he had a ½ inning in center field); Ruggiano (3) (Note: Ruggiano now officially on DL for bicep injury, backdated to 3 May); D. Johnson (1); Chavez (4); Luna (3). Why is WDBB doing this? Because we are getting really worried about the health of this team.

JonWeberWatch: Double, single, 1 RBI, 1 run scored.

Bulls Radio: Very pleased to pass on to you that Bulls Radio is broadcasting inside the park on low power FM 87.7 in addition to AM 620. The Bulls front office was very responsive to a fan request that involved mumbling about not having “old” technology like portable AM radios and bragging about their new iPod with its built in FM tuner. However, it is called low-power FM for a reason. The signal barely reaches the front gate. But there it is for all you folks unwilling to go back to the 20th century, 87.7. Now if they could just get an iPhone/iPad app …

[Correction: Frequency is 87.7, not the frequency in the original posting]

Virgil Vasquez: Yesterday and this morning there was a bit of a kerfuffle regarding Virgil Vasquez’s status in the Rays system. A report in Baseball America was picked up at Rays Prospects and passed on in a comment in WDBB. We were well into our high dudgeon/rant mode going into today's game.

But Virgil is still with the Rays. According to Bulls radio, Virgil Vasquez is in Extended Spring Training at the Rays facility in Florida (Port Charlotte?). From what I can learn, Virgil was “released” and then resigned immediately thereafter. Why would they do that? Who knows. But if I were a betting man, I’d bet on it having something to do with the Rays insurance policies.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

He's Back




One of my great pleasures over the last couple of seasons was watching Jon Weber play baseball. Overlooked in the “National Championship” hoopla is the fact that for three years running the Durham Bulls won the Southern Division of the International League and went to the playoffs every year. Jon had a lot to do with that.

And besides it was just plain fun to watch him play the game. He was obviously having a good time (mostly, except when tossing bats into the first base side of the stands). He was a master of the Blue Monster. Only rarely would a runner make it to second if Jon was playing left field.

We here at WDBB failed in our attempt to get him called up to the Rays in September of 2009. However, Jon did play in the World Cup for Team USA. He had a lot to do with bringing home the trophy to the United States.

He played winter ball in Mexico and, apparently getting no love from the Rays, signed with the Yankees for 2010. He had an extraordinary spring with them, but was left off the 40-man and sent to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at the end of spring training. He’s had a terrible start in the regular season, probably the worst of his professional career. Particularly odd is his lack of extra base hits, a category he excelled in last year. On the other hand, he hit his first double Tuesday night in Norfolk.

All of this is a long preface to noting that Jon will be back in the DBAP Thursday morning. He deserves a cheer from all of us for the pleasure he has given us for years. And he should take with him our hopes that sometime after next Sunday he gets his batting eye back and has a great season, (except for May 31 to June 3 when the Bulls play the Yankees in their home park). Maybe he will even get some time on the field in Yankee Stadium. We sure hope so.

Come On Home

Game 27: Durham Bulls 10, Rochester Redwings 7
Season: 17-10
This trip away: 3-5
Wrap, Box

Heath Phillips steps to the mound in the bottom of the 1st inning. Mid 60’s, stiff wind blowing out to left. He’s got a three-run lead on a Hank Blalock two-run double, and a single from Chris Richard that scored Blalock. Walk, single, single, walk, home run, five runs scored. This does not look good. Bulls are 1, 2, 3 in the top of the 2nd. In their half the Redwings have another fly ball get carried over the wall. Now it’s 6-3 and the game is only two innings gone.

In the 3rd things get a bit more weird. Three out of the first four Durham batters hit home runs (Dillon, Blalock, and Dan Johnson). so now we’re tied at 6. It stays that way until the top of the 6th when small ball prevails and we score two more runs (although we did leave the bases loaded).

Chris Richard’s 2-run homer in the 8th is icing on the cake. Nice to see Chris hitting again.

Lots of life in this Rochester series. Not a great road trip, and we haven’t come close to solving our starting pitching problem. Maybe a day’s rest will help.

Bench: Jennings (12), Ruggiano (2), Colina (1), Chavez (3), Luna (2),

Fan alert: If you are a New York Yankees fan, their Triple A team, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, are in town for a four game series starting tomorrow. This is the only time they will visit this year. If you are a Yankee’s hater, this is the only time you will be able to boo.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Return to the DAP


One of the really big deals this year is the game next Monday between the Durham Bulls and the Toledo Mud Hens at the renovated Durham Athletic Park.

The Bulls have just put up a link with parking info under the "events" menu choice. Expect more.

In the meantime, if any of our readers would like to put up a DAP story (limit 500 words or so) just put it up as a comment here and, if I can figure out how, I'll start a series of posts. Or send as an email. Best address is probably jchriswise@nc.rr.com.

Durham Bulls Return to Form

Game 26: Durham Bulls 10, Rochester Redwings 2
Season: 16-10
Wrap, Box

All it takes for a win is great pitching and timely hitting. If only it were that simple all the time.

Really nice to see the 2010 Durham Bulls back in form, though.

After the one-hitter we had against a knuckleballer in Buffalo, and then a three pop-up first inning against the Redwings knuckleballer Charlie Zink, the leadoff Redwing hit a home run. Things did not look good. But the Redwings didn’t score again until the 7th.

In the meantime, Fernando Perez hit a three-run homer to cap a five-run second inning. For the numbers-minded, that was Perez' first home run of the year, his 6th in two Triple A seasons, and he had 3 in his 23 games with the Rays in 2008. Elliot Johnson and Joe Dillon had good days as well. Elliot (playing short) was 2 for 4, with two doubles, a walk, 2 RBI, and he scored a run. Joe Dillon (playing second) was 2 for 3, with a home run, 2 walks, 1 RBI, and scored four runs.

The Bulls drew 6 walks last night. An interesting feature of this team is their plate discipline. The Bulls have drawn 111 walks this year and lead the International League in that category. That’s a lot of folks on the bases (and trying to steal in our case).

Jeremy Hellickson is really something. Sure hopes he stays with us for a few more months. We really need him. He pitches extremely well and gets deep into games (and efficiently, only 92 pitches in seven full innings last night). Unless or until the Rays get us at least one more starting pitcher, the more rest the bullpen has the better.

A look at the bench:

Angel Chavez (hamstring) is reported to be at 80%. The Bulls have Wednesday off, so he should be ready by Thursday morning’s game.

Desmond Jennings (shoulder) got a little bit of playing time in the 9th last night, but hasn’t had an at bat since April 22.

Justin Ruggiano had a twinge in his left bicep in an at bat in Sunday’s game. Out for an unknown, but probably short, period of time.

So, a young utility player from the Charlotte Stone Crabs named Omar Luna has joined the Bulls. I say “utility” since he’s seen time in left field, shortstop, second and third this year, although he seems to be mostly an infielder. Not stellar at the plate (1 for 18, .056). So obviously brought in for his defense. We may need that if anyone gets dinged today.

Carlos Hernandez is off to Hudson Valley, surely to return by his next turn in the rotation.

Tomorrow is the Bulls first day off of the season — 27 straight days of baseball. These kids work really, really hard.

Webworld: Stacy Long is doing a poll on who should get Rays minor league honors for April.