Wednesday, June 30, 2010

All-Star Team Announced

Let’s hear it for Dan Johnson, Elliot Johnson, and Joe Dillon! Very, very pleased to see them recognized.

Now, about the pitcher selections ...

What in the world is going on here?

How do pitchers with 6-4 and 6-5 records and a 2.66 and 3.04 ERAs (Bump and Torres) get selected over a pitcher with a 10-2 record and a 2.19 ERA? That is, our Jeremy Hellickson?

Have got to think that something else is going on here. Conflict with Futures game, perhaps? But if he’s going to the Futures game wouldn’t he, along with Jennings, still be an All-Star and deserve to be recognized as such?

Here's my guess. Since you can’t do both, they take you off one of the lists. But even if that’s so, I don’t think it’s right. The International League, or the Rays, or the Bulls, should come out and say whether or not Jeremy Hellickson is or would have been, an International League All-Star.

One more rant: Sure would have liked to have seen the actual results of fan voting.

Taking One For the Team

Game 78: Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay) 7; Louisville Bats (Cincinnati) 5
Season: 47-31; Home Stand (11 Games): 4-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

For the nuts and bolts of this very exciting game, let me commend to you the links above, especially Mike Potter’s treatment at the Indy Week. He’s got a couple of good quotes from Charlie Montoyo and Chris Richard.

I’ll assume that you all know about the come from behind victory, again, for those of you who either left or didn’t come to the game. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of people/events.

Virgil Vasquez made his first start since 21 April. Not long after that start he got run over by a friendly North Carolina driver, broke both wrists, and has been on the disabled list ever since. Except for the 3rd inning, three runs on four hits, he had a decent five innings. I had thought that with his return to the roster someone would have to go. But that decision’s delayed with Dale Thayer going on the DL and R.J. Swindle getting time off to attend to the birth of his child. We are one short in the bullpen after all.

Dioner Navarro made his first appearance as a Durham Bull wearing his Rays number 30. We can only assume that Angel Chavez was willing to give it up and go for the number 10 he was wearing last night. Pretty sure that at a reported $2.9 million, Navarro counts as the highest paid Bull. Two Bats stole bases, but for sure one of them was off Vasquez, the other was something of a toss-up. Two wild pitches were charged against Bulls pitchers and, mostly, I’m not a good second-guesser of the scorer on the wild pitch/passed ball decision. So, pretty good behind the plate. At a guess, Winston Abreu is the only Bulls pitcher he has seen before, and maybe not Abreu.

At bat Navaro was a champion. By that I mean he took the phrase, “take one for the team” to a new level. Aroldis Chapman is a very hard-throwing (and at $30 million, expensive) pitcher in the Reds system with some control issues. He had two hit batsman and two wild pitches last night. But he can really throw. I’ve got several 97, 98, and 99 mph pitches in my notes. And one 100 mph. And, here’s where Navarro comes in, one at 102 mph! That’s the one that hit Dioner in the back. But he just trotted down to first. Jose Lobaton in the dugout signaled him with finger talk that it was a 102 mph pitch. In addition to that at bat, he drew two walks, had a ground out, and scored two runs.

Desmond Jennings got his first home run, and it was a shot off the bull. Good for him. Until the 6th inning he was the only Bull with any hits at all. Then Justin Ruggiano doubled him home.

Aneury Rodriguez, who was originally scheduled to start, pitched the 3 innings and let in a couple of runs. Did not look comfortable in his relief role.

Chris Richard’s two out at bat against Aroldis Chapman in the 8th was a thing of beauty. It started with Dan Johnson on first on a 99 mph hit by pitch and J.J. Furmaniak on third after a clean single and a wild pitch. Score was 5-3, Bats. Furmaniak came home on a wild pitch and Johnson moved to second on the same pitch. Score 5-4. Richard worked it to 3-2, fouled one off, and then hit a beautiful opposite field double scoring Johnson to tie the game. That was Chapman’s day, but Chavez singled Richard home off of Louisville’s Jon Adkins, and Perez doubled Chavez home for the final scores.

Great night.

On another note, Hank Blalock has been “designated for assignment” by the Rays. Too bad. He helped us get on our way this year.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Durham Bulls Pitching

We haven’t put up a look at Bulls pitching for quite some time. Since we just went past the midpoint of the season, probably a good time to take a look.

First, this chart that shows the continuing cumulative trends of Fielding Independent Percentage (FIP) and Earned Run Average over the last 20 games. Over this same period the Bulls have won 11 and lost 9. Thus, no real surprise that the trends are pretty flat. At this level of play, that’s mostly a good thing.

Taking a look at the individual pitchers, I’ve rank-ordered them by their FIP numbers. Their ERA numbers are not much different, with the exception of the newcomers.

Darin Downs and Justin Garcia’s numbers are not to be trusted this early in their Triple-A experience. Carlos Hernandez is on the disabled list, but I’m hoping that he will be back soon.

No surprise that Hellickson is up near the top, or Winston Abreu for that matter. Joe Bateman and R. J. Swindle are looking pretty good, too.

The strikeouts/walks chart is mostly to show off the ridiculous performance of R. J. Swindle. His bar represents 3 walks and 24 strikeouts.

Overall, Bulls pitching looks pretty good.

Saw Virgil Vasquez in uniform a day ago. When activated, someone here is going to get pushed out (probably Garcia or Downs). Haven’t heard anything about Jason Cromer (also on the DL). His year is beginning to look like a washout.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Game 77: Durham Bulls 3, Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs 2
Season: 46-31; Home Stand (11 games): 3-1
Wrap, Box

We haven’t had a 9th inning like that this year. A one-out two-run double by J. J. Furmaniak and we could all go home. Terrific end to a hot day at the park.

We’ve only had one other walk-off this year and that was at the end of that miserable 12 inning game against Charlotte on April 21st.

Mr. J.J. Furmaniak started the year on the disabled list and then spent some time in Montgomery (and took some time off to attend to the birth of a child), so we haven’t seen much of him this year. He played for the Iron Pigs so probably knows a little about their style. He’s got something like 10 years under his belt, and this may be his best season yet at bat.

What matters about today’s game, however, is the fact that he got all the RBI! The Bulls didn’t get a run across until the 7th, when Desmond Jennings got a two-out double and J.J. got him across with a single. Then came the bottom of the 9th.

Fernando Perez struck out looking. Jose Lobaton pinch hit for Omar Luna (presumably to put a left-handed bat against right handed reliever Vogelsong). Lobaton got a single, and Angel Chavez came in as a pinch runner (again presumably because Jose has been favoring a knee lately). Chavez was already running when Jennings singled, so he made it to third.

Cue the trumpets.

J. J. doubled to deep center field and Jennings easily made it around from first for the walk off.

Richard De Los Santos had a very good start on a really warm day. He basically worked himself out of trouble in the two-run fourth when a runner reached on a Joe Dillon error, three singles later, two runs had scored. However, doing his job backing up home plate, De Los Santos got an out on a runner trying to get to third, and picked another off first base to end the inning. Because of the heat, in my notes I was questioning Montoyo’s decision to leave Richard in for the 6th inning. Shows you what I know. De Los Santos pitched 1-2-3 6th and 7th innings, leaving after one out in the 8th. Darin Downs made his first Durham appearance and didn’t look particularly impressive, but he’s a lefty, didn’t let anyone score, and got the win. So let’s hold off judgment.

Pleased to see Dioner Navarro in a Bulls uniform. Interesting difference in how things work going “up” to Tampa Bay — Matt Joyce going up had his first at bats last Friday, June 25th — and coming “down” to Durham — Navarro coming down was suited up just today June 28, so I guess he could have played. He did get Downs warmed up for the 8th. Navarro has never been to Durham before, except for that exhibition game back on April 3. Can’t seem to get to the box score for that, we’ll just have to assume he was playing catcher that day. We’ll have to see how it works out. Guess it depends on him. He could add a lot to the team.

The Louisville Bats are in town tomorrow. We split a 4 game series with them in Louisville on the road trip. The Bats were last in Durham for the first round of the 2009 Governors’ Cup playoffs, September 9 and 10. Several familiar names in the box scores including Dillon, Jennings, Ruggiano, Joyce, Elliot Johnson, Hellickson, Abreu, and Bateman.

Update: Just noticed this podcast on the Bulls site. It is Mr. Furmaniak from a couple of days ago. Worth a listen.

How Hot Was It?

Pouring Pig Iron

Game 76: Durham Bulls 2; Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs 4
Season: 45-32; Home Stand: 2-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, The Morning Call

Just the weather, not the bats or the pitchers.

The simple explanation of what happened is that two throwing errors, one by Omar Luna in the 4th and one by Jose Lobaton in the 8th, made all the difference. And they did add two runs to the books.

On the other hand, Lehigh Valley got eleven hits, including three doubles and a triple, a two timely run-scored sacrifice flies.

On a brutally hot day, Heath Phillips had already faced 21 batters when he started the 6th. A single, a double, and a sac fly and another run was in. If only …

This year’s Bulls, as good as they are, and they are very good, don’t seem to come from behind very well. Can only recall one “walk-off” game this year. Last year, to cite one particularly spectacular example, someone who left the park in the 4th with the Bulls down 1-8, would miss an 11th inning comeback where the Bulls ended up winning 13-9. If only …

I thought maybe Fernando Perez’s second home run in two days was going to turn the tide, and it did help, but not enough. Beautiful shot, though. Probably got the attention of diners at the restaurant since it appeared to hit the wall just above the awning.

Didn’t make the Iron Pig pitcher work all that much. Only 88 pitches through seven innings. Given the heat, a bit more patience to make him work harder might have made a difference.

Today we’re on national television. Time to shine. Hope that we don’t wilt.

  • News & Observer does a nice profile of Dan Johnson. Gets a few minor details wrong (Shoppach was never going to stay in Durham). But can’t disagree with the overall sentiment — that Dan Johnson is a major-league quality player.
  • Huge media coverage of Longoria/Upton dustup yesterday. For long time watchers of B.J. just another example of his inability to stay focused on the game.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bulls on National Television Monday

Tomorrow’s one o’clock game against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs will be on the MLB network. That would be June 28, 1:00 Eastern Daylight Time.

That probably doesn’t mean much to local readers of this blog, but for those valiant few elsewhere, check your listings. You’ll be able to see a bit of the future of the Rays and Phillies.

Fun Night

Game 75: Durham Bulls (Rays) 10; Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Phillies) 3
Season: 45-30; Home Stand: 2-0
Wrap, Box, The Morning Call (Allentown, PA)

Let’s get an important issue out of the way first: Dale Thayer. Both the Herald-Sun and Indy Week are reporting that he was taken out of the game because of tightness in forearm (Indy Week)/throwing arm (Herald-Sun). Very worrisome moment last night.

While on the topic of Dale Thayer, we are wondering if he’s been working hard enough (able to work hard enough) this year? It may be too late, if this is a disabled list-type injury. By this time last year Dale had made 28 appearances for 36 innings with the Bulls, and 3 appearances for 5 innings with the Rays. This year he’s at 26 appearances for 31 innings. Not his fault, of course, Montoyo is trying to balance things out for a bullpen that has not been overworked this year. Nevertheless, Dale has been out there only three times since his very tough one inning (5 earned runs) down in Gwinnett on 14 June. Have to wonder if there was something wrong with his arm even then.

Brian Baker did a wonderful job last night, and all credit to him. He could also be a poster child for why stats geeks don’t like to use won-lost records to evaluate pitchers. Brian’s got a 6-0 won-loss record, but four of those wins are in relief and he got one of the wins for pitching all of ⅔ of an inning. Which is not to take anything away from last night, or his fine start up in Indianapolis on the 21st. Great job.

Is the real Justin Ruggiano showing up? Two singles (one RBI) Friday night, double and home run (two RBI) last night. Cross your fingers. Maybe, just maybe. Sure would be nice.

Fernando Perez keeps flirting with the Mendoza Line. On the other hand, he had a triple Friday and a terrific line drive home run last night between the 375 and 450 markers. Our broadcaster insisted it went through the “bicycle rack” fencing (and thus a ground rule double). Ended the night at .204.

Chris Richard got a single in the 7th inning to end a long dry spell. In fact, everybody got a hit last night (Ruggiano, Dillon, and Jennings got two each), making it one of those nights where everyone has a chance to feel good.

The Bulls are 15 games above .500, the best we’ve been all year. Lest we get too puffed up about that, though, note that last year we hit that spot on 1 June and we were 1½ games behind Norfolk in the South Division. We did, as fans will recall, end up 22 games above .500 and Norfolk dropped down to exactly .500 by the end of the season.

At least one blogger (actually a reporter for The Morning Call) writes about the Iron Pigs. The Hog Blog.

And here’s an updated table on our position players, mostly to show off that I think I’ve figured out how to get a table into this blog. A couple of notes: Players on the Rays’ 40-man are in bold. Furmaniak and Luna have very few plate appearances, so their numbers can be expected to drift downwards. Table sorted by wOBA.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Welcome Back

Game 74: Durham Bulls (Rays) 2; Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Phillies) 1
Season: 44-30; Last 10: 5-5
Wrap, Box, The Morning Call (Allentown), Herald-Sun, Indy Week

It was hot last night, but the park was nearly full. The new grass on the infield was nice and green. Later in the evening a spectacular full moon would rise to watch over Winston Abreu in the 9th. Jeremy Hellickson was on the mound. Joe Dillon was on third base and Chris Richard was on first. All was right with the world. The Bulls were back in town.

Truth be told, the Iron Pig’s Nate Bump arguably pitched a better game than Hellickson — after he got past the first four batters in the 1st inning. For almost all of the night he kept the Bulls hitting ground balls for easy outs. A good example was the 5th inning where he used only 5 pitches to get three ground outs, third to first.

Nevertheless, Jennings, Furmaniak, Ruggiano, and Dan Johnson did come to bat in the 1st; they all hit singles; and two runs were in before Bump and the Pigs got a grip on things. Good for the Bulls, because we really didn’t do much after that. Ruggiano did get to third base in the 3rd with a two-out single, a passed ball by former Bulls catcher Paul Hoover, and a steal (what was the point of stealing third?). In the 8th Fernando Perez escaped the Mendoza Line with a one-out triple (he ended the night at .203). Unfortunately, he was caught in a “safety squeeze” run-down two batters later.

A couple of nice plays in the outfield — a diving catch by Ruggiano to close out the 4th inning and a pretty grab by Perez in left at the beginning of the 6th.

Hellickson is now 10-2, with an ERA of 2.19. The won-loss is the best in the International League, the ERA is third among IL starters (FIP is 2.42 using an American League constant of 3.2). No doubt that he is, by a good bit, our ace.

Fun watching both R.J. Swindle and Winston Abreu close out the game. Really would like both of them to get a shot in the majors. Winston much better than his last outing, thank goodness.

Charlie Montoyo got picked as a coach for the upcoming Futures game. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know much about that game, but to be picked as coach is yet another acknowledgment of Montoyo’s growing reputation. Are we at risk of losing Charlie, too?

Matt Joyce went 0-4 in his first at bats since his call up. But neither did anyone else on the Rays team as former Bull, now Diamondback, Edwin Jackson (the guy they traded to Detroit for Matt Joyce and then … it’s a long, not very interesting story) pitched a 149-pitch no-hitter.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dry Day; Let’s Go Home

Indian motorcycles on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Still photo from the film “The World’s Fastest Indian

Game 73: Durham Bulls 1; Indianapolis Indians 9
Season: 43-30; Last 10: 5-5
Wrap, Box

I’m feeling a bit grumpy this morning, so let’s talk about the 8th inning. That was the inning Mike Ekstrom came in for newcomer Justin Garcia. Garcia had just pitched two innings in his second appearance in three days. Garcia’d given up two runs on two hits and two walks. Not good, but nothing like what was about to happen. Ekstrom faced six batters, got one out, and the Indians got five runs (there was a grand slam along the way). So, infielder Omar Luna was sent to the mound. A walk and two wild pitches made things interesting, but Luna got out of the inning and holds the best ERA on the Bulls roster. (Note: for baseball trivia/stats freaks, Ekstrom’s one-game ERA was 135.00!!)

A bit of a mess, but give some credit where credit is due, the Pirate’s Charlie Morton was visiting the Indians and certainly took the Bulls in hand, pitching a complete game two-hitter.

Why are we having so much trouble with our pitching? Good question. Partial answer: This weird semi-road trip with a rainout, a day off in Durham, new players on the roster, call ups and send backs, and injuries seems to have messed with the pitching staff’s poise and availability. Further, the pitching rotations for the last 8 games has probably been driven by the need to keep the ace, Jeremy Hellickson, on as regular schedule as can be managed. That throws all the rest off kilter.

And that’s OK. What’s important is that the Bulls are back. It is a very different team from the one that left here almost two weeks ago. And they will be here for a really long 11-day home stand starting tonight.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Joyce to Tampa Bay; Navarro to Durham

The Tampa Tribune is reporting that Matt Joyce is on his way to join the Rays and that catcher Dioner Navarro has been optioned to the Bulls. [Thanks for the heads up, DRR]

At a guess, the Joyce call-up is related to Carl Crawford’s shoulder problem, but the news is just breaking, so we’ll have to wait on that.

After an unusually quiet first half of the season, it’s starting to look like the shuffling between teams and on/off the DL is picking up. Counting these two, we’ve had 14 transactions since June 12th.

Indians Teased; Then Disappointed

Indian Chief Roadmaster

Game 72: Durham Bulls (Rays) 7; Indianapolis Indians 6
Season: 43-29; Last 10: 5-5
Wrap, Box

Winston Abreu gave everyone a thrill in the bottom of the 9th. You got the feeling he was in the middle of negotiating his second half contract. Bulls were ahead 7-6 and, given his past history, it seemed the game was in the bag. The first batter popped up, so things looked even better. But Winston hit the next batter, then struck out the next. Two outs, runner on first. Everything is under control. Abreu has got the next batter, Van Every, at a 3-2 count, one strike away from the win. But he lets Van Every get away and walks him. Now runners are on first and second. Montoyo comes out to the mound. Very unusual in my experience. Typically Charlie only comes out to change pitchers. Whatever he said does not work. Over the course of the next at bat, in which Abreu gets ahead 0-2, the two runners advance on steals on two different pitches. Then Abreu throws four straight balls, walks the batter, and loads the bases. Still two out. But Winston is, after all, Winston: Ball, strike, foul, foul, ball, foul, strike. Game over.

Abreu was the fifth pitcher that the Bulls used (Indianapolis used six), including new guy, Darin Downs, who relieved Richard De Los Santos in the 3rd. Downs had a good start, but difficult middle and left after 2 ⅓ and a couple of runs.

Dan Johnson’s three-run homer in the 3rd and Joe Dillon’s two RBI double in the 7th after Indianpolis’ pitching unraveled, were the scoring highlights. The game was played in brutal temperatures, but wait till they get home. If local weather keeps up, they will be coming home to the sauna.

This was game 72 of the year. If I’m not wrong (entirely possible), the Bulls will play only 143 games this year because they had a rainout that can’t be made up. That means that game 72 was the midpoint of the year. I’d bet that this is the best first half of the year in Bulls history. They are 14 games above .500 and are at or near the top in almost all hitting and pitching statistics. Congratulations on a great first half! Keep it up!


  • Rays Prospects has another interesting list, this one stats for the teams in the Rays organization. Durham leads in most categories.
  • Two Bulls are picked for the “XM Futures All-Star Game”, Jeremy Hellickson and Desmond Jennings. Two points to be made here. The first is that the press release very cleverly doesn’t tell you when the game is going to be played (11 July). The second is that I’m beginning to wonder about Mr. Jennings. Sure, he’s a terrific young player. The best Rays prospect? I’m not sure about that at all.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Indians Zoom Past Bulls

Game 71: Durham Bulls 1; Indianapolis Indians 9
Season: 42-29; Last 10: 5-5
Wrap, Box

Sometimes, and I’m sure pitcher Heath Phillips would agree, it doesn’t pay to get out of bed in the morning. Phillips had been on a very nice run, but his tendency to give up the home run did him in last night. Four homers is just way too many.

Justin Garcia, just up from the Biscuits, had a decent 2 ⅔ innings.

Let’s see, what else positive can I find to say ... Not much.

For the team:

We are still in great shape. Thirteen games over .500 is an extraordinary performance. Eight games ahead of Charlotte. (Is there anything to the rumor that the Rays ownership is looking to move to Charlotte? No? I thought so.) The Knights, by the way, have won six in a row and are looking much better.

Predicted heat index for tomorrow in the Triangle region is 105°. Might be a good idea to stay in Indianapolis another day or so (as if you had any choice).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bulls Throttle Indians

Game 70: Durham Bulls (Rays) 2; Indianapolis Indians (Pirates) 0
Season: 42-28, Last 10: 6-4
Wrap, Box

As mentioned earlier, the naming of minor league teams is a puzzle to me. For example, why would the Pittsburgh Pirates would want to name their Indianapolis Triple-A team after a North Carolina-based motorcycle company? Nevertheless, it gives me the chance to treat everyone to some neat photos.

Very impressive bit of pitching last night. Really wish that I’d been there to see it. Brian Baker had a 5-inning no-hitter. Mike Ekstrom let one guy on base with the Indians only hit. And R.J. Swindle had a two-inning save.

In the middle part of the game Alvin Colina hit into a double play, but Joe Dillon, who was on third, scored. A home run by Matt Joyce (difficult to do in Indianapolis’ park) in the 6th was the scoring.

Baker got the start because Hernandez was out with a quad strain. Here’s hoping he’ll be back soon, because his year has been looking up.

Speaking of quad strains, I’d missed this podcast with Elliot Johnson. Worth a listen since it discusses an injury of his I’d not heard of before.

An interesting post over at Rays Prospects where Jim Donten takes a look at offensive numbers for the entire Rays organization. Several Bulls at or near the top.

Down in St. Petersburg Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has seriously roiled the waters. He wants a new stadium for the Rays and he doesn’t want it to be in St. Petersburg. One newspaper clip here. Expect this to be a multi-year affair. In the meantime, hard to see how it would have an effect on the Bulls, even if the Rays were moved to, say, Charlotte.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bye-Bye to the Bats

Game 69: Durham Bulls 5, Louisville Bats 1
Season: 41-28; Last 10: 6-4
Wrap, Box, Louisville Courier-Journal

This bat chosen for the “cute” factor.

Everyone say, “Awwww!”.

OK, back to baseball.

All was right with the world. The Bulls had everything in hand. Players we know well from years past were at their best. Jeremy Hellickson was pitching. Justin Ruggiano, Chris Richard, and Omar Luna were hitting well.

Wait a minute. Omar Luna? Who the heck is Omar Luna?

Omar was briefly with the Bulls early in the season, but didn’t get on the field. A 23 year-old infielder from the Dominican Republic he got his first Triple-A at bat in Louisville last Thursday. [stats] He’s with the Bulls since the infield was depleted with the injuries to Elliot Johnson and Joe Dillon, the departure of Ryan Shealy, and J.J. Furmaniak’s leave to attend the birth of his new child. Will he stick with the Bulls? Probably not. Is he having fun? I hope so. Last night he played second base and was 4 or 4 with two doubles and an RBI. He’s hitting .500 since he showed up.

Gotta throw in this chart that provides a look at Hellickson’s numbers so far this year. Also makes me wonder how useful the FIP stat really is over time.

I thought that we’d keep this young man with us most of the year. But that was before the Rays started their run down the rabbit hole (they dropped out of first place last night). Since it sure looks like the problem down that way (at the moment) is pitching, I’m getting worried that our Jeremy may go up there for more than a cup of coffee, while someone (Wade Davis, maybe) gets sent to us for sorting out.

Off to Indianapolis, a short ride up the road. Maybe the shortest bus ride of the year. A Pirates farm team, they are 38-32 on the year. Don’t know if they are suffering from the turmoil of their parent club.

Maybe one or two of our new pitchers will show up as well.

Fresh Arms

Stacy Long, over in Montgomery, Alabama, is reporting that Biscuits starting pitcher Darin Downs and reliever Justin Garcia are coming to the Bulls. Downs (famous as the pitcher who took a severe shot to the head last year) is in the midst of a very good season — 6-2 with a 1.69 ERA. Garcia has 28 innings in relief with a puzzling 5.14 ERA.

The Bulls had one vacant pitching slot, so this possibly means that one of our relievers is on the way to Montgomery.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bat Bit

Game 68: Durham Bulls 4, Louisville Bats 5
Season: 40-28; Last 10: 6-4
Wrap, Box, Louisville Courier-Journal

Let’s get the ugly, like that bat, out of the way first:

Bottom of the 9th; game tied at 4-4; Mike Ekstrom hits the first batter who then gets to second base on a sacrifice bunt; Angel Chavez bobbles a grounder; runners now on first and third; sacrifice fly; game over.

That hurt.

On the other hand, Justin Ruggiano got a home run, his first in what seems like a very long time. So did Alvin Colina.

Joe Dillon played for the first time since his heroic crawl to the plate on May 27th. Joe was playing first base, perhaps because of Ryan Shealy’s departure. Joe played the position several times last year, but this is the first time this year. He got two RBI off of his one hit. Welcome back, Joe.

The Bulls normally show better plate discipline than they did last night. Their 14 strikeouts were one below a season high of 15 set back in early April.

My comments yesterday on the rotation were obviously wrong. My apologies. Gonna have to re-polish my crystal ball (or listen to Neil more carefully). But it had been a week since Rodriguez’s last start. So he did OK. Jeremy Hellickson starts tonight after five days off. The rainout and the day off has messed up things badly for Bulls pitchers. Who starts next? I ain't gonna say.

Then there is Dale Thayer’s return to form. He went two innings, faced only six batters, threw only 19 pitches. That’s the guy we knew.

In case anyone missed it, we have had a comment on Elliot Johnson’s condition. It is a strained quad. He’s resting it and says its feeling better every day. [Thanks, N]


RaysProspects has put up a Bulls week in review item.

DRaysBay has put up a table of downticket Rays pitchers. Interesting to see who’s doing well down in Montgomery.

Jon Weber has arrived in Toledo, to some positive comments.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Batting Around

Game 67: Durham Bulls 8, Louisville Bats 2
Season: 40-27; Last 10: 7-3
Wrap, Box, Courier-Journal

Since I wasn’t able to listen to the game last night, I'm depending on the wrap and the Courier-Journal reports. Interesting differences between the two. From Louisville’s perspective it was the awful run of wild pitches and errors that did them in. That ignores Joyce’s home run in the first, and timely hits by Chris Richard and Dan Johnson.

An interesting point of the game, for me, was that for the first time in a very long while Fernando Perez made a difference. He did make a mistake getting picked off in the 3rd and struck out in the 5th. Nevertheless, he got on base twice and picked up a key RBI in the go-ahead 7th. And he avoided drifting down below the Mendoza Line.

Richard De Los Santos recovered nicely from his awful start last week with a solid 6 innings of work letting only two runs in.

That De Los Santos pitched indicates a minor change in the Bulls rotation. Rodriguez was skipped over and is available in the bullpen. At a guess, the idea is to keep the stronger pitchers as close as possible to their 5-day routines (rainout and day off messed that up). Expect Rodriguez to show up out of the pen for a couple of innings soon and to be back in the rotation either just before or after Heath Phillips. Missed Neil’s commentary. I imagine he covered that either last night or the night before.


I suggested a couple of days ago that the infield might look a bit different when the Bulls gets back. Bulls blogger George Habel has photos of the operation and confirms that the spring abuse by Trinity College team as a contributing cause.

Web Stuff

Montgomery Advertiser reporter Stacy Long drove over to Atlanta to watch some of the Rays games earlier this week. And he interviewed some former Biscuits (thus former Bulls). Stories here, here, and here.

A Rays blogger makes the argument for calling up Matt Joyce sooner rather than later.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Durham Bulls Performance Charts

Time for some more charts.

First, here’s the cumulative runs scored minus runs allowed. Looks pretty darned good even with the recent leveling out.

Then here is another look at team wOBA compared to our opponents’ wOBA. Back when I first began to look at this comparison I noted that I wasn’t sure just how useful it might be. I’m still not sure. I’ve clipped off the first 20 games here just to reduce the early season variability. Now we’re dealing with well over 2,000 plate appearances so the curves should be slow to move. On the other hand, small changes could actually be more significant. From this it looks like our offensive performance trend is slightly up while our pitching/defense performance is moving slightly downward.

Note: all trend lines are 10-game moving averages, projected out for five more games. I can hear the legitimate statisticians out there grinding their teeth at a “trend of a trend” line, but, hey, I’m just a Bulls fan.

Another way to look at these data is to simply plot the difference. That’s what this chart does. In this we lose some perspective because we can’t separate out offense from defense. On the other hand it does show that in spite of a couple of recent losses, the trend is upward.

Now, again just for grins, how about our buddies down on the Bay?

Their runs scored-runs allowed curve has leveled out recently, much like ours. On the other hand, you can see the challenge they face in living up to their brilliant 2008 run.

The wOBA charts are, if I were a Rays fan, disturbing. The upward trend in the Opponents’ wOBA is not a good thing. The narrowing gap and the trend shown reflects the not-goodness. On the other hand, if the Rays hitters stay on track, they can make room for what is reportedly a fundamentally sound pitching staff (mostly ex-Bulls of course) to recover.


Game 66: Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay) 0, Louisville Bats (Cincinnati) 2
Season: 39-27; Last 10: 7-3
Wrap, Box, Louisville Courier-Journal

Just why a baseball team is named after a small, furry, flying mammal is beyond me. And then there’s the attendance figures which are routinely at the top of the International League. But that’s the way it is.

Heath Phillips had another very good start, but Louisville’s Chad Reineke’s was just a bit better and that’s how it ended up.

Minor features of the game: Chris Richard got a double. Maybe light at the end of the tunnel. Moving Fernando Perez to leadoff didn’t help. He went 0 for 4. Omar Luna got his first start in a Bulls uniform and went 1 for 3. This was the Bulls fifth shutout this year.

Other stuff:

Charlie Montoyo was named as the International League’s manager for the All-Star game. Another bit of well-deserved recognition. Also got good local coverage in N&O and Herald-Sun.

Ryan Shealy has signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox. So he must have had something lined up as he left the Bulls. Good chance we’ll see him in Pawtucket next month.

As mentioned by a commenter earlier, there was some major grounds keeping going on in center field a while back. Good photos here. Which reminds me that the appearance of the field is pretty ragged, but it’s supposed to get some re-sodding during this away trip. Seems like the local Trinity College folks are doing a bit more damage than was expected.

Gotta put up this link. Turns out things are not all sweetness and light in the baseball wife world.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rained Out; Roster Changes; All-Star Votes

The Bulls were rained out in Gwinnett last night and came home to Durham for today, a day off. So, no game tonight either.

Baseball withdrawal can get really ugly. Good luck.

Then they’re off for a four-game set in Louisville that starts Thursday evening.

The roster is something of a mess, but I’ll try to sort it out, in hopes that if I make a mistake someone will jump in and correct me.


The Bulls usually carry 12 pitchers. We’ve got 11 filled at the moment. Five starters: Hellickson, Phillips, Rodriguez, De Los Santos, and Hernandez. Six relievers: Baker, Thayer, Bateman, Abreu, Swindle, and Ekstrom. We have two more pitchers on the disabled list, Cromer and Vasquez. Cromer just went on the list. No word on when either might be back. No word if anyone will be showing up to fill position currently vacant. Maybe after Montgomery finishes the first half of their season.

Position players:

The Bulls usually carry 12 position players (including two catchers). Ryan Shealy had an “opt-out clause in his contract effective 15 June, so he’s gone. J.J. Furmaniak got a couple of days family time off. Elliot Johnson went on the disabled list. But Joe Dillon is back, infielder Omar Luna has been added to roster, and Justin Ruggiano will be back from his bench-sitting assignment to Tampa Bay. So we may have 12 healthy position players — Lobaton, Colina, Luna, Furmaniak (if he makes it to Louisville), D. Johnson, Dillon, Richard, Chavez, Perez, Joyce, Jennings, and Ruggiano.

Even without Elliot Johnson, that remains a formidable lineup of pitchers and hitters.

Regarding the loss of Shealy: Both Joe Dillon and Dan Johnson can handle first base on Chris Richard’s days off. The Rays also have a couple of first basemen down in the farm system. Guess we’ll see if Ryan shows up in minor or major league ball somewhere else.

Two sources are confirming that Jon Weber will be playing with the Mud Hens soon: The Toledo Blade and Indy Baseball Chatter. So guess that it’s going to happen.

Triple-All All-Star Game

Time to vote. Fan votes count for one-third of the All-Star balloting. Last year the results of fan voting was not made available, but maybe this year we’ll get a chance to see them. I did some work to help decide who to vote for, but in the end, just pulled up the ballot and voted there. About all I have to offer readers is that you will note that Dan Johnson does not show up as a choice in the third baseman slot, only as a designated hitter. In my humble opinion, he’s as good as anyone else we’ve seen at third this year, so I wrote him in at the bottom of the ballot (after voting for him in the DH slot, of course).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bullpen Lets Six Get Home

Game 65: Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay) 2, Gwinnett Braves (Atlanta) 7
Season: 39-26; Last 10: 7-3
Wrap, Box, Gwinnett Daily Post

Last night’s game can be looked at in a couple of different ways, most of them not good.

We’ll just point out that the game was one of the very rare times this year that the Bulls’ relievers have lost a game. To date they have only been charged with six losses and three of those six were from pitchers no longer with the Bulls. Benoit (1) has gone to the Rays and Rollins (2) has gone to the Biscuits. Winston Abreu, R.J. Swindle and Dale Thayer have the other three. Another indication of the strength of our bullpen is that they have only had two blown saves, Bateman (1) and Ekstrom (1). One of the blown saves was last night (Joe Bateman) as was the loss by Dale Thayer.

Going into the 7th inning, the Bulls were leaving a lot of runners on base, but they still had a 2-1 lead. Then Bateman came on and gave up a tying run. That was followed by what was probably Dale Thayer’s very worst outing as a Durham Bull: Single, hit by pitch, single, double, walk, single, couple of ground outs and another single — five runs. Following as it does a rough outing June 6th, I’m wondering if there’s something wrong with Dale. Or is he simply not getting enough work?

We’ll also point out that the Bulls left 17 men on base and outhit the Braves 13 to 10.

Moving right along …

Desmond Jennings has attracted a flurry of attention by being named IL Player of the Week and in a pretty good article in today's News & Observer.

Elliot Johnson and Jason Cromer were put on the disabled list. Joe Dillon came off (hooray!). Rehabbing Tampa Bay shortstop Jason Bartlett is playing a couple of games with us on his way back to the Rays.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Late Start, But That’s OK

Game 64: Durham Bulls (Rays) 13, Gwinnett Braves (Braves) 6
Season: 39-25
Last 10: 8-2
Wrap, Box

Five o‘clock start time, so we arrived outside the DBAP at 4:45 — along with the storm. We had no choice but to dash from the parking deck to the Tobacco Road Cafe. Our first time and we liked it. Food choices interesting, many were nicely spiced, prices OK. Best of all it was a good way to kill time while we waited for the tarp to get pulled. We came over to the DBAP just after they pulled the tarp, but then they put it back on. It was a little after six then and we were beginning to understand that baseball, when it happened, was not going to be over for a long time. We went home.

Back home I launched a search for the Bulls on Time-Warner cable. It was not easy and the Bulls website, previous emails to the Bulls, or the Time-Warner website were not helpful. The Raleigh News & Observer offered a cryptic clue — WRAZ DT2. I punch up Channel 151 and some kids’ show is on. But, 7:00 we suddenly were treated to a shot of the DBAP and the voices of Neil Solondz and Scott Pose. All is well!

All is well, that is, until Carlos Hernandez gets bludgeoned for four runs in the first. A home run, a double, a triple, and two singles. Really pleased now that we left. Once this gets really painful I could just turn it off. However (trumpets sounding in the distance), JJ Furmaniak starts us off with a single, the first of his three hits (another single and a double, plus a walk); Desmond Jennings follows with an RBI triple, the first of his two hits (a single, plus an RBI sac fly and an RBI walk); Matt Joyce follows with an RBI double the first of his five hits (two more doubles and two singles). Two runs are in and things are looking much better. Plus Carlos settles in over the next several innings. In the 4th the Bulls bat around and put 6 runs across, the key moment being Ryan Shealy’s bases clearing three RBI standup triple.

We’ve mentioned Jennings and Joyce, their hitting continues to improve. Fernando Perez made a brilliant over-the-shoulder catch in the 2nd, and maybe, just maybe, is sneaking out of his slump (two singles). Chris Richard is a bit snake bit, but he’ll come out of it. He usually does.

Overall, a very, very nice 5-1 home stand.

Odds and Ends
  • I’m beginning to appreciate what Scott Pose brings to Bulls broadcasting. He and Neil make a very good team. Humor. Perspective. None of the big ego some former major leaguers bring to a broadcast booth. Plus Scott has a ton of time in AAA ball (as well as the majors), so he brings a lot of on-the-field experience to the table. For the curious, here’s his major league and minor league stats. Didn’t know that he was an alum of the University of Arkansas (as am I). Which did not, of course, influence these comments.
  • Here’s a kick in the head. The Bulls got on a bus right after the game for an overnight ride to Laurenceville, GA (that’s the town the G-Braves play in). The Braves spent the night in Durham and are flying out today. Who’d want to wish them ill, but it’s entirely possible that the bus ride from Hartsfield Airport on the south side of Atlanta to Laurenceville, on the north side, could take almost as long as the Bulls ride. We can hope.
  • The Bulls are not back until June 25th. Very weird scheduling.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Let’s Move On

Game 63: Durham Bulls (Rays) 4, Gwinnett Braves (Braves) 11
Season: 38-25
Last 10: 8-2
Wrap, Box

My plan today was to take a cue from a baseball wife about how to deal with bad outings, but then I remembered that I’m not married to these maybe I’ll just rant, grumble, and mumble a bit. Then get ready for today’s game.

The game was a mess. Richard De Los Santos got lit up, big time. The Braves got 11 hits (8 singles, 3 doubles) off of Richard and he gave up a couple of walks. And yet he had his moments such as the five strikeouts in a row at the end of the 3rd to the beginning of the 5th. Unfortunately, the 5 K’s were followed by three doubles. He also had some bad luck, an error in the 3rd (the first in 13 games!) was followed by a couple of really crippled infield hits, but then they got three pretty solid singles to follow as the Braves batted around.

So let’s talk about a couple of other things.

Elliot Johnson pulled up, crouched on the ground beyond first base in considerable pain and left the game in the 2nd. Radio speculated it was hip flexor, Herald-Sun said quadriceps, and Indy Week said hamstring. Take your choice. Here’s hoping whatever it was that it heals quickly.

With Ruggiano off to the Rays, Elliot Johnson and Joe Dillon hurt, it could be an interesting couple of days for the Bulls, but maybe Jason Bartlett (see below) will help out.

Speaking of Justin Ruggiano, here’s a particularly ugly way his Rays time could work out. Jason Bartlett is the Rays’ shortstop and currently on disabled list. He’s due to come off soon, possibly this coming Tuesday. Reports say that he may be sent to the Bulls to get some playing time before returning to the Rays. The Bulls are playing the Gwinnett Braves in Laurenceville, GA, Monday and Tuesday. The Rays are playing the Atlanta Braves in a three-game set that starts Tuesday. So ... Bartlett flies up to Atlanta and takes taxi to Laurenceville. He plays with the Bulls Monday and Tuesday and gets a taxi to Turner Field. He strolls into the clubhouse and shouts, “Hey, Ruggiano, want me to hold the taxi?” Justin takes taxi to Laurenceville where the Bulls are loading the bus heading back to Durham. Logic would say that Ruggiano would stay with Rays since he’s an outfielder and Bartlett’s an infielder. But somebody with the Rays has got to be pushed off the team and the only other candidates are Dioner Navarro and John Jaso. There’s probably other options I haven’t thought of. I hope so.

In the rant category, we have to mention that a home field advantage is not a home field advantage if you don’t know how to play the home field. I am speaking, of course, of Matt Joyce and the Blue Monster. A whole bunch of guys are making it to second base (not to mention the inside-the-park fiasco) that should not be if Matt (and to a lesser extent center fielder Desmond Jennings) were playing the wall better. That’s what practice is for, guys. Let’s do better, please.

Also in the rant category, whomever runs the Bulls website should make sure the standings are right (as of 12 o’clock they aren’t). And while she’s at it, help us figure out how to find the Bulls TV broadcast on Time-Warner cable.

In the quirky category, after Ryan Shealy’s homer the Bull couldn’t seem to stop smoking. Having had that problem myself over the years I had a great deal of empathy with the poor guy.

In the look-to-the-future category, our own Joe Bateman is featured in an article about career minor leaguers. We’ll be taking a closer look at Joe. Is it time for a “Free Joe Bateman!” campaign? Can we afford to lose him to the Rays?

On the radio last night Neil reported that Jon Weber has signed with Detroit and the Toledo Mud Hens. I can’t find anything out about it on the web. Sure hope it turns out to be an accurate report.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ruggiano to the Rays

Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times is reporting that Justin Ruggiano is on his way to the Rays. Right fielder Gabe Kapler has been put on the 15-day DL with a hip flexor strain (wonder what that is?). Kapler isn’t having a particularly good year in the Rays right field platooning system.

Here’s hoping Justin gets a chance to shine.


Game 62: Durham Bulls (Rays) 8, Buffalo Bisons (Mets) 3
Season: 38-24
Streak: W5; Last 10: 9-1
Wrap, Box

Five games in a row; sweep of the 4-game series with Buffalo; 14 games above .500; 10½ game lead in the IL South Division; run differential a startling 134 (Bulls 358, opponents 224); it’s all good.

Is Desmond Jennings coming out? Beginning to look like it. A triple, two doubles, a walk, and 2 RBI last night pushed his batting average up to .272 and his OPS to .742. Those aren’t very good numbers, but for the last ten games they are .381 and 1.030 — and those are very good numbers. He’s looks more like the player that came up from Montgomery last year and the player that all the prospect-watchers seem to think so much of.

Angel Chavez is the game story, though. Playing third base last night he got on base every time he came to bat with three singles, a double, and a hit by pitch. His three RBI came at just the right moments in the game. And he stretched out the pitcher each time, it seemed, running up the count before getting his hit. Chavez was also the batter selected by Buffalo to take the obligatory HBP after warning that resulted in the pitcher (Lujan) and manager (Oberkfell) getting run out of the game in the 8th. I missed that event, but I have to say that it really doesn’t make much sense, we aren’t deliberately hitting guys in games we’ve pretty much put away. (Although, we have hit 5 Bison in eight games — seems a bit high.)

Aneury Rodriguez had his best game since those two back in April. Could have been even better if he hadn’t started the 6th inning, but guess Montoyo wanted to see how much farther he could go. Turned out to be not very far.

Broadcaster Neil Solondz [Welcome back, Neil!] solved the puzzle of the missing pitcher reported yesterday. It’s Jason Cromer and it seems his elbow is still giving him trouble. Not yet on the DL.

With Lobaton and Colina both in the lineup, mystery catchers were out warming up pitchers. Actually, not very mysterious. Justin Ruggiano had a glove on and it looked like Joe Dillon was fully geared up.

We need to at least mention the really tough year that Fernando Perez is having. And it isn’t getting any better. He at least got on base last night with a walk, but he is in a severe slump with his average dropping to .209 over the last couple of weeks. I’m wondering if he really has recovered from his year off. He just doesn’t look like the guy we liked so much back in 2008.

Stacy Long brings to our attention that just about every team in the Rays organization is in first place: The Rays, Bulls, Montgomery Biscuits, and Charlotte Stone Crabs.

Lastly, Bulls fans, welcome a newcomer to our ranks, Luke Lamphere. Luke came out of the dugout Thursday night at 9 lbs, 5 ozs. Luke’s mom, Morgan, was seen Wednesday evening coming down the steps from the Blue Monster. Luke was reported to be several days late and some thought was being given to perhaps a few runs up and down the stairs. Then maybe some real excitement up there under the snorting bull. Instead a more conventional approach was taken. Mom, Dad (Mark), and Luke are reported to be doing well. We look forward to seeing them at the DBAP soon.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bison Basher

Game 61: Durham Bulls 6, Buffalo Bisons 1
Season: 37-24
Streak: W3; Last 10: 8-2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

Heath Phillips had his best game of the year, Jose Lobaton hit a grand slam, and some very nifty ball handling made it a great night.

It also occurred to me that there may be readers who’ve never seen the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and thus have no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned the crepe myrtles yesterday. Here they are.

Everything about Heath’s performance was good. He faced 28 batters and only used 86 pitches to get through 7 ⅓ innings. Except for the first inning, no more than four batters came to the plate per inning. This was his third win in a row. His ERA has dropped nearly a full run (from 4.68 to 3.76) over the last several games. Things are looking up for the left-hander.

The moment of the game was Lobaton’s grand slam in the 2nd. A single by Ryan Shealy, a walk to Chris Richard, a single to Angel Chavez and the bases are loaded with nobody out. Jose just crushed it and it was all good.

A great night-at-the-ballpark moment rounded it out. Bison new guy Marshall Hubbard hit a grounder to J.J. Furmaniak playing second base in the 7th inning. Furmaniak had to go way to his right to stop the ball and by then he was hopelessly out of position for the throw to first. So he tossed the ball to shortstop Angel Chavez. Chavez made the throw to Chris Richard at first for the out. Pretty, pretty, pretty.

Noticed another little touch I’d not seen before. In the top of the 7th Alvin Colina warmed up Phillips while Lobaton got his gear back on. As Jose came out of the dugout heading toward the plate Colina, instead of tossing the ball back to Phillips, turned and snapped a throw to Lobaton. Sort of, “Here, this guy is yours now,” kind of gesture. The moment had a nice, team-building feel to it.

Charlie Montoyo was quoted in both Herald-Sun and Indy Week as going with eleven pitchers. Did I miss something in the early part of the radio broadcast? I’ve got emails out, but if anyone knows who’s missing (we’ve got twelve pitchers on the roster), please let me know and I’ll update.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Durham Bulls Fan Looks At the 40-Man

… and the news is good.

One of the first things things about Triple-A baseball that needs to be understood is the 40-man roster. Fortunately, WDBB has been helpful in this regard and a brief explanation is here. Briefly, players on the 40-man and not on the 25-man “active” roster can be called to the Rays on a moment’s notice.

The Bulls have five position players on the Rays’ 40-man: Catcher Jose Lobaton, and outfielders Matt Joyce, Desmond Jennings, Justin Ruggiano, and Fernando Perez. The other eight players are on minor league contracts. A player not on the 40-man roster is much less likely to be called up.

Let me say right here, on the remote chance that a Bulls player sees this, that on a player-by-player basis, WDBB would be happy to see any Bull currently on our roster playing in the major leagues tomorrow. Happy up to a point, that is, since we’d also like to be able to go to a ball game tomorrow. For that purpose, WDBB also wants to see the best possible Durham Bulls team on the field.

Here are the numbers for our current position players, sorted by Weighted On Base Average (wOBA), a metric that does a good job describing a player’s performance.

Name/ wOBA / Games/ RBI/ Age
Chris Richard / .430 / 48 / 33 / 36
Dan Johnson / .407 / 53 / 50 / 30
J.J. Furmaniak / .391 / 10 / 3 / 30
Jose Lobaton / .369 / 30 / 13 / 25
Joe Dillon / .368 / 41 / 24 / 34
Ryan Shealy / .358 / 44 / 34 / 30
Matt Joyce / .351 / 13 / 7 / 25
Desmond Jennings / .343 / 37 / 11 / 23
Elliot Johnson / .343 / 55 / 28 / 26
Justin Ruggiano / .342 / 44 / 19 / 28
Angel Chavez / .341 / 46 / 28 / 28
Alvin Colina / .336 / 30 / 22 / 28
Fernando Perez / .263 / 50 / 12 / 27

What jumps out is that, except for Jose Lobaton, all the players on the 40-man are (1) outfielders and (2) not very high on the list.

The good news, then, is that almost all of our power is safe from call up and some very good players who haven’t hit their stride yet (Justin Ruggiano and Fernando Perez) aren’t likely to get the call either. Stability is pretty rare in minor league ball and this implies that we could be reasonably stable for a while.

What this really means, given my track record, is that the Rays are about to rip the heart out of the Bulls, but maybe not today. We can hope.

Slow is OK

Game 60: Durham Bulls 6, Buffalo Bisons 4
Season: 36-24
Streak: W2; Last 10: 8-2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

It was a long, slow game, relieved by a couple of oddities and the fact that we won. But first let’s mention the beautiful crepe myrtles that are in bloom inside the park up near the Blue Monster and out along Blackwell street. In this part of the south we do not have a better signal that summer is actually here.

To the game: Jeremy Hellickson did not have a good outing, simple as that. Yes, a lot of strikeouts (8) and only two walks. On the other hand, he took 101 pitches to get through 4 ⅔ innings. Hints were there as early as the second inning when Jeremy gave up two doubles and a walk. The 4th was a mess with a homer and three singles before Montoyo pulled him. Reliever Mike Ekstrom might not mind since he’s gotten two wins in his stats for the last two Hellickson no-decision starts.

Before the game we had a discussion regarding what might happen when Joe Dillon comes off the disabled list. The consensus was that J. J. Furmaniak would go to Montgomery. J. J. must’ve been listening. He led off with a triple, had two more hits, and scored two runs, including a heads up dash on a passed ball in the 6th. He’s hitting .333. I don’t envy the decision that’s coming for the Bulls.

Matt Joyce, Chris Richard (really hot lately), Angel Chavez, and Jose Lobaton hit the RBI. Justin Ruggiano had three singles and found a new way to take one for the team when he was hit by an errant throw the Bison’s second baseman.

The oddity of the night, however, was Matt Joyce insuring Bison Mike Jacobs’ inside-the-park home run by throwing the ball up to the fans on top of the Blue Monster. Jacobs hit a fly ball to the top of the Blue Monster that hit something and dropped back down to the warning track with Joyce (left field) and Perez (center field) watching. They appeared to have a conference and must have decided (a) “it’s a home run” or (b) “it’s a ground rule double”. “In either case we don’t have to do much.” Apparently a third option, (c) “none of the above”, did not cross their minds. Meanwhile Mike Jacobs ran around the bases. Surely, surely the team will not let either player forget that mistake.

Have to mention Ryan Shealy’s stellar play at first base last night. He grabbed at least three low and outside bounced throws for outs. Great job.

Now, how about Salisbury-born Bison reliever Bobby Parnell? Here’s a pitch speed sequence for two at-bats last night: 98, 96, 95, 97, 97, 99, 100, 99, 91. I saw at least two 100 mph signals during his appearance. So here was a guy who can really bring in a fast ball. We got two hits off of him, and a run on a wild pitch. Don’t think we’ll see him again this trip, and that’s a good thing.

In our corner up came left-hander R. J. Swindle, who is a guy worth coming to the park to see. Swindle’s “heat” hits 80 mph on a good day and he has a curve ball that is 20 mph slower. Talk about screwing up a batter’s timing. Gotta love the guy and glad he’s pitching for us.

Winston Abreu provided a couple of thrills before closing the Bisons out. Keeping the ol’ heart pumping.

As noted by commentators the last couple of days, we really miss Neil Solondz doing play-by-play on the radio. Among the comments along our row last night were, “What are you gonna say about his in your blog?” And a loud grumble, “It’s men on second and third, not first and second, dummy.” That last to the great puzzlement of fans who didn’t have earphones on. And, “It’s the Bisons, dammit, we’re playing the Bisons, not the Tides,” to the persistent references to the wrong team by Rich Herrera’s colleague Scott Pose. I won’t go on at length. Neil simply does a better job than Herrera.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pretty Night; Pretty Baseball

Game 59: Durham Bulls 7, Buffalo Bisons 0
Wrap, Box, Herald Sun, Indy Week

Bulls pitching has been superb in recent days, and Carlos Hernandez’s one-hit performance last night is a a good example. He had probably his best outing of the season and certainly the postgame comments recorded by reporters for the Herald-Sun and Indy Week show that all the team knew it. The Bisons only managed to get three base runners and the Bulls got their fourth shutout in 10 games. I should also correct a recent comment I made that Richard De Los Santos was our #2 pitcher numbers-wise. That simply is not the case. Sorry, Carlos. You are well established as our #2 and you showed it last night (but Richard is getting close). See the charts below for a comparison.

Sobsey over at Indy Week has a good discussion of some of the statistical features of where the Bulls are this year.

Wasn’t that a simply pretty night for baseball last night? The weather could not have been better for baseball, and the baseball was pretty too. Pretty, that is, except for the pink. I know, it’s all for a good cause, but the Bulls really didn’t look all that great in pink. Here’s hoping that the cause made a few zillion dollars off the jerseys, though.

Joe Dillon was spotted in catcher’s gear warming up Joe Bateman. That’s gotta be a good sign if his hamstring can handle working out of a squat.

Here’s a bit more information regarding Neil Solondz’s visit to the jukebox between the ocean and the bay down south.

Adam Sobsey notes that former Bull Jason Childers is in town and promises an interview.

Still trying to find out if Jon Weber has found a home. In the meantime, here’s a reflective piece on his career from a Yankees blog.

Rays Prospects providing detailed coverage of the MLB draft.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Just had to put this beautiful chart up that shows the remarkable run production (and run prevention) of the Bulls so far this year. We have outscored our opponents 331 to 216, for a difference of 115 runs. That certainly helps explain our 34 and 24 record.

What about those guys down on the Bay awaiting the arrival of BP’s surprise summer gift? Not bad. They’ve outscored their opponents 296 to 207 for a difference of 89 runs. You can see that that the pace has leveled out some in recent days. Nevertheless, they are 37 and 20 for a not too bad record. You will also notice that they have only played 57 games even though they started the season earlier than the Bulls. Why is that? Well, players in Triple A ball simply work harder than the millionaires in the majors.

Bulls Return in Triumph

Game 58: Durham Bulls 12, Syracuse Chiefs 3
Season: 34-24
Wrap, Box

The Bulls are coming back on a high note. Even with the assistance of 11 walks, the Bulls did have 12 hits (3 doubles and 2 homers) to go with the walks in last night’s blow out. Note also that Richard De Los Santos has quietly slipped into place as the Bulls #2 starting pitcher.

This has been a very nice run. On the road the Bulls were 6-2 against what had been the top two teams in the International League’s North Division (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is now third, partially thanks to the Bulls). At 10 games above .500, we have the best record in the league and are 7½ games ahead of our nearest competitor in the South Division, Gwinnett. Tonight we go up against the Buffalo Bisons, the Mets farm team for our 17th straight game against North Division opponents. The Bisons just took three of four from the Norfolk Tides and are on a run.

The Bisons had an afternoon game in Norfolk yesterday, so they were in Durham reveling in the sights and sounds of Bull city before the first pitch in the Bulls/Chiefs game in Syracuse last night.

The Bulls have the best team ERA in the International League (3.27). And here’s a quirky one: The Bulls are 12th in team batting average (.279), but lead the league in OPS (.802).

Neil Solondz is calling the game for the Rays down in St. Pete tonight. I didn’t catch who will be calling the game here in Durham. Wonder if this is a tryout for Neil?

Carlos Hernandez is in line to start tonight. He’s coming off a win against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last Thursday. Tonight is also our first 2010 look at Matt Joyce and our first look at J. J. Furmaniak in a Bulls uniform.

Serious baseball geeks are watching the draft. Check out links to Rays Prospects, Rays Index, and DRaysBay in the sidebar if you want to follow — particularly Rays Prospects.

Monday, June 7, 2010

End of the Streak; Navarro?

Game 57: Durham Bulls 2, Syracuse Chiefs 6
Season: 33-24
Wrap, Box

The streak ended last night. Surely I am not the only person to notice that in the last Bulls loss the pitching lineup was Rodriguez, Cromer, and Baker; and last night’s pitching lineup was Rodriguez, Cromer, and Baker. And surely I am not the only one to notice that since Aneury joined the Bulls, and gave us two terrific starts on 20 and 25 April, he has had a tough time. Most troubling is his tendency to give up bases on balls, nearly one per inning the last two games. Unfortunately, Jason Cromer is not yet back in form, so we are going to have to live with this for a while.

Wonder if it is something about the park or the weather, but in the last three games Bulls pitching has given up 20 walks and Syracuse pitching has given up 20 walks.

About to get a new catcher?

Reporters and bloggers paying attention to that team down on the left coast of Florida are very impressed with John Jaso’s performance since his call up. So much so that since Kelley Shoppach got off the disabled list they’ve been speculating about what the Rays might do. One of the possibilities is to send their long time first string catcher, Dioner Navarro, to the Bulls. The last time Navarro saw the minors (not counting rehab) was a few games in 2006 with the Dodgers AAA Pacific Coast League team in Las Vegas. Rays Index’s take is here, and a longer piece is here. Would create problems with our lineup, but might be interesting to see him at work.