Monday, June 13, 2011

Whimpering About the Pitching

Game 63, June 12, DBAP
Norfolk Tides 11, Durham Bulls 5
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The Bulls were creeping back into the game until the 9th inning, which started out with the Bulls behind by only one run, 5 to 6. But Mike Ekstrom blew up and the Tides scored five more runs. Tides Manager Gary Allenson’s egregious delay of the game [DRR: Thanks for the link] as he crawled through the fence searching for baseballs in center field just added to the pain.

Before I get to my rant about Bulls starting pitching, lets make a few guesses about what’s happening on the field. Last night saw Russ Canzler in left field for the second time in three days. Although it’s likely that this is just Charlie Montoyo finally getting back to his routine of moving players around a lot (not seen as much this year as in previous times), it’s possible that he’s anticipating the return of Felipe Lopez to the roster. Hate to admit it, but Russ does not seem any to be getting any better at third and yet he still has the hot bat. Another piece to the puzzle is that Desmond Jennings could be called up just about any day and with that could come a hole in the outfield.

Also need to mention that after botching a play on Saturday, Brandon Guyer saved a run with a nifty catch and quick release of a fly ball in the 1st inning.

Cory Wade is gone from the bullpen. Turns out he had an “opt-out” contract. That is, the contract he signed before spring training had a clause that said something along the lines of, “If X doesn’t happen by Y date, then I don’t have to play for you any more.” Too bad. In 21 appearances he had some of the best stats of any pitcher on the team (best ERA - 1.23, best WHIP - 1.09, third best FIP - 2.52). His place has been taken by Lance Cormier.

Now (sigh), let us discuss the state of Bulls starting pitching. First a bit of deep historical analysis. For that let’s go back all of 20 games, May 23. The pitcher that day (a loss to Columbus) was Alex Cobb. He’s with the Rays at the moment.

In those 20 games the Bulls won 9 and lost 11. The starting pitchers went six innings or more only seven times and were credited with a grand total of five wins (out of the nine games won). Starters were tagged for seven of the nine losses. The chart below, which is the game-by-game cumulative ERAs, shows the trend over those games. The team start point, 3.94, wasn't all that great. But then it drifts upward to 4.03 by last night, dragged there by the starting pitchers. They go from 3.87 to 4.42. It isn’t pretty.

Cobb will come back some day, but he’s joining a really shaky bunch.

Is there any help down in Montgomery? Probably not. The Biscuits have two pitchers with ERAs south of 4.00 (Matt Moore and Shane Dyer), but the Rays are famously cautious regarding pitcher development. Are the Bulls going to have to suck it up, much like having to wear those ugly blue jerseys? Looks that way. About their only option is to go trolling around the independent leagues.

Is it time for new pitching coach Neil Allen to start earning his pay? You bet.


  1. Since yesterday's game was a bit of a letdown, let's talk something different.

    I got into a trivia question controversy with Neil last night. The question as stated was "Who was the last pitcher to throw 2 no hitters in a single season?"

    Now, for those playing at home, I tend to wear out my trivia welcome every time there's an opportunity (~30-ish days). I don't feel too bad about this because there are a ton of games where I think there are 3 listeners as Neil broadcasts from Ohio after a 2 hour rain delay. I don't claim to be a baseball trivia genius (although the ones involving Bulls I usually get without help), so off to Google I went on this one.

    And there it was, staring me in the face. Under Roy Halladay's wiki entry, read "He also became the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1973 to throw two no-hitters in a season...". Now, for those reading at home, technically one of those was in the playoffs last year, but it still counts as a single season, right?

    Wrong. Apparently what they were after was a single regular season, and of course Nolan Ryan is the answer there (I probably could have guessed that one w/o Google). Oh well, have to win some other day.

    BTW, I have no ill will about this, it's just the first time I can recall there was an ambiguous trivia answer and it was more entertaining to me than the game itself despite the 9th inning antics.

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