Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Jeremy Hall Retires

Sometimes I wish I weren’t just a fan blogging about my favorite team. For instance, when an item like this Bulls front office email arrives in my inbox:

Jeremy Hall retires.

I see something like that and wish that I could get at the story behind it.

Sure you can get his stats in a couple of places. And here is a clip from this year’s Montgomery Biscuits media guide.

Hall has exceeded expectations since being picked up by the Rays during the 2007 season, and an unexpected quick climb through the minors should run through AAA in 2011 with the chance for a quick start in Montgom- ery... 2010: Went 6-9 with a 3.52 en route to Southern League Mid-Season All-Star honors... Set a new Biscuits record with 35 consecutive scoreless in- nings, snapping Brian Baker’s 2009 mark of 30 with a scoreless first on 6/12... Gave up 1 HR over his first 49 innings, but 10 HR from June-on... Struggled in the 3rd (5.40 ERA, 5 HR) and 5th (7.40, 3 HR) 2009: ERA dropped back below 4 as he spent whole campaign with High-A Charlotte... Led the Florida State League in wins... Strikeout numbers climbed, walk totals remained the same... Was splendid in 3 daytime starts, going 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA... Had his best start of the season in his last start of the season, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out 8 and walking none before being pulled with two outs in the ninth. 2008: Spent whole season in Columbus... Enjoyed a 10-3 record despite the highest ERA of his young career. 2007: Experienced his greatest success in his rookie season, going 5-1 with a 1.55 ERA as a starter between Princeton and Columbus striking out 63 and walking just 15 in 13 starts that covered 75.1 innings.

But that’s about it.

Jeremy came to the Bulls from the Biscuits when Dirk Hayhurst went on the DL. He made his first appearance on April 28th. He did not do very well over the next five appearances and seventeen innings. He was moved to the Hudson Valley roster a few days ago.

Now I’m guessing that he’s going home.

Good luck, young man. All the best.

Summer Comes Early

Game 50, May 30, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Durham Bulls (Rays) 7, Columbus Clippers (Indians) 4
Season: 28-22; Last 10: 4-6; Home Stand: 1-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The weirdness of this year's weather continues. Following the deluge we have stifling heat. You've got to admire ballplayers who played until late Sunday night in very cool upper Ohio, fly into RDU about noon yesterday and greet the sauna, and then play ball at five o'clock.

For the first five innings Columbus pitcher Scott Barnes seemed to have the Bulls in hand, holding them to just the one solo home run by Chris Carter. But from the 6th inning on the Bulls owned the Clippers relievers scoring six runs. Most impressive was Russ Canzler's three-run shot in the 7th.

You have to think that the coaches have been preaching to Alex Torres to throw strikes, let batters hit if he has to, just don't walk them. Torres is notorious for his walk rate, having given up 31 of them in his first nine games this year. Last night Torres let them hit (no walks at all!) and, with one ghastly exception, the defense stepped up including pulling off three double plays. 

The exception was in the third inning when the Clippers led off with two singles. The third batter grounded to second and Omar Luna would have been a hero if he'd successfully tagged the runner as he went by and thrown to first for a double play. Instead, Luna did neither, booting the ball and letting a run score from second. Torres then wild pitched in a second run. Wonder if he was standing on the mound muttering to himself, "First my second baseman and then my catcher." Getting out of that inning, he gave up his only dangerous hit, a home run, in the fourth. Still, if he could have managed one more out in the 7th he would have had the win. 

Overall, even with the no-decision, this may have been his best game. Instead of a pile of strikeouts and a bundle of walks, we got nearly seven innings of solid pitching backed up by decent defense. That'll win it for you almost every time.

* * * * * 

In exchange for Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay is sending back Brandon Gomes. [St. Pete Times] Just roster shuffling on their part, since Gomes has been doing a pretty good job in St. Pete. The same article reports that former Bull Jeff Niemann might be coming through Durham as part of a rehabilitation routine. That could really help the Bulls and it would be fun to see Niemann pitch again. Hope it happens before the Bulls go back on the road.

Speaking of Tampa Bay, they put their second stringers in the game yesterday (Ruggiano in left and Lopez at first). Together they went 3 for 8 with a walk, a home run (Ruggiano), 2 runs scored, and 3 RBI. Not bad for a couple of bench-riders even if in a losing cause.

Monday, May 30, 2011

After the Rain, Two Quick Games

Game 48 (7 Innings), May 29, Toledo, Ohio
Durham Bulls 7, Toledo Mud Hens 4

Game 49 (7 Innings)
Toledo Mud Hens 2, Durham Bulls 1
Season: 27-22; Last 10: 4-6; Trip: 3-5
Wrap, Box (1), Box (2), Toledo Blade

This was not the Bulls best road trip of the year. Nevertheless, after the tough four losses to Columbus, they did very well in Toledo. With a little more luck, they could have tied up the second game last night in the top of the 7th and who knows what might have happened after that? They come home still in first place.

Today's five o'clock game comes after a double-header last night and is against the best team in the league. A real test of the teams' stamina.

This home stand is the only opportunity for local fans of the Cleveland Indians (I think I've met at least one) and Boston Red Sox (two or three) to see their future stars. I'd think that's particularly true of the Indians who seem to have invested a lot of effort into their farm system over the last several years.

Meanwhile, the Bulls team that takes the field today is very different from the one that left town, with more changes coming. Recent roster changes include:

  • Outfielder Justin Ruggiano called up to the Rays where he has been working very diligently his dugout sitting skills.
  • Infielder Felix Lopez went back up to the Rays where he has similarly spent time on the bench (one game appearance).
  • Reliever Rob Delaney came back from the Rays.
  • Catcher Craig Albernaz was sent to Hudson Valley.
  • Pitcher Jeremy Hall was sent to Hudson Valley
  • Infielder Dan Johnson came down from Tampa Bay
  • Pitcher Alex Cobb was called up to Tampa Bay
  • Pitcher Jay Buente was claimed from the Marlins and sent to the Bulls. He pitched in last night's game and did pretty well.
Have I missed any? There will be more. The Rays have to make at least one move to make room for Cobb and they've got a couple of players with dings and bruises.

The Montgomery Advertiser is reporting that Bulls pitcher Richard De Los Santos had shoulder surgery Friday and is out for the season. We wish him well. Maybe next year.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hole Punched in Pitching Rotation

If Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times has got it right, Alex Cobb has been scratched from today's game in Toledo. He's reportedly on his way to St. Pete for a Tuesday start against the Rangers. The plan, I think, was for Edgar Gonzalez to start the first game today and Cobb to start the second. Guess we'll have to wait and see.

In the near term, I'm guessing Jeremy Hall, who was transferred to Hudson Valley on paper, may be back. But the Rays are gonna have to put someone on DL/option to Durham (Gomes?) to make room for Cobb.
Reason enough to try to catch the opening comments tonight.

UPDATE: As I write (5:45) the Bulls are in Toledo watching the rain come down. At best they might get in one game tonight. In the meantime, I guessed wrong regarding who might be starting in place of Alex Cobb. I'd forgotten about new guy Jay Buente, who has a lot of AAA starting pitcher experience. If they were to play a second game, Solondz is reporting that Buente would start. Does not look good, at the moment, for even one game, much less two.

More Rain; More Baseball

The Durham Bulls got rained out Saturday night, so they are going to try for a double header today, then head back here for a game Monday afternoon at 5. They are scheduled to be 7-inning games, but somehow this does not look good. The forecast looks a bit cluttered, so games could go long. Stamina is going to count for a lot.
In the meantime a few odds and ends to add a bit of spice to your Sunday:
  • Here's a very odd double play from Double A ball. The baseball changed hands nine times as the play went along. [MiLB.com]
  • Craig Robinson illustrates Roy Holliday's career as a succession of 10" treks up to the top of the pitcher's mound. [FlipFlopFlyBall]
  • Am I the only one who thinks that it's a bit odd for PeTA to be rating food at minor league ballparks? PeTA? Baseball? Do I need to point out what baseballs are made from? And what's with that rabbit logo? [NotetoSelf]
  • Over at the Baseball Wife blog we find some thoughtful comments on the current paternity leave rules. [BaseballWife]
  • Also on Baseball Wife some meditations on careers for wives of baseball players. [BaseBallWife]
  • Neal Solondz had a good interview with outfielder/DH Chris Carter who talked about a recent day off and success hitting to the opposite field. [DurhamBullsPodcasts]
  • Speaking of a DH, Jason Collette at DRaysBay takes a look at the job from a return on investment perspective. [DRaysBay]

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Looking Better

Game 47, 28 May, First Third Field, Toledo, Ohio.
Durham Bulls 7, Toledo Mud Hens 3
Season: 26-21; Last 10: 4-6; Trip: 2-4
Wrap, Box, Toledo Blade

The Mud Hens are getting turned inside out by their parent club, the Detroit Tigers. See the Toledo Blade link for details. No reason for the Bulls not to take advantage of that, and they did. On the mound was the 32 year-old elder statesman of the Bulls pitching staff, Chris Bootcheck. Have to admire him stepping into the breach until the Rays can find a couple of starters for the Bulls. And he did a decent job, going 4 2/3 innings. This was his second start as a Bull and the first time he’s started games in quite a few years. The last time he saw regular duty as a starter was in 2005 with the Angels AAA team in Salt Lake City. Good job.

Meanwhile Ray Olmedo has slipped into Justin Ruggiano’s #2 spot in the batting order and is acting a bit like Justin. His batting average is up to .293 and yesterday he went two for 5 and scored both times he got on base. Dan Johnson played first and got his first hit. Russ Canzler remains hot, playing third and hitting another homer, just his fourth, but they have been timely. (By the way, Justin Ruggiano has not started a game with the Rays, but did have a little bit of playing time back on May 21st. Guess the Rays are treating him pretty much as usual. Too bad.)

I’m not quite sure what to make of Chris Carter’s day. His hitting helped a lot (two RBIs). But his aggressive base running led to him being thrown out twice trying for third base. And he grounded into two double plays.

Craig Albernaz and Jeremy Hall (I guessed right!) have been taken off the Bulls’ roster and sent to Hudson Valley, making room for Rob Delaney, who passed through waivers, and new guy Jay Buente.

Chart of the Day — Fielding Independent Percentage

This is one of those relatively new numbers that really is a better way of evaluating pitchers than ERA. I like it. It does, however, punish the pitcher who gives up home runs as you can see by the rankings of Swindle (6), Bootcheck (3), and McGee (3) who have pretty high HR/Inning numbers. But, all things considered, that’s seems only fair. An interesting feature of this chart is how well Edgar Gonzalez, today’s starter, comes off. He’s been having back problems recently. We can hope that that sorts itself out.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Game 46, 26 May, Fifth Third Field
Durham Bulls (Rays) 12, Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers) 3
Season: 25-21; Last 10: 3-7; Trip: 1-4
Wrap, Box, Toledo Blade

Just about everyone on the Bulls team had a good day on Thursday up in Toledo. Maybe having Wednesday off made a difference. Losing string stopped at five.

Brian Baker, after a shaky first inning, looked a lot like the guy we knew last year.

The Bulls apparently decided to wait out Toledo’s pitching and drew a season high 11 walks. Add in 15 hits (3 doubles, 3 homers) and you have a terrific win. In the table below you will see that Russ Canzler has been really picking it up since the last time we looked a couple of weeks ago (May 11), and yesterday was no exception. He got on base six times (3 walks, 2 singles, and a double) and scored 3 runs. His wOBA has come up 36 points. Brandon Guyer also had a terrific day scoring 4 runs and also picking up 3 hits and 3 walks.

Dan Johnson was in the lineup as the designated hitter and drew 2 walks, scoring one run. It will be interesting to see how long it takes him to get things going.

The table below updates the numbers from May 11th. Since then Justin Ruggiano and Felix Lopez have gone to the Rays. Albernaz and Johnson have been added to the roster, but have very few at bats. Looking at the team as a whole, hitting has improved, with the wOBA rising 13 points. Notable positive changes are Chirinos, Anderson, Olmedo and Canzler. Lobaton’s numbers were unsustainably high; not quite sure what to make of Jennings’ slight drop. Overall, however, the hitting seems to be OK. (Note: the players marked with an asterisk (*) are on the Rays’ 40-man roster.)

About the pitching:

The Rays have “claimed” Marlins pitcher Jay Buente off waivers and assigned him to Durham. Buente had to go onto the Rays 40-man so Rob Delaney was “designated for assignment”. This may take a day or so to sort itself out. For sure Buente will be pitching for the Bulls. The question will be in what role, starter or reliever? Help as a starter would be nice for the Bulls, but could be that the Rays are looking at him as a reliever. Some commentary here and here.

Rob Delaney, who has been doing a decent job for the Bulls (14 appearances, ERA-2.57, FIP-2.58, WHIP-1.29) might end up with the Bulls, just not on the 40-man. If so, I’d guess someone will be heading back to Montgomery. My top candidate would be Jeremy Hall.

Note that by making guesses like this I have yet again an opportunity to demonstrate to the world how little I understand the business of baseball.

Lastly, for your amusement, note that Dirk Hayhurst appears to be going even a bit more nuts down in extended spring training. [DirkHayhurst] On the other hand, he is throwing. That's a good thing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

About Dan Johnson

If you look around the web for information about Dan Johnson, most of what you find is about him as a Tampa Bay Ray. What I’d like to do here is provide some background on one of the best ballplayers ever to play for the Durham Bulls.

Mr. Johnson played two nearly full seasons with the Bulls, 2008 and 2010. He spent 2009 playing in Japan. In both of his seasons with the Bulls he was called up to the Rays near the end and managed to get some timely hits for them. However, this year he is having a very rough time and was just passed through waivers. Fortunately for the Bulls, he accepted an assignment here. Whether there’s something wrong or he just cannot adjust to the Rays’ peculiar platooning approach I can’t tell. What I can tell, or point to, is that he was a superstar for the Bulls in 2008 and 2010. Maybe, just maybe, he can do it again.

First 2008:

Dan played in 113 games, hit 25 home runs, had 83 RBIs, and a slash line (BA/OBP/SLG) of .307/.424/.556. Only Chris Richard had more home runs (26) or RBIs (88). He played 29 games at 1B, 10 games at 3B, and 8 games in left field. Thus, almost half of the time he was the DH. At first and third base he committed a total of 4 errors for a .992 rate at 1B and a .933 at 3B. (Note: for old-timers, 2008 was the year of Joel Guzman at 3B (90 games).

Then 2010:

Dan played in 98 games in 2010 and he put up some amazing stats before being called up. A slash line of .303/.430/.624 (that’s an OPS of 1.053 on 98 games!). He hit 30 home runs and had 95 RBIs before he was called up. What may be as important for the 2011 Durham Bulls, however, are his fielding stats. In 2010 he played a lot of 3B (36 games), some left field (22 games) and less 1B (14 games). However, he only had one error at 3B (this year’s crew has had 6 so far) and none at 1B (the 2011 crew has had 6). My memory of DJ at third is of someone who, if he got to the ball, made the play. Plus, he just knows the position(s) very well.

Dan Johnson was the International League’s Most Valuable Player for 2010 and the International League All-Star at third base. The Bulls won the South Division championship both years, but could not get through the Governors' Cup without him.

Am I happy to have Dan Johnson back in Bulls uniform? You bet I am. I wish he’d done better with the Rays this year, because I think that he’s a much better ball player than this year’s stats show. In the meantime, welcome back!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Swept! On to Toledo

Game 41, 20 May 2011, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Durham Bulls 8; Lousville Bats 9
Wrap, Box

Game 42, 21 May, Huntington Park
Durham Bulls 8; Columbus Clippers (Indians) 11
Wrap, Box

Game 43, 22 May
Durham Bulls 6, Columbus Clippers 7 (10 innings)
Wrap, Box

Game 44, 23 May
Durham Bulls 2, Columbus Clippers 3 (8 innings)
Wrap, Box

Game 45 24 May
Durham Bulls 3, Columbus Clippers 5
Season: 24-21; Last 10: 3-7; Trip: 0-4
Wrap, Box

I’m guessing that only North Carolina readers are going to get this story, and maybe not all of them.

I spent the last couple of the days up near Asheville/Hendersonville. I had to drive out from where I was staying to get a signal for my cellphone and iPad (no computer). Wanting to at least be able to do a little bit of web surfing I went down to the AT&T store to complain about it.

The AT&T person mutters as she’s typing in the location, “If there’s a 'Cove' in the address we sometimes don’t have good coverage.” Not a good sign. For those not from around here, “cove” is North Carolina-ese for “hollow”, or valley, or “way back yonder.” There was a cove in the address and there wasn’t coverage. No fix. 

Result wasn’t all bad because it wasn’t until today that ...

I found that the Bulls had lost four in a row up until this morning. And now they have lost five in a row and have been swept by the Columbus Clippers.

Let me jump to my first chart to show what that means. At first while the Bulls were falling of the edge of the earth, the Gwinnett Braves weren’t doing all that well either. But today they caught up with the Bulls and now the Bulls are tied for the first place lead.

click on chart for larger view

How did that happen? First of all, Columbus is one heck of a team. As the chart shows, they’ve been on a run all year and don’t look to be slowing down the least little bit.

In the Bulls defense (and this is just from the obvious, reported stuff) the turmoil on this trip has been unusually high. Two hitters, Ruggiano and Lopez, got called up to the Rays. While I was not yet a fan of Lopez, I have to admit his league-leading week before his call-up was special. A pitcher, Rob Delaney, came back and was banged around a bit at first.

Chris Bootcheck got a try-out as a starter in game 1 of the Clippers series and gave up 5 earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. He took the loss, but I must point out that the next two pitchers (Delany and Hall) gave up 6 more runs (4 earned).

Edgar Gonzalez only lasted one inning in his start in game 2 of the seris. The bullpen kept a lid on (sort of) through nine, but Mike Ekstrom wild-pitched in the winning run in the 10th.

Over the last five games the Bulls have scored 27 runs, pretty good and usually good enough. Unfortunately their opponents have scored 35 runs. But only 26 were earned. What does that mean? It means there were a few mistakes (3 errors, 1 passed ball, 2 wild pitches), but that’s not terribly bad, just that the timing of the mistakes was terrible.

In terms of pure numbers, the Bulls team wOBA at the beginning of the stretch was .338 and at the end it was .339. So I guess we’ve got to blame the pitchers.

This chart pretty much says it. The team ERA and the ERA of the starters and relievers has really ramped upwards over the last several games. And the trend started even when the Bulls were winning.

The Bulls get a day off in Toledo tomorrow. The Tigers’ AAA team, the Mud Hens are 22-25 so far. Maybe Dan Johnson will show up and hit a couple of dingers for the Bulls and life will settle back down. We can hope.

Dan Johnson Back to the Bulls

I've been out of town and I really don't want to write about the last five games (but I will, eventually). Much more fun to report something positive.

According to The St. Pete Times Marc Topkin Dan Johnson has cleared waivers and is on his way back to the Bulls.

Dan was our hero last season and a leading star in Triple A baseball. Here's hoping that whatever was getting in the way of success with the Rays gets out of his way with us. We really need him.

No word on when he'll show up.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Anderson Breaking Out?

Game 40, 19 May 2011, DBAP
Durham Bulls 12, Louisville Bats 6
Season: 24-16; Last 10: 6-4; Home Stand: 2-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Leslie Anderson got the day off on Wednesday. Guess he needed it. He came back on Thursday and hit two home runs and a double to pick up 6 RBIs and raise his batting average almost 30 points. Is Anderson about to realize the potential that brought him to the US and the Rays last year? We can hope.

Meanwhile the top of the batting order, Desmond Jennings and Justin Ruggiano also had a good game. Jennings had two doubles, a home run, stole a base, and scored three runs. Ruggiano had two singles and two walks, stole 4 bases, and scored three runs.

These three games have been triumphs for the hitters of both teams. Louisville has accumulated a total of 38 hits and 21 runs. Durham has had 34 hits and 27 runs. Some of it can be put off to weak pitching, but give credit to experienced hitters as well.

Speaking of pitching, Alex Torres began the night by striking out the side, but that was the last time he looked comfortable. The Durham Herald-Sun quotes Charlie Montoyo as saying, “”Whenever he starts throwing strikes, he’s a big leaguer for a long time because he has four great pitches. He’s a prospect, and whenever he gets it he’s going to be good.“ I would parse that as meaning, among other things, ”Let your fielders do their jobs. Quit giving batters a free ride.“ Torres had five walks to go with his seven Ks.

Tonight wraps up the year’s contests with Louisville, unless we see them as we usually do in the playoffs. Very likely to be some very high quality baseball played tonight in the DBAP. I'll be taking a couple of days off to see what the mountains of NC look like this time of year. And to get away from the smoke that's been drifting in from that wildfire down East. Good luck Bulls!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

iPhone (and Android) App Released

I got my first look at the Durham Bulls iPhone app today and it is terrific.

An android app has also been released, but I haven’t seen it (and probably won’t). The Android app is supposedly essentially the same as the iPhone one.

For iPhone users, you need to know that there are two apps in the iTunes store with the “Durham Bulls” logo on it. The one that you want, the one just released, is the “Durham Bulls Official App”. The other app is pretty crippled and not being supported at all. Also, it can be reached directly through the link above and through the Bulls website.

Does it pass the “So What?” test? In a word, yes. I think it will turn out to be a very handy little program. This is the third or fourth minor league app that the developer, Critical Technologies Group, has put on the street, so my expectation is that they will have figured out how to efficiently retrieve data from the MiLB.com servers (which is about all that I’m interested in).

I tried it out at tonight’s game and it worked just fine both over ATT 3G and the Bulls’ wi-fi. The Bulls press release goes into detail about all the things you can do with the app.

About all that it doesn't have yet that I’d like to see is live audio streaming, and I’m told that’s on the way. Since I live on the far fringes of AM 620’s coverage area and can’t always get to a computer, that would be a very handy feature.

Long time coming (I first heard about it late last season), but it works and it’s free. What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tough Fans; Hot Catcher

Game 38, 17-18 May 2001, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Durham Bulls 8; Louisville Bats 11 (10 Innings)
Wrap, Box, Indy Week

My hat's off to those 30 or 40 of you who were left at the DBAP early Wednesday morning! Tough guys!

Game 39, 18 May 2001
Durham Bulls 7, Louisville Bats 4
Season: 23-16; Last 10: 6-4; Home Stand: 1-1
Wrap, Box

Jose Lobaton hit a grand slam and a double this afternoon, and that worries me. That worries me because Kelly Shoppach, one of the Rays’ catchers, is having a terrible year at the plate (.159/.206/.424). Now he didn’t do a whole lot better last year, but they are paying him something like $3 million, so Lobaton may start looking good sometime soon. Lobaton’s only moment in the sun in the majors was for the Padres back in 2009 (5 games, including one inning at second base!). But he’s on the 40-man and he’s certainly making a statement this year (.338/.419/.541, 10 RBI, 21 games). Of course, catchers are different from everyone else and are evaluated on much more than what they do at bat. Jason Hanselman over at DRaysBay has crunched some numbers that imply that Shoppach’s defense is above average. So maybe I don’t have to worry ... yet.

Meanwhile, Alex Cobb continues to set a high standard for the rest of the Bulls’ starting staff. R.J. Swindle, who might be in contention for a LOOGY (Left-handed One Out GuY) job down south, was left in after the first out and walked the second guy, who then came home on a home run given up by Ryan Reid. That got the game close in the top of the 8th (5-4), but the Bulls came back to pick up two runs in the bottom of the inning, and Ekstrom, looking much better than he had just a few hours earlier, closed it out.

Today’s Chart — Hitting and Pitching

This chart is an idiosyncratic way of looking at team hitting and pitching. It shows the cumulative wOBA for the entire team over the last 15 games (in green) and calls that “Hitting”. The red line is the wOBA of the Bulls’ opponents (or OwOBA) and that’s called “pitching”. Seems like a reasonable assertion to me. What these numbers show is that while hitting has been OK, aggregate pitching performance has been off the last few games.

click on chart for a larger view

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Back for the Bats

After sitting around for two days, the Durham Bulls are back in town to play the Louisville Bats for a couple of games. It does, however, appear as if they've brought their bad weather with them. We can hope that they don't have to spend yet another day in the dugout watching the rain fall. But if they do, at least they're home.

Regarding rainouts, with all his free time these days, Dirk Hayhurst seems to be channeling his inner old man of the mountain. Most recently he offers advice on how to deal with rainouts. As a fan, I really like this series of posts. But I have to say that I think that if I were a teammate I’d find them a bit preachy. Maybe that’s just a really old man resenting a 30-year old posing as an old man.

Speaking of rainouts, Nicole Johnson (wife of former Bull Elliot Johnson and Durham resident) blogs about a wonderful experience in Minneapolis recently.

In the interesting but did I really need to know this category, here's this:

A while back I read an article about the design and development of Ferrari sports cars. Turns out that the incredible sound those cars make is a deliberate design element. They actually gather folks together and decide what the automobile is going to sound like. This is relevant to a baseball blog only in that it brings to mind what all of us dislike about metal bats, the pinging sound that they make. According to this piece, a lot of work has been going into making the performance of the bats more wood-like. Wonder why they can’t do something about the sound?

Getting back to tonight's game, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal Bats Manager Rick Sweet isn't happy with his team's performance in the last couple of games.

Chart of the Day — WHIP

Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched is an interesting measure of a pitcher’s skill. In general, 1.00 is considered really good pitching. Basically what the stat measures is folks getting on base. In the case of this year’s Durham Bulls, however, the season is really too young to make any big judgements. 

(Note: In this chart the numbers after the pitcher’s name are: appearances, innings, won-loss, holds, saves, and blown saves.) 

If they were still with the team, Rob Delaney (1.06) and Brandon Gomes (1.13) would fit in rather nicely. Dirk Hayhurst’s WHIP was 0.90 when he went on the DL.

Should we be worried about three of our five starters being above the team average? You bet.

click on chart for larger view

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Game 37: Durham Bulls 0; Syracuse Indians 11
Season: 23-14; Last 10: 7-3; This Trip: 1-1
Wrap, Box, Syracuse Post-Standard

The plan had been to comment on this game after today's game, since I really didn't want to talk about an 11-0 blowout. But today has been rained out, so I might as well put something up while we wait for tomorrow's proposed double-header.

That box score is one ugly critter, ain’t it? Five home runs! Is it any comfort that only (only!) seven of the runs were earned? How did that happen? Not sure.

Michael Aubrey, formerly of the Baltimore system, now of the Washington system, hit four of the home runs all by himself, accounting for 7 RBI and certainly a bid for at least a spot on the Nationals’ 40-man.

The only Bulls pitcher who didn’t give up a home run was R.J. Swindle, although he remains the season leader in that category having given up 6 so far.

So rather than study that game any more I took a look at the Syracuse sports pages. Looks like folks up that way are going to be eating caviar in their near future.

Today's Chart — Team ERA

Today’s chart shows the Bulls’ pitchers’ cumulative ERA over the last 15 games. By cumulative ERA, I mean that it is recomputed after each game. Thus each data point is the ERA for the total number of runs and innings to that point. For example, May 14 is based on 334 1/3 innings pitched and 127 earned runs. The Bulls ERA ranks third in the International League and compares well with previous Bulls seasons. The interesting feature of this chart is how the starters and relievers contributions shake out. Overall, starters and relievers have about a 50-50 spread in innings pitched (177 to 157 1/3). As you can see, over the last two weeks the starters as a group have been improving while the relievers have been having their troubles (remember, however, that the Bulls won 11 of those 15 games, so the idea of “trouble” is somewhat relative).
click on chart for a larger view

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Explosive Seventh

Game 36: Durham Bulls 9; Syracuse Chiefs 2
Season: 22-14; Last 10: 8-2; Trip: 1-0
Wrap, Box

If the weather prediction is on target, Scotty McCreery may end up singing in the rain today. Don’t know who Scotty McCreery is? You’re not from around here are you?

While we wait for the rain, how about them Bulls in the 7th inning last night? After two outs in the inning, nine more Bulls came to bat against three different pitchers. One got hit by a pitch (Lopez), two hit singles (Luna, Chirinos), three hit doubles (Olmedo, Canzler, Lobaton), and two hit home runs (Jennings, Anderson).

Just two days ago we had a chart up where we worried about Leslie Anderson’s numbers. Last night’s two home runs (3 RBIs) pushed his numbers up quite a bit and they were his first home runs of the year. Omar Luna broke through the Mendoza line and reached .211. Unfortunately, two other hitters of concern, J.J. Furmaniak (0 for 5) and Robinson Chirinos (1 for 5) were not able to participate in the breakout.

An oddity of the game was Anderson and Furmaniak in the outfield. Guessing that Guyer, Ruggiano and Carter up for days off. Given the power those three bring to the lineup, last night’s score is all the more remarkable.

Brian Baker seems to be settling in. Six solid innings last night. His first couple of games as a starter were tough. In those games he was only able to get through 3 or 4 innings and his ERA ballooned up to the mid-7’s. In his last two starts (admittedly against not very strong teams) he’s gone six innings each and has gotten his ERA down to 4.34. Pretty good.

And then there’s Dane De La Rosa, who got his head handed to him in the middle innings at the old DAP earlier this week. A solid two innings.

Chart of the Day

I like this one. It shows the growing difference between the total runs scored by the Bulls and the runs allowed by the Bulls. If these numbers are plugged into the Pythagorean Expectation formula you can come up with the “expectation” that the Bulls won-loss record “should” be 20-16, below its actual 22-14. Traditional explanations for deviations from expectation are luck and/or bullpen performance. I haven’t noticed much luck in the games I’ve witnessed, so I’m going with the bullpen explanation. Yeah for the bullpen!

Friday, May 13, 2011

On to Syracuse

Game 35: Durham Bulls 6; Indianapolis Indians 9
Season: 21-14; Last 10: 7-3; Home Stand: 6-2
Wrap, Box, Indy Week

As Walt Kelly’s Pogo used to say, “Friday the 13th comes on Friday this month.” So I was not too surprised when I checked in this morning and discovered Google’s Blogger was down (host to WDBB) and the last several posts to WDBB disappeared early Friday morning. They may not return.

By now you will have chased down other reports on the game. At any rate, I missed the game last night because I allowed life to interfere with baseball (that happens some days). So I really don’t have anything to add.

A couple of notes taken from the Indy Week report of the game:
  • Brandon Guyer, who came out of the game in the 4th, appeared to be OK. The Bulls are reportedly just being cautious. Good for them.
  • Richard De Los Santos might be out for the year.
Chart of the Day

It was a great home stand. The Bulls are ahead in the South Division and off for a rematch with Syracuse. Here’s a plot of games above/below .500 for the teams in the South Division, plus markers for the leading teams in the North and West Divisions.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Look At the Hitters ... and More

How are the Bulls hitters doing this year?

One answer is, good enough to win most of their games. But to take a little closer look here's a chart with numbers for the current roster.
click on chart for a larger image

The players are sorted by their wOBA, Weighted On-Base Average, a sort of pumped up on-base average that provides a better picture of a player’s performance than just batting average. Also displayed is the traditional batting average number, which, mostly, tracks wOBA.

The players marked with asterisks “*” are on Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster. The numbers in parentheses are the plate appearances for each batter. The sources for the data are Stat Corner and Baseball Reference.

A couple of things jump out.

The infield isn’t doing very well at bat. Russ Canzler is the only infielder (other than Lobaton) hitting above the team average. Four players are below the Mendoza Line. The sample size is way too small to jump to any conclusions regarding Felipe Lopez, but he has not done too well since his arrival.

Should we start worrying about J.J. Furmaniak and Robinson Chirinos? In a word, yes, even though they are very different players. J.J. is a veteran who can be expected to climb back up into the middle to high .200’s BA. Chirinos is a bit different because expectations were set so high coming out of spring training and because he’s on the 40-man. Nevertheless, Chirinos is more likely to be judged on his defensive skills than his hitting.

I worry more about Leslie Anderson than any of the others. His play at first base seems to be improving, but he simply is not getting on base enough. That said, his hitting has been very timely. His 14 RBIs count for something.

  • The News & Observer (the News & Observer? I know. I am as shocked as you all) did an interesting piece on Justin Ruggiano.
  • Triangle Offense has a good interview with visiting reliever J.P. Howell.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Quiet Day, Mostly

Game 34: Durham Bulls 1; Indianapolis Indians 0
Season: 21-13; Last 10: 8-2; This Home Stand: 6-1
Wrap, Box

First inning, second batter, Justin Ruggiano hits a home run, his 6th and ran up his team-leading total of RBIs to 28. There is no doubt that Ruggiano has been locked in these last couple of weeks and is setting a very high standard for the rest of the team’s hitters. By the way, that was the only, and obviously game-winning, run of the game.

Pitching ruled the rest of the game. The Bulls got a runner to second base in the 5th, but that was as close as they came. An Indians runner got to third base in the 6th (single, sacrifice, stolen base), but not close to getting across. But the pitchers were the only guys who didn’t have play 11 innings yesterday and then get up for an eleven o’clock game today.

Our guys collected the Bulls’ fourth shutout and the second of this home stand.

Alex Cobb picked up his third win and looked very comfortable through six. J.P. Howell gave up a hit in his inning, but really had no trouble at all.

For the first time since his arrival, Jake McGee looked like the pitcher we saw here last year. Two innings, 4 K’s (2 looking), a troublesome 4-pitch walk, and that was it. His velocity (when I noticed) was usually marked at 94, with a couple of 93s and at least one 95 in the mix.

As is all too often the case, Brandon Guyer’s “cup of coffee” has cost him back here with the Bulls. He’s 2 for 11 since his return. Still, can’t complain. What a thrill that home run must have been up in Baltimore.

Did anyone see the game on MLB? If so, how did it look?


Game 33: Durham Bulls 2; Indianapolis Indians 1 (11 innings)
Season: 20-23; Last 10: 8-2; Home Stand: 5-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Bottom of the 11th inning, bases loaded, 2 outs, Justin Ruggiano at bat. I start packing up and turn to my seatmate, “Ready to go?” I ask. She nods. Off to the north the sky is filled with lightning flashes. Music from “The Natural” plays in my head.

Ruggiano hits his obligatory walk-off shot to center field. Bulls win.

We head for home, getting to the car just before a real frog-swallower of a rainstorm.

But there was more to the game than that. In fact, the game never should have gone to the 11th. Before and after the game was tied in the 6th on a very odd play, the Bulls had runners on second and third base several times and could not get them across. Even Ruggiano missed a bases-loaded opportunity in the 4th.

About that odd play. An oddity of the rules is that if a foul ball is caught, runners on base can go after tagging up. In this case Indian outfielder Corey Wimberly was on third base and shortstop Pedro Ciriaco hit a foul ball deep behind third base, almost to the tarp. The Bulls Felipe Lopez chased it down and caught it going away. Wimberly tagged up and made it home ahead of Lopez’s throw. Should Lopez have just dropped the ball? Hard to tell. I do remember Chris Richard (Bulls first baseman for a number of years) doing that once when he was way out of position chasing a foul ball and there was a runner on third. He just let the ball drop. By the way, Ciriaco gets sac fly credit for a foul ball.

The busiest Bull last night was shortstop Ray Olmedo. I have him down for 13 outs (out of 33), 5 line drives caught, seven grounders to first, and a 4-6 play at second. Great night, not to mention reaching base five times in his six plate appearances (two singles, reached on an error, and an intentional walk (!)).

More and more to like about Edgar Gonzalez. Seven solid innings last night.

Last bit of quirkiness. In the 6th inning Charlie Montoyo went out to the mound, apparently to discuss defensive tactics in a two-out, runners on first and second situation. So the gathering at the mound was Montoyo, Gonzalez, Chirinos, Lopez, Olmedo, Luna, and Anderson. Here’s what’s quirky about that: everyone at the meeting was a native speaker of Spanish. Welcome to 21st Century American baseball.

Photo pull below is from 8:32 this morning. Tarp is off after last night's post-game deluge. Game time (national TV) is 11:05. Hope the Bulls are feeling more rested than I do.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Durham Bulls on National TV, Again

The Bulls will be on MLBTV Wednesday (May 11) morning at 11:00 am. This is one of those "education day" games with the stands full of screaming kids. In its noisy way, kinda fun.

Alex Cobb should be the starting pitcher.

Neal Solondz and Chris Richard will probably be doing the play-by-play and commentary.

HD cameras are in the park, and local broadcasts look great. So my guess is that the MLB broadcast will look pretty good, just lacking in some of the graphics and some of the camera angles you don't see in major league games.

Press release here.

Only So Much Nostalgia


Game 32: Durham Bulls (Rays) 5; Indianapolis Indians (Pirates) 7
Season: 19-13; Last 10: 8-2; This Home Stand: 4-1

The good and the bad of the old Durham Athletic Park hasn't changed from last year: seating, field lighting, winning the game — not good; field conditions, nostalgic touches (Clay Aiken singing, Charlie Montoyo and Bill Evers playing catch) — great.

The game this time started out slow and seemed to get slooooower, coming in at just over 3 hours, but it seemed much longer. Jeremy Hall had his best start in his short time with the Bulls and Ryan Reid did the same. That meant that at the end the 6th the Bulls were up 4-2 and things looked OK.

Dane De La Rosa came in for his first time since April 29th (we won't count his one pitch appearance against these same Indians on May 3rd). Rusty is perhaps not exactly the right word. Six hits and five runs later, the Bulls were pretty much out of the game. It was left only for R.J. Swindle to have his best inning of the year in the 9th. (Trivia: R.J.'s first appearance as a Bull was last year's DAP game).

One other positive feature to this game is that the Indians used six relievers (did not have a regular starter for reasons I did not learn), which might be an advantage to the Bulls as the home stand continues.

Remember Aneury Rodriguez? He was a pitcher I loved watching in the 2010 season. He's now a starter for the Houston Astros and got roughed up a bit last night in his second major league start. Oddly enough, there's a chance that he could end up being a Bull again this year because he was picked up on the Rule 5 draft and if the Astros don't keep him on their 25-man roster he has to come back to the Rays. But wouldn't it be neat if he made it as a major league starter? We can hope for him.

Couple more photos from last night.

Let's go back to the DBAP!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ruggiano Named IL Player of the Week

Justin Ruggiano was just named the International League's Player of the Week for his heroics in Indianapolis and here in Durham last week. Congrats to Justin. Well-deserved!

Bulls outfielder Justin Ruggiano rode four multi-hit games to Player of the Week honors in the International League. His .476 average, .560 on-base percentage, and 5 stolen bases were 2nd in the League, while he tied for the IL lead with 9 RBI on the week. During a doubleheader Tuesday in Indianapolis, Ruggiano banged out two hits in each game, adding two runs and three stolen bases in the second game of the afternoon. Back home Thursday to face Syracuse after an off day, Ruggiano again went 2-3 with two runs scored. This time he also belted the game's big blow, a two-run 8th inning homer that tied the game 3-3 (Durham eventually won 4-3). Saturday night against the Chiefs, Ruggiano was the hero once again. His fourth hit of the night was a walk-off two-run single in the 11th inning to cap an amazing comeback after Syracuse took a 5-2 lead in the top of the frame. For the season, Ruggiano is now hitting .321 (10th in the League) to go along with 26 RBI (2nd).

29-year-old Justin Ruggiano is in his fifth season with the Durham Bulls. The outfielder was an International League All-Star in 2007. Ruggiano is a native of Austin, Texas.

A Lot to Like

The DAP in the 1940s

DAP Restored 2008

Game 31: Durham Bulls 4; Syracuse Chiefs 0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Triangle Offense
Season: 19-12; Streak: 5-0

Bulls pitching got its third shutout last night (the Bulls have not been shut out at all this year) and several good things happened.

Brian Baker, who was one of last year's stalwarts (see summary here), had his best game by far. He only gave up one hit and he struck out six in six innings.

Then Chris Bootcheck came in and gave the Bulls three very solid innings. After his mysterious one-batter appearance Saturday night, we were puzzled. But whatever the reason (Montoyo forgetting that Whiting was a switch hitter and going for a left on left situation with McGee?), Bootcheck looked really good. If he is back in form, things are looking up. Now if Hayhurst would quit blogging and get back to pitching, the Bulls pitching would be in great shape.

All bats were fairly quiet last night; neither team got an extra base hit. Early on my note read, "The script for the last couple of games is to sit and wait for Jennings and Ruggiano to come to bat." And that's the way things were working, with Ruggiano scoring the only run on a Felipe Lopez single in the first and getting on base with an error in the 3rd. But Russ Canzler changed the script in the 7th with a single, Lobaton walked, Anderson singled, Furmaniak got an RBI single, and Ray Olmedo got two runs in with a single. Syracuse's Detwiler who had had a really good game until the 7th was obviously out of gas, but it was way too late by then.

So, a sweep and the Bulls stay on top of the South Division of the International League.

Indianapolis comes to town for the "Return to the DAP" game tonight.

In my diligent research into the popularity of the old ball field I have uncovered the real reason for the intensely fond memories of the park, meaningful only to those of a certain age. Listen carefully children. There was a brief moment in time when the patriarchy decided that not only could 18 year-olds vote, but they were also responsible enough to legally purchase a drink. The problem remained that "liquor by the drink" counties were still quite rare in the Ol' North State. However, one place you could reliably buy a beer and drink in public was, guess where, the Durham Athletic Park. Moreover, in that same time, driving while a bit fuzzy in tongue and mind was, mostly, tolerated. Hence, the intense nostalgia not for the baseball, but for the DAP itself, since that's just about all a certain generation can remember. That is, they went to the DAP and a beer, and then a couple more...

Nevertheless, there is a certain charm to the place. Worth a visit tonight.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Guyer Coming Back; Delaney to Rays

The St. Pete Times blog is reporting that Brandon Guyer is coming back to the Bulls and Rob Delaney has been called up.

Well, it was only for a “cup of coffee” but Brandon Guyer certainly had a memorable first appearance in the bigs — his first at bat was a home run. Now he is on his way back. No way to tell if he will be here in time for tonight’s game. Hope he had fun. Happy to have him back.

Rob Delaney has been doing a terrific job for the Bulls. 12 appearances/18 innings/ERA 1.50/WHIP 1.06.
This has to do with the Rays Jeff Neimann going on the disabled list, Andy Sonnanstine moving into the rotation, and a need for a reliever. 

What does it do to the Bulls? Well, with De La Rosa on suspension, we’re down to 12 plus rehabbing J.P. Howell who might be available tomorrow (depends on his rehab schedule). Twelve is sort of “normal”, so I’d think we’re OK if it weren’t for the late inning troubles last night.

Beautiful Extra-Inning Win, With Puzzles

Game 29: Durham Bulls 3; Syracuse Chiefs 1
Wrap, Box, Indy Week,Herald-Sun

Game 30: Durham Bulls 6; Syracuse Chiefs 5 (11 innings)
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun
Season: 18-12; Streak: 4-0

Justin Ruggiano had yet another amazing game Saturday night. In fact he sort of had to win it twice. In the 10th with the score tied 2-2, Ray Olmedo tried to score on Ruggiano's single to center field, but he was thrown out. So when Rugg came to bat in the 11th with the bases loaded and the score tied 5-5 [Ooops! Thanks, Chris D] Chiefs 5, Bulls 4, it was naturally assumed that he would hit in the winning runs — and he did with a single to center.

The win kept the Bulls two games in front of the Gwinnett Braves and its spectacular nature obscured a couple of oddities and issues that are worth mentioning.

What we witnessed for 6 innings was a superb scoreless pitchers' duel between the Bulls Alex Torres and the Chiefs Yuneska Maya. All of these games with the Chiefs have shown them to have a fine crowd of starting pitchers. But (who else) Justin Ruggiano broke the tie with a RBI double and Russ Canzler hit him in. That certainly looked good enough.

But then in a puzzling move, after J.P. Howell did his rehab inning, Chris Bootcheck came in, walked the Chief's #9 batter, and was pulled for Jake McGee. McGee got a ground out fielder's choice then gave up a home run that tied the game. My question is, why was Bootcheck pulled? He's just off the DL and did give up a walk, but something could have been wrong. And why McGee back-to-back? He pitched part of an inning on Friday and was back for this session.

Then there was the 11th. New guy Ryan Reid got a ground out and gave up a walk. R.J. Swindle came in to give up three runs with a homer, single, double and hit batter. Not good. In fact, this is not a good year for R.J. This was his first time on the mound since April 30th (2/3 inning). He's being hit hard. In 11 innings he has given up 5 home runs, 11 earned runs, 16 hits. His signature slow curve has disappeared. As a final peculiarity, after giving up 3 runs in the top of the 11th last night, when the Bulls came back with 4 in the bottom of the inning, Swindle got the win! Overall, I'm beginning to think that R.J. may not be long for the Bulls. That's too bad, because he was a key figure in last year's championship team.

We saw Felipe Lopez for the first time. He did a fine job at third base, where he was quite busy early in the game. On the other hand, he left Ruggiano hanging out in scoring position three different times.

Meanwhile, for Rays' futurists, the Montgomery Biscuits have been over in Zebulon and won one last night as well.

Our guys up with the Rays: Brandon Guyer did not get into the Rays' 8-2 win over Baltimore, but Brandon Gomes pitched a scoreless 9th (1 BB, 2 K's).

Friday, May 6, 2011

9th Inning Thrills

Game 28: Durham Bulls (Rays) 4; Syracuse Chiefs (Nationals) 3
Season: 16-12; Streak: 2-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Ballgames in May at the DBAP can be miserable. Last night it was cold. I kept adding layers and fortunately the wind wasn’t blowing. Still, the stands were getting empty by the bottom of the 8th.

Up until then, the evening’s story was Syracuse’s pitcher Tom Milone, who was giving a clinic on careful, precision pitching. His 11 K’s were the most of any single pitcher against the Bulls this year. Meanwhile the Bulls’ Edgar Gonzalez, who is emerging as the key man of the Bulls rotation, kept things in check for a solid six innings.

J.P. Howell got in one inning. He is reportedly on a 1-inning, 25-pitch, whichever comes first, limitation. After giving up a walk, he did just fine, especially his pickoff of a Chief runner on 2nd base. Last seen in Durham in 2007, Howell is working his way back after missing 2010 recuperating from surgery.

Milone finally left the game after 7 brilliant innings and Chiefs reliever Adam Carr gave up a double to Desmond Jennings and zinged a couple of inside pitches before Justin Ruggiano really crushed one to deep center field. Ruggiano is up to 22 RBIs now. That homer, with Jennings on base, tied the game.

If you were among the few left, you got to see a really thrilling walk off bottom of the 9th. Walk, pinch runner, sac bunt, broken bat popup up over the pitcher but at shortstop’s feet put runners on first and third, and Jennings’ single won the game. Video on Bulls’ website pretty well sums it up.

* * * * *

But there was more than just a game going on last night.

  • Dane De La Rosa is on a four-game suspension for his part in the exchange of inside pitches up in Indianapolis the other day. The pitcher who initiated the exchange, Rudy Owens, only got three days. Owens is a starter, so he is essentially unpunished. De La Rosa is a reliever, so the Bulls will miss him for a couple more days.
  • Felípe López, who probably exemplifies the term “veteran infielder”, should be in Durham today. Lopez started the year on the Bulls roster, but was called up to the Rays before the Bulls season started when Even Longoria went on the disabled list. To be honest, I’m surprised he made it through waivers, but here he is. He hasn't played minor league ball since 2004. That makes him look a bit like this year's Hank Blalock. I think he’s going to give Russ Canzler a run for his money when it comes to playing time at third, but there’s going to be so much shuffling the next couple of days it’s hard to tell. Stats here and here.
  • Outfielder Brandon Guyer got called up to Tampa Bay last night and is off to Baltimore. Why? That should become clear later in the day with the Rays also in a bit of lineup turmoil. My guess is that the Rays think that B.J. Upton is about to be suspended after a spectacular balls and strikes rant/tossed from the game episode the other night. Why not Jennings? Because it could be just a sit on the bench visit. The Rays have other outfielders, but they want to keep their roster full.
  • What does it all mean for the Bulls? Not too much. Chris Carter or Leslie Anderson in the outfield. Canzler on first, probably. Or Canzler DHing. Guyer’s been hot, though, we’re going to miss that.
  • If Upton is suspended, the possibility still exists for the Rays to pull a pitcher from the Bulls, because their Jeff Neimann just went on the DL.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

De La Rosa Suspended

All we have is a note from the Bulls' front office,

Dane de la Rosa suspended by International League

But it wouldn't take too much to guess that it's related to the incident report here. Wonder if we're going to be able to find out what happened to Indianapolis pitcher Rudy Owens? And will things settle down before the Indians come to town on Monday?

One Month's Worth of Pitches

Keeping track of Durham Bulls pitching can be tough to do. The season is not quite a month old yet and seventeen players have already taken the mound for the Bulls (eighteen if you count catcher Craig Albernaz’s two appearances). The Bulls' website seems to have trouble keeping track. For example, as this is being written Alex Cobb’s return from Tampa Bay does not show, nor does the departure of the unfortunate Paul Phillips to Montgomery. Even with those transactions, the Bulls are carrying 13 pitchers, one more than usual. Also, we can expect a visit from rehabbing Tampa Bay reliever J.P. Howell soon.

The Bulls have two starting pitchers on the disabled list, Richard De Los Santos and Dirk Hayhurst. Chris Bootcheck just came off the DL.

Ryan Reid and Jeremy Hall joined the Bulls while they were on this road trip.

As a group, Bulls pitching ranks fifth in the IL on ERA and third on the WHIP (walks and hits per inning) metric. They are fifth in the league on won-loss percentage.

As this chart (sorted by innings pitched) shows, ERA is mostly OK. You have to discount the low-inning guys who are down near the bottom. That’s going to get better. The two worrisome numbers are R.J. Swindle’s and Brian Baker’s, the same two who have WHIPs up and out of the zone.

The stats guys don’t like ERA very much. To see their tRA and other such numbers, check here.

This crew ranges in age from 23 (Cobb and Torres) to 32 (Bootcheck), so a pretty decent balance there. From a fan’s perspective it does not look like this year we are going to be seeing any fireballers — unless Jake McGee, just back from Tampa Bay, is supposed to be working on his fast ball. Just about all of this crew are finesse guys, which can be just as much fun to watch.

Update 5 May, 2:45: Tampa Bay's Jeff Neimann may be going on DL. If so, then either a starter (Cobb or Torres) or a reliever (your guess is a good as mine) will be called up from Durham. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bulls in Town, At Last

Game 26: Durham Bulls 2; Indianapolis Indians 5, 7 innings
Game 27: Durham Bulls 8; Indianapolis Indians 5, 7 innings
Season: 15-12
Wrap, Box

The Bulls are back. They are in a virtual tie for first place in the South Division. All is right in the world.

The Indianapolis series was rough, but the Bulls managed to win 3 out of 4 to finish out a very long road trip. The heroes of the day were Brandon Guyer and Chris Carter, who hit home runs in the second game. Carter paid something of price, and then ...

Well, let me just put up a selection from the play-by-play. (Note: De La Rosa’s line. 1 batter, 1 pitch, pitches for strikes - 0.)

Durham Top of the 3rd

  • Omar Luna flies out to right fielder Andrew Lambo.
  • Desmond Jennings walks.
  • Justin Ruggiano singles on a line drive to left fielder Alex Presley. Desmond Jennings to 3rd.
  • With Brandon Guyer batting, Justin Ruggiano steals (3) 2nd base.
  • Brandon Guyer homers (6) on a fly ball to left field. Desmond Jennings scores. Justin Ruggiano scores.
  • Chris Carter hit by pitch.
  • Indianapolis Indians pitcher Rudy Owens ejected by HP umpire Toby Basner.
  • Pitcher Change: Tony Watson replaces Rudy Owens.
  • Russ Canzler grounds into double play, pitcher Tony Watson to shortstop Chase d’Arnaud to first baseman Matt Hague. Chris Carter out at 2nd.
Indianapolis Bottom of the 3rd
  • Chase d’Arnaud pops out to first baseman Leslie Anderson in foul territory.
  • Alex Presley strikes out swinging.
  • Matt Hague grounds out, third baseman Russ Canzler to first baseman Leslie Anderson.
Durham Top of the 4th
  • Jose Lobaton called out on strikes.
  • Leslie Anderson lines out to shortstop Chase d’Arnaud.
  • J. Furmaniak grounds out, shortstop Chase d’Arnaud to first baseman Matt Hague.
Indianapolis Bottom of the 4th
  • Pitcher Change: Dane De La Rosa replaces Jeremy Hall.
  • Andrew Lambo hit by pitch.
  • Durham Bulls pitcher Dane De La Rosa ejected by HP umpire Toby Basner.

The South Division is heating up a bit. Gwinnett’s falling off the pace; Norfolk is getting it together; Charlotte looks snakebit.

The Bulls have four days against Syracuse (Washington) then another four against Indianapolis (Pirates), four days on the road, also against Syracuse. Then they are back with four games against Louisville (Reds). Should be some interesting baseball.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


With last night’s rain comes today’s double header starting (and on MLBTV) at 11:00. The decision-making going on last night highlights some of the difficulties in Triple-A, International League scheduling. The Bulls play out-of-division teams twice in the season a four-day home stand and a four-day away series. That’s it. There’s no return opportunity. With a rainout early in a series, every effort is made to schedule a double-header within the four-day visit. But sometimes that’s not possible (for example, when the rainout is on the last day of the series). If that happens, then they try to schedule a double-header in the next meeting. If they can’t pull that off, then the teams don’t meet again in the regular season.

Thus, last year the Durham Bulls only (only!) played 143 games instead of 144.

So, there they are in Indianapolis. Rained out in the third game. The twist is that the Bulls have a 6:00 PM flight booked for today. The Bulls rarely fly, but with a day off on Wednesday, I’m guessing the idea was to get home and take advantage of the day. I’m also guessing they are going to try to get the two 7-inning games in and make the plane. Glad I’m not the equipment guy for that rush to the airport.

While we wait for today’s game to start, a look around the web:

  • Dirk Hayhurst has been using his “vacation” from the starting rotation to serve up advice to fellow minor leaguers, most recently a meditation on truck stop food.
  • What happens to the wife and family when a player retires? Take a look at a recent entry on The Life of a Baseball Wife. Gotta say that business about fans chasing down addresses is a bit creepy.
  • Craig Robinson, over at FlipFlopFlyBall has several new “infographics”. One of interest to Rays fans is a detailed analysis of Manny Ramirez’ contribution this season.
  • Durham residents Elliot Johnson and Chris Richard get some love from local magazine.
  • Stats geek alert: Interesting way of looking at FIP and ERA over at DRaysBay.