Durham Bulls (Rays) 2, Charlotte Knights (White Sox) 1
Season: 43-35; Trip: 1-0
Wrap, Box, Rock Hill Herald
Driving home last night I was thinking to myself that if Alex Cobb hadn’t gone in to pitch the 6th inning, or that if Jake McGee hadn’t gone in to pitch the 10th inning, things would have been different. I’m prone to that sort of BGOO (Blinding Glimpses of the Obvious). Of course, Cobb went one inning too long. Of course, McGee went one inning too long. The Bulls lost the game! The Bulls didn’t get a single hit between the 6th and 10th inning. When Brandon Guyer struck out with runners on first and second it was the first real chance the Bulls ever had to get ahead in the game.
Maybe I should stop saying nice things about Jose Lobaton. After yesterday’s love note he was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double, then struck out three times.
How did Cobb look? Pretty good. Glad to have him back in the rotation. Ten days off is tricky to deal with, and it showed in the 1st and 6th.
The oddities of the day just weren’t in the Bulls favor. Yankees shortstop Doug Bernier was walked in the 6th and scored on a Luis Nunez single. Bernier was hit by a Jake McGee pitch in the 10th and scored on a Luis Nunez double. Two freebies, two runs.
And then there was the appearance of Desmond Jennings running for Felipe Lopez after Lopez’ BB in the 10th. All the reports said it was Jennings’ right wrist that was hurt. How come he was wearing a brace on his left? Does anyone really care? Probably not, not even me.
Sigh. Let’s just sit back a listen to Dirk Hayhurst ramble on about life and baseball in his terrific interview with WUNC’s Frank Statio from a couple of days ago.
Chart of the Day — Runs Scored - Runs Allowed
After 77 games the Bulls have scored 19 more runs than their opponents. They are 42-35 on the season and are one game ahead of the Gwinnett Braves in the South Division of the International League. The Pythagorean expectation is 40-37. Differences between expectation and actual are usually attributed to two possible factors, luck and/or bullpens. Your choice. Looking better than they did in 2008 or 2009, not as good as 2010. Won the South Division all three of those years, though.
The Bulls’ “parent” club has played 79 games and has scored 29 more runs than their opponents. They are 44-35 on the year and are in third place in the American League East, two games behind Boston and 2-1/2 behind the Yankees. Their “expectation” is 43-36, so they are also doing a bit better than their expectation. In their case, they are a good bit below where they were at this time in the previous three years.
Several sources are reporting that Omar Luna has been sent to the Charlotte Stone Crabs, the Rays’ A+ team in Port Charlotte, Florida. Coming up to the Bulls from the Montgomery Biscuits will be 25 year-old infielder Daniel Mayora.
Not on anyone’s prospect list, Mayora spent several years in the Colorado Rockies’ system until signing on with the Rays this year and being assigned to AA Montgomery. Primarily playing third base for the Biscuits, he’s bringing a very respectable line of .305/.388/.482 and a wOBA of .388 (best on the Biscuits) to AAA. He’s never played AAA ball, so could be interesting. Career stats are here. He was part of the big spreadsheet done on Rays' minor leaguers over on Rays Prospects a couple of days ago.
He recently played third base in the Southern League all-star game where he got some attention from the Montgomery Advertiser’s Stacy Long.
Of interest to trivialists is that he had a season with the Asheville Tourists (2007). That means he has played in the legendary McCormick Field, the place where Crash Davis hit his record-breaking home run (run that one down film trivia buffs!). Thus, if he hangs around long enough and the Bulls go back to the DAP, he will earn a place in obscure Durham Bulls/Bull Durham trivia history.
Quite a few errors on the season (10), so doesn’t look like the Bulls are getting a great glove.
On paper, he looks like an improvement in our infield, given Luna’s year to date. To keep track of Omar Luna, keep an eye on Jim Donten’s Blog, Claw Digest.
At a guess he will join the Bulls in Charlotte tonight.
First, a tip of the hat to all those who stayed to suffer through last night’s debacle. Must’ve been Yankee fans. I couldn’t sit through it.
Second, I tried really, really hard to find something clever to say, or something quirky, or maybe just something that would distract from the reality of the night’s pain.
Robinson Chirinos led off the 3rd with a double. One batter later Desmond Jennings hit a home run (his 10th). That was enough to win.
Chris Bootcheck got out of trouble twice and generally pitched a terrific seven innings. In the 1st things looked dire when the Bisons had runners on first and third with one out. But, for the first time in my memory, the old “fake to third base, throw to first base” pickoff gimmick actually worked. With a runner trapped between first and second, the runner on third broke for home and was thrown out by Dan Johnson. Just to keep our hearts pumping, the next batter got a single, so we were back to runners on first and third with two outs. Bootcheck got a K and didn’t look back until the 7th. In that inning two singles and a sacrifice put runners on second and third with one out. But Bootcheck, in what might have been the key moment in the game, struck out Bison catcher Mike Nickeas. The next batter flied out to end the inning.
Over in his blog, Durham starter Dirk Hayhurst recently offered a meditation on pitching efficiency. I’m sure that the sabermetricians have a metric for that idea, but I don’t know what it is. However, whatever a good metric might be, a simple one suffices to look at the terrific job that Mr. Bootcheck did last night. Over his seven innings he faced 27 batters and threw 89 pitches (3.29/batter). Compare that to his opponent, Dylan Owen, who in his basically very good six innings had to throw 96 pitches to 25 batters (3.84/batter). Of course, throwing fewer pitches is not necessarily a good thing if they’re crushing everything you throw. Nevertheless, safe to say that Bootcheck had an “efficient” outing.
First time I’ve seen Felipe Lopez at second base. J.J. Furmaniak made a couple of very pretty plays at third. The relief crew has now gone three games in row (9.1 innings) without allowing a run.
Dale Thayer (missing his moustache) came on for two innings for the Bisons. Have to admit he was looking better than the end of last year. Lots of pop to his fastball. That’s enough, Dale. You’ve shown us your stuff. Go back to the bullpen and stay there.
Because of a couple rainouts, the Bulls are only going to play 142 regular season games this year. That means that today’s game is the exact midpoint of the season.
Remember that Elliot Johnson visited the Bulls when they were up in Allentown playing the Iron Pigs? Turns out his blog writing spouse, Nicole, was traveling with him.
Rays Index discusses Alex Cobb, Justin Ruggiano, and the return of Jeff Niemann to the Rays' lineup.
How about a totally impossible, unsubstantiated, unlikely, couldn't possibly happen speculation? Why not? We note that the modestly well-known Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter is on the disabled list and might (or might not) play a rehab game or two. We also note that the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees are in town later this week ...
Dale Thayer had a bunch of years with the Durham Bulls and was mostly successful. Last year wasn't all that great and he went on to the Mets organization. At 30 years of age he is doing very well with the Bisons this year with an ERA of 2.86 in 28.1 innings (3-0, 4 saves). He's had a few appearances with the Mets (check out the video here) and is on their 40-man roster.
Here's the deal, Dale. Glad to have you back in town. Enjoy whatever was your favorite restaurant. Exchange pleasantries with your former teammates and coaches. Spend a lot of time in the bullpen. No need to make some big statement about how the Rays should have paid you a bunch of money to stay. OK?
[Note: Thanks to Anonymous for the heads up.]
Durham's Brandon Guyer didn't dominate any one category this week, but he turned in very solid numbers across the board to help the Bulls stay atop the IL South Division. Over the six games played this week, Guyer hit .409 with a double, a triple, a homer, 7 RBI (3rd in the IL), six runs scored (T-1st), and a pair of stolen bases (T-2nd). Guyer produced two three-hit games during the week, including a 3-for-5, 4-RBI, 3-run effort Friday night at Gwinnett. Guyer has been one of the League's best hitters this season, as evidenced by his .323 average (5th in the IL), .540 slugging percentage (4th), and 47 runs scored (T-4th).
25-year-old Brandon Guyer was the Chicago Cubs Minor League Player of the Year in 2010 with Double-A Tennessee. The Southern League All-Star was traded to Tampa Bay in the offseason as part of the deal for Matt Garza. Guyer is a native of West Chester, Pennsylvania.
In a before-the-game interview Charlie Montoyo talked a lot about the importance of starting pitching.
The Bulls were five pitches into the game when his point was made. It only took those five pitches for Jay Buente to issue his first walk of the night. That runner got to second on a balk and to third on a ground out. Singles, a double and homer, two errors at third (one re-judged a hit later on), and the Bulls were down 6-0 in the 1st inning.
I’ve commented on Mr. Buente before. It looks as if a lot of time off is not helping. He last pitched on June 9. Maybe go on a shorter rotation (for another team)?
If Jay Buente wasn’t any help, what about returning third baseman, Felipe Lopez? Nope, he mishandled two grounders in that same 1st inning and was 0-2 at bat.
Is there any light? Well, sort of, if not for Bulls fans. The starting Braves pitcher, rehabbing Atlanta Brave Brandon Beachy had this to say:
“It was a lot fun.”
Elsewhere it looks like that in addition to Mr. Buente, the vaunted Rays management may be about to get bitten back back more directly. Remember Cory Wade who was a Bull a couple of days ago? I was, no surprise, wrong, or at least didn't keep track. He’s not pitching for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He just got his first win in his second appearance as a full-fledged New York Yankee.
Is there any good news? Well, yes there is. As Chris D pointed out a couple of minutes ago, Matt Moore, a rising young Rays prospect over with the Montgomery Biscuits (AA), pitched a complete game no-hitter yesterday. Stacy Long has the story here, here, and here. We’ll probably see Mr. Moore before the end of the season. Hope so.
In the meantime, the Bulls are out of first place in the South Division for the first time since April 15.
I guess we should have seen this coming. When Cory Wade was released, reportedly in advance of exercising his opt-out, we could have gone through the roster and done some guessing. Very likely the official press knew who had opt-out contracts, but, to maintain their access to the players, declined to mention it. And in any case Chris Carter’s departure could simply be a matter of making room for Felipe Lopez. But that isn’t what the note from the Bulls reads like. This reads like Carter exercised an opt-out clause.
All I have seen so far is this email from the Bulls:
6/16: Chris Carter granted his release, Felipe Lopez outrighted to Durham
As the table from a couple of days ago shows, Mr. Carter had an above-average bat. Furthermore, his 46 RBI were a substantial fraction of all the runs scored by the Bulls this year (309, 15%). He was second in RBIs in the International League and had 8 more than his nearest teammate, Russ Canzler. He also led the Bulls in home runs with 10.
Have to say that I’m worried for several reasons:
That said, it certainly is not Chris Carter’s fault that he and the Rays could not come to terms. We wish him well and hope that he catches on with either a major league team or with an organization whose AAA team is in the Pacific Coast League. Thanks for the runs and a couple of thrills. Good luck!
That means we could see him later this month. Make that will see him later this month.
Today is the U.S. Army’s 236th birthday and the 82d Airborne is bringing some people and stuff up from Ft. Bragg to put on a show.
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.
I’m not quite sure what Mr. Buente was supposed to bring to the table when the Rays claimed him off waivers a couple of weeks ago. The history of this 27 year-old is as a reliever, but with the Bulls he’s been a starter. He lost his first two games and then, with an extra day’s rest, he started his third last night. Not pretty. If not for the Bulls’ big 6th inning, he would have been on the hook for his third loss.
As careful readers know, I’m not the most knowledgeable guy regarding the business side of baseball, but seems a waste for Buente to be taking up space on the Rays’ 40-man and the Bulls rosters. Pretty sure if they DFA the guy then he goes back to the Marlins. OK with me.
Speaking of pitchers, does anyone remember Brandon Gomes? He appeared in 11 games for the Bulls and did a great job for the team. Then in early May he went up to the Rays and made 10 appearances there, the last on May 30 (note: there were 9 days between his last two appearances with the Rays). The transaction registry showed him coming back to the Bulls at the end of May and Neil has mentioned him a couple of times. But no Brandon, so far.
And even more about pitchers: Last night Jake McGee came on in the bottom of the 7th, bases loaded, two outs. One pitch, liner to Dan Johnson, and he’s out of the inning. In the 8th he threw 14 pitches to set the side down 1, 2, 3. But then in the 9th, score tied 5-5, Lehigh Valley’s John Mayberry got his first home run of the year on McGee’s second pitch. Odd bookends to a losing night.
I worry a lot about turmoil in the Bulls lineup, but looks like the Iron Pigs are even worse off. The Bulls have had 16 different players come to bat this year, the Iron Pigs have had 31! The pitching side is more equitable. The Bulls have had 22 different pitchers (including two position player appearances), the Iron Pigs have had 18.
Last night’s loss puts the Bulls into a tie for first place in the South Division of the International League. Gwinnett has won its last six games and caught up while the Bulls have been flailing around a bit.
Elliot Johnson was back in a Bulls uniform last night. He’s on a rehabilitation assignment (knee) and was in the designated hitter slot. 0 for 5. Would have been nice for at least one of the guys who came to bat in the 6th with runners on second and third with none out to get a hit. Elliot (along with J.J. Furmaniak and Desmond Jennings) missed his chance to be a hero.
Justin Ruggiano is reportedly happy these days. Guess it has more to do with my personal history than his, but I’d find Maddon’s patronizing comments hard to take. Glad that Justin apparently doesn’t see it that way. Hope he keeps it up. Up in our part of the stands we always thought he was a potential major leaguer, but couldn’t figure out where he fit with the Rays.