Friday, September 23, 2011


No particular significance to this image. Just thought it was dramatic. Who knew that there was a connection between Salvador Dali, Walt Disney, and baseball? Besides there's an important Dali Museum near the Rays home.

Now that the player stats are wrapped up, a few odds and ends from the last couple of days before I hit the road for a week.

The Columbus Clippers picked up their second Triple-A Championship to go with their International League Governors’ Cup. |, The Columbus Dispatch|

Over on Rays Prospects, Bulls fans need to visit and vote on their “readers’ choice” hitter and pitcher of the Bulls. Have to do it within the next couple of days. Also at Rays Prospects are some great summaries of this year’s action in all of the Rays’ minor league teams. Check it out.

Every reader of this blog who attended a game at the DBAP this year has, of course, already bought a duck for the Great American Duck Race and support the kids who the real work putting the Bulls games on TV. In the very remote chance that you haven’t, or perhaps you watched on TV and didn’t make it to a game, here’s your chance to do it now. I checked out’s TV this season and the Bulls definitely outshine the rest of the IL. Much of the credit has to go to Explorer Post 50. So, Buy a Duck!

The 2012 schedule is out. It looks a bit better than 2011, but that’s not much of an endorsement. It starts the season at the DBAP (I guess the Dukies and the ACC are letting the Bulls have their ballpark back early). But wait! Right after the opening series the Bulls hit the road for two weeks!. Oh, well, weather can be really crummy in April anyhow.

Something I never got around to mentioning the end of the season is a very interesting project called Bull City Summer. So far it looks to be driven by some ideas from Sam Stephenson, who has some serious creds from the Center for Documentary Studies and the Jazz Loft Project. The test run at the end of the season had some terrific interviews, photographs, and Adam Sobsey’s Indy Week columns from the end of the year. Take a look. This could be something really interesting to watch next year.

Speaking of Adam Sobsey, he had a very interesting sort of end-of-year piece over in Baseball Prospectus. Features a close look at Russ Canzler and others in the final days of the season.

And speaking of Russ Canzler, the box score from Thursday night’s game in Yankee Stadium highlights a bunch of September call-ups including Matt Moore, Dane De La Rosa, Alex Torres, Russ Canzler, Brandon Guyer, and Dan Johnson. Some did great (Moore), some were awful (De La Rosa and Torres), one got his first major league at bats and hits (Canzler), and Johnson and Guyer drew walks and scored runs.

I'm working on my annual lists of Well Dones and Areas To Work On for the Bulls/DBAP fan experience. See last year's list and comments here. Please lend me your voices in the comments section and I'll write it up when I get back in town.

The Durham Bulls in 2011 — The Pitchers: Part II

Matt Moore (22), LHP, 9 games, 9 starts, 52⅔ innings, 4-0, ERA-1.37, 5 pro seasons, 1st season in AAA.

  • I was surprised to see how many innings Matt Moore was able to pitch since his first game with the Bulls on July 22nd. Added to his 18 games and 122 innings he had with the Montgomery Biscuits, his year was busy even before going up to finish it out with the Rays. Very, very impressive young pitcher. If we're lucky, we will be watching him a lot as a Bull in 2012.
  • Stats

Lance Cormier (31), RHP, 20 games, 4 starts, 47⅓ innings, 4-3, ERA-5.51. 8 pro seasons, 7 in AAA, 1st w/Bulls, most of 2008-2010 in majors (ML stats).

  • Released by the LA Dodgers, Cormier was signed by the Rays to a minor league contract in early June and spent the rest of the season with the Bulls. Nothing about his stats as a Bull is particularly impressive although he did take several for the team in spot starts as the season went along. At a guess, the Rays were buying insurance for their relief cadre and stashing him in Durham. Not likely to return next year.
  • Stats

Jay Buente (27), RHP, 24 games, 4 starts, 42⅔ innings, 1-3, 1 save, ERA-5.70, 6 pro seasons, 3 in AAA, 1/Bulls.

  • The Rays outsmarted themselves when they claimed Mr. Buente off waivers as the Marlins were trying to send him back to their AAA team in New Orleans this May. As a Bull he had a rough beginning losing three out of four starts. In relief from early July to the end of the season he did OK, but not good enough to avoid being released at the end of the season to make room on the 40-man of the Rays.
  • Stats

Cory Wade (28), RHP, 22 games, all in relief, 36⅔ innings, 3-1, ERA-1.17, 8 pro seasons, 3 in AAA, 1 w/Bulls.

  • Cory Wade did a brilliant job for the Bulls in the first two months of the season. As with others on the Bulls this year, he had an opt-out contract and he pitched his last game in early June. Unfortunately for the Rays, Mr. Wade is now pitching in relief for the New York Yankees where he has an impressive 6-1 record and 1.98 ERA (ML Stats).
  • Stats

R.J. Swindle (28), LHP, 39 games, all in relief, 34⅔ innings, 2-0, 1 save, ERA-4.15, 8 pro seasons, 5 in AAA, 2 w/Bulls.

  • Yet another Bull with an opt-out contract. In Swindle's case the Rays were obviously taking a look at him as a left-handed relief specialist. Eighteen of his appearances were for less than an inning, often for just one out. R.J. is famous for his unique slow curve and in 2010 he was great fun to watch. But the slow curve wasn't working this year and he really wasn't helping the Bulls. After his opt-out, no report of him catching on with another team.
  • Stats

Jake McGee (25), LHP, 24 games, relief, 33⅓ innings, 4-2, 9 saves, ERA-2.70, 8 pro seasons, parts of 2 in AAA, all w/Bulls.

  • Jake McGee was with the Bulls at the very end of 2010 and up until essentially the All-Star break in 2011. Then he was off to the Rays where he's doing OK, but not as well as I would have expected (ML Stats). His superb work in the bullpen was very helpful in keeping the Bulls in the South Division race for the first half of the season.
  • Stats

Brandon Gomes (27), RHP, 20 games, relief, 25⅓ innings, 0-1, 7 saves, ERA-1.07, 5 pro seasons, 1 AAA w/Bulls.

  • Bradon Gomes' Triple-A career was very short. He left the Bulls just before the 4th of July with his stellar 1.07 ERA and 7 saves. He appears to be doing just fine with the Rays (ML stats). We probably won't see him back. With McGee, he kept the Bulls in the race in May and June.
  • Stats

Joe Bateman (31), RHP, 15 games, relief, 21 innings, 1-3, ERA-4.71, 9 pro seasons, 3 in AAA, 2 w/Bulls.

  • We really like sidewinding Joe Bateman. We liked him in 2009. We liked him in 2010. And we could not have been happier to see the Rays sign him out of the Oakland system in late July. That said, he wasn't quite the same Joe we knew from the last two years. Used mainly in short relief, he wasn't as sharp, especially against righties. Charlie Montoyo apparently likes him. So do we. And he was better than a couple others the Bulls had this year. He may not make it back in 2012.
  • Stats

Jeremy Hall (28), RHP, 5 games, 4 starts, 17 innings, 0-2, ERA-8.47, 5 pro seasons, 1 AAA, w/Bulls.

  • Jeremy Hall started the year with the Montgomery Biscuits and came up to Durham at the end of April when Dirk Hayhurst went on the disabled list. He wasn't very successful and he decided to retire.
  • Stats

Adam Russell (28), RHP, 15 games, relief, 17 innings, 0-1, 1 save, ERA-4.24, 8 seasons, 4 in AAA, 1 w/Bulls.

  • Adam Russell started the season with the Rays (36 games) and did not come to the Bulls until the end of July. His numbers with the Bulls are skewed by a truly awful ⅔ of a inning when he let 4 runs score. With this small sample we really don't know much about him as a AAA ballplayer. I don't think I understand enough about his status to speculate on his future with the Bulls. He looks better that a couple of the guys we saw this year, though.
  • Stats


Jeff Neimann and J.P. Howell of the Tampa Bay Rays put in some time with the Bulls on rehab assignments this year. Neimann started 2 games and put in 9⅓ innings, allowed 4 earned runs, and put up a win and a loss. Nice to see Jeff again. J.P. Howell coming off a long layoff appeared in 4 games for 3⅔ innings. He didn't allow any earned runs.

Short Visits

Chris Archer (22), RHP, 2 games, 17 innings, 1-0, ERA-0.69. Chris put in an impressive two game (plus one in playoffs) appearance with the Bulls at the end of the season. We hope for him to be back for 2012. Stats.

Paul Phillips (27), RHP, 6 games, 11⅓ innings, 1-1, ERA-12.71. Paul came up from Montgomery to lend a hand when Richard De Los Santos went on the DL at the very beginning of the season. Spent the rest of the year in Montgomery. Stats.

Jim Paduch (28), RHP, 1 game, 7 innings, 1-0, ERA-3.86. Jim Paduch was signed out of the independent leagues to Montgomery in June, had a one-game call-up to the Bulls when they were on the road, then went back to Montgomery. Part of the July turmoil. Would like to see him pitch some day. Stats.

Richard De Los Santos (27), RHP, 2 games started, 6 innings, 0-1, ERA-6.00. De Los Santos was a stalwart of the 2010 Bulls. But this year he had four not very good innings in his first game, 2 innings in his second start, and was on the disabled list for the rest of the year. We like him, but have no idea when or if he will return. Stats.

Cesar Ramos (28), LHP, 4 games, relief, 4 innings, 2-0, ERA-4.50. Ramos came down from the Rays in late July (with Adam Russell), appeared in 4 games, and went back to St. Petersburg the first week of August. Was nice to have a lefty in the bullpen for a while. A left-handed specialist for the Rays (57 appearances, 41 innings pitched). Stats

Marquis Fleming (24), RHP, 2 games, relief, 2⅓ innings, 0-0, ERA-0.00. Marquis Fleming joined the Bulls from Montgomery for a couple of games while they were on the road in late July. Then he went back to Montgomery where he had a decent year (41 games, 80 innings). Stats.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Durham Bulls in 2011 — The Pitchers: Part I

Thirty-three ballplayers pitched in a Durham Bulls uniform in 2011, six more than in 2010. We'll take three of those off the list since they were position players thrown to the wolves in losing games (Craig Albernaz, Omar Luna, and J.J. Furmaniak). That leaves 30 to talk about. For those who were with the Bulls at the end of the season, we've charted their performance. Turmoil in July is mentioned several times. See the post from July 22 for more about what that was like.

Players listed in order of number of innings pitched.

Alexander Torres (23), LHP, 27 games, all starts, 146⅓ innings, 9-7, ERA-3.08, 6th year in pro ball, 1st in AAA.
  • Alex Torres was the only Bulls starter who was with the team the entire year (how's that for trivia?). He had a few innings with the Bulls in last year's playoffs, but otherwise he's had two years with the Biscuits and now a year with the Bulls. He led the International League in strikeouts with 156. Unfortunately, he also lead the league in walks with 83. That pretty much tells you what kind a pitcher he is. Nevertheless, he seemed to be getting a little bit better as the season progressed. He was called up to the Rays at the end of the Bulls' season but at this writing has pitched only 1 inning in relief. Very likely to be back with the Bulls next season to be part of a very strong starting rotation.
  • Stats
Brian Baker (28), RHP, 25 games, 20 starts, 104⅔ innings, 7-9, ERA-6.62, 7th year in pro ball, 2nd year in AAA.
  • Brian Baker was supposed to be the Bulls' long reliever this season. Instead he ended up spending most of the year in the starting rotation. He appeared to run out of steam at the end of August and his numbers really soared in his last few games. Not sure that he is physically up to the task of pitching in AAA.
  • Stats
Dane De La Rosa (28), RHP, 52 games, all in relief, 70⅓ innings, 6-5, 6 saves, ERA-3.20, 8 seasons, 1st in AAA.
  • A break-through year for Mr. De La Rosa after a long time working his way up. First came to my attention with his 1-pitch appearance at the DAP in early May. He was ejected and had a four-game suspension. Before and after that event, he did a terrific job for the Bulls, a real stalwart in the bullpen in a year where starting pitching was in confusion. Had a one-inning, mid-season call-up in July and is back up for September with the Rays (three brief appearances so far). One of the good guys. Hope the Bulls get him back next year, if he doesn't stick with the Rays.
  • Stats
Mike Ekstrom (27), RHP, 46 games, 1 start, 68⅓ innings, 6-4, 5 saves, ERA-4.35, 8 seasons, 3rd with AAA time.
  • Mike Ekstrom did a pretty good job for the Bulls this year, if not nearly as good as last year (ERA-2.79 over 58 innings in 2010). Last year he had a lot of back-and-forth with the Rays. This year he pretty much stuck with the Bulls. At the end of the season there was some roster shuffling going on with the end result that he was off the 40-man of the Rays. He was not claimed, but hard to tell if he will be back for 2012.
  • Stats
Rob Delaney (26), RHP, 51 games, all in relief, 67⅔ innings, 4-2, 13 saves, ERA-1.86, 6 seasons, 3rd in AAA (1st w/Bulls).
  • A terrific ball-player that really helped the Bulls this year. He had a brief visit with the Rays, but was taken off the 40-man in September. Hard to tell if he will be back next year. I hope so. Sort of this year's Winston Abreu, and that's a compliment to Mr. Delaney.
  • Stats
Alex Cobb (23), RHP, 12 games, all starts, 67⅓ innings, 5-1, ERA-1.87, 6 seasons, 1st in AAA.
  • Cobb is a brilliant young pitcher. He was called up to the Rays in mid-April for one game, in late May as a substitute for the injured Jeff Niemann, and finally in July until he went on the Rays DL in early August. All reports are that surgery was successful and he will be back in form for 2012. That's good news because, unless the Rays do some trading in the off-season, he could start with the Bulls.
  • Stats
Matt Torra (27), RHP, 11 games, all starts, 61⅓ innings, 5-1, ERA-3.67, 7 seasons, 3 in AAA, 1st w/Bulls.
  • In some ways, Matt Torra was the complement to Alex Cobb for the second half of the season. Signed out of the Diamondbacks system, his first start was in early July. He began slow, but finished very strong with his numbers improving game by game. Not particularly flashy, he looks very competent and durable. He'd be an asset to the 2012 Bulls.
  • Stats
Dirk Hayhurst (30), RHP, 11 games, all starts, 59 innings, 4-2, ERA-4.12, 8 seasons, 3 in AAA, 1 w/Bulls, missed 2010 while recovering from surgery.
  • Dirk had a decent start to his season but an elbow problem cropped up in April. He was back in June for 7 starts before going back on the DL. In a bit of what sounded like contractual finagling, he was pronounced fit to play and then released at the end of August. As a fellow blogger (albeit Dirk is much more famous and certainly much better), I can only wish him the best. His new book is due out sometime "soon".
  • Stats
Chris Bootcheck (32), RHP, 16 games, 7 starts, 58 innings, 3-2, 1 save, ERA-3.57. 10 pro seasons, parts of 8 seasons in AAA, 1 w/Bulls.
  • It probably isn't fair to blame the players for opt-out contracts, but Bootcheck was yet another who opted out this year, at the end of June. I've heard, but haven't confirmed, that he is pitching in Korea. He was helpful while here.
  • Stats.
Andy Sonnanstine (28), RHP, 10 games, 9 starts, 56 innings, 3-6, ERA-4.82. 7 pro seasons, parts of 3 seasons in AAA, all with Durham. Much of five seasons with the Rays (stats).
  • It seemed odd for Sonnanstine to be sent down to the Bulls in mid-July, but that was a confusing month for everyone in Rays baseball. As a practical matter, the Rays don't seem to know what they want from Mr. Sonnanstine (ML Stats). He had a couple of good moments for the Bulls and filled in when they needed a starter. But is he a starter, long reliever, or what? Doubt that he will be sticking in the Rays system next year.
  • Stats.
Ryan Reid (26), RHP, 26 games, 5 starts, 55⅓ innings, 1-1, ERA-4.55, 6 pro seasons, 1st in AAA.
  • Ryan Reid did a decent job for the Bulls this year in his first AAA season. He came up from Montgomery in the beginning of May, went back for a couple of weeks in early July, and didn't pitch at all after August 15. Since the Bulls are not particularly forthcoming about their ballplayers we don't know if there was an issue or if he was just the victim of minor league roster shuffling. I'd worry some about his fitness, but he did put in 16 more innings at Montgomery. Next year? Probably. But on the disabled list at the end of the season.
  • Stats
Edgar Gonzalez (28), RHP, 11 games, 11 starts, 53⅓ innings, 3-3, ERA-4.56, 8 pro seasons, parts of 7 in AAA, parts of all seasons in ML.
  • Veteran Gonzalez started the season with the Bulls and did OK at first. However, he rarely went more than five innings and seemed to have persistent back problems. He was released in June and caught on with the Rockies system. He put in another 80 innings with their AAA team in Colorado Springs.
  • Stats

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Durham Bulls in 2011 — The Hitters: Part II

The new guys, the rehabbers, and the visitors

John Matulia (24) has been playing professional baseball since he was 18 years old. When he came to the Bulls in July, it was his first time in AAA. He was up and down a couple of times in July as the Bulls' roster seemed to turn over almost every day. Eventually he stuck in Durham by early August.
  • Played in 36 games (134 PA). Mostly he took over for Desmond Jennings/Brandon Guyer/Justin Ruggiano in center field (29 starts there). Not strong numbers — .238/.278/.429, wOBA .290, and they were about the same as he was showing in Montgomery. He hit 5 home runs and got 16 RBI. His speed got him 2 triples.
  • At the end of the season John was one of the few Durham Bulls showing any speed in the field or on the bases, so he was needed. But even as a youngster, he needs a really good year to keep moving up. Not sure he will be back next year.
  • Stats
Nevin Ashley (26) also came up from Montgomery in mid-July after Bulls catcher Jose Lobaton got called up, got hurt, then Bulls catcher Robinson Chirinos got called up to St. Pete. This was his sixth year as a pro. He had a couple of games with the Bulls in 2010 and is on the Rays 40-man.
  • Played in 32 games (112 PA) mostly as a catcher (1 DH appearance). One of six different catchers who played for Durham this year, he had almost as many games as Jose Lobaton (38) by end of the season. Not very good offensive stats — .218/.273/.307, wOBA .256. However, 10 of the 21 guys who tried to steal on him got caught.
  • A fan really can't judge a catcher's game-calling skills from the stands, but it looks like Ashley has a home in the Rays' system if he can get his hitting stats up.
  • Stats
Stephen Vogt (26) came up from the Biscuits at the end of July and a more versatile player I haven't seen in a very long while. This was his fifth year in pro ball and first time in AAA.
  • Played in 31 games (131 PA) at catcher (5 games), 1B (5 games), outfield (10), and DH (11). Good, strong, left handed bat — .290/.305/.516, wOBA .351.
  • Seems like the Bulls have always had at least one strong left-handed bat in the line-up. Vogt may be that guy for 2012.
  • Stats
Tim Beckham (21) joined the Bulls in early August, the last of the Biscuit call-ups on the year. In his fourth year as a pro. It was his first time at AAA.
  • Played in 24 games (111 PA) all at shortstop and, I think, all as the leadoff batter in the lineup. Stats were OK — .255/.282/.462, wOBA .310, but they will need to improve as he moves up.
  • Does he look like a superstar? No. Does he look like a good, solid middle infielder? Yes.
  • Stats
Matt Carson (29) was signed out of the Oakland system at the beginning of August to fill in some big holes in the Bulls' outfield. Although he was briefly injured he helped keep the Bulls on track to win the South Division title.
  • Played in 22 games (95 PA) all in the outfield. Good power — .250/.337/.512, wOBA .354.
  • A long-time AAA ballplayer, hard to tell if he will be back. At a guess, probably more a matter of clubhouse "fit" than anything else. Heck of an arm.
  • Stats
* * * * * 

The Bulls had a few players down from the Rays on rehab assignments. Shortstop Reid Brignac was in town for 11 games, catcher John Jaso for 6 games, Elliot Johnson was back for just 2 (both on the road), and Justin Ruggiano put in 6 of his games while on rehab.

* * * * *

Lastly, three players that don't really fit into any category.

Craig Albernaz (28) was present with the Bulls almost the entire season, not going down to the Montgomery Biscuits until the end of July when Nevin Ashley came up. But he rarely got into a game as he was mostly confined to a bullpen role. From the stands he appeared to be a vital part of the team, his good spirits infectious even at a distance.
  • Played in 8 games (25 PA). Pitched in 4 innings in 3 games. Back in Montgomery at the end of the season he got in 29 games catching, an inning pitching, and a game at 2B (!).
  • Obviously, we like Craig. Would be happy to see him in a Bulls uniform again.
  • Stats
Casey Kotchman (28), the Tampa Bay Rays' first baseman, actually started the year on a minor league contract with the Durham Bulls. That's going to be a trivia question some day. However, the Bulls' season started a week after the Rays' season, which allowed enough time for the Manny Ramirez fiasco to start playing out. Played in 1 game (5 PA), single and a walk, and was called up to the Rays.

John Shelby (25), got in one game (3 PA) with the Bulls in late July and then went back to the Biscuits. We might see him next year.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Durham Bulls in 2011 — The Hitters: Part I

Twenty-five different ballplayers came to bat in a Durham Bulls uniform this year. Some quite a few times (Russ Canzler, 549). Some not so often (John Shelby, 3 ). That compares to 27 in 2010 and 25 in 2009, so 2011 was about normal. Players are listed in order of games played. The "slash line" is Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging.

The Top 14 (40+ Games)

Russ Canzler (25) was in his first season with the Bulls and had a brilliant year. He was the International League MVP.

  • Played in the most games of any Durham Bull (131) and had the most plate appearances (549). He led the Bulls in batting average (.314), was second in OBP (.401) and was first in SLG and OPS (.530 and .930), and led the team in wOBA (.399). His 83 RBI were way ahead of #2, Leslie Anderson, who had 65. He also led in home runs (18), doubles (40), second in triples (5). He was the team leader in walks (67) and strikeouts (129). The all-around offensive star of the year.
  • His great year was rewarded by a call-up (and placement on the Rays 40-man) as soon as the Bulls season was over in early September. As of this writing he has had one ML plate appearance where he drew a walk. Defensively, the Bulls never quite figured out where to play him, although by the end of the year you could consider him a regular corner outfielder. He had 40 starts at 3B, 17 at 1B, and 68 games in the outfield. He also had 6 games at DH. He certainly is not the Rays' future third baseman, but no reason why he couldn't spend more time at 1B and see how it goes. As we'll see, however, it looks like 1B could be crowded in 2012. Really was fun watching him play.
  • Stats

Ray Olmedo (30) came back to the Bulls after a year with Nashville, the AAA team of the Brewers that plays in the PCL.

  • Played in 124 games (500 PA). Ray had 95 games at SS and 29 games at 2B. For a guy who usually batted at the end of the order, he had very good numbers — .260/.303/.322, wOBA .306. 27 RBI, 22 doubles, 3 triples.
  • I like watching Ray Olmedo play baseball. I especially like the way he moved over to second base when young Tim Beckham came up and how well he covered that position. Here's hoping the Rays find room for him next year.
  • Stats

Leslie Anderson (29) joined the Bulls late in 2010. He had defected from Cuba earlier in the year and quickly moved up through the Rays minor league system as an outfielder and first baseman. This season was a decent, but not breakout, year.

  • Played in 121 games with 494 plate appearances. He had 63 games at 1B and 42 in the outfield, mostly in LF. The rest of the games he was the designated hitter. Decent numbers of .277/.314/.413 with a wOBA of .323. His 65 RBI was second-best on the team; his 24 doubles were third-best; and his 13 home runs was third best as well.
  • I'm not sure Mr. Anderson is going to make it beyond AAA. He isn't very fast. He's something of a streaky hitter and only a so-so first baseman. Plus he's beginning to age out.
  • Stats

J.J. Furmaniak (31) was with the Bulls with most of 2010 and we were really pleased to see him back in 2011. He did not have a good year at the plate, but he had a bunch of timely hits and sacrifices, and was vital to keeping the infield sorted out.

  • Played in 116 games (433 PA). In the field he played 2B (52 games), SS (15), 3B (43), outfield (11), dh'd a game, and pitched a shutout inning(!). Most of the year his numbers were off, but they got much better near the end. Numbers — .215/.267/.308 with a wOBA of .258. J.J. led the Bulls on successful sacrifice bunts with 15.
  • I really like J.J. I think he adds a lot to the team. He did not have a good year at bat, but until the Rays start bringing up some infielders, the Bulls really need someone like J.J. on the roster — an experienced, mature, quick-handed infielder.
  • Stats

Brandon Guyer (25) came to the Bulls as part of the big Tampa Bay Rays/Chicago Cubs deal over the winter. A lot to like about this young ballplayer. He would have played in more games if a back injury had not taken him out of the lineup for a couple of weeks in the middle of the year.

  • Played in 107 games (443 PA). All of his games were as an outfielder, mostly in right and center field. Very good numbers — .314/.401/.530, wOBA .387. Hit 18 home runs (second on team), had 61 RBI, and led team in getting hit by pitches (12). Very fast, but needs to work on base running a bit (16 stolen bases, but caught 6 times).
  • Brandon was on the 40-man all year and was called up once, before going up in the September callups. As of this writing he's been in 10 games for the Rays. Expect him back next year and looking forward to it.
  • Stats

Dan Johnson (31) started the year with the Rays and came to the Bulls in late May. Something must have gone awry over the winter, since the 2010 Bulls superstar was having serious troubles in St. Petersburg. He passed through waivers and accepted an assignment to the Bulls.

  • Played in 93 games (395 PA). Starting very slowly, his numbers improved as the year went on — .273/.382/.459,wOBA .375. Low extra base production (for him) of 23 doubles and 13 home runs. 52 RBI. 59 games at 1B, 15 at 3B, and 21 as DH.
  • Dan was called back up to the Rays at the end of the season, but he's got to be thinking about his future as a ballplayer. I'm guessing that he will not be back with the Rays in 2012.
  • Stats

Desmond Jennings (24) began his year with the Bulls and, to our surprise, stayed with the team until mid-July.

  • Played in 89 games (397 PA). The big difference between this year and 2010 was that he stayed healthy and he had some big improvements in his power. Numbers — .275/.374/.456, wOBA .362. A leadoff batter is going to be a bit low in the RBI column, and he was with only 39. But he scored 68 runs and stole 17 bases. Mostly a center fielder this year, with a few starts in right field and a couple as the DH.
  • He's had 52 games in the majors as of this writing, and he's tearing things up with a .292/.386/.510, 9 homers, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored and 17 stolen bases. Don't expect to see him back with the Bulls next year.
  • Stats

Robinson Chirinos (27) is another of the players from the Cubs/Rays deal. He had a spectacular spring training and came to the Bulls with very high expectations. He had a good, not exceptional, year. And was able to get in 20 games with the Rays.

  • Played in 78 games (319 PA). He had a terrible start, so his final numbers actually represent a big improvement on the year — .259/.343/.376, wOBA .324. Because of his terrific spring training, most thought Chirinos was going to have a real breakout year and, at 27, he needed it. Not quite, though. He got the most starts at catcher (63) of anyone on the Bulls' roster and did pretty well.
  • His main counterpart, Jose Lobaton, had a much better year as a catcher and a hitter. When Lobaton got a call-up he was almost immediately injured and Chirinos followed him to St. Pete within a couple of days, then came back in August.
  • Stats

Omar Luna (24) started the season with the Bulls and then was essentially swapped out for infielder Daniel Mayora in late June.

  • Played in 56 games (182 PA). Not very good numbers — .203/.229/.227, wOBA .229. Pretty much the worst numbers of anyone who had any serious amount of time with the Bulls this year. Mostly played 2B (47), but had a game at 3B, a game at shortstop, and 3 games in the outfield. He also made two appearances as a pitcher.
  • Pretty good second baseman, but Furmaniak better, with a better bat. Luna went to Port Charlotte in the Rays system where he did OK. Hard to tell if he will be coming back.
  • Stats

Jose Lobaton (26) had a breakout year and he was fun to watch as long as he stayed with the Bulls.

  • Played in 54 games (224 PA). Terrific numbers — .293/.410/.489, wOBA .382. His OBP was the team best. Most of his ABs were as a catcher, but 18 games as DH. Above average catching skill as a catcher.
  • His third best OPS (.899) and skills behind the plate earned him a call-up in early July. Unfortunately, he was immediately injured and did not return to the Rays lineup until September. Expect him to stick with the Rays next year.
  • Stats

Chris Carter (28) started the year with the Bulls.

  • Played 54 games (233 PA) for the Bulls before exercising an opt-out clause in mid-June, 26 games as DH and 28 games in a corner outfield position. Pretty good, but not stellar, numbers for his time with the team — .270/.309/.460, wOBA .323. He brought some power to the team, 10 HR and 11 doubles.
  • He signed with the Gwinnett Braves (Atlanta) and was having a great run (OPS of .974) for 23 games before he was injured and went out for the rest of the season.
  • Stats

Daniel Mayora (25) came up to Durham from the Montgomery Biscuits in late June.

  • Played in 51 games (205 PA), almost exclusively at third base. Of the six different third basemen the Bulls used this year, he was tied for the most games (40) with Russ Canzler. Numbers are OK — .262/.317/.353, wOBA .306.
  • Not a standout third baseman and doesn't seem like he will get past AAA level. And yet the Bulls needed him for the second half of the season and may need him again next year.
  • Stats

Felipe Lopez (31), a veteran infielder, started the season with Durham, went back and forth to the Rays a couple of times and then moved on to the Milwaukee Brewers system.

  • Played in 48 games (207 PA) and had excellent numbers — .305/.357/.474, wOBA .374 with 37 RBI and 7 home runs. 25 games at 2B, 12 at 3B, and a few as DH.
  • Lopez was with the Bulls primarily because the Rays' infield situation was unsettled at the time. Once that was sorted out, he left the system. I would have preferred to see more young players under development.
  • Stats

Justin Ruggiano (29) has a five year history with the Durham Bulls and holds a number of hitting records. He started this year with the Bulls, but went up to Tampa in May and stayed there, with the exception of a brief rehab visit in August.

  • Played in a total of 43 games (190 PA) and had excellent numbers — .304/.378/.518, wOBA .398. Almost an RBI per game (34), 7 HR and 11 doubles.
  • Unlikely that we will see him in Durham next year.
  • Stats

Next: New guys, rehabbers and visitors.

Congrats to the Columbus Clippers

The Columbus Clippers won the 2011 Governors' Cup and are off to play the Omaha Stormchasers (Kansas City) for the Triple-A Championship tomorrow (Tuesday, 20 Sep).

Check out the Columbus Dispatch, the Allentown Morning Call, and for stories. Regarding the Stormchasers, there's this.

Regarding the Triple-A Championship, good luck on finding any useful information. But the game is on Versus and maybe they will have a lead-in if you decide to watch.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bulls in Boston

The Rays/Boston game was on local TV last night. (An oddity. Must’ve been because they were playing Boston. Rays won 9-2.) What jumped out at us was that when the Rays took the field in the bottom half of the inning we knew all of the players. We’d seen every one of those Rays on the field in Boston in a Bulls uniform, many of them this year.

The only Rays to see action in the game who had not worn a Bulls uniform were DH Johnny Damon and relief pitcher Juan Cruz.

Seven of the twelve Rays who came to bat and three of the five pitchers played for the Bulls this year, including Dan Johnson, Russ Canzler, and Alex Torres who joined the Rays in the last couple of days.

Doesn’t pass the “So What?” test? Well, maybe it does. It says that if you go to a Bulls game you’re going to see a lot of current and future major leaguers. Also, it says a lot about the ability of the Rays organization to grow their own ballplayers.

* * * * *

IronPigs fans filled the ballpark, but the Clippers won a key game last night. The Columbus team now leads Lehigh Valley in the Governors' Cup series 2-1.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Two More Bulls to the Rays

Dan Johnson and Alex Torres got called up to the Rays yesterday.

The Johnson call-up is a modest surprise since he wasn't quite back on track at the end of the year (but getting better) and he wasn't on the Rays 40-man. On the other hand, the Rays owe him a bunch of money and he might as well be sitting on the bench in Boston (where he's had some notable successes) as at home in Minnesota. I'm sure that's where he'd rather be as well.

As far as Alex Torres is concerned, he was the Bulls' busiest pitcher this season (see charts), but he's surely got a couple of major league innings in him. After a full year at Triple-A, the Rays are going to have to make some decisions about Mr. Torres' future this winter. Might as well take a close look at him.

Jay Buente got released to make room on the 40-man for Dan Johnson. Claimed from the Mariners Marlins, Buente was acquired at a time when the Bulls just needed an arm during the mid-season turmoil. Did not work out all that well for the Bulls. One of a couple of not-so-good-for-the-Bulls decisions this year.

Rob Delaney and Mike Ekstrom, who had been designated for assignment in earlier moves, passed through waivers. It will be up to them to decide if they want to stay with the Rays' system.

Meanwhile Matt Moore made his major league debut last night. 1⅓ innings, 27 pitches, 3 hits, 2 ER, 2Ks, 1 HR. ERA — 13.5. Welcome to the big leagues. But the observers loved him.

All this moving up is unprecedented in my watching of the Bulls and Rays. Only three four players from the Rays 40-man are left with the Bulls: pitchers Chris Archer  and Matt Bush (a inning or so in the playoffs his only AAA time) and catchers Robinson Chirinos and Nevin Ashley.

* * * * * 

When the Rays take the field in Boston tonight, one of my all-time favorite Durham Bulls will be sitting on the Red Sox bench — and I'm not talking about Darnell McDonald. Joey Gathright is there. Too bad the Rays can't reach out and put Fernando Perez on their bench so they could have a run-off.

* * * * * 

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs had their 8-game win streak broken last night. They are now tied with the Columbus Clippers 1-1 as the Governors' Cup moves to Pennsylvania. Former Bull Mitch Talbot had a complete game win.

Update: A careful reader has noted some errors/omissions in the original post. Used line in line out to mark corrections. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rob Delaney DFA'd

To make room on their 40-man roster for Matt Moore the Tampa Bay Rays have designated for assignment 26-year old Bulls reliever Rob Delaney.

I'm surprised. Of all the relievers on the Rays 40-man that we've seen with the Bulls this year, Delaney had by far the best numbers. To take just one, Fielding Independent Percentage, Delaney's was 2.77 (the best on the team). Others: Mike Ekstrom - 3.43 (he's been DFA'd already), Dane De La Rosa - 3.57 (called up), and Jay Buente - 3.67. So it wasn't numbers, it must have been something else.

Of course, this could just as easily be a bit of three-card Monte and at the end of the season Rob will still be in the Rays system. As a Bulls fan, however, if it had come down to a choice between Jay Buente (who, to his credit, looked pretty good by the end of the season) and Rob Delaney, it should have been Delaney who was kept and Buente DFA'd.

The Rays are famously astute at picking and keeping overlooked players, especially pitchers. But they blew it with Cory Wade this year (1.23 ERA in 21 appearances with the Bulls, 1.93 ERA in 32 appearances with the Yankees). Have they done it again with Delaney?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Moore Call-Up, More on Canzler/De La Rosa

Lefty Matt Moore has been called up by the Rays, proving yet again that I don't understand the business of baseball. But that's OK. The way things are shifting and changing for the Rays these last few days, he just might get a chance to shine. Certainly the newspapers and bloggers are looking forward to his arrival. See the St Pete Times, Rays Index, and DRaysBay for more. Likely to see his debut in relief, something he hasn't done in a long time.

Meanwhile a nice little story about how Russ Canzler got the word on his promotion in the St. Pete Times.

INF/OF Russ Canzler got word of his unexpected promotion in memorable fashion. The Triple-A Bulls got back to Durham about 8 a.m. Saturday after an eight-hour bus ride from their season-ending loss in Columbus, Ohio, and Canzler was saying his goodbyes when manager Charlie Montoyo said, “Good luck this offseason. Oh, and good luck in the big leagues, too.” Just like that, Canzler’s dream was realized. “That’ll wake you up real quick,” he said.

To make room for Canzler, Bulls reliever Mike Ekstrom has been designated for assignment. No guesses from me on how that might play out.

The Rays will have to make another roster move to officially put Moore into the mix. See post from the other day on players with the Bulls on the 40-man.

Dane De La Rosa got into the lineup quickly, finishing out yesterday's game against the Red Sox with a strikeout and a flyout to recent Bull Brandon Guyer in right field. Guyer was 1 for 5 in the Rays 9-1 win.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Canzler, De La Rosa to Rays ... and More

Great news to see Ruzz Canzler and Dane De La Rosa get well-deserved call-ups to the Rays. [Rays Index,] As we discussed yesterday, the Rays will have to do some shuffling of 40-man for Russ to come on the field.

Also in the news was a report that Tampa Bay closer Kyle Farnsworth has elbow problems and may be out for a while. If so, then, since we all know how carefully the Rays have been studying the WDBB charts, Rob Delaney should be on his way up as well.

No doubt the Rays might want to take a look at Matt Moore, as mentioned, and that's a possibility as well.

* * * * *

Over the the Governors' Cup (remember that?) the IronPigs swept the PawSox. They will go to Columbus to play the Clippers. First game is Tuesday.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What's Next?

How are we going to get through the winter?

First, if you want the 2011 South Division Champions T-shirt you need to check with the DBAP store, because they only had a few printed up. Not sure how many, if any, are left.

Then we can speculate on who might get called up to the Rays. Rays Index is reporting a statement by Joe Maddon that one or two Bulls might be called up right away, mentioning, tongue in cheek I am sure, Dan Johnson and Matt Bush. The Tampa Tribune blogger Roger Mooney also mentions Matt Moore as a possible call-up.

After that, we might watch a couple of Rays games, assuming the local TV folks deign to put them on the air.

About call-ups:

Current Durham Bulls on the Tampa Bay 40-man roster are: Pitchers Chris Archer, Jay Buente, Matt Bush, Dane De La Rosa, Rob Delaney, Mike Ekstrom, and Alex Torres; Catchers Robinson Chirinos and Nevin Ashley.

Not on this list are a couple of well-regarded Bulls, notably Russ Canzler and Matt Moore (and the third Matt, Matt Torra). If the Rays want to call them up (or anyone else on the Bulls roster) then they’ve got to do a bit of roster manipulation — something they are more than capable of doing.

Here are a couple of guesses. The Rays are going to want to divide up these guys into players they want to look at right now and players they are willing to wait until spring to look at. I see a big decision coming up regarding Alex Torres and a lesser decision regarding Mike Ekstrom, so take another look at them. All but Chris Archer on this list got a “taste” this year, so maybe give him a look.

Who could actually help them? For that they might want to give Jay Buente a real test before putting him back on waivers. Robinson Chirinos has already been up and Jose Lobaton reportedly tweaked his knee again, so look for him to go up. Russ Canzler might be a good guy to give a look, because he will surely be a solid candidate for a different team if he goes back into minor league free agency.

Again, please remember that the possibility that I don’t really understand the business of baseball is very high. I could easily be very, very wrong. Notably, I don't understand the "Rule 5 Draft" rules at all and there could be someone in the system the Rays need to look at before exposing them to that process.

See also other folks' comments over here.

Last note: I loved this year's fan appreciation video until I realized it was missing something — Baseball!

Durham Bulls' Season Ends

Playoffs, Round One, Game Three, Huntington Park, Columbus, Ohio
Columbus Clippers 5, Durham Bulls 2
Wrap, Box,

Hats off to the Columbus Clippers. They are heading to the Governors' Cup finals.

The Bulls kept the game within reach through the 7th inning and they did manage to collect 10 hits. They just didn't push the runners across — and the Clippers did.

Reliever Matt Bush made his first appearance in a Bulls uniform and looked pretty good, striking out two in his one inning.

Over Pennsylvania way the Lehigh Valley IronPigs went ahead 2-0 in their series against the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Nevertheless a great year and I'll be doing some wrap ups over the next week or so.

In the meantime:


I had a great time this year watching you play. Hope you had as much fun playing the game as I did watching it. See you next year!

Friday, September 9, 2011

See You Next Year

Playoffs, Round One, Game Two, September 9, DBAP
Columbus Clippers 8, Durham Bulls 3
Wrap, Box, Examiner

The headline is what we were saying to each other near the end of last night’s game. The Bulls are a good team, but on these two nights Columbus was clearly the better in all respects: hitting, fielding, 
and pitching.

That’s why we don’t think we’ll be back to the DBAP this year. Mind you, we haven’t given up. I’ll be listening/watching tonight night (both teams took buses to Columbus!). I’ll be hoping, but I won’t 
be expecting.

In spite of striking out fifteen Clippers, the Clippers nevertheless got key hits when it counted (RISP: 6 for 15). As important, when the Bulls were smashing themselves against the outfield fences and dropping fly balls, the Clippers outfielders were chasing down deep fly balls and catching them; when the Clippers were moving runners around the bases, the Bulls were hitting into double plays 
(three of them).

At the beginning, it looked like the Bulls were going to get to former teammate Mitch Talbot. They scored two runs in the 1st and led off the 2nd with two singles. But Tim Beckham hit into the first of the three double plays and Clippers right fielder Travis Buck made a terrific grab of a Stephen Vogt fly ball to the wall to end the inning. Talbot was never really in trouble after that.

Chris Archer shows a lot of promise, in spite of the five runs he was charged with. The relief crew of Ekstrom and Russell weren't very helpful (three more runs).

Everyone is going to have to do better up in Columbus tonight, and the next two nights. I hope my headline is wrong.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Trivia for Tonight

Who was the winner of the first and last Durham Bulls games of 2009?

Durham Bulls Lose First Playoff Game

Playoffs, Round One, Game One; Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Columbus Clippers (Indians) 3; Durham Bulls (Rays) 0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Examiner,

The Columbus Clippers' Zach McAllister made sure the Durham Bulls never quite got on track last night. Only six Bulls even got on base and just two of those were on hits out of the infield. I was on the verge of going up and throwing something at Neil Solondz if I heard him say "pop-up" again. After McAllister's solid six innings, Chen-Chang Lee pitched two no-hit innings and Zach Putnam struck out the side.

On the other side, Matt Moore showed the small, but noisy, crowd that he was human. Too bad he picked last night to do that. The Clippers just kept chipping away, not intimidated in the least by Moore's 96 mph fastball. To his credit, Mr. Moore worked through several very tough situations. The score could have been much worse. In the 1st inning he handled a runners on second and third, one out situation with two popups. In the 6th he had a bases-loaded, nobody out situation that he got out of scot-free (if you don't count the run that was made on a blown call earlier in the inning). It was Moore's first loss as a Triple-A pitcher. It won't be his last and there won't be very many of them before he goes to the majors. Sure wish the timing had been better.

For the first time since coming back to the Bulls, Joe Bateman showed us what we loved about him the last couple of years. That's a very positive sign. Coming on with runners on second and third, two outs, bottom of the 8th, he got a strikeout to end the inning. In the 9th he faced three left-handed batters in a row and got all of them out. Given the trouble he's been having with lefties, we can hope.

In all my thinking about these playoffs I forgot a key element missing from the playoff roster — speed. That came to me as I watched Russ Canzler and Matt Carson chase down fly balls last night. Most of the season the Bulls have had at least one, and sometimes three, very speedy outfielders: the early-season Justin Ruggiano, Desmond Jennings, and Brandon Guyer. All of them are with the Rays now, and deservedly so. But I miss 'em. Leslie Anderson isn't quick enough for a safety squeeze, such as was a possibility in the 5th last night. And if you look at the rest of the roster the Bulls don't have many who could. I can't remember the last time a Bull stole a base (I know, you've got to get on base to steal a base). So, it's a weakness I hadn't considered.

It was a small, but knowledgable and enthusiastic crowd last night. Maybe the town of Clayton will fill up the DBAP tonight for Chris Archer. Here's a challenge for the young man in his third AAA game — keep the Bulls in this one.

The IronPigs/Red Sox got rained out last night, but Bacon and Biscuits has several pre-playoff links that look at matchup.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Durham Bulls End of Season Charts — III


Before the playoffs start I wanted to wrap up the season’s charts by taking a look at the pitching stats. Click on a chart for a larger view.

Just to set the stage, I want to look first at the innings pitched by the pitchers who made it to the end of the season. Note that I’ve left Ryan Reid on the roster even though he’s officially on the DL. I’ve also left on these charts the two pitchers temporarily dropped for the beginning of the playoffs, Lance Cormier and Brian Baker.

What's striking about this chart is the story it says about AAA baseball. The turmoil among the starters has been such that only one left standing (Alex Torres at 146 ) has a significant amount of innings and that is far below the number of innings pitched by four of the five Tampa Bay starters. Only one, Jeff Neimann, has pitched fewer innings (121), and he was on the DL for quite a while. James Shields of the Rays has 218 innings so far.

The core of the Bulls relief core (De La Rosa, Ekstrom, and Delaney), on the other hand, have quite a few more innings than their major league counterparts. The Ray's Peralta leads the Rays with 60 innings in 57 games.

A last reason for leading with this innings chart is to warn readers of the small sample size problem with several of these pitchers.

Sorting out the ERA and FIP (Fielding Independent Percentages) of this crew shows some differences.

If FIP is supposed to be a more reliable predictor of the future, then sending Cormier and Baker to Montgomery makes some sense. And we need to cross our fingers if Adam Russell comes to the mound in relief.

Next are the Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched, WHIP. No surprise to see Alex Torres down near the bottom. Even with the small sample size, it's encouraging to see Moore, Torra, and Archer near the top.

Lastly we have WDBB's very own "efficiency" stat. This is a simple measure of pitches thrown per out recorded. What might it mean? Well, it means that two guys who have been reasonably successful, Dane De La Rosa and Alex Torres have to work really hard to get through an inning. Matt Torra not so much.

Roster Updates and More

Two of the three Biscuits who came up to Durham from Montgomery have gone on the Bulls' roster.

We reported earlier that that RHP Jim Paduch and RHRP Matt Bush were on their way but that there was not, at that time, a place for them on the roster. Now there is, Brian Baker and Lance Cormier had been "assigned" to Montgomery.

What does this do for the Bulls? Potentially quite a bit. It does not solve the lack of a left-handed relief pitcher — the Bulls don't have one. But Paduch is a solid replacement for the reportedly arm-weary fifth starter Baker and Cormier has not been all that sharp while Bush can be a very scary guy on the mound. Besides, I'll bet that both Cormier and Baker are going to be hanging out in Bulls' uniforms for the series. If needed, they'll likely be back on the roster.

Surfing around I found this post by a Cleveland blogger. Pretty good, even if he, like most, thinks that Russ Canzler is a third baseman. Heck, that's what he made the IL All-Star team as. We'll just stay quiet about that. OK?

Tarp is still off the field. Weather radar is quiet. Looking good!

Ready to Play?

The tarp is not on the field as I write this, but check for yourself. All we can do is watch the skies and hope for a good night. If the weather cooperates this series should be a lot of fun. The Bulls have been in town since Monday evening. At a guess, so have the Clippers. Both teams are as rested as they are going to get.

I've been putting up season charts and tables (still have the pitchers to go), but I haven't been able to take a close look at the Columbus Clippers. Fortunately for Bulls fans, Adam Sobsey has. Take a look at his post over at Triangle Offense/Indy Week. Sobsey has a solid analysis of the strengths and potential weaknesses of both teams.

Also, of interest is Harold Gutmann's story in the Herald-Sun.

My hometown newspaper, the News & Observer, fails to even notice that the playoffs are starting. Why am I not surprised?

The Clippers' hometown paper the Columbus Dispatch has this backgrounder.

Matt Moore has the start. The rest of the gang is back in town and healthy. This could be a great series!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Durham Bulls End of Season Charts — II

Team Performance

Here are a couple of interesting ways to look at the Durham Bulls performance over the year (interesting for me, that is, and maybe for a couple of readers). Click on the charts to get a larger view.

In the first chart we expand on the idea of "weighted On Base Average". What the chart shows is the Bulls team wOBA (green bars) for each game after the All-Star break. Next to the Bulls bar is the Opponent's wOBA (OwOBA, red bars) for the same game. The "trend" lines are 10-game moving averages. The wOBA is a good read of a team's overall offensive performance since it includes, and weights, every conceivable way of getting on base. The OwOBA is, in my opinion, a reasonable measure of defensive performance, primarily pitching.

What does this chart tell us? The gap between green and red trend lines shows that things settled down in late July and stayed that way pretty much until mid to late August. After that the offense starts to drop and the pitching had it problems until about the very end of August. Then the red trend starts sneaking downwards, a very good thing. What's afoot? Best guess? Chris Archer, Matt Moore, and Matt Torra have days good enough to influence the overall trend. That is, starting pitching got better.

Another way to look at essentially the same data is to plot the difference between the two wOBAs over time. What you want to see are two things: a difference that stays in the positive range and one that grows. Here we see the trend stalling out about 10 games ago. Why? Well, we can look at the chart above and see that it was a rare day for the Bulls' wOBA to get above .300. Essentially, Bulls hitting slacked off.

What does this tell us about the year? A lot.

First of all, the Bulls pitching made room for the Bulls hitting to win games. When that trend line crosses over, as it did in the last week of the season, you're losing games. And the Bulls were. But over the year, the green trend stays nicely above the red.

Secondly, 2010 really spoiled Bulls fans. For much of that year the Bulls hitting simply blew the opponents out of the park, plus the Bulls had better starting pitching and a slightly better bullpen.

What does it say about the playoffs? Not much. Unquestionably the Bulls are capable of winning it all, but in a short series a lot of micro-measures come into play. Recent hitting trends are not good. Recent pitching/defensive trends are very good. It could easily come down to tactical, on-the-spot decisions by Charlie Montoyo and company.

End of Season Charts — I

The regular season is over, so it's time to take a look at the path the Bulls took to get to the playoffs. Click on an individual chart to get a larger view.

The Bulls played 142 games this year instead of the usual 144 (a couple of days of storms up in Syracuse led to cancelled games that could not be made up). From Game 1 on April 7 down in Gwinnett County, Georgia until yesterday over in Norfolk, Virginia the Durham Bulls and the Gwinnett Braves were competing for the lead of the South Division of the International League. As recently as a few days ago Gwinnett had a shot. As it happened, up in the North Division the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies) were on a run and grabbed the Wild Card berth.

All season long the Bulls have been running ahead of their Pythagorean Expectation. At the end of the year the Bulls won-loss was 80-62, 18 games above .500. If you crunch the runs scored - runs allowed numbers (much like the chart below) the "expectation" was 76-66, just 10 games above .500.

Why would the expectation run behind the actual? The conventional wisdom points to two factors at work: the bullpen and luck. You would think that over time luck should even out. And, as this next chart shows, the Bulls relievers have done a great job. This chart is the cumulative ERA since the IL's All-Star break (July 14).

I keep a similar set of base data for our friends down in St. Petersburg. The comparisons really aren't very meaningful, but it's still fun to take a look.

Unfortunately for the Rays, they are in the American League East. While the Bulls could win the IL South at 18 games over .500, the Rays aren't even close in the AL East at 14 games over .500. This is also the time that I get to point out that the Bulls, who started the season a week after the Rays, have played more baseball games (142) than the major league Rays (140). Why? They just work harder and get fewer days off.

The Rays runs scored - runs allowed graph is strikingly positive, however their "expected" won-loss (78-62) is running slight ahead of their actual (77-63). I don't pay that close attention to the Rays. Does this mean that their relievers haven't been doing their jobs? Have they been unlucky?

Hitting Ending

Game 142, Monday, September 5, Harbor Park, Norfolk, VA
Norfolk Tides 8, Durham Bulls 5
Season: 80-62
Wrap, Box

The Bulls went out with a bang, 18 hits, but they left most of them on base (11). The optimist in me says that the hitting on Monday, along with the 10 hits on Sunday, says good things about the playoffs. As yesterday's table showed, most of the Bulls have been having trouble at bat the last couple of weeks (the table didn't include Monday's game). What we can hope for is that this game shows them beginning to connect. Certainly J.J. Furmaniak's 4 for 4, Stephen Vogt's 4 for 5, and Russ Canzler's 3 for 5 are good signs.

As for the game itself, the Tides came out swinging and Brian Baker wasn't ready. They jumped on him for six runs (two home runs) in the first inning and that would be enough.

According to Stacy Long over in Montgomery, three Biscuits will be joining the Bulls for the playoffs. [Biscuit Crumbs] They are pitchers Jim Paduch (stats) and Matt Bush (stats), and infielder Cole Figueroa (stats). As regular readers will surely have learned by now, I am no expert in such things, but I think that these fellows will dress out, but will not play unless someone were to go on the disabled list during the playoffs. They way I read it, the Bulls roster is currently full and I think I heard Neil Solondz say that pitcher Ryan Reid (on the DL) is ready to play. Nevertheless, as noted several times, the Rays are past masters at manipulating the roster system. Maybe we will see one or two of these guys.

Speaking just for myself and my own superstitions, I really want to see Jim Paduch around. He was the starting pitcher for the Bulls back on July 21 up in Rochester. The Bulls scored 18 runs in that game on 20 hits, 7 home runs, and 44 (!) total bases. [story] He was sent back to Montgomery the next day.

I've been waiting to see Matt Bush for a long time. I'd give up at least one of our relievers (e.g., Lance Cormier) to see what he could do for the Bulls in the playoffs.

Don't know a thing about Mr. Figueroa, but will chase him down if he gets in a game.

Stats and charts coming up soon.

Monday, September 5, 2011


As we get ready for the playoffs, here’s a look at the current crop of hitters. I’ve chosen OPS as the stat to compare because it’s simply the easiest to get to and is a better measure than straight batting average. This table does not include stats for the last game.

A couple of features jump out.
  • Only four players have been with the Bulls all year: Russ Canzler, Leslie Anderson, Ray Olmedo, and J.J. Furmaniak. Most of the current team has not been with the Bulls all that long. Only Dan Johnson and Robinson Chirinos have been with the Bulls most, but not all of the year.
  • The last 10 games have not been kind to Bulls’ hitters. Only Dan Johnson and Ray Olmedo have been hitting above their season OPSs.
Let’s put a positive spin on that — all of the Bulls are due!

Clouds & Rain?

NOAA radar, September 5, 2011

Game 140, Saturday, September 3, Harbor Park, Norfolk, VA
Norfolk Tides 7, Durham Bulls 6 (10 innings)
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Game 141, Sunday, September 4
Durham Bulls 3, Norfolk Tides 2
Season: 80-61; Games Remaining: 1
Wrap, Box

We are going to be looking at radar images of Tropical Storm Lee for a couple of days as we worry about Wednesday's game. At first I was thinking that the Bulls and Clippers should just swap locations for the start, but maybe, just maybe, this is going to pass us by and the DBAP will be ready for the start of the playoffs.

In the meantime, the Bulls have been going back and forth with the Tides this weekend and will wrap the season up with a game at noon today.

The first 8½ innings on Saturday were vintage Bulls baseball. Decent start by Alex Torres, then Joe Bateman and Adam Russell taking the game to the 9th. In the meantime, Matt Carson got a three-run homer in the 3rd inning and in the 6th a Dan Johnson home run led a 3 run 6th. The last half of the 9th was all Norfolk as they came back with five runs and then had a walk-off sixth run in the 10th.

Yesterday was better. Matt Torra started it off with a 3-pitch, 3-out first inning and hung in there until leaving a bit of a mess for Dane De La Rosa in the 8th (runners on second and third, no outs, one run in). I'm not a big fan of the "save" statistic, but this was one. De La Rosa let one run in, but two K's and a ground out limited damage. He let two runners on in the 9th, but a double play finished things off.

Russ Canzler and Dan Johnson got the Bulls' RBIs. That augers well for Wednesday.

Up in the North Division the IronPigs were working hard to get the Wild Card berth. Issue is not absolutely resolved in their favor over the Gwinnett Braves. But it does look like they have the edge going into the last games of the season.

While I was looking the other way, Charlie Montoyo and Neil Allen have done some very sneaky/thoughtful juggling of the starting pitching rotation. Brian Baker has today's start. With Tuesday off, and assuming a preference for a 5-day gap, they can now choose between Chris Archer (RHP) or Matt Moore (LHP) to open the playoffs. They have also flipped the Matt Torra (RHP)/Alex Torres (LHP) sequence. That gives them right-handed and left-handed choices for the first four games instead of being stuck with a specific sequence. How carefully will Montoyo and his crew be looking at the Columbus lineup? Can't tell. Charlie famously looks at things from day to day (for the press at least), but no doubt he will be looking at the Columbus crew very carefully now.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Game 139, Friday, September 2, Harbor Park, Norfolk, Virginia
Durham Bulls 4, Norfolk Tides 1
Season: 79-60; Games Remaining: 3
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Examiner, Wild Card

The Bulls won in Norfolk to become the South Division Champions for the fifth year in a row. Dan Johnson hit a home run with Matt Carson on base in the 1st inning. With Matt Moore on the mound, that was enough.

This has been a rough couple of weeks for Bulls fans — and surely much tougher on the Bulls. Coming off their last road trip, it looked like the Bulls had the division championship in the bag. And that was a fair assessment. Nevertheless, the nine-game home stand and the recent visit to Charlotte were struggles. How nice then for the winning run to be scored by Johnson.

Matt Moore has been pitching terrific baseball since coming to the Bulls. Last night was no exception. Ten K's, only four hits and one run allowed over 6 innings.

Charlie Montoyo summed it up for the Herald-Sun:

“Great game and great season.”

If you haven't done so yet, go ahead and get your tickets for next Wednesday and Thursday. The Bulls will be playing the Columbus Clippers at the DBAP for the first round of the Governors' Cup.

The Wild Card team has not yet been decided. It will be either Gwinnett or Lehigh Valley. That could go right down to the wire, with the remote possibility that Pawtucket could stumble and Lehigh Valley could make it up into the North Division championship.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bulls Backing Into Playoffs

Game 138, Thursday, September 1, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, SC
Charlotte Knights 2, Durham Bulls 0
Season: 78-60, Last 10: 4-6
Wrap, Box, Indy Week, Examiner, Wild Card

Chris Archer pitched a fine game last night up in the wilds of South Carolina, but lots and lots of Knights were getting on base (they left seven runners in scoring position during the evening). In the 8th, after Mike Ekstrom came on, two runners came across. Game lost. Adam Sobsey, who has been roaming around with the Bulls has the story at the Indy Week link above.

For the Bulls, they were shut out for the first time in over a month (July 29).

Nevertheless, the Gwinnett Braves lost, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs didn't play, and the prospects for more games at the DBAP are pretty good.

The math makes my head hurt, but Mike Potter at the Examiner link above works it out for us. Some pretty radical things have to happen for the Bulls to not get at least a wild card berth.

The Braves have two games in Charlotte and two at home. Story.

Meanwhile, up in Allentown, things have gotten a bit huffy since a catcher of theirs got suspended for what amounts to the rest of the season. Take a look here, here, and here.

Four games in Norfolk and it's wrapped up. Seems like the Bulls are owed a pitcher or two when available from Montgomery.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Game 137, Wednesday, August 31, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, SC
Charlotte Knights (White Sox) 10, Durham Bulls 2
Season: 78-59, Games Remaining: 5
Wrap, Box, Indy Week

My road game ritual goes like this:

Go to Bulls website. Click on "Listen Live" link and adjust volume. Click on "Watch Live" link and go through the MiLB TV sign-in and see what's there. In the case of Charlotte it's nearly pointless since the "TV" is a single camera set high over home plate. Click on "game day" to get the running pitch/box score.

Last night I went through all of the above. Got a bit of Neil Solondz's update (more later). Bulls end the first inning with two men on base. Charlotte comes to bat with Andy Sonnanstine starting.

First batter reaches base on a Daniel Mayora throwing error. Second batter reaches base on a fielding error by Ray Olmedo. Single, run scores. Single, run scores. Fly out (out #1). Double, run scores. Single, two runs score. Ground out. Strike out. Five runs on four hits and two errors.

Close web browser. Go watch regular TV.

* * * * * 

Outside the game, a good bit was going on.

Justin Ruggiano, Brandon Guyer, and Andy Sonnanstine are going to the Rays.

If I'm candid, I'm pleased to see Justin go back. He got a few hits while he was here, but his injury apparently kept him from putting in much of an effort on the bases or in the field. Setting himself apart by wearing the long trousers seemed to be a thumb in the eye of his teammates. Mostly he seemed to be taking up space on the roster.

As for Brandon Guyer, he's worked very hard for this chance in the majors. Good luck. The Bulls will be fortunate to get him back for at least the beginning of next season. Indy Week reports that John Matulia from the Biscuits will be his replacement. Welcome back, John.

Cannot imagine why Andy Sonnanstine was recalled, but his departure may help the Bulls. His ten appearances led to 3 wins and 6 losses and he carried a not-very-stellar 5.46 ERA. As fans, however, it probably won't make much difference in whom we see this year. It might have been more fun, however, to have taken a look at another Biscuit.

Congratulations are in order for Matt Moore and Stephen Vogt. They were named to the Southern League All-Star Team. More info here and here.

Elsewhere, the Gwinnett Braves split a semi-double header with Norfolk. Lehigh Valley lost (troubles up in Pennsylvania, here and here). So the Braves moved into the wild card spot and gained a half game on the Bulls. Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew, in the meantime, weren't much help to the Pawtucket Red Sox, who were swept by the Red Wings.