Friday, May 31, 2013

Can't Tell the Players Without a Program

And sometime even with a program if it was printed more than an hour ago ...

Let’s see if we can get all this in one place
  • Catcher Chris Gimenez has been put on the disabled list (hurt hand).
  • Pitcher Chris Archer has been called up to the Rays and is expected to start against Cleveland tomorrow.
  • Pitcher Jake Odorizzi is on his way back to the Bulls
  • Pitcher Jeff Beliveau has been called up to the Rays. Let’s hope he gets into a game this time. Last time he just sat around and then came back.
  • Pitcher Matt Buschmann is on his way up to Durham from Montgomery, joining fellow Biscuit Juan Sandoval. Buschmann is having a terrific year with the Biscuits. Nice to see someone else whimpering besides WDBB
Confused? You bet. Is Alex Colome going to come back? If so, when? Grumble, grumble, grumble.

And yet we wish the players well:

Chris and Jeff: Go forth and do good. Smite the Indians.

Matchup: Durham Bulls vs. SWB RR

Haven’t we been here before? And very recently? Well, yes, just a couple of days ago up in Moosic, Pennsylvania where the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are at home. The Bulls took 3 out of 4 up there. Since then the RailRiders (Note to marketeers — mashing to capitalized nouns together was passé about five minutes after the first time it was done, maybe fifteen years ago. Quit it, just quit it.) went 2-2 against Norfolk and the Bulls went 4-0 against Buffalo.

The Bulls hitting numbers have jumped upwards (yeah!) along with a modest increase in team ERA (boo). For the RailRiders, modest improvement in hitting and a similar increase in ERA. Time to roll out your favorite Dan Johnson story for the folks sitting next to you; rehearse the Cory Wade trivia question; and be ready to tell the story of Chris Bootcheck giving himself a concussion coming into a Bulls-Knights game.



Game 54, May 30123456789RHE
Buffalo Bisons (Blue Jays)
Durham Bulls (Rays)

Season: 54-20; Home Stand: 4-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

J.D. Martin just doesn’t seem to get rattled, even against one of the best hitting lineups in the International League. He gave up a triple and a home run in the 1st inning, two runs scored. But after that he went on to finish the 2nd inning with a runner on base; the 4th with the bases loaded; the 5th with runners on first and second; and the 6th with runners on first and third. That is calmness in the face of adversity. He ended up with his seventh win (most in the IL) and Steve Geltz closed things out very nicely with a three-inning save.

Meanwhile Mike Fontenot was having a really hard day at the plate. The Bison’s rehabbing Blue Jays major leaguer Josh Johnson hit Fontenot the first two times he came to bat. Fontenot had his revenge with an RBI double for the Bulls’ sixth run in the 5th inning.

I don’t know if there’s something special about his bats, but when Leslie Anderson gets wood on the ball the crack is particularly loud. He had another good night at bat (and on the field), a RBI single in the 1st inning and a hope-killing home run (his seventh) in the 7th inning.

Tim Beckham’s been playing a lot of shortstop lately. In fact, the last time he played second base was way back on May 18. Have the Rays changed their mind about him? His ball-handling last night was very nice. Plus his very timely 2-RBI double in the 3rd inning was a critical hit for the Bulls.

A four-game sweep is a rarity. This team is looking really, really good. And are they fun to watch.

Outside the game —
  • The Tides lost (to the SWB RailRiders), putting the Bulls in first place in the IL South Division. Hooray!
  • Alex Colome had a great major league debut last night, getting a win. Stories and analysis here, here, and here. Congratulations. Now, come on back and keep on winning games for the Bulls.
  • Chris Archer has been called up. Sort of a swap-out for Jake Odorizzi. Good for Chris. Huge challenge for Bulls coaching and pitching crew. Last night’s use of only two pitchers certainly helped, but it won’t get better for a while. Still a lot of whimpering down St. Pete way about needing relievers.
  • Former Durham Bull, former Tampa Bay Ray, but most importantly, former New York Yankee, Hideki Matsui, is to sign a one-day contract with the Yankees so that he can officially retire in pinstripes. Good for him. 
  • I don’t want to sound like too much of a cranky old man, but the ACC tournament sure didn’t help the DBAP’s turf. Lots of games got played and a lot of grass is missing. It’ll recover, but don’t envy Scott Strickland’s challenges over the next couple of weeks. Needs a rest (the grass, that is. Scott is indefatigable).

Thursday, May 30, 2013

More Bashing

Game 53, May 29123456789RHE
Buffalo Bisons (Blue Jays)001010000231
Durham Bulls (Rays)10005004x10160

Season: 33-20; Home Stand: 3-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The Tampa Bay Rays continued their assault on the Durham Bulls pitching staff, but the hitters came through with their best offensive game of the season (as measured by OPS — 1.212!). And the reinforced bullpen did just fine.

Before the game, WDBB favorite Alex Colome got his first call up. He is scheduled to start today down in Miami. Good luck. Meanwhile Jake Odorizzi is on his way back. And there are expectations that the Rays may grab another reliever from the Bulls soon.

Reliever Juan Sandoval came up from the Montgomery Biscuits where he had been their closer. He probably expected to go into the bullpen. Instead, he got his first start since 2007. Sandoval was the feature in any number of stories during spring training. The 32-year old has been working his way back up through the ranks of professional baseball since losing an eye in an accident a couple of years ago. Montoyo’s plan was to serve up a platoon of relievers to perhaps challenge the Bisons with diversity. It worked. Holding those guys to just three hits is a major achievement.

Meanwhile, every Bull got at least one hit (Leslie Anderson had four). They batted around in two innings. Along with their 9 singles they had four doubles, two triples (!), and a home run.

Outside the game —
  • Looks like Rays prospect Jose Sale has managed to single-handedly derail his career though social media.

Bulls Hitters

We last looked at the Bulls hitters on May 12. Pretty significant changes since then. Remember wRAA represents Weighted Runs Above Average and wOBA represents Weighted On Base Average. Both measures give a good glimpse of a player’s contribution to the team. What’s worth noting is that only one player’s numbers show much of a drop, Mike Fontenot. Nevertheless, the wRAA number is positive. Rich Thompson’s numbers are slightly disturbing; however, his 16 stolen bases and glove more that make up for it, especially since he seems to be coming out of a long slump (back on 5/12, his wRAA was -9.0, now it’s -7.5, so very improved along with his wOBA).

Vince Belnome2518616.5.445.048
Leslie Anderson311917.379-.011
Wil Myers222145.1.363.011
Jason Bourgeois311794.361.058
Chris Gimenez301401.8.349.010
Brandon Guyer271782.2.348.006
Shelley Duncan33780.4.339NA
Mike Fontenot331530.2.335-.052
Tim Beckham23168-0.6.328.021
Cole Figueroa26176-2.2.317.026
Juan Apodaca2664-
Craig Albernaz3052-1.8.289-.009
Rich Thompson34185-

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Myers Mashes

Game 52, May 28123456789RHEW-L
Buffalo Bisons  012112100811028-22
Durham Bulls 300010203915332-20

Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, MiLB

Wil Myers’ two home runs last night should be enough to make believers of us all. I wasn’t able to make the game, but the radio descriptions affirming that the first shot exceeded that of Joel Guzman’s back when Diamond View II was under construction and then Charlie Montoyo’s comment in the Herald-Sun on the second one in the 9th ("That was the hardest line-drive home run that I’ve seen in many years."). Let’s give him his due. Myers must be the real thing.

In just listening to the game, however, it was certainly an odd one. The Bulls put on three runs in the 1st and yet go into their half of the 7th inning down 8-4. Myers boomed his first homer to make it 8-6, setting the stage for his tying shot in the 9th. Shelley Duncan singled (his third hit of the game). The Bulls swapped out runners, bringing in Jason Bourgeois. The Bisons changed pitchers. Bourgeois stole second base. That set up the game wining run on Tim Beckham’s single.

Big night for Vince Belnome: 3 hits (1 double), 2 walks, four runs scored.

The pitching? Well, could have been better, but I wasn’t there to watch it. As mentioned yesterday, this team can really hit. The Bulls have just been able to outhit these last two games.

Outside the game —
  • Jake Odorizzi is being sent back for a pitcher to be named soon. Speculation is Alex Torres or Chris Archer. I’d add Jeff Beliveau to the mix.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Game 51, May 27123456789RHE
Buffalo Bisons (Blue Jays)000050200770
Durham Bulls (Rays)90100100x11110

Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Wil Myers had an extraordinary 1st inning; Blue Jays reconstruction project Ricky Romero did not. Myers came to bat twice in the inning, hitting a 2-run homer the first time and the bases were loaded for his second at bat, against Romero’s replacement Chad Beck, he hit a double. That’s 5 RBI in one inning. Romero, on the other hand, was charged with 8 earned runs in his ⅔ of an inning and left the game with an ERA of 13.85.

It was a big day for the Bulls: 11 hits, 4 doubles, 1 homer. And yet the Bisons came back in the 5th inning (was Alex Torres left in too long?) with 5 runs and they look to be a very strong team. This is going to be a fun series.

Outside the game —
  • Broadcaster Patrick Kinas reported that Chris Gimenez is going to be out for some time, but apparently isn’t going on the DL.
  • With the win, and Norfolk's loss (their fifth in a row), the Bulls moved into a tie for first place in the IL South.
  • Over at Bull City Summer, Adam Sobsey provides an assessment of this year’s team.
  • Also at Bull City Summer, Emma Miller profiles Bulls’ MC Jatovi McDuffie.

I didn’t get my matchup done before the start of this series, so here it is updated to last night’s game. Obviously, the Bisons are a really hard-hitting team, but they’ve got some problems with their pitching. We saw that last night also.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hitting and Gifts

Game 49, May 25123456789RHE
Durham Bulls (Rays)00532100011101
SWB RailRiders (Yankees)1020020106112

Season: 30-19; Trip: 4-1
Wrap, Box, RailRider

Not only did the Bulls hit well, their stunning OPS for the game (.950) was helped by 8 BBs and 2 hit batsmen (actually, that should be one batsman, hit twice, Rich Thompson). Things just clicked: Another home run by Wil Myers, doubles by Myers, Belnome, and Fontenot; sacrifice bunting by Albernaz and Thompson.

J.D. Martin gave up his usual bases-empty home run, but also got his fifth win.

The heralded matchup between Cory Wade and Dan Johnson came and went without any notable fanfare. In the 7th Johnson hit an opposite field fly ball to Jason Bourgeois in left field. Not exactly a “duel”.

Outside the game —
  • Norfolk lost, so the Bulls have moved up to just a game out of the lead.
  • The NC State-UNC game went 18 innings at the DBAP last night. Concessionaires cheered. Scott Strickland wept.
  • One more plea for podcasts of Kinas’ pre-game interviews. Caught just a few minutes of a chat with Craig Albernaz. Very insightful comments on Bulls pitching and the craft of catching. Sure wish I could hear all of it.
  • Grumbling down St. Pete way [Rays Index]. If they do shake up bullpen, then ...

Bulls Moving Up
May 26, 2013

click for larger image

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Two Solid Wins

Game 47, May 23123456789RHE
Durham Bulls (Rays)4004000008120
SWB RailRiders (Yankees)0002010025100

Wrap, Box, Times-Tribune

See the Times-Tribune link for an interesting effort to explain a very obscure rule regarding rain delays and a home field disadvantage.

Game 48, May 24123456789RHE
Durham Bulls (Rays)0024002109112
SWB RailRiders (Yankees)000020000491

Season: 29-19; Trip 3-1
Wrap, Box, Times-Tribune

Two very nice wins over the SWB RailRiders. Last night saw Alex Colome as less a strikeout pitcher and bit more crafty. But it was a brutal, 45° night and certainly not a lot of fun except for the win, Charlie Montoyo’s 500th as the Bulls manager.

Bulls hitting has been superb in these Pennsylvania games. The team OPS was .934 and .839 for the two games, with notable home runs from Shelley Duncan and Wil Myers on Thursday and a bunch of doubles from almost everyone else. Especially to be noticed is Juan Apodaca’s shattering of the Mendoza line over the last two games. The relatively new catcher was 2 for 4 Thursday and 2 for 3 (with a hbp and 2 RBI) last night, pushing his average up to .216. See the chart for recent interesting trends.

No, the Johnson/Wade matchup has not occurred yet, but watch this space.

Outside the game —
  • Check out the write up at the wrap link. Nice, concise description of Charlie’s work.
  • When Mike Montgomery came off the DL, relief pitcher Austin Hubbard was sent to the Montgomery Biscuits. Never heard of Hubbard? He joined the Bulls from the Single-A Charlotte Stone Crabs while the Bulls were in Rochester, pitched ⅔ of an inning on May 17, and went on to Montgomery a few days later without getting in another game. Unless he comes back, he's a lock for this year's Moonlight Graham Award for pitchers.
The Bulls have won 11 of their last 12 games and have a very nice upward trend in their hitting.

click on chart to enlarge







This is a big deal for Bulls fans. Congratulations to Charlie Montoyo for his 500th victory!

Back in 1995 an infielder by the name of Charlie Montoyo was up in Pennsylvania playing ball for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, a Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A franchise. Last night he was back in town managing the Durham Bulls to his 500th win as their leader.

For the record, let us say here that Charlie Montoyo just might be the best manager in minor league baseball. In seven years his teams have played 908 games and won 500 of them along with armloads of championships. You can look it up.

Let’s just sit back an enjoy the history for a moment.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Matchup: Bulls vs. RailRiders; And the Ultimate Durham Bulls Trivia Question

A small story first:

The year before last there was a Triple-A baseball team that played their games in Moosic, Pennsylvania. Moosic is sort of near Scranton and Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. The team went by the name of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees and they were the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. The field in Moosic had a lot of problems, so it was closed for a year. The team was renamed the Empire State Yankees and played baseball last year as essentially tenants of various parks, mostly in New York. Now the team is back in Moosic and they are to be known as the RailRiders. There is apparently some regional connection to trolley manufacturing. Although, who are Bulls fans to judge a name? Who among you is even old enough to have even seen a pouch of Bull Durham tobacco, much less rolled a cigarette using the contents?

So, there they are, the Scranton/Wilke-Barre RailRiders, henceforth to be shortened to SWB. What other baseball park has a view of a golf course and a ski run?

The RailRiders are in the middle of the pack of the North Division and the Bulls have an edge in the matchup.


However, the really, really big deal coming up is the possibility of a repeat of the all-time Durham Bulls trivia question. Here’s the question:

What two ex-Durham Bulls faced off in the bottom of the 9th inning in the most celebrated game in recent baseball history?


Game 162, 2011, Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees, 9th inning, two strikes, pinch hitter Dan Johnson (a 2011 Durham Bull) faced …

Cory Wade (also a 2011 Durham Bull) ...

We all know what happened.

So here we are in 2013 and guess who’s in the Bulls’ bullpen? Cory Wade.

Cory Wade

Guess who’s playing for the RailRiders? Dan Johnson.

Dan Johnson

What are the odds of them facing off sometime in the next four days? Excellent. Probably not tonight since Wade pitched last night. But it will happen. Watch this space.

Walking Down By the Bay

Game 4, May 22123456789RHE
Durham Bulls (Rays)110010000392
Norfolk Tides (Orioles)30001000x440

Season: 27-19; Trip: 1-1
Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot

Bulls pitchers walked seven batters last night, 3 of them scored, and that was essentially the story of the game.

To be fair to Alex Torres he’s been bouncing around quite a bit in the last week. So he had something of an excuse for his rough first inning. Nevertheless, he walked two batters in the first inning and they both scored. Will Inman had less of an excuse. The batter he walked in the 5th scored and he had walked two more before he was pulled in the 6th. Jeff Beliveau, also back from the Rays, came in to settle things down and kept the base runners from scoring.

Overall, the Bulls split these last four games with the Tides 2-2. Every game was decided by one run, three of them by identical 3-2 scores. The Bulls hit reasonably well over the series, but had troubles getting base runners home.

Outside the game —
  • Chris Gimenez is with the Bulls. I missed exactly what Kinas said, but apparently a minor injury. I was wrong. What’s new there?
  • Mike Montgomery scheduled to start today.
  • Tampa Bay is starting a series against the RailRiders parent club, the Yankees, today.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Archer Looking Good

Game 45, May 21, Harbor Park123456789RHE
Durham Bulls (Rays)0000201003100
Norfolk Tides (Orioles)000001100291

Season: 27-18; Trip: 1-0
Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot

Chris Archer put on his best pitching performance of the year last night: A no-hitter through five innings (one walk in the 4th). A solo home run in the 6th broke up the no-hitter, but Archer left with the lead and only needed 81 pitches to get through 6 innings. Very impressive.

Meanwhile the Bulls put a ton of guys on base, but had trouble getting them home. Twelve Bulls were left on base, but only three got home. Nevertheless, with Archer's start and decent followup by the bullpen, a solid win.

Outside the game —
  • Rays Catcher (and former Bull) Jose Lobaton has caught every game for the Rays since he came in for the Rays other catcher, Jose Molina, on May 18th. Meanwhile, Chris Gimenez hasn’t been in a Bulls game since a DH start on the 17th. Is he being held out in case the Rays need him?  Is he even in the Bulls dugout or is he with the Rays? Did he have his passport? (The Rays are in Toronto). Is that why Craig Albernaz has started the last two games? This is the first time, as far as I know, that he has ever had back-to-back starts in his long association with the Durham Bulls. He's hitting .270 and picking off runners.
  • Pitcher Mike Montgomery, last seen in the Bulls uniform in the front end of a double-header on April 7th, is reportedly back with the team. He’s been working on an arm problem all year, but may be ready to go back into the rotation within a few days.
  • In case you missed him, former Bull Jason Pridie has been on the Norfolk Tides disabled list for a groin injury. Can’t honestly say I regret his bat not being in the lineup.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Colome Named IL Pitcher of the Week

Alex Colome was named International League Pitcher of the Week. Good for him.

Nice write up:

Right-hander Alex Colome picked up two victories for the Durham Bulls this week and led the International League with 19 strikeouts. Last Monday against Lehigh Valley, Colome erased a personal five-game losing streak with arguably his best outing of 2013. He recorded season-highs with 7.0 innings pitched and eleven strikeouts as the Bulls coasted to an 8-2 triumph. Colome returned to the mound Saturday and defeated the 1st place Norfolk Tides behind 6.0 innings of two-run baseball. The win improved Colome's record on the season to 3-5, and he now leads the League with 59 strikeouts.

24-year-old Alex Colome is in his seventh professional season and first full year at the Triple-A level. In 2012 he was named Most Valuable Player of his Double-A Montgomery team, going 8-3 andposting a 3.48 ERA. Colome is a native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. 

Rain, Ugly Rain

Game 44, May 19, DBAP1234567RHE
Norfolk Tides (Orioles)0100011392
Durham Bulls (Rays)0000011241
Season: 26-18; Home Stand: 1-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

It says a lot about the Norfolk Tides’ pitcher, Zack Britton, that of the 24 Bulls he faced only one hit a fly ball, an out to left field. All the rest were ground balls, just four singles, two into double plays. He had a great night.

Nevertheless, before the deluge things weren’t looking too bad. Britton was not nearly as sharp as the 7th inning opened. The Bulls had scored a run and had runners on first and third with nobody out. Tim Beckham was at the plate with, I think, a 2-2 count. But it really started raining buckets.

I left. According to the Herald-Sun the umps waited 2½ hours to make the call.

Bulls pitcher, J.D. Martin, actually had a pretty good night. His only real mistake was a home run to Tides’ first baseman Travis Ishikawa. Martin throws strikes and, mostly, gets Ks and lets the defense get the rest. They usually do that this year. He got a lot of help with terrific plays by Jason Bourgeois and Craig Albernaz who punished runners for trying to stretch singles into doubles. Otherwise the 7th inning would have more than just the one unearned run by the Tides. The Bulls are a match for the them, it seems to me. We’ll have to see how this season plays out.

Outside the game —
  • Shelley Duncan left a game up in Rochester on May 17 and hasn’t played since. Does anyone know what I’ve missed?
  • Alex Torres is coming back. Jake Odorizzi will be starting a game against the Blue Jays. The Bulls are still short one pitcher.
UPDATE: 12:45. Missed this. Jeff Beliveau is on his way back. Wonder if he even got to put on a Rays uniform?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Rain, Beautiful Rain

Game 43, May 18, DBAP1234567RHE
Norfolk Tides (Orioles)
Durham Bulls (Rays)

Season: 26-17; Home: 1-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

I need to be honest up front and mention that I sat out last night’s game in the dryness of my living room and watched the tarp pull from home. Still, I got to see a well-pitched game by both teams.

I worry a bit about the 40 home runs Bulls pitching has given up this year (2 more last night), but in the context of all the rest of the pitching turmoil, it isn’t a big concern. It is too bad that the Bulls have only hit 22, but that’s just the kind of team they are this year. Leslie Anderson and the surprising Vince Belnome seem to be the only real muscle on the team. But, it was Jason Bourgeois who had the big one last night. And then there was the rain, the beautiful rain, to seal off a terrific bit of pitching by WDBB’s favorite, Alex Colome.

Outside the game —
  • Alex Torres put in a stellar four innings in Baltimore, got the win, and is apparently going to get kicked off the bus …
  • The Rays have called up Jake Odorizzi and Jeff Beliveau. I don’t know if that means the Rays are going to exercise the one-pitcher expansion rule or they have someone else headed this way. Commentary (from Rays perspective) here and here
  • Commentary from WDBB perspective — sigh. And that was before a Rays catcher pulled a muscle...
  • Former Durham Bull Reid Brignac is in pinstripes! The Yankees grabbed him when he was designated for assignment by the Rockies. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Durham Bulls Pitching ... and Today's Matchup

Catcher Craig Albernaz made his first 2013 appearance as a pitcher last night. I like Mr. Albernaz and I think he’s actually a decent pitcher, but his presence on the mound speaks to more than just the perception that the game was a lost cause.

Let’s try to track the changes among the Bulls pitching staff. Josh Lueke was called up when when the Rays’ Brandon Gomes went on the DL. He’s had three appearances since getting there and is doing just fine. That same day Bulls reliever Frank De Los Santos went on the disabled list.

A few days later the Rays signed reliever Cory Wade to fill one of the holes in the bullpen. He has had two appearances and looks OK, even though he coughed up one of the many, many home runs the Bulls offered up to the Rochester Red Wings.

The Bulls were still one pitcher short.

Then the Rays called up the Bulls best starting pitcher, Alex Torres, and put him in to throw five pitches to get the last out of a lost game Thursday evening. He was called up because starting pitcher David Price went on the DL. (Does a ⅓ inning relief appearance in replacement for David Price make any sense to you? No? Me, either.)

The Rays, apparently offering a AAA “cup of coffee” to Single-A reliever, Austin Hubbard, sent him from the Charlotte Stone Crabs up to Rochester to lend the Bulls a hand. Not so helpful — an awful ⅔ of an inning last night — 5 runs on 4 hits and three walks for a stunning ERA of 67.50.

A consequence of this turmoil (I haven’t mentioned Chris Archer’s troubles) is that Jim Paduch keeps getting called on to start games or come in for a long relief session — and Paduch is by far the least effective member of this year’s Bulls staff.

And the Bulls are still short a pitcher (remember, no replacement for De Los Santos was ever named). Hence Craig Albernaz on the mound.

And even if Torres only stays with the Rays for a few days, he would be out of any rotation for at least a week.

The Rays giveth, Cory Wade and Austin Hubbard; the Rays taketh away, Josh Lueke and Alex Torres; some players get broken, Frank De Los Santos, Mike Montgomery.

As this picture of ERA trends shows, this ain’t looking good at all.

Matching Up 

The Orioles farm team, the Norfolk Tides have been on quite a ride over the last couple of weeks and are now 4 games ahead of the Bulls in the South Division. Statistically, they are similar teams. Their pitching seems to be improving. Only two games, then the Bulls are out of town so that the ACC can rip up the turf of the DBAP.


UPDATE: Forgot to add the rumor that Jake Odorizzi will be the actual call up for Price. That means the Bulls will be 2 pitchers in the hole while they wait for Torres to come back.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Choke and Poke ... Naah

     "I’m not a good two-strike hitter at all, actually,” he [Myers] said. “I could definitely work on it a little bit, but I’m not looking to ‘choke and poke’ up there with two strikes. I’m looking for a ball to drive still. You always hear ‘choke and poke’ with two strikes, but as a middle of the order guy, one of the guys that drives in runs, you’re not really looking to just slap the ball around, just put it in play.
     "If I have a runner on base with two strikes, I’m looking to drive the ball, even with two strikes. I’m looking to put the ball in play hard somewhere to drive the run in."
Wil Myers, Raleigh News & Observer, May 16, 2013

Chris Wright has a terrific piece in today's News & Observer with the title, "Generation K: Baseball’s strikeout trend is growing at record pace". The Bulls' Wil Myers is the exemplar of this new approach (although he isn't alone) and is quoted extensively. Myers leads the Bulls with 49 strikeouts in 36 games this year. He strikes out about 30% of the times he comes to the plate.

Is that what Charlie Montoyo or Dave Myers wants from their players? Doesn't sound like it.
     “We teach the same thing everybody else teaches,” Montoyo said. “We stress it all the way from rookie ball to the big leagues: You have to shorten your swing with two strikes, try to put the ball in play. You would think it makes sense, man, I don’t want to be striking out, there’s no chance for anything. No error, no infield hit or nothing. I wouldn’t say nobody cares (about striking out). Nobody likes striking out, for sure. It’s just the approach: some people are just taking the same hack day in and day out with one strike or two strikes.
     "You have to keep preaching it. You have to say it a thousand times, maybe a thousand and one times until they start listening. Just because a guy doesn’t do it, that doesn’t mean you’re just going to say, never mind. You’ve got to keep saying it, keep working on it."

Myers struck out twice last night.

Monday, May 13, 2013

All's Well That Ends Well

Game 37, May 12, DBAP123456789RHE
Lehigh Valley IronPigs
Durham Bulls

Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

A pretty good game until what in some circumstances might be consider minor errors in the 6th inning allowed 4 runs to score. Too bad. Torres looked very good, and the hitters got into the Syracuse bullpen. But by then it was too late.

Game 38, May 13, DBAP123456789RHE
Lehigh Valley IronPigs
Durham Bulls

Season: 23-15; Home Stand: 3-5
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The home stand ended on a high note with a very, very nice bit of pitching by Alex Colome. He’s actually been pitching pretty well all along, but this time he got a lot of run support (and some superb defense). Colome’s 11 Ks were a career high for him and, I think, the most strikeouts for any Bulls pitcher this year. Meanwhile Jason Bourgeois was a homer short of the cycle and every other Bull got at least one hit. Brandon Guyer collected two hbp’s! Must’ve said something to the pitcher.

Reliever Cory Wade’s signing was announced today and he pitched the last inning. Looked OK. Last seen in a Bulls uniform in 2011, we’ll put something up about him later on.

Matchup Bulls @ Red Wings

The Twins Triple-A team is the Rochester Red Wings. They aren’t having a very good year, but they have former Bull and all around good guy Ray Olmedo on their roster, so it couldn’t be all that bad.


Sunday, May 12, 2013


Game 36, May 11, DBAP123456
Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs
Durham Bulls

Season: 22-14; Home Stand: 2-4
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Pitiful, just pitiful. Pitchers Chris Archer, Jim Paduch, and Will Inman combined to put on the worst pitching performance of the year. Each pitcher managed to load up the bases and then walk in a run — Inman walked in two. When the IronPigs’ Cody Asche hit a grand slam in the 7th, it was a mercy killing.

Baseball doesn’t care about yesterday. Good thing.

Not that it would have mattered last night, but I'm wondering if the Rays' are ever going to refill the Bulls' bullpen?

As long as I’m ranting, am I the only one who’s annoyed by Wil Myers’ showy bat toss? Last night he did it after a pitch coming in on a 3-2 count and he trotted toward first base. The ump called the pitch a strike and an out. (Myers had 3 Ks last night). He did it again on a long fly ball to center field — that was caught. When he gets to the majors he’s gonna get drilled. Might even happen in AAA. Of course, he’d have to be more of a threat than he’s been so far.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Durham Bulls Pitching

With all the usual early-in-season, small-sample caveats, here is our first look at the Bulls pitching staff. Note that the numbers for the two recent departures (Lueke and De Los Santos) are not included here.


Looks pretty normal here. Chris Archer has missed a start, but he’s supposed to pitch tonight to catch back up. Had not realized that Kirby Yates was leading the team in appearances. Very likely he will take Lueke’s place as a closer.

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I worry a bit about the relievers' combined ERA, but, excepting the outlier of Paduch, this is a pretty good picture.

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I’m not a huge fan of Fielding Independent Percentage as a stat. I appreciate that it certainly seems more accurate than ERA, but sorted out like this I’m not sure that it tells us anything more that ERA. See the discussion at the link.

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Fans in our area of the DBAP don’t think much of the WHIP (Walks, Hits, per Inning Pitched) stat, and neither does FanGraphs. But here it is for those who like the stat.

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Lastly, and only because I just wasted a couple of hours of my life trying to figure it out, Batting Average of Balls in Play. To summarize, for most pitchers it should be around .300. So Paduch, Archer, and especially Beliveau, have been "unlucky." Unless someone can tell me why we should care, don’t expect to see this one again.

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Hitting the Ball

Game 35, May 10, DBAP123456789RHE
Lehigh Valley IronPigs
Durham Bulls

Season: 22-13; Home Stand: 2-3
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

This was a hitting and running game, and I missed most of it before I could get to a television in the 7th inning just as Lehigh Valley closed it up to 6-7. A glance at the team OPS for the game — .982 — tells you a lot about how things went.

Brandon Guyer seems to be settling into the leadoff spot, and he did his job getting on base five out of six tries with four hits (all singles), one hbp, one stolen base, scored three runs, and got a RBI.

Mike Fontenot got 3 hits in his 6 tries, scored a run, and  3 RBI.

Wil Myers hit a three-run homer in the 1st and picked up a 4th RBI when he reached on an error in the 6th.

And it’s always fun to mention a great game by catcher Craig Albernaz — who arrived back from Hudson Valley just in time to suit up for the game. (Note: that’s a lame attempt at humor. Albernaz never went to Hudson Valley. He was moved back on to Durham’s roster when Frank De Los Santos went on the disabled list.) In his first game since the no-hitter, Albernaz picked off a runner on first base, threw out a runner trying to steal second base, had two singles and a double while batting in the #9 position, and scored three runs.

Jake Odorizzi worked really hard, 101 pitches in 5⅓ innings. Steve Geltz had two balks called on him, which seemed to get him really upset. After giving up a triple, he shut down the Iron Pigs for the rest of the 7th and all of the 8th.

Outside the game —
  • The new manager of the Iron Pigs is a familiar face, longtime Richmond/Gwinnett Braves manager Dave Brundage. 
  • Chris Archer is back in the rotation. He’s to start this afternoon.
  • Josh Lueke got in 1⅓ innings for the Rays last night. 2 Ks, no hits, no runs. Story, plus some speculation regarding how long he might stay, viz., the rest of the season.
  • The Bull City Summer website went live recently.
  • Norfolk lost, so the Bulls are now just one game back in the South Division.

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Two Down!

Ouch! One more pitcher lost. At least we've got Craig Albernaz back. We'd been wondering about De Los Santos' situation given his last couple of outings.

Lueke Called Up

It may have been that he impressed all the Rays’ executives who watched his two-inning save at the DBAP last night. Or it might have been the seven saves, two wins, 0.95 ERA (and even lower FIP of 0.78) over 14 appearances and 19 innings. Or just the fact that Brandon Gomes is going on the DL with a “right lat strain”. At any rate, Josh Leuke is on his way to St. Petersburg. Good luck.

In the meantime, choices among the Montgomery Biscuits relief corp do not look too promising. Maybe Marquis Fleming?

The Return of Rich Thompson?

Game 34, May 9, DBAP
Syracuse Chiefs (Nationals)000020000270
Durham Bulls (Rays)

Season: 21-13; Home Stand: 1-3
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

A nice crowd (8,000+) got to see a well-played baseball game. The Bulls didn’t get swept. One of our favorite guys, Rich Thompson, had a good night (mostly). And a guy who is looking to become WDBB’s favorite pitcher got his fourth win. A great evening at the DBAP.

Rich Thompson was supposed to have a day off. He’s not had a good year at bat, although he has been doing his usual exceptional job in center field. Last night, however, Wil Myers came out of the game not long after his first AB and Thompson took his place in right field. (Myers apparently had digestive problems.) Thompson’s double in the 5th set up Fontenot’s run in that inning. His base stealing set up his scoring on a wild pitch in the 8th. His very accurate throw in the 9th caught a Chief’s runner attempt to stretch a single into a double. Have to mention, however, that when he lost a fly ball in the lights (I think this was his first time in right field this year) letting the hitter get to third base, I was afraid he might become the goat. Didn’t happen. His batting average is finally above .200. All is right with the world.

J.D. Martin is really looking good. A glance at his minor league stats leads me to think that his not-very-good 2012 might be the exception. This year’s results are very much on track with the rest of his career. Also, I didn’t know he’d spent so much time with the Syracuse Chiefs (53 appearances over three seasons). Here’s hoping he stays in the rotation even if Mike Montgomery comes back.

Outside the Game—
  • Cory Smith with the News & Observer has a nice feature on Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi is scheduled to start against the Iron Pigs today.
  • Norfolk continues to be extremely hot. They remain two games ahead of the Bulls in the South Division.
Today's Match Up

The Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs are the Triple A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. If you’re a Phillies fan this will be the only time this year that you will have a chance to see your future stars. They’ve got some terrific pitching this year. Update: Ooops! Got ahead of myself. ERA corrected. Not all that good after all.

Lehigh Valley14-19147166-19.249.7114.73

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ks Are Not King

Game 33, May 8RHE
Syracuse Chiefs (Nationals)592
Durham Bulls (Rays)362

Season: 20-13; Home Stand: 0-3
Durham Bulls’ pitchers combined for 17 strikeouts yesterday morning and afternoon. How is it that they lost the game? Well, it turns out that among the hits they allowed were two home runs and three doubles.

The 17 Ks were the most of any game this season. Alex Colome got 10 of them in his 5⅔ innings (and his fifth loss). Jeff Beliveau got three in only 1⅓ innings, and Kirby Yates got 4 in his 2 innings. If it weren’t for those pesky home runs and doubles …

Nevertheless, you can’t blame the pitching for this one. The Chiefs came into this series with the worst team ERA in the International League, 5.21. They are still the worst in the league at 4.83, but that modest improvement has come at the expense of the Bulls. If it were updated, yesterday’s hitting chart would show an even more negative trend. Opportunities to come back in 8th and 9th innings didn’t happen.

Meanwhile the park was seething with kids on the last of this year’s education days. I have mixed feelings about those days. Good idea, I suppose, if they were actually watching the game. Sure glad I’m not among the chaperones. Gotta be a thankless job.

Today is the last time the Bulls will see the Chiefs this year. The Chiefs lead the 8-game series 4-3. Here’s hoping the Bulls can even it up.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Except For That 7th Inning...

Game 32; Tuesday, May 7; Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham, NC

Syracuse Chiefs (Nationals)000000300381
Durham Bulls (Rays)

Season: 20-12; Home Stand: 0-2

Alex Torres had a terrific night, Frank De Los Santos did not. In fact, Mr. De Los Santos isn’t having a very good year. In 11 appearances he’s only managed 12⅔ innings. Last night he didn’t make an out. Have to wonder if something could be wrong.

Nevertheless, sure is great to see Alex Torres apparently beginning to live up to his promise. And Shelley Duncan got his first hits as a Durham Bull. Plus Leslie Anderson got a homer.

On the other hand, see the chart below showing the slippage in Bulls hitting over the last several games. Guess the stats geeks might call it “regression to the mean.” For us normal folks, let's call it a “slump”.

Outside the game —
  • Tarp on the field at 8:30. Not sure I can cope with screaming kids waiting for the rain to stop.
  • Could Aroldis Chapman throw a golf ball 16 giraffes high?
  • New blog in the area, DNA of Sports, has a terrific story on Bulls reliever Steve Geltz. Kinda hard to figure out who the writers are, but it's a good story.
  • A bit more on the DPAC deal with City of Durham.
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