Sunday, June 30, 2013

Nice Recovery From a Long Trip

Game 83, June 29, DBAP
Durham Bulls 3, Columbus Clippers 1
Season: 51-32
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Regular Durham Bulls fans know something unusual is happening when catcher Craig Albernaz is in the lineup as the designated hitter. In five seasons as a professional baseball player, this was his first appearance in the DH role. Why? Well, down in St Petersburg Evan Longoria had an ouchie and Ryan Roberts was called up just in case. Charlie Montoyo had only two position players left to choose from, both of them catchers, for the DH slot. Albie got the call.

Meanwhile, Jake Odorizzi started out with four innings of terrific pitching (4 base runners); two more of pretty darn good pitching; and started out the 7th inning looking a bit tired. Josh Lueke came in to complete the 7th and 8th. Kirby Yates closed it out.

This year’s Durham Bulls are good at small ball and it showed in the critical 3rd and 4th innings. Single, double, single in the 3rd put two runs up. Single, stolen base, ground out moving runner to 3B, single bringing him home in the 4th.

Personally, I like that kind of baseball, so it was a good night for me.

To be honest, I expected less and was pleased to see more. The Bulls played a double header on Friday night; got on a bus for an overnight run to Durham, arriving at 8:00 in the morning; and they were on the field for a 7:07 first pitch.

Outside the game —
  • We were surprised to hear Juan Sandoval was off to Montgomery in exchange for LHP C.J. Riefenhauser. Don’t know a much about Riefenhauser except that his name in hard to type and he’s got a stunning 0.51 ERA over 53 innings in 20 appearances this year. Stats. Needs AAA time?
  • Well, sort of outside the game … The a cappella group Cognitive Resonance, who performed the National Anthem last night, was simply superb, one of the very best we here at WDBB have ever heard. Kudos to them and to the person on the Bulls staff who picked them to perform. Bring ‘em back!
  • Former Bull Stephen Vogt got his very first major league hit the other night. For the A’s. A home run. Congratulations! Cool video at Rays Index.
  • Check out the photo of Reid Brignac on his new team’s roster (the Colorado Sky Sox)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Matchup: Bulls v. Clippers

This could be a tough night for the Bulls. First they lose both games in a double-header, then they’ve had a long bus ride home from Allentown. On the other hand, Jake Odorizzi is starting. So could be interesting.


The Bulls are playing the Columbus Clippers, who are not looking all that good this year. That is quite a change from recent years when the Clippers and the Bulls have had some tough contests, including one where the Clippers simply blew out the Bulls for the Governors’ Cup. This year, however, the Cleveland Indians Triple-A is a deep 16 ½ games behind the Indianapolis Indians in the International League west. So they have a long way to go to catch up. We’d prefer it not be at the Bulls expense.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Rainout; Hitters Reviewed

First, a look at the last two games ...

Wrap, Box, Allentown Morning Call

Wrap, Box, Allentown Morning Call

Season: 50-30; Trip: 3-3

Merrill Kelly apparently looked awfully good in Tuesday's game and Matt Buschmann was a bit shaky in Wednesday's outing. The bullpen stepped up and the hitters kept scrambling. Two very nice wins.

A double-header is set up to try to makeup last night's rainout. Storms are predicted for tonight, so it will be a matter of timing. We can hope they get to play, otherwise the Bulls season will be shortened by two games. That's the way in works in the IL.

By the way, Reid Brignac has been re-signed by the Colorado Rockies. This time it's to a minor league deal. He'll be playing AAA ball in Colorado Springs. [Thanks to Rays Index for the heads up].

It's been almost a month since we last looked at Bulls hitters. The two huge changes are the departures of Wil Myers and Rich Thompson. Thompson had been coming back from a bad start. Myers, of course, was coming into his own. The change column goes back to May 28. Vince Belnome has obviously fallen off a bit, but his wRAA and wOBA are still very, very solid numbers. Nice to see Brandon Guyer moving up. I'd thought that Tim Beckham was improving, but doesn't look like it. And I thought the same about Jason Bourgeois. By the way, Bourgeois has not been moved to the DL, so maybe he will be back. He was reported to have a hamstring problem that took him out of Wednesday's game.

Vince Belnome
Leslie Anderson
Brandon Guyer
Cole Figueroa
Mike Fontenot
Shelley Duncan
Chris Gimenez
Tim Beckham
Jason Bourgeois
Juan Apodaca
Ryan Roberts
Craig Albernaz
Jesus Flores

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

All About the Iron Pigs - Guest Post

As near as I can figure there are only three fan blogs in all of minor league baseball. (I could be wrong. That’s happened once or twice. Let me know if I am.) One of them is Bacon and Biscuits the child of Matt Creedon and it follows the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs and another team that plays an obscure game that involves wacking stuff around on ice. The Bulls went 2 and 2 in a four games series against the Iron Pigs at the DBAP back in early May.

As the Bulls roll into the Lehigh Valley, here’s Matt’s take on where the Phillies Triple-A franchise is this year.


The IronPigs came into the season with the youngest roster that they have had in their six seasons in the Lehigh Valley. The average age of the Opening Day roster was about 26.5 years old and six of the Phillies’ top ten prospects started the year as Pigs (3 are still on the team, 2 are on the DL, and Jonathan Pettibone is in the Phillies rotation). There were also a number of players who contributed to the Phillies in 2012 (Tyler Cloyd, Joe Savery, Justin De Fratus, Pete Orr, etc.) who weren’t necessarily considered prospects (or at least in the top ten) that made the Opening Day squad. Because of that there was a lot of excitement and high expectations around the team back in April. There was also some concern that the team might struggle early and that proved to be the case.

The Pigs lost four of their first six games (all at home) and finished April at 10-15. In their last 12 April games they went 3-9 including being swept in four games at home by Buffalo. Along the way there were very few transactions which is rare considering the shape the Phillies were/are in and the simple fact that this is Triple-A. So it was concerning that the team played poorly despite all the promising pieces being in place for the entire first month.

May started off kind of shaky, but after the 3-5 road trip through your place and Norfolk, the Pigs really stepped it up at home, a place they have played very well at over the past few seasons, but did not through the first month and a half. Starting on May 18 - which oddly enough was my first game of the season. I guess I’ll take some credit – the Pigs won 8 of their next 9 home games and ended the month one game over .500 at 15-14 (25-29 overall).

They haven’t slowed down a bit at home since. In June they have won 8 of their 11 home games, which means that since May 18th they are 16-4 at Coca-Cola Park. The result is a 40-36 overall record and a half game lead in the Wild Card race. It might not sound that impressive, but they have come a long way. They just need to learn how to win on the road.

The team’s performance aside, one guy who has been good all season is 23-year-old 2B Cesar Hernandez. He hit .375 in April and continued to hit well over .300 for much of the first two months. He’s down to .296, but he still has a team-high 21 steals and IL-high 7 triples. Cesar also got some time with the Phillies when Michael Young went on bereavement leave (May 29th) and stuck with the team for two weeks. He’s back and hitting .263 in his last ten games.

22-year-old 3B Cody Asche is leading the team in RBI with 44, hits with 77, and games with 72. He has been very good offensively and defensively and figures to be the Phillies 3B next season (and hopefully long afterwards).

LF/1B Darin “Babe” Ruf had a chance to make the Phillies out of Spring Training, but wasn’t well adjusted enough in LF to make the team. They moved Ruf to the outfield after he hit 38 home runs with Reading (AA) last year. That broke Ryan Howard’s single-season record at Reading. Howard is of course blocking him at 1B. He’s 26 and wasn’t really on anyone’s radar until that power surge last season. After a slow start he’s starting to put things together. Overall he’s at .269, 7 HR, and 38 RBI and batting in the cleanup spot nightly. In the field he has done just fine and maybe even a little better than that. There’s still lots of talk on Philly sports radio about bringing him up, but he will be a Pig for the foreseeable future. You’ll probably see him in LF and at 1B during the upcoming series. He plays 1B about three times a week.

Catching has been a revolving door and arguably the Pigs’ biggest weakness. #3 prospect Tommy Joseph (acquired in last July’s Hunter Pence deal) started the season behind the plate, but landed on the DL with a concussion on May 9th. It turned out that it wasn’t his first. He was just about back, but after five games with Clearwater (High-A) he went back on the DL last Wednesday. That’s one of those situations where you start to really worry about the guy’s future. He’s only 21.

With Joseph out the Pigs have had Humberto Quintero, John Suomi, Steven Lerud, and Cameron Rupp (another prospect just promoted from Double-A) at catcher. Lerud and Rupp are on the roster right now.

1B Cody Overbeck is quietly having another good season for the Pigs. With a team-high 13 HR, he has moved into 2nd place on the IronPigs career HR list (jumped ahead of Phillies OF John Mayberry, Jr. – behind former Pigs 1B and current Phils Minor League Hitting Coordinator Andy Tracy).

OF Steve Susdorf and DH Josh Fields are having great seasons with .326 and .321 averages respectively (top two avg. on team). OF Leandro Castro will likely miss the Durham series after injuring his hand on the recent road trip. He was a valuable piece in the lineup and for what it’s worth, is leading my blog’s Pig of the Year competition. OF Jermaine Mitchell has been a good leadoff hitter.

Pitching-wise the most recent game notes say you will face Raul Valdes, Tom Cochran, Tyler Cloyd, and then possibly Carlos Zambrano (yes, the Carlos Zambrano). Valdes (2-2, 3.41) started the year in the Phils bullpen and was optioned mid-May. He’s had only two bad starts out of 7 total. He’s done well enough, but he should be in the bullpen. Cochran (3-2, 4.68) came up from Reading (AA) in early May and has won 3 of his first 4 starts in June. He’s been better after a bad start.

Cloyd (1-6, 7.69) is nowhere near the IL Pitcher of the Year that he was last season. He has been hammered in his two starts since being optioned by the Phillies (where, oddly enough, he didn’t do too badly) to the tune of 13 runs over 9.2 IP. In those two starts he has given up five home runs.

Zambrano (1-0, 3.18) may or may not pitch Friday. He has an opt-out clause on July 1st if the Phillies do not call him up. He has started 3 games for the Pigs and posted a 7 inning shutout at Toledo last Tuesday. He’s looked decent enough, but with Pettibone (only 22) holding his own in the Phils rotation, Z’s future is up in the air. If it were me I would not option Pettibone in favor of Zambrano. The Phils are rebuilding and Pettibone will play a role in the future team. Zambrano won’t.

Bullpen. We just lost J.C. Ramirez and Phillippe Aumont to the Phillies due to injuries. We’ve yet to get a replacement for either as of Monday morning. We have a closer by committee for the time being since Jake Diekman was called up. Lefty Mauricio Robles is the most likely candidate and hits the mid-90s with his fastball. RHP Justin Friend has been very, very good lately in middle relief. Greg Smith and Zach Miner are long men.

As for the rest of the season, I believe the IronPigs have enough talent to make the playoffs. That being said, I have to put out the disclaimer that this is Triple-A and the Phillies might be moving a number of pieces in the coming month. The Pigs could lose that talent and miss the playoffs. But I’m holding out hope…for the entire organization.


Thanks, Matt!

One Out of Four, Move On

Wrap, Box, Bisons

Wrap, Box, Buffalo News

Wrap, Box, Buffalo News

Season: 48-30; Trip: 1-3
Wrap, Box, Bisons

The Bulls outhit the Bisons in every game, 37-26 overall, and actually outscored them over the series 12 runs to 11, but lost 3 out of 4 games. How did that happen? Mostly, they just couldn’t get their runners across. Nevertheless, none of these games were blowouts and mostly we what we saw was some weakness in the bullpen. No real surprise there.

How is Charlie handling his outfield puzzle (remember, he’s only got two outfielders on the roster)? Of the regulars (that would be Jason Bourgeois and Brandon Guyer), Bourgeois played in 3 of 4 games and pinch ran late in the fourth game; Guyer also started in 3 of 4 games and pinch ran in a fourth. Playing the third outfielder? That was Leslie Anderson (2 starts) and Cole Figueroa (2 starts).

In a larger sense, it’s hard to complain about the pitching except for the bullpen’s blowup in the second game of the series. Might as well make my token complaint about having to go with yet another "bullpen day" (using a crew of relievers when no starter available) in this series. The Bulls had two of those in June and lost both.

Mike Montgomery went seven innings and did well. That will certainly help folks recover from the previous night’s marathon.

Have to note that the Bison’s Ricky Romero can’t seem to get the ball across the plate against the Bulls. He had 5 BBs in 3 ⅓ innings last night. And back on May 27 in Durham he gave up 3 BBs in the ⅔ inning that he pitched.

Jason Bourgeois had a terrific night with two hits, two RBI and a stolen base, his 19th. Brandon Guyer led off and did his job by getting on base 3 out of 5 times, scoring every time, and picking up an RBI. His batting average is up to .283 now and, even better, his advanced stats are up there just behind Vince Belnome’s and Leslie Anderson’s. The Bulls need that.

Outside the game —
  • Pitcher Steve Geltz is from the Buffalo area and got a nice story about him while the Bulls were there.
  • Former Bull Reid Brignac was designated for assignment by the Yankees. He has cleared waivers, but no word if he has been picked up by another team. May end up as a free agent.
  • Couple of interesting photos from the most recent Bark in the Park event.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Figueroa Debuts in Left, and More ...

Season: 47-27; Home Stand: 6-2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The last home stand the Durham Bulls went 7-1, this home stand they went 6-2. This is one terrific baseball team. I you haven’t seen them play you’ve missed something.

Last night’s game was, however, a bit different from many in that it was a very low-scoring affair. Overall, the Bulls scored 46 runs over the last 8 games (compared to their opponents’ 28). Even with the one-game anomaly of the 16-3 win last Monday, the Bulls are a hot team. They dominate the South Division, leading Norfolk by 9 games and are playing very good baseball.

Last night was also an interesting look at Matt Buschmann. It was his fifth appearance as a Bull and he did a good job. I worry about him mostly because he sure works hard. It took him 96 pitches for him to get through five innings last night. Compare that to J.D. Martin’s seven inning, 93 pitch performance the other day. On the other hand, he didn’t let a single run score. His ERA over these 22+ innings is a beautiful 1.59 and he’s got a nice low WHIP of 1.19. So it looks like Buschmann and his fellow newcomer Merrill Kelly will help the Bulls get through the second half of the season.

Another positive sign on the pitching front was a solid 3 innings by Juan Sandoval. A couple of short, ugly appearances early in June are messing up his stats, but if he keeps this up, he’s in for a good season.

The Bulls missed a lot of scoring opportunities last night. If they’d lost the game I’m sure we’d be wringing our hands over that. But they didn’t, so we won’t. Vince Belnome's first (of two) double set the stage to be batted in on Shelley Duncan’s single. New guy Ryan Roberts' first hit as a Durham Bull let Brandon Guyer show off his speed as he scored the winning run from first base. By the way, Belnome’s 21 doubles leads the Durham Bulls and he’s #2 in the International League.

Meanwhile, out in left field we saw Cole Figueroa catch a fly ball in the 6th inning in his new role as an outfielder. In his 532 games as a professional ballplayer he has played in the outfield exactly one time (last night, stats). That would be 0.19% of his pro career. Over in right field we had catcher Chris Gimenez. Gimenez has quite a bit of experience moving around without all his catching gear on. He’s played about half of his pro games as a catcher and the rest at 3B, 1B, and the outfield. Nevertheless, without some rosterification this road trip will be a challenge. There are only two regular outfielders on the current roster (Bourgeois and Guyer) and they need rest from time to time. And no other park has a short, Blue Monster-like outfield wall.

Outside the game —
  • Catcher Juan Apodaca was moved off the Bulls roster to the Princeton Rays. It was likely to make room for Ryan Roberts. I couldn’t see into the dugout to see if it a real move or if it was just on paper. The Princeton, West Virginia team is Rookie level and has just begun their season. My guess is that Apodaca is still around.

The Blue Jays' Triple-A team, the Buffalo Bisons, were in Durham at the end of May. The Bulls swept them 4-0. The team is a poster child for the importance of pitching. As the table shows they aren't all that much worse than the Bulls in hitting, but there’s a big spread in pitching (and much of that apparently in starting pitching). Recently they lost 3 out of 4 to Gwinnett.

After the Fans Leave

Saw this tweet by Scott Strickland last night,

So I went online and checked out the webcam,

DBAP, Scott Strickland (?), 1130 pm, June 20, 2013
Trying to think of a caption. Maybe:

"The loneliness of the long-distance plowman."


"A little night-punching."



Thursday, June 20, 2013

Yates! Yates! Yates!

Bark in the Park at the DBAP

Season: 46-27; Home Stand: 5-2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Kirby Yates came into the game late with every chance of becoming the hero or the goat — and it was a near-run thing which it would be.

The Bulls had every right to feel fairly comfortable at the top of the 8th. They were ahead 3-0 and Jeff Beliveau, who’d been having a decent year, came in after new guy Merrill Kelly’s solid seven innings. But after five batters a run was in, the bases were loaded, and there was only one out. Get out the hook. Bring in the closer.

Yate got a ground out that scored a run and another ground out to end the 8th.

The Bulls were quiet for their 8th and Yates was quickly back on the mound on to start the 9th. He walked the first batter, setting up his second big opportunity to be the goat. The famously fast Bat Billy Hamilton came in to run for the Bats' Felhauer. Hamilton stole second base but Yates K’d the batter. One out. Hamilton stole third base, but Yates K’d the next batter. Two outs. Now Hamilton is dancing, but a weak pop to center fielder Bourgeois and Yates is the hero. Yeah, Yates!

Merrill Kelly got his first AAA win, but I have to say that overall this was not a good night for baseball … other than the dogs, of course. The Bats’ Daniel Corcino had a no-hitter going into the 4th, but also had put 6 runners on base through BBs and a hit batsman. Like so many games this home stand, the game was sloooow. Kelly was deliberate and if not flashy, he nevertheless was getting batters out. Only two offensive plays stood out, Jesus Flores' very timely RBI single in the 4th and Vince Belnome’s game-winning homer in the 5th. What a find Belnome has been.

Outside the game —
  • This home stand has allowed us to do a head-to-head statistical matchup of the performance of two catchers as pitchers. With the Louisville Bats we have Corky Miller. Miller has seen action in 3 games in 2013 (6 in his career). His 2013 ERA is 7.71 over 4 ⅔ innings. The Durham Bulls’ Craig Albernaz has appeared in 2 games in 2013 (13 in his career). His 2013 ERA is a stunning 0.00 over 2 innings. Millers specialty is a knuckleball. Albernaz was reportedly working on a cut fastball over the winter, but we weren’t able to getting any feedback on whether he had used it this year. Albernaz clearly has the bragging rights for AAA catchers as pitchers for 2013. There are some trivial differences in career stats, but since this is a Bulls blog, we won’t go into that.
  • Infielder Ryan Roberts is reported to be in town and ready to play. Jake Odorizzi is back from a decent outing with the Rays up in Boston and likely to go back into the rotation.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Duncan, and Others, Bang Up Bats

Season: 45-26; Home Stand: 4-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Louisville

For a Louisville team who’d just won five in a row, included four over in Norfolk, I expected more of a contest last night. Instead what we saw was a Bulls team, especially Shelley Duncan, Brandon Guyer, and Leslie Anderson, who wanted to show off their muscle. Particularly impressive was Duncan’s two home runs and 6 RBI that led the team to several firsts:
  • Most runs scored — 16
  • Largest run differential — 13
  • Most games over .500 — 19
  • Biggest spread between first and second place —  7 games
Since the game was pretty much settled by the bottom of the 2nd inning, we had plenty of time to chat about things in our part of the stands as we watched the middle innings.

Looking at our rosters we shook our head at the management challenges of Charlie Montoyo and crew. The Bulls have four catchers and two outfielders on the roster. That can’t last in the long run, but in the short run it meant putting a catcher (Chris Gimenez) out in Durham’s short left field and hoping that a good arm will make up for lack of foot speed. To his credit, Mr. Montoyo is not going to change his approach to rotating his players  on a regular basis. And, obviously, the offense was none the worse for Vince Belnome getting his day off.

Alex Colome was on a restricted pitch count so that he would be ready for an appearance in Yankee Stadium for the Rays later this week. I get that. What I don’t get is what has happened to his mound routine. He has turned into a human rain delay. The first 1½ innings last night took a hour to play. That was before the 6-run bottom of the 2nd. Yes, Louisville’s Pedro Villarreal was also taking his time, but the Colome we’re seeing now seems different from the guy who was blowing batters away a month ago, back before he went up to the Rays. Is he off his rhythm? He had a 4-inning start back on June 4 that took up 87 pitches, 2 earned runs. On five days rest he then went 6 innings (90 pitches) and gave up three runs. On two days rest he had a limited 2⅔ inning start, 44 pitches, 1 ER, and now a 2⅓ inning start on three days rest, 57 pitches 2 earned runs. This is a guy who not all that long ago went 7 innings, threw 101 pitches, and marked up 11 Ks while allowing only 1 earned run (May 13). I hope he gets his call up. I hope he does well. But I’m not sure that the Rays are treating this young man right.

We also were looking forward to seeing the Louisville’s phenom Billy Hamilton challenge Bulls pitching and catching. Didn’t happen. Mr. Hamilton never got on base.

Today is the 72nd game of the season, the exact midpoint. Traditionally, Bulls-Bats games have been much more interesting than what we saw last night. Looking forward to tonight and seeing if Mike Montgomery has gotten over his on-mound twitchiness.

Outside the game —
  • Claw Digest brings us up to date of a couple of ex-Bulls (and current Bulls)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bull's Revenge

Season: 44-26; Home Stand: 3-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The important question at hand last night, the 25th Anniversary of the opening of the movie “Bull Durham”, was not who was going to win the baseball game, but whether or not “Nuke” was ever going to win a race against either “Crash” or “Annie”. And so when the moment came and Nuke came out and simply blew ahead of Crash and Annie we thought, “OK, smart move, let Nuke win one. He’s gonna go to the show after all.” But, in a move of minor genius on the part of the Bulls staff, the bull from the original Bull Durham (or a close approximation) came out and took revenge for being hit by Nuke all those years ago. He body-blocked Nuke. Nuke went down as Crash and Annie skipped by. Crash won last night.

Well, maybe that wasn’t the most important event last night. For a Bulls fan, the biggest deal was probably the Bulls taking 3 of 4 games from the Indianapolis Indians, the team with the best record in the International League. It helps to be well out in front in the South Division as the Bulls approach mid-season (that would be tomorrow!). Of course, by September both teams will be very different, but the Bulls can hope that J.D. Martin will still be around. (Note: J. D. just name IL Pitcher of the Week!) And if he is, along with some of his colleagues from last night, players like Leslie Anderson, Vince Belnome, and Brandon Guyer, things look good for the playoffs.

For thrills, maybe the biggest deal was that spectacular behind-the-back catch in center field by Jason Bourgeois in the 5th inning. One of those moments you hope to see when you come to a game.

Certainly the oddity of the night was Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor getting ejected before the game even started, just after presenting his lineup card to the umps. Guessing was that Trainor was still upset about a call that ended the game on Saturday. Have to say that even for a boy’s game like baseball that seems a bit petulant on Treanor’s part.

A close second as far as oddities go would be the decision by the radio station that broadcasts Bulls games to instead broadcast the U.S. Open golf tournament. Now, who in the world listens to golf on the radio? Especially within the rather limited radius of “AM 620 The Buzz!”

The scary moment of the game came when Vince Belnome appeared to have twisted his ankle on a play at 1B in the 5th inning. At that moment there was, by my count, exactly one player on the bench, catcher Craig Albernaz. Now Albernaz is one heck of a ballplayer, but I’m guessing that at 5’8" he doesn’t have a lot of playing time at 1B.

Another highlight for Bulls fans was seeing Chris Gimenez back in catching gear and on the field for the first time in what seems like a very long time. Welcome back, Chris!

A confusing moment in the 3rd inning was the shuffle of Brandon Guyer from left to right field, Leslie Anderson from 1B to left field, and Belnome coming in from his off day to play 1B. Then the twitterverse blew up with the story, the call-up of Wil Myers. We’ve had a lot of fun watching Mr. Myers this year. He has one of the most interesting swings that I’ve ever seen and the sound off his bat is unique. I’m betting he will do just fine with the Rays. And what better place to begin his career than Fenway? Good luck, Wil.

Outside the game —
  • In the 32nd transaction involving a pitcher this year, Josh Lueke has been called back up to the Rays. At a guess there are two more Bulls pitchers ”on the bubble“ to join the Rays today — Jake Odorizzi (did he even make it back? Guess not. He's reportedly starting today in Fenway.) and Alex Colome. We’ll see. But it does explain why Kirby Yates had back-to-back saves over the last two games. Good for Kirby!
  • Infielder Ryan Roberts has been optioned down from Tampa Bay to make room on the 25 man for Myers. Roberts hasn’t been in the minors since 2010. The 32 year old usually played 2B for the Rays, but had a few games at 3B and 1B. At $3 million, I’m guessing he will be the highest-paid Durham Bull by a few bucks.
  • Lastly, yesterday was Father’s Day and I want to point you over to this amazing unattributed [Update: by Alex Harris, see comments] image at Bull City Summer. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. In fact, if I’m not breaking any copyright I think I’ll just put it up. I’ll take it down if there’s a problem.

Photo by Alex Harris: From Bull City Summer

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Storm; Then Stormier

Season: 43-25; Home Stand: 1-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The Bulls were behind 7-2 as they came to bat in the bottom of the 5th inning. Things had been ugly up to that point, so ugly that only 3 of those 7 runs were earned.

Not that I was all that deeply engaged at that moment because I wasn’t at the game, I was at home watching it on TV for a really stupid reason — We’d been trapped inside our own g-d’d garage! You see, the same storm that delayed the game also swept on east and killed the power in our part of Wake County. That would not have been a problem except for the fact that a couple of months ago I replaced our garage door and opener without learning how to deal with a power failure. So there I was in the dark, flashlight in hand trying to figure out how to get that sucker up. Turned out to be pretty straightforward — if only I’d gone out to solve the problem an hour or so earlier. As it was, when the lights came back on and Time-Warner rebooted, the Bulls were in the 2nd inning.

Back to the bottom of the 5th inning. Vince Belnome started things off with a single. When he came back up to bat that same inning Tim Beckham was on second base having just driven in a couple of runs and the Bulls had scored a total of 7 runs. Belnome struck out, but  Wil Myers singled to bring Beckham in for the eighth run of the inning which was enough to surge ahead of the team with the best record in the International League.

Pitching turmoil continues in the Bulls lineup. Alex Colome began the game on a severe pitch count restriction, followed by Mike Montgomery who got the win. Studying him closely on the TV leads me to worry about that young man. He seemed very unfocused and erratic, unable to get himself into a rhythm. Colome could be joining the Rays for their double header in Boston.

Outside the game —
  • In St. Petersburg last night, Jake Odorizzi came in the game with two outs in 6th after former Bull Jeremy Hellickson had given up 8 runs in the inning. Odorizzi closed out the inning, but gave up two runs over the rest of the game. It was his first time against his former team. He’s now on his way back to Durham. 
  • A right-hander has come up from Montgomery, Merrill Kelly. Here are some stats. His most recent outing wasn’t all that great. But the Bulls do need some help if Colome is off to the Rays. And the Rays really need some help. Former Bull Elliot Johnson had a field day against them last night.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Charting the Durham Bulls

The Bulls had a day off so we had time to roll out an updated set of charts. Click on any of them to get a larger view.

The first shows where the Bulls stand in the International League South Division. After the recent extraordinary home stand, the Bulls then held their own on the road as Norfolk slipped back slightly.

The runs scored minus runs allowed chart is very, very nice, as is the trend (10 game moving average). The Pythagorean Expectation based on these numbers (367 runs scored, 276 runs allowed) exactly matches the Bulls won-lost record of 41-25.

Until yesterday the ERA numbers had been steadily improving over the last 15 games. Considering that the Bulls have had 30 (count ‘em, 30) roster transactions involving pitchers this year (that would be a transaction every two games) we can only applaud Charlie Montoyo and Neil Allen’s leadership and management skills.

The recent trip cooled off the Bulls hitting performance just a bit, but it was unsustainably high anyhow. This 20 game stretch still looks very, very good with only three games that the Bulls have been held under a .600 OPS and six with over 1.000 games. That is exceptional hitting and on-base performance.

Just for grins, how do the Bulls compare to their friends playing down in that bandbox between the bay and the blue sea?

The Rays have been in fourth place in the AL East all year. Once or twice they’ve caught up with Baltimore only to fall back.

Their runs scored minus runs allowed shows a pattern that predicts a barely above .500 performance. When run through the PE formula their 322 runs scored matched against their 293 runs comes up with a PE of 35-30, exactly matching their won-loss record.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Come On Home

Game 64; June 9
Durham Bulls - 1; Louisville Bats - 5

Game 65, June 10
Durham Bulls - 5; Louisville Bats - 2

Game 66, June 11
Durham Bulls - 5; Louisville Bats 8

Season: 41-25; Trip: 4-4

All things considered, a pretty good trip even if in a perfect world things could have good just a bit better. The next eight games are an exact rematch of the last eight games, an oddity of this year’s schedule. Indianapolis arrives Thursday and the Bats come to town next Monday for an all weekday run.

The Bulls put up six relief pitchers last night after the Rays tapped scheduled starter Jake Odorizzi to come on down to St. Petersburg to warm the bullpen bench just in case he might be needed.  Except for the 4th inning and that ugly grand slam, they almost pulled it off. 

What should be admired about this team is simply how well they are doing in a time of roster adversity. They just split on a road trip where they faced the best team in the IL followed by a team with some really good ballplayers. In last night’s game  two of the six pitchers had pitched the previous night, two on one day’s rest, and two had had two days off. 

What helps with this pitching staff turmoil is offensive production. And that’s looking very good. Myers, Anderson, and Figueroa (!) had home runs yesterday. Every hitter in the lineup has decent batting averages. 

I guess what worries me most is that this back and forth risks losing focus. Yet we certainly can’t ignore the opportunities this year’s Bulls are getting. Of the five starting pitchers at the beginning of 2013, four have spent some time with the Rays. Three of those four (Archer, Torres, Odorizzi) are with the Rays now. The fifth, Mike Montgomery, has been on the DL most of the season, but is starting to get his legs under him.

Two of the relievers have been to the Rays. One of those, Josh Lueke is really banging on the door. Since his return he’s pitched in 6 innings and let just one batter get to first base. 

The Bulls have the day off. They’ve earned it. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why Don’t We Know What Happened To …

A good bit of sports writing is simply gossip. Nevertheless, in the end baseball is about the players and fans are very interested in the men who play this game. I’m not sure the Bulls (more likely the Rays) respect that interest when it comes to minor league ballplayers.

David Price is feeling good and that’s making headlines. I get that. A lot of media reps are watching the Rays and especially the progress of one of their stars. Downstream, however, things are very different. The Durham Bulls have five players on the disabled list and you would be hard-pressed to get any information at all about their status.

I don’t think that the information is completely unavailable, it is just that it’s limited to a single source coming through an ephemeral medium. That is, at some point in his broadcast each evening the Bulls broadcaster Patrick Kinas may provide an injury update. However, even fans as obsessed with the Bulls as we are don’t listen to every game, and couldn’t the Bulls do more for their fans anyhow?

Cases in point —
  • Whatever happened to Hak-Ju Lee? In his case we know why he’s on the disabled list, but what’s happened since then? 
  • Or Frank De Los Santos? In his case, as far as I know, fans were never informed regarding why he is on the DL, and certainly no prediction of his return to the team. 
  • Will Inman? Excluding broadcast comment, all fans know is that he’s on the DL. Why? Is he with the team? 
  • What about catcher Chris Gimenez? In his case we don’t even know why he’s on the list, something to do with his left hand? 
  • And lastly the player who brought this rant on, Rich Thompson. A close reading of the June 6th Indy-Bulls play-by-play shows that he caught a fly ball in the bottom of the 4th inning and then left the game. That’s it as far as information available in non-broadcast media. Hearing a comment on the radio, WDBB queried Thompson over Twitter and got the response (thanks, Rich) that he could be out for the year. But why? What happened? 
I suppose I should take my complaint to the local newspapers. They are, after all, the only real reporters around here. But the only regular reportage of the Bulls comes from just one newspaper, Durham’s Herald-Sun. And their coverage isn’t actually a regular “beat” since it rotates through a couple of writers and is limited to home games. Yes, there’s a daily news story of away games in the Raleigh News & Observer and the Herald-Sun, but that’s just a cut and paste from the Bulls’ own release.

My guess is that the Rays and the Bulls figure that folks really don’t much care what a blogger thinks and that’s fair. But I really think there are more fans than just WDBB who would like to know what happened to these young men and what the prospects are of seeing them on the field in the future.

What’s the fix? Pretty straightforward it seems to me. An injury update press release from time to time would work just fine.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Nice Win, But ... Thompson Out for the Year?

Season: 40-13; Trip: 3-2
Wrap, Box, Courier-Journal

I wasn’t going to post today, but a couple things have come up.

The key highlights if the game were Wil Myers’ two home runs (3 RBI) and Matt Buschmann's very decent outing. But there was a flurry of interesting stuff ...

Outside the game —
  • A couple of places are speculating the Wil Myers will get called up sooner rather than later (here, for example), but the Tampa Bay Times isn’t so sure. Then there’s video of the homers here.
  • A comment by Patrick Kinas that Rich Thompson was “out for the year” jumped out at me last night. I was only occasionally listening, but Thompson himself has confirmed to WDBB (via twitter) that he may be out for the year. That’s terrible news for Thompson and the Bulls. 
  • New catcher Jesus Flores left the game after just a couple of innings. No reason given for his departure.
  • Interesting photo over at Bull City Summer.
  • Bill James offers ideas on how to reform minor league baseball.
  • For a couple of waiting-for-the-game-to-start grins check out 10 Ways to Change MLB. Actually, a couple of them might actually work. Really like the "yellow card" idea.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Shoulda Won That One

Season: 39-23; Trip: 2-2
Wrap, Box, Indianapolis, Rays Colored Glasses

You know, I don’t even want to write about how you go into the bottom of the 8th leading 4-0 with a no-hitter in hand and end up losing the game. Take a look at any of the links for the awful details.

The Bulls have been playing with 12 pitchers on the roster, instead of their usual 13, for a couple of weeks. Has that finally caught up with them?

Speaking of rosters, Rich Thompson went on the DL yesterday. That makes for 5 players on the Bulls roster on the DL.

Nice bus ride down I-65 to Louisville. The Bulls will have a rematch with the Indians soon, June 13-16, for another round of the best teams in the IL. Let’s focus on the Bats for the next few days.


Bats and Bulls have played some great games over the years. The Bats just lost 3 of 4 at home to the Norfolk Tides. The Bulls look pretty strong in the matchup. We’ll see.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Season: 39-22; Trip: 2-1
Wrap, Box, Indians Wrap

One of the very distinctive features of this year’s Bulls team is their speed. Charlie Montoyo loves base stealing, but the last couple of years he didn’t have the runners that he had, say, back in 2010 (150 steals, #2 in the IL). This year the Bulls have stolen 70 bases and are on track to beat that 2010 number. They are in second place to … the Indianapolis Indians. Rehabbing Pirate James McDonald was their main victim last night as the Bulls stole 8 bases, which must be a near record. Rich Thompson took 4 (22), Brandon Guyer took 2 (9), and Wil Myers took 2 (5). Add to that the superb infield work that turned three double plays and you have the makings of a terrific game.

All you need now is pitching and hitting.

The pitching came from Jake Odorizzi who settled down after an awkward 1st inning to fill out 6 innings on 101 pitches. I’m sure Josh Lueke doesn’t want to be back with the Bulls, but WDBB is happy to see his < 1.00 ERA . Two very strong innings followed by Kirby Yates 2 BB, but 2 K, 9th.

[Note: WDBB is forgoing a rant about the Rays pulling a pitcher (that would be Mr. Yates) right off the mound in the middle of a game the other night, since the Bulls eventually won the game in the 13th, but ...]

We are left with the hitters. By the time Wil Myers settled into the box in the 1st, Thompson and Guyer had stolen a couple of bases and Thompson was standing on third. A sac fly brought him home. In the 3rd when Myers was again in the box, Thompson was again on third base, having stolen second and third again. This time Myers singled him in. Then Myers stole second base and was doubled in by Shelley Duncan. Aggressive base running in the 4th and again the the 6th helped. In addition to his stolen bases, Brandon Guyer added a couple of RBI to his list.

Outside the game —
  • They are putting in fresh sod at the DBAP after the stress of the ACC tournament. Grounds keeper Scott Strickland tweets that the storm will help even as it delays some of the work. You can check out their work on the stadium webcam.
  • When I saw the story of Buffalo Bisons manager getting a three-day suspension I wondered why. Was able to chase this down from a game in Norfolk last Sunday. Pretty childish, even if he was at least close to being right. Deserves suspension. Actually, I think he got off light.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Two Talented Teams; Two Games; 1-1

Wrap, Box

Season: 38-22; Trip: 1-1
Wrap, Box, Indians Wrap

This series up in Indiana is, in our opinion, the most important road visit of the first half of the season. Two very well-balanced teams who match up well. And that’s exactly the way the series is playing out.

The first game stretched out for 13 innings until the Bulls blew it apart in the top of the 13th with four runs, along the way using six pitchers. The oddity of the game was how it happened that Vince Belnome got to the plate to double in the 13th. Belnome was supposed to get the day off, but came in to run for Leslie Anderson in the 7th. Anderson had gotten hit by a pitch back in the 2nd inning, but stayed in the game. Apparently, he was limping after hitting a double and Montoyo put Belnome in. He was stranded then, but stayed in the game at first base. In the 13th, one run was already in on a Wil Myers single, but Belnome hit a double to bring in two more runs and came home himself on a Cole Figueroa triple.

Double plays had a lot to do with stretching that game out, the Bulls had three, the Indians had four.

Kirby Yates came out of the game after just three pitches. I think I heard that it was a groin pull. Have not heard more. If someone did, please drop a comment for us.

Update: Yates was pulled at the Rays request. See Chris D's comment. Thanks, Chris!

Then there was last night. Just doesn’t seem fair to pitch 7⅔ innings without giving up a single earned run, then have to take a loss. But that’s what happened to J.D. Martin. The Bulls bats went cold against Indian hot prospect Gerit Cole for only the second shutout of this season. Still, it sounded like great baseball even if the park seems to be very pitcher friendly.

Outside the game —
  • The Indians seem to get very little hometown attention in the media. Not having any luck finding any conventional news stories.
  • An additional catcher is on the way, Jesus Flores. He’s coming from the Albuquerque Isotopes (Dodgers), but had a good bit of time with the Washington Nationals last year. Stories here and here, plus stats.
  • For the stats guys out there, Rays Index uses the Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) measure to take a look at former Bull Jeremy Hellickson. Here at WDBB we sometimes look at FIP, but we’re not sure it really tells us anything useful in the minor leagues.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Matchup: Durham Bulls vs. Indianapolis Indians

This is the best matchup of the season so far.

Indianapolis has a 10½ game lead in the West Division of the International League and just swept the #2 team, Columbus, at Columbus. Their hitters are hot, 40 runs on 61 hits in that series. Consequently, while their run production seems low overall, lately it has been surging.

They have the best pitching in the IL, although their best reliever, former Bull Ryan Reid, just got called up to the Pirates. The Bulls have the best hitting, by batting average; however, a sort by OPS puts the Bulls #2 and the Indians just behind them at #3. What is hard to judge for either team is the impact of roster roiling. Should be fun.

The South Division

The Tides lost last night. The Bulls have pulled ahead to lead them by 3 games.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Leaving Town On a Very High Note

Season: 37-21; Home Stand: 7-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

This was a spectacular end to a home stand unlike any in recent memory. The Bulls scored 68 runs to their opponent’s 38 over the 8 games. Monday’s game was the most lopsided with the Bulls runs coming off of 16 hits, 9 walks, and a hit batsman. The hits included 5 doubles, a triple, and 2 home runs, which added up to a stunning team OPS of 1.314, the best game of the season.

The anorexic (6’2“, 140 lbs) Rail Rider starter, Kelvin Perez , only lasted 1⅓ innings and was charged with 6 of the Bulls runs. He left the game alleging something wrong with his pitching arm, which seems entirely plausible.

Every Bull got at least one hit. Only Mike Fontenot and Tim Beckham didn’t get RBI, but they scored 3 (Fontenot) and 2 (Beckham) runs. If you have to pick out particularly outstanding performances, Jason Bourgeois’ 5 hit day (3 singles, 1 HR, 3 runs scored, 2 RBI) is up there. As is Rich Thompson’s double, 3 RBI triple, 4 RBIs and 3 runs scored; not to mention a spectacular catch in the bottom of the 2nd inning to kill a rally by the RRs.

Matt Buschmann’s first start was OK, but he didn’t last long enough to get the win. Will Inman left the game with an injury. Here’s hoping that it isn’t serious. Jeff Beliveau got the win. That should be at least some modest compensation for what must have been two extremely frustrating trips to and from the Rays in which he never got to throw a pitch. Maybe next time.

Outside the game —
  • Former Bull Ryan Reid was just called up to the Pittsburg Pirates, so he won’t be seen in Indianapolis. Probably a good thing. His ERA in 20 games and 34 innings this year is a stellar 0.52. Reid appeared in 46 games and pitched 80 innings for the Bulls last year. One of the Bulls' bullpen stalwarts. This will be his first big league call up. He came up through the Rays system. Did the Rays let a talent get away from them? 
Have to put up this OPS chart. We probably won’t see its like again.

Sunday Smashing

Game 57, June 2123456789RHE
Rail Riders (Yankees)
Durham Bulls (Rays)

Season: 36-21; Home Stand: 6-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The 2013 Durham Bulls are not a home run hitting team. In fact, they are the bottom team in the International League, hitting only 35 this year. The league leader, the Buffalo Bisons, has hit 66. All the more surprise that they hit four in one game yesterday. Better yet, two of the four were the first of the year for Cole Figueroa and Juan Apodaca. That leaves only Chris Gimenez, Craig Albernaz, and Rich Thompson among this year’s players who have not hit a homer. Shelley Duncan’s and Wil Myers’ were particularly hard hit shots over the Monster. Duncan hit the bull. I think that’s the first time the bull’s been hit this year.

Mike Montgomery had a decent outing, his third since coming off the DL. The Bulls are far from having anything like a stable rotation, but with Montgomery there is some hope.

Nice glove work by Tim Beckham in the 4th and 5th innings, especially the double play he started in the 5th. Another hopeful sign.

Outside the game —
  • Jim Paduch retired rather than take his assignment to Montgomery. Paduch has been sort of a utility long man for the Bulls for what seems like a long time, but has really just been most of 2012 and all of 2013. His numbers have never been all that good, but he ate up a lot of innings (106 in 2012, 37 so far this year). This year he had only one decent outing. He’s had 10 years of professional baseball, but it didn’t look like things were ever going to get much better for the 30-year old. Good luck, Jim.
  • Norfolk lost. Bull are up two games in the South.
  • Crash has edged out Annie in competition so far this year. Nuke has yet to find his way to the finish line. Cute routine for the Kiss Cam for the three of them.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Pitching? Let's Talk About Catching

Game 56, June 1RHE
Rail Riders (Yankees)
Durham Bulls (Rays)

Season: 35-21; Home Stand: 5-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The Rail Riders’ pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang, had a good night. Two Bulls pitchers, Jake Odorizzi and Adam Liberatore, had their worst night of their season. So let’s talk about something else.

How about catcher Craig Albernaz’ performance last night? Wasn’t that something? It began with a foolish attempt by RR Ronnier Mustelier to steal on him in the 1st inning. A bullet throw and a 2-6 in the scorebook.

But it got very weird at the bottom of the 6th with runners on first and third, one out, and the infield in. On a pitch in the dirt judged a wild pitch, RR’s Melky Mesa broke for second base and was called safe after Albernaz’ throw to 2B Cole Figueroa. RR’s Thomas Neal on third base decided to try for home. Figueroa threw home, Albernaz blocked the plate, and made the out. Watching the play from second base RR’s Mesa broke for third, Albernaz made a perfect throw to 3B Vince Belnome who made the tag. That’s a 4-2-5 double play for your scorebook and maybe the only time I will ever make that entry in one of mine.

But wait. There’s more. For the 9th inning Albernaz shucked his catcher’s gear and took the mound for the second time this season. He got three quick outs, including a strikeout of former teammate Dan Johnson. That was Albernaz’ second appearance as a pitcher this year and preserved his perfect ERA, 0.00, the best on the pitching staff … a point he is surely making among his colleagues.

The other thing I noticed last night was the contrast between Brandon Guyer and Wil Myers in right field. Myers is an OK right fielder. Guyer, however, is much more graceful and has both a better range and gets the ball in more quickly and more accurately. I just liked watching him out there. He was also the only Bull to figure out Wang and have a good day at the plate, getting 3 of the 6 hits made off of him.

Outside the game —
  • The Tides won, so they are now just a game behind the Bulls.
  • Chris Archer did not have a very good first 2013 appearance with the Rays. He took the 5-0 loss. Analysis here.
  • Alex Torres, however, did just fine in his relief appearance. 4 innings, 6 K, 1 BB. Torres ERA with the Rays is 0.00 on the year.