Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hemstitching: Solondz, The Herald-Sun, and More

Ice on the Field. DBAP, 26 Jan, 11:00 am

  • Glad there’s no day game today!
  • Former Bulls broadcaster Neil Solondz offers his analysis of the Rays lineup. Interesting to WDBB are his comments on the complications at shortstop in St. Pete and Durham.
  • Harold Gutmann at the Herald-Sun has a nice piece on Charlie Montoyo’s  return, and some good quotes. Sound likes Charlie likes it in Durham.
  • Bulls fans may remember Rays DH Luke Scott, who had a 2-game rehab visit with the Bulls last year. (3 hits, two of them home runs). Over at The Process Report they are using an interesting way to visualize hitting performance as they look at Luke Scott’s 2012 season. Those kinds of data aren’t available in the minor leagues, and I’m not sure how useful they would be. But they do make for interesting pictures. 
  • Scott, by the way, just re-signed with the Rays. That means the 40-man roster is crowded. Expect some pushing and shoving the next few days. Trades or assignments to the Bulls are in the offing.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Charlie (and Dave and Neil and Mike) Return

Charlie Montoyo oversees umpires overseeing grounds crew fixing the mound in the middle of a day game, June 6, 2011

Great news for Bulls fans as veteran manager Charlie Montoyo returns to Durham and brings his whole staff with him. While we here at WDBB will occasionally disagree with him on a tactical decision, Charlie is unquestionably one of the premier managers in AAA baseball.

We get all twitchy every time the Rays bench coach goes off somewhere for an interview, because we worry that Charlie might go to the bigs and leave Durham.

On the other hand, he’s been grooming players for a very successful Rays franchise for a long time. So maybe they are smart to keep him here.

We certainly can’t argue with his record as manager and we have seen more than a few games where he simply out-managed a Bulls opponent in the later part of a game.

Welcome back!

[You too, Samantha!]

Now, lets see if the Rays give him more to work with this year than they did last year...

Four to Keep an Eye On

DBAP, 9:08 24 Jan 2013

First Home Game: 74 Days

Lots of buzz about four new players signed by the Rays to minor league contracts, with invitations to Spring Training — Shelley Duncan, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Jamey Wright, and Juan Sandoval.

We don’t yet know too much about these guys, except for Shelley Duncan. Bulls fans have actually seen a good bit of him. He has played for either the Columbus Clippers (Indians) or the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees for much of the last five years. He’s had a good bit of major league time, mostly with Cleveland. He had a monster year with SWB in 2009 (30 HR, 99 RBI), but he’s 31 now and you’d think the Rays are still looking for a DH bat. Nevertheless a good chance he could start year in Durham.

One of these, Oviedo, is coming off Tommy John surgery and is likely to start well below the Bulls in the system. We’ll have to see about the other two.

Rays Colored Glasses take is here; The Process Report took a look here and here.

This gives Bulls fans four more guys to keep an eye on as Spring Training progresses.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Hemstitching: Snow, Guyer & Leuke, & More ...

Durham Bulls via Twitter
  • Local weather geeks were predicting the apocalypse, but this is all we got. Still pretty, though. Thanks to Scott Carter for keeping us informed. 
  • Former Durham Bull Matt Torra is showing up on the roster of Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic. Wonder how he pulled that off? Aunt's second cousin from Palermo? Mr. Torra is now in the Washington Nationals system. He was the 2012 workhorse for the Bulls appearing in 26 games and leading the Bulls in innings pitched. Good luck.
  • Meanwhile over at The Progress Report we have a very interesting look at Brandon Guyer, who ended up sitting out almost all of 2012 recovering from shoulder surgery and Josh Leuke, who didn’t have all that good a year with the Bulls in 2012.
  • Justin Ruggiano hopes he has finally put AAA ball behind as reported in an interview over in FanGraphs [Thanks to Adam Sobsey for the heads up on the link!]

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Greatest Bulls Hitters — Corrections and More Thoughts

A few days ago we posted a table to open a discussion regarding the best AAA Durham Bulls. Unfortunately, there were a couple of mistakes in that table and a few players who deserved mention were missed.

After thinking about it a bit, it also seemed to me that sorting by plate appearances was a better measure of opportunities to contribute to Bulls success than games played. If you limit the table to 1000 plate appearances and sort on that metric, here’s what you get.

AAA Durham Bulls Hitters, Sorted by Plate Appearances, >1000 PA

However, Chris D’s work points out there are other ways to look at these guys, and other rank-orderings can tell you something about “greatness” as well. The same 17 players sorted by OPS look like the next table. What jumps out at me in that ordering are the “Bill Evers era” (1998-2005) players: Notably Bob Smith, Scott McClain, Steve Cox, and Ryan Jackson.

AAA Durham Bulls Hitters, >1000 PA, Sorted by OPS

Looking at numbers this way, it becomes harder and harder to pick out just one player, or even a team of top players, although we do have everything except a catcher on this list. What about trying to pick a Durham Bulls AAA All-Star team with say 4 outfielders, 5 infielders, a catcher, a couple of starters and a couple of relievers?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Great Bulls Pitchers: Guest Post

Chris D has again come through with a fascinating bunch of data on Bulls pitching to go with an earlier post of mine. Here 'tis ...

Season Stats

ERA (50 IP)
1) Matt Moore (1.37 / 2011)
2) Todd Williams (1.55 / 2003)
3) Joe Bateman (1.66 / 2010)
4) Rob Delaney (1.86 / 2011) --- This one seems to be missing from your list
5) Alex Cobb (1.87 / 2011) --- This one is also missing

WHIP (50 IP)
1) Winston Abreu (0.77 / 2009)
2) Jeremy Hellickson (0.80 / 2009)
3) Lance Carter (0.93 / 2002)
4) Matt Moore (0.97 / 2011)
5) Alan Newman (0.98 / 1999)

Career stats

1) Mickey Callaway (34)
2) Mitch Talbot (30)
3) Jason Standridge (25)
4) Jeff Niemann (22)
5) Travis Harper (21)

1) Jason Standridge (27)
2) Jim Magrane (23)
3) Mitch Talbot (22)
4) Dan Wheeler (21)
5) Doug Waechter (19)

1) Lee Gardner (77)
2) Winston Abreu (38)
3) Dale Thayer (29)
4) Eddie Gaillard (26)
4) Billy Taylor (26)
4) Dane De La Rosa (26)

1) Lee Gardner (227) -- Holy cow!
2) Dale Thayer (157)
3) Cedrick Bowers (125)
4) Joe Bateman (113)
5) Dane De La Rosa (106)

Games Started
1) Jason Standridge (79)
2) Mitch Talbot (67)
3) Mickey Callaway (64)
4) Jim Magrane (54)
5) Jeff Niemann (53)

Games Finished
1) Lee Gardner (155)
2) Dale Thayer (85)
3) Winston Abreu (69)
4) Victor Zambrano (60)
5) Dane De La Rosa (56)

1) Jason Standridge (454.2)
2) Mitch Talbot (376.1)
3) Mickey Callaway (375.1)
4) Jim Magrane (361)
5) Dan Wheeler (298)

ERA (100 innings)
1) Winston Abreu (2.12)
2) Jeremy Hellickson (2.47)
3) Seth McClung (2.52)
4) Jason Cromer (2.59)
5) Joe Bateman (2.59)

1) Mitch Talbot (305)
2) Jason Standridge (272)
3) Jeff Niemann (263)
4) Alexander Torres (247)
5) Cedrick Bowers (246)

WHIP (100 innings)
1) Winston Abreu (0.89)
2) Carlos Reyes (1.04)
3) Lance Carter (1.05)
4) Jeremy Hellickson (1.05)
5) Luis de los Santos (1.14)

Batters Faced
1) Jason Standridge (1970)
2) Mickey Callaway (1633)
3) Mitch Talbot (1618)
4) Jim Magrane (1611)
5) Dan Wheeler (1321)

And then just for fun...

1) Mitch Talbot (23)
2) Travis Harper (22)
3) Chris Seddon (18)
4) Delvin James (17)
4) Jason Standridge (17)
4) John Webb (17)

1) Lee Gardner (8)
2) Maximo Nunez (7)
3) Tony Fiore (6)
4) Billy Taylor (5)
4) Joe Bateman (5)

1) Ramon Tatis (10)
2) Chris Seddon (5)
2) Heath Phillips (5)
4) Mickey Callaway (4)
4) Mitch Talbot (4)
4) Alexander Torres (4)

For the Moonlight Graham, fewest BF -- Mike Wlodarcyzk with 6 in 2009

It's tough for me to pick "best" pitchers as a lot of them are memorable, but if I had to rank them, I think I'd do this:

#1 - Talbot
#2 - Standridge
#3 - Hellickson (he was REALLY dominant for his short time)

#1 - Gardner (I sort of forgot how good he was, but he was a big reason the Bulls won back to back)
#2 - Abreu
#3 - Bateman

Callaway shows up a lot in these lists, but I didn't see him pitch that I can recall, but a 1998-2000 era fan would probably remember him based on the numbers above.

Search on a player's name at for major and minor league careers of all of these players.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hemstitching: Albernaz, Calendars, Jon Weber

We interrupt all the fun we’re having trying to identify great Durham Bulls (I have yet another terrific list from Chris D on pitchers) to put up a few odds and ends about 2013 baseball.

86 days to home opener!
  • Although mentioned earlier, the Rays have made it official by signing WDBB favorite Craig Albernaz to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. I had never noticed he was an Eckerd College grad. Eckerd College is in spitting distance of Tropicana Field, the home of the Rays. See a bit more depth over here at Rays Colored Glasses.
  • In addition, the Rays made official the signing of outfielder Jason Bourgeois and pitcher J.D. Martin. All have invites to Spring Training. That means that they have above average odds of starting the year in a Durham Bulls uniform.
  • The Bulls have put up a very nifty little 2013 schedule file. Just download it and it will put the home schedule into your iCal program, which will then move on to your iPhone and iPad. Probably works in the non-Apple universe as well. Does not include away games, but sure helps avoid typing them in on your own—we all do that, right?
  • WDBB has found an even more dedicated fan of Jon Weber than ourselves. Check out Robbie Knopf’s work over at Rays Colored Glasses, especially this career overview, but also this that mentions his solid season in the Winter Leagues. Also mentioned are several other ghosts from the Bulls' past.
  • This is the season for top prospect lists. Several potential Durham Bulls on this one.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Great Bulls Hitters: Guest Post

In response to our post on Monday, diligent reader Chris D dove into the Bulls stats and came up with some terrific numbers. In addition, he noted a few mistakes my original post that I will get to correcting in due course.

In the meantime, here’s Chris’ candidates for greatest Durham Bulls hitters.

Thanks, Chris!

He writes:

I'm a bit torn on what stats to go with, but here are a few that come to mind.

Top 5 OPS seasons (minimum 400 PA):
  • Dan Johnson / 2010 / 1.053
  • Steve Cox / 1999 / 1.003
  • Dan Johnson / 2008 / .980
  • Scott McClain / 1998 / .974
  • Midre Cummings / 2004 / .966
Or if you'd prefer just BA (minimum 400 PA):
  • Steve Cox / 1999 / .341
  • Toby Hall /2001 / .335
  • Matt Diaz / 2004 / .332
  • Elliot Johnson / 2010 / .319
  • Aubrey Huff / 2000 / .316
I had forgotten about Midre, but he could definitely be a "top" Bull.

If you'd like career total stats:

Career OPS (400 PA):
  • Midre Cummings / .966
  • Kevin Witt / .937
  • Ozzie Timmons / .932
  • Russ Canzler / .930
  • Greg Blosser / .891
Kevin Witt would be up in my top players too along with Canzler of course.

Career BA (400 AB):
  • Matt Diaz / .331
  • Randy Winn / .329
  • Toby Hall / .328
  • Aubrey Huff / .315
  • Russ Canzler / .314
Total Hits:
  • Justin Ruggiano / 531
  • Chris Richard / 459
  • Elliot Johnson / 396
  • BJ Upton / 357
  • Dan Johnson / 315
Total HRS:
  • Chris Richard / 84
  • Justin Ruggiano / 68
  • Dan Johnson / 68
  • Scott McClain / 62
  • Bob Smith (who???) / 53
  • Jared Sandberg / 53
How about speed? (stolen bases):
  • BJ Upton / 107
  • Justin Ruggiano / 105
  • Fernando Perez / 75
  • Joey Gathright / 70
  • Desmond Jennings / 69
Or on the flip side, the odd stats, like GiDP:
  • Justin Ruggiano / 37
  • Leslie Anderson / 34
  • BJ Upton / 32
  • Jared Sandberg / 28
  • Toby Hall / 27
  • Joel Guzman / 27
  • JJ Furmaniak / 27
Or the bizarre, like HBP:
  • Johnny Gomes / 37
  • Chris Richard / 37
  • Justin Ruggiano / 26
  • Matt Diaz / 21
  • Paul Hoover / 17
Who didn't the opposition pitch to? IBB:
  • Steve Cox / 17
  • Chris Richard / 17
  • Midre Cummings / 12
  • Ryan Jackson / 11
  • Pete LaForest / 10
Career RBI:
  • Justin Ruggiano / 300
  • Chris Richard / 299
  • Dan Johnson / 230
  • Scott McClain / 213
  • Steve Cox / 203
Career SO:
  • Justin Ruggiano / 546 (holy cow compared to #2)
  • Elliot Johnson / 394
  • Chris Richard / 391
  • Jared Sandberg / 362
  • BJ Upton / 289
Basic data source is, but to isolate out just AAA Durham Bulls numbers and then aggregate them by player is a bit tricky. Nice work by Chris D.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Great Durham Bulls Pitchers

As a followup to Monday’s effort to pick great position players Durham Bulls history, here’s a first shot at looking at pitchers. Remember that we are talking about the AAA Durham Bulls from 1998 to 2012.

Note that AAA Bulls history is divided into two eras, so far. The first is the era overseen by manager Bill Evers from 1998 to 2005 and the second from 2007 to today under the leadership of Charlie Montoyo. I started watching the Bulls closely during the interregnum year of 2006 when John Tomargo managed an interesting collection of veterans and hot prospects. The Montoyo era also roughly matches the Maddon era of the Tampa Bay Rays and strong front office leadership down in St. Petersburg.

Trying to get a good number to evaluate minor league pitching is hard. In general, they just don’t stick around long enough to build very large sample. Most stats guys don’t think much of won-loss records, and I agree. So for the first table I set a floor of 100 innings and sorted by ERA. Pleased to see some of my favorite guys on the list.

Best Multi-Year ERAs

Nevertheless, time in the minor leagues is limited, so the second table set a floor of 50 innings and shows the best ERA for each year. There are a couple of surprises (for me) in the list (I didn’t realize how good Matt Moore was in his brief time with the Bulls). Also notice that reliever Lee Gardner makes the list three times and is on the multi-year list as well.

Best Single Year ERAs

Seth McClung and Joe Bateman also make both lists. And notice the sheer number of innings by Mitch Talbot, Mickey Callaway, and Jim Magrane.

Any good stories out there from folks who saw Callaway and Magrane pitch?

Next we are going to go back and revisit those position player numbers. Chris D has done some serious digging for us that I’ll be putting up as we wait for Spring.

First game at the DBAP in 88 days.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Greatest Durham Bulls

The other day I called Hideki Matsui a great ballplayer, but not a great Durham Bull. That set me to wondering, who are the greatest Durham Bulls? How would I go about finding out?

Regular readers know that I consider myself exclusively a Durham Bulls fan, so to my way of thinking a great Durham Bull is not necessarily a player who achieves stardom at another place and time. My interest is in what the player did as a Durham Bull. Thus, for example, Carl Crawford, who only played 85 games for the Bulls back in 2002, or Evan Longoria, who played all of 31 games back in 2007, simply didn’t have much impact as Bulls.

Another consideration is, which Durham Bulls team? I’m lazy. I just don’t feel like trolling through the records for the last 100 years. So, I limited myself to just the AAA Durham Bulls, a franchise to the the Tampa Bay Rays (née Devil Rays), who started playing baseball in 1998.

How do you measure greatness? Especially at the AAA level? Well, one way is to simply take a look at how often a player showed up for work. That is, how many games he played. That may seem to be an odd measure, but think about it. In minor league ball if a player isn’t producing there really aren’t any serious financial penalties for sending him back down to AA or releasing him. So sheer numbers of games played tells you that the manager and the system thinks this guy should be on the field, a lot.

The Greatest Durham Bulls
The table shows the men who played more than 250 games with the Durham Bulls since 1998. What jumps out at me when I look at this table together was how few games the average Durham Bull ever plays for the team. For example, B.J. Upton played in 314 games for the Bulls, but as a major leaguer he’s played in well over 900 games as a Ray, and is about to be paid a truckload of money to play several hundred more games for the Braves.

You know, looking at this table,  I’m pretty comfortable with asserting that these are the “great” Durham Bulls. I never saw Steve Cox, Paul Hoover, or Scott McClain play, but I did see all the rest: Justin Ruggiano, Chris Richard, Brooks Badeaux (he was playing for Ottawa when I saw him), B.J. Upton, Dan Johnson, Reid Brignac, Elliot Johnson, Leslie Anderson, and Jon Weber. Sad to say, there’s a good chance that not one of these guys will be back with the Bulls next year and we’ll start having to look for some new “greats”. Candidates?

Finally, I am entirely comfortable with the idea that Justin Ruggiano and Chris Richard should share the honor of being named the “greatest” Durham Bull. Do you think we should start harassing the front office to do something about it?

The "Greatest" Durham Bulls?

Justin Ruggiano

Chris Richard

 What about the pitchers?  I’m working on ‘em.

Update: There are a couple of errors in the table, the most egregious being Elliot Johnson's. He played in 410 games, not 281. That puts him up there with Chris Richard. Sorry. I'll put in an update as soon as I get time to get all the rest of the data. 
... c

Update 2: See new table and new thoughts posted 15 January.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Hemstitching: Hideki Matsui, the RailRiders, and more ...

In the weaver’s world the word hemstitching is used for two purposes: to tie up loose ends (literally, because an “end” is a thread in a warp) and for decoration.

  • Hideki Matsui is probably the greatest ballplayer ever to wear a Durham Bulls uniform so his retirement surely deserved to be noticed. Not that he was a great Durham Bull, but it was mostly fun to have him and his entourage around last year. Particularly interesting was the night that  Daisuke Matsuzaka was pitching and Kevin Youklis was on 3B for the Pawtucket Red Sox. 
  • Regular readers will know that Alexander Torres simply hasn’t delivered as a Durham Bull. Steve Kinsella over at DRays Bay took a recent look at him as well.
  • Arguments with umpires aren’t always quite what they appear to be. Rays manager Joe Maddon figures prominently in this story.
  • Last seen in a Bulls uniform in early 2011, J.P. Howell has signed with the Dodgers.
  • Rays Index has updated his 40-man roster/salary projection list. A good place to check on what a AAA ballplayer could be making.
  • The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (the New York Yankees AAA franchise) were without a home last year as their ballpark was being rebuilt. They are back and they have a new name: the RailRiders (how come every two word name these days has to be scrunched together into one word with a capital letter in the middle?). Not to be outdone with its awkward name, the team will have a porcupine as a mascot and the promotional folks are calling them the NEPA’s home team. NEPA? That would be North East Pennsylvania. The naming was an online vote. I was going for Trolley Frogs.

Happy New Year!