Monday, April 29, 2013

A Loss and a Big Win

Wrap, Box, Syracuse Post-Standard

Season: 16-8; Trip: 1-1
Wrap, Box, Syracuse Post-Standard

Not much to say about Saturday’s game. The Chief’s pitching, especially starter Daniel Rosenbaum, held Bulls hitters to just three singles. Alex Colome did just fine.

In the second game, the Chiefs came unraveled in the 7th, but the Bulls were doing pretty well before then, and after.

WDBB  has had a notable lack of success in helping high-performing ballplayers we like move up ladder. Maybe that’s a good thing. That means they then stay with the Bulls and help the Bulls win. So I’m going to point out, again, that Vince Belnome is having a spectacular season so far.

Mr. Belnome came to the Bulls out of the Padres system in a trade for one of the Rays minor league pitchers. Apparently it was expected that he would start the season in AA since he does not appear in the Bulls media guide. He is youngish and has played in only 80 AAA games before this season (Tuscon in the PCL). There are some hints in his stats that he could hit the ball (50 home runs over four years as a pro). For the Bulls he has stepped up as the go-to guy. When Steven Vogt didn’t make in through waivers, Belnome was the guy to share 1B with Leslie Anderson. He has had 8 starts there. After Hak-Ju Lee was hurt, he moved over to 2B and he’s had 5 starts there. His hitting has been so hot (and Charlie really likes to move his players around) that he’s had 6 starts as DH.

Last night’s 4 hit, 4 RBI evening is just another in a spectacular terrific stretch for him. In the last week he’s hit .500 with three home runs, 11 RBI, and scored 7 runs. On the season his slash line is an spectacular  awesome .364/.463/.652. He isn’t on the Rays 40-man, which is good news for the Bulls. The Rays will have to jump through some hoops to get him up there. But if he keeps this up, he’s really banging on their door.

Outside the game —
  • The Chiefs had one of those dog-in-the-park events yesterday. Cute photos here.
  • Surprised that the triple-play/grand slam game got no mention in any of the Rays media that WDBB watches. Seems like they are only interested in a couple of this year’s Bulls players and none of them were involved in the plays.
  • In case you missed it, here’s an update on Charlie Montoyo’s son, Alex. Sounds very good.
  • The Bulls are playing in NBT Bank Stadium. Here’s one look at the place.
  • Will Rhymes, who played in 46 games with the Bulls last year is playing with the Chiefs and is off to a good start. He is a major league quality guy, but I don’t know enough about the Nationals to guess if he’s got a decent shot with them. His isn’t on their 40-man.
Update 9:46: 
  • I wuz wrong. Rays Index did notice the triple play (and he's got neat stuff about confrontation with ump in Chicago yesterday).
  • And Vince Belnome was name International League Batter of the Week. Congrats.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Matchup: Bulls @ Chiefs

The Syracuse Chiefs are the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals. As can be seen from the table, they are not having a very good year. But, like the Mud Hens, they’ve been playing within their division in pretty crummy weather. Their ERA is not good and their general batting stats don’t stand up all that well on either a team or individual basis.

You can get some sense of the stadium from this video. Sorry about the wind noise, but that’s what they’ve got up on the web.

Triple Play!

Season: 15-7; Home Stand: 7-2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

A grand slam is a big deal, no doubt about it. But a triple play? Well, that’s a reason to keep your scorecard of the game just to look at it from time to time.

Let’s take a look at this before we go on.

This was in the 6th inning. The Bulls were ahead 5-2, but reliever Steve Geltz had just given up a double, so runners were on first and second with none out. An instant later he was out of the inning. These aren't names on a prospect roster: Cole Figueroa to Vince Belnome at second to Chris Gimenez at first. But they are good baseball players and, according to the Herald-Sun's Jimmy DuPree, the idea of a triple play was in Figueroa's head the moment the ball was hit.

But what a night it would have been even without the triple play. Alex Torres was brilliant. Now we can finally see what so many scouts and baseball pundits had been seeing in the past. His ten Ks with only one walk is a striking change from any results we've seen from him in the past. Great to see it.

And then there was the grand slam. Infielder Vince Belnome now leads the Bulls in just about every hitting metric you can think of. This last several games he's been just terrific. And it was his amazingly quick catch and release that made the triple play happen. Great day.

Let's go back and watch that triple play again.

Outside the game —

  • I only know of four fan blogs in minor league baseball, and Rays' teams have two of them — WDBB and Claw Digest which keeps an eye on the Charlotte Sand Crabs. From time to time Jim Donten tracks down former Stone Crabs and provides an update to his readers.
  • Nuke has been having a tough time in recent races, and last night was no exception. Fans have noted that Annie seems to be exceptionally devious in her approach to the contest, frequently enlisting Crash to sabotage Nuke while she goes on to win the race.

Friday, April 26, 2013

And Starting at Shortstop Is ...

Season: 14-7; Home Stand: 6-2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Tampa Bay’s inability/unwillingness to replace injured shortstop Hak-Ju Lee came back to bite the Bulls last night. When Thursday’s shortstop Mike Fontenot came out of the game after three innings with hamstring tightness the bench consisted of just catchers Craig Albernaz and Juan Apodaca, plus outfielder Rich Thompson. The Bulls only spare infielder was already in the game as DH, hot-hitting Vince Belnome. Just-returned manager Charlie Montoyo put Craig Albernaz in as catcher, moved Chris Gimenez to third base, and moved Cole Figueroa over to short.

Did it matter? Maybe. The headline story of the game was all the noisy home runs — 5 by Toledo and 2 by the Bulls. But there’s the side story of Toledo not scouting Albernaz properly and trying to steal on him. Albernaz has one of the best arms in baseball and he easily threw Toledo’s Kevin Russo out. On the other hand, Chris Gimenez’s error at third cost the Bulls a run. Plus, neither he nor Albernaz had a good day at bat. Gimenez was 0-5 and Albernaz was 0-3. Fontenot had doubled in two runs before coming out of the game

Hard to figure why the wait to fill Lee’s spot. Maybe something will happen before the Bulls head to Syracuse tomorrow.

Nice to see Jim Paduch back in shape. Yes, he gave up some runs. But he also lasted four innings. Much, much better than his four-pitch outing a couple of days ago.

Lastly, a small puzzle. When did Brandon Guyer turn into a runner instead of a hitter? He again had a bunt single last night and he stole a base (his third). Back before his year on the DL his image in Durham (2011) was as a power hitter. Have I missed something? Maybe he's just going back to his 2009-2010 form where he stole 30 bases each year in AA and AAA.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Great Afternoon

Season: 14-6; Home Stand: 6-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

If you missed yesterday’s game (and there’s a good chance that you did since only 3,600 folks were there) then, too bad. It was the most interesting games I’ve seen this year. I like day games and this one could not have been more perfect.

Let’s start with the pitching. Jake Odorizzi is one of the several Royals Refugees in the Rays system. He gave up a home run in the first inning and two more plus a single in the second inning. That’s four runs against him when he came out for the 3rd inning. He then threw 10 balls in a row, and ending up walking the first three batters to load the bases. Of course, by this time catchers and coaches had worn paths to the mound. From a fan’s perspective the next at bat, Toledo’s DH John Lindsay, was the turning point of the game. And within that at bat the fourth pitch. On a 2-1 count, Odorizzi got a called strike and from that moment it seemed he never looked back. The next pitch was also called a strike for the first out of the inning. With the bases still loaded he struck out the next two batters. Three up, three down for the 4th. And a clean 5th inning. By this time, however, he was up to 99 pitches and was out.

Now, for reasons that escape me, Dave Myers decided to use up his bullpen. Four more pitchers came into the game and all except one did just fine. The exception was Will Inman, whom the gods of baseball really punished for his leadoff walk to start the 8th. A double, two singles, and yet another double later, the Mud Hens had scored 4 runs and the tying run was on second base. Frank De Los Santos, I pitcher I’m having a hard time trusting this year, got the Bulls out of the inning and then got a double play in the 9th to get his first save of the year.

But more than the pitching was fun to watch. As the line score shows, the Bulls hitters had a great day, scoring runs in 4 of 8 innings. Vince Belnome had a spectacular day at the plate with two doubles and two singles. He now leads the Bulls in all batting categories. He wasn’t alone, however, the Bulls had 16 hits, a season high, with 5 players having multi-hit games. Included was catcher Juan Apodaca who got his very first hits as a Durham Bull, a broken bat single at the top of the 2nd inning, and a double in the 5th.

Just to add a bit more fun to the game, wind played a factor as well. In general, wind doesn’t seem to have much of an effect at the DBAP, but yesterday it pushed balls around quite a bit and added a bit of excitement to every fly ball.

If you missed it, too bad. If you were there, wasn’t it fun?

Outside the game —
  • I’ve been negligent in not mentioning the magnificent condition of the field at the DBAP. I haven’t walked on it, but from the stands it looks simply terrific. The best in my memory. A big hand to Scott Strickland and his crew.
  • The stats sheets (available before the game at the fan assistance booth) are much better. Very useful summaries of the IL and the Bulls opponents. Thank you, Scott.
  • Charlie Montoyo is due back today. The Herald-Sun reports that Dave Myers had fun managing the team in Charlie’s absence.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

11th Inning Thrills

Season: 13-6; Home Stand: 5-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

By the time Cole Figueroa was standing on first base after a hit by pitch in the bottom of the 11th I was home watching the game on TV. The Bulls trainer was out there to check out Figeroa's  hand and Figueroa was shaking it and grimacing. In the meantime Mud Hens Manager Phil Nevin was yammering at home plate umpire A. J. Johnson, claiming that Figueroa had not been hit by the pitch or that, if he had been hit, it was after the ball hit the bat. No matter. Nevin was thumbed out of the game. My own view was that Johnson himself was as much responsible for the game going on and on as anyone else on the field. I don’t have a record of called Ks in the last several innings, but sure seemed like a bunch of them. All the players (and probably managers and coaches) had been barking at him. Nevin must’ve pushed him over the edge.

Of course, the more important question is: was the trainer checking the hand or coaching the actor? We will never know.

Toledo’s pitching was as advertised. Bulls hitters never really got on track all night, but they had just enough to tie the game in the 9th on a Cole Figueroa double (but left bases loaded). When they reloaded the bases in the 11th after the hit-by-pitch call, a Jason Bourgeois single won the game.

Outside the game —
  • The Herald-Sun is reporting that Charlie Montoyo will be back tomorrow. Apparently the surgery on his son went well.
  • One of the big deals this year will be the Bulls celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of the film Bull Durham. At the link you will find their latest press release. You will find a couple of video clips, including the one they have been playing at the games but I’ve had a hard time understanding. Fun to watch.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Matchup — Mud Hens

Detroit’s AAA team, the nearby Toledo Mud Hens, are having a tough year so far. The second-most famous team in minor league baseball is 6-13 on the season. The basic matchup, however, shows that their pitching is pretty darned good. The team ERA is the best in the International League. You will notice that they have allowed 7 fewer runs than Bulls pitching has allowed.

So, what’s up? Hitting is way off. Their OPS is the worst in the league. And a glance at the table of their hitters below shows some pretty dismal wOBAs and wRAAs. Compare this table to yesterday’s table of Bulls' hitters. They obviously aren’t hitting. But (there’s always a “but”) this season is really young. These guys have been playing in miserable weather and may just be waiting for a warm evening to break out. Here’s hoping they keep on waiting.

Source: FanGraphs

Remember, if you’re a Detroit fan this is the only time the Mud Hens will be here all year. Now or never to see the Tigers' future.

Monday, April 22, 2013


The Bulls have a day off, so that’s a good time to roll out a first look at WDBB’s charts.

We will open with the reminder that the season is very early and for some of the stats, especially ERA, wOBA, and wRAA the numbers are very likely well above (or below) where they will be in a month or so.

Leading off is our chart of how the Bulls are doing in  scoring runs and preventing runs. We record that for every game, then plot the cumulative value and slap a trend line (in this case a 10-game moving average) on the numbers. One of the nifty things about the runs scored/runs allowed metric is that you can crank them through the Pythagorean Expectation metric and see what that predicts in terms of wins and losses. In the case of the Bulls, they are at 12-6 and the PE comes up with 12-6. How nice is that?

click on chart for larger image

This next chart is Bulls cumulative ERA as it changes game by game. That is, after every game that games’ earned runs and innings played are added up and a new ERA calculated. What we are looking for in this chart is to  separate out the starters from the relievers, and any gross trends that start emerging over time. Only the last 10 games are shown.

The Bulls have now played 154⅔ innings, so you can see the trends starting to stabilize. What we would hope to see is that they break off of that recent upward trend.

click on chart for larger image

For hitting, I’m a big fan of a stat known as Weighted On-Base Average, which is a nifty stat that throws everything into one number — singles, doubles, triples, home runs, walks, hit by pitch, and even stolen bases and caught stealing. In a few more years we will see wOBA seeping into view in a lot more places. However, team wOBA isn’t often calculated. So this is handwork on my part. Could be wrong.

This chart shows the game-by-game wOBA of the Bulls, then slaps a trend line (10-day moving average) over that. Note that this is not a cumulative wOBA as we saw in the ERA chart. This gives us hints about how the Bulls are hitting as a team (and some hints about how good the opposing pitching has been). As you can see, a slight tick upward.

The problem I have with wOBA is that I have not yet internalized what the number means the way I have batting averages.  To put it all in context, .290 could be considered awful and .400 is at the “excellent” end of the spectrum. See the table at the wOBA link.

Lastly, here’s a table of our hitters that shows their wOBAs and yet another new metric, Weighted Runs Above Average. If you thought wOBA was cool, wait until you read about wRAA! Pretty simple, really. How many runs does a player contribute to a team compared to an average player? I’m less sure about these numbers since I have been too lazy to verify which “league” FanGraphs is using to compute the numbers. I think it’s the International League, but I’m not sure. Again, very small sample size, so take the numbers with a grain of salt. Also note that I’ve left Hak-Ju Lee’s name on the table just to give us all a sense of what an extraordinary year he was having before his injury.

Still, we can take a couple of things away from this table.

1) This is a “mature” team. The Bulls have 5 position players 30 or over.
2) If .320 is “average” on the wOBA, then only one regular player is below that line (Rich Thompson) and 4 of them are in the plus .400 range.
3) Three of these guys are off to slow starts — Thompson, Myers, and Guyer — we can expect much more from them.

Source: FanGraphs

Bulls Chill Out

Season: 12-6; Home Stand: 4-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

We won’t see these Tides again until about this time next month (two games) and then we won’t see them until early July. Good. I don’t like the color of their uniforms.

I’m no great fan of the cold, and I know it’s been much colder elsewhere in the International League, but last night just wasn’t much fun. And that was before the Bulls ended the first inning with bases loaded but no runs scored and the second inning with the bases loaded but no runs. Overall, in spite of Norfolk’s Jar Jurrjens looking unimpressive from a distance, at the end of the day the Bulls 7 hits were all singles and only one of his 4 walks scored.

The Bulls used seven pitchers in the loss which either represents some of them needing work before the day off or possible problems. If problems, one of them might be Jim Paduch. He had not pitched since April 14. He came last night's game with a runner on 2B. He faced two batters, gave up two singles and two runs on four pitches. Back in that April 14 game he had troubles as well, giving up the walk-off home run that ended an 11 inning game. Bad luck or something more serious?

Paduch left the game for new guy, Jeff Beliveau who has a reputation as being a left-handed specialist. He did just fine, but between them Will Inman and Adam Liberatore gave up the three runs that essentially closed out the game.

Outside the game —
  • The Bulls went into the game with only three position players available, two catchers (Albernaz and Apodaca) and an outfielder (Jason Bourgeois). You have to figure that someone’s going to be added soon. 
  • Speculation in the stands was that the Biscuits’s Sean O’Malley was the most likely candidate for a callup. He’s having a pretty good year.
  • According to the Herald-Sun, Hak-Ju Lee is not in St. Petersburg, but was at the game yesterday. He is to head to St. Pete soon for a full examination.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Double Win

Season: 12-5; Home Stand: 4-0
Wrap, Box (1), Box (2), Herald-Sun

Hak-Ju Lee’s injury overshadowed two wins by the Bulls yesterday and may have obscured a couple of other story lines as well.

Chris Archer got the win in the first game, but he faced some significant challenges along the way, beginning with the first batter, who doubled, and the second batter whom he walked. But a double play plus his own terrific fielding effort got him out of the inning. He pretty much cruised through the next two innings, but then came the 4th with all its drama.

After a clean 6-3 putout, a walk, single, and walk loaded the bases. Then came the collision at second base, the end result of which was two runs scored and runners on first and second. Archer hit the next batter to load up the bases again. But then the struck out the next two batters, keeping it to just the two runs scored.

The 5th inning was troublesome as well. He gave up three singles and a double, but just one run, before he again struck out one batter with the bases loaded and got a fly ball to end the inning.

So, not a great day. On the other hand he was still sending crisp 96-98mph fastballs in when he was at 90+ pitches, he fielded his position extremely well, and he got the win.

Meanwhile the Bulls’ offense was looking good, scoring runs in almost every inning. Every Bull got on base, all but one Bull scored at least one run. Lee scored two before he left the game. His replacement, Cole Figueroa had an RBI single, but didn’t score. Loved watching Leslie Anderson’s homer float into the stands. Just pretty.

A story line in the second game was Alex Torres’ 5th inning. He walked the first three batters and had everyone, including himself, muttering. Those three batters seriously messed up the brilliant season he’s been having so far. He got out of it with the game tied at 3-all. But it was scary.

Home runs by Myers and Belnome, the first for both, were big deals. Jason Bourgeois kept up his leadoff role, getting on base and scoring a run.

Outside the game —
  • Pitcher Jeff Beliveau showed up on the roster today. Lee’s going on the DL delays having to drop any other player off.
  • The Bulls have no more backup infielders, but have a day off tomorrow. My guess is that we won’t see how the infielder situation will be managed until Tuesday.

Hak-Ju Lee Injured

Probably the most fun-to-watch Durham Bull of this young season, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, has been sent to Florida to have his knee examined after a crash at second base last night. Lee was caught in the middle of an awkward second-to-short-to-first double play attempt. All we could see from our seats was the collision between Norfolk baserunner Travis Ishikawa and Lee. Lee was immediately writhing on the ground and Ishikawa was holding his nose. Lee was helped off the field, putting no weight at all on his left leg. According to the Herald-Sun, Ishikawa broke his nose in the incident. He also left the game.

Durham coach Dave Myers is quoted as saying, “Right now, we know he’s got a couple of torn ligaments, and he’s going to Tampa to be further evaluated.”

So far, the most complete coverage we’ve found is in this article in today’s Herald-Sun; however, Rays Index has video. Not sure how he was able to pull that. And some reportage.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Soaking Up the Sun

Season: 10-5; Home Stand: 2-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

These 11:00 am games are oddities in the Bulls’ schedule. I guess the idea is to introduce a ballpark experience to youngsters from all over the Triangle. I think that’s a pretty good idea even if very few of them are really interested in the game (just try getting a hot dog). To be honest, it’s fun just watching them watch each other.

Out on the field it looked like Jake Odorizzi wasn’t going to get through the 1st inning. Walk, single, single, walk, single put two runs across. The only good moment was the nice throw by new guy Juan Apodaca to catch Charlotte’s Luis Durango trying to steal. Nevertheless, there were two runs before something came into focus for Odorizzi and he struck out two. Those three hits were half of what Charlotte would get in the game and they got just one more off Odorizzi. As a side note, we should note that Charlotte started 8 left-handed batters. That took a bit of adjustment as well.

Meanwhile, Jason Bourgeois showed his stuff as a leadoff man by getting on base three times with two singles and a double, plus two stolen bases. He scored twice.

Speaking of stolen bases, this is a running team. The Bulls lead the International League with 20 so far. Lee has 6 of those, Bourgeois and Thomas have 5 each.

Hak-Ju Lee had another good day as he continued his stellar performance with  beautiful sacrifice bunt in the 1st (the runner eventually scoring), a bunt single in the 5th, and a RBI single in the 3-run 7th. Great day.

Happy to see Rich Thompson have a good day at the plate. Maybe moving him to the 8 spot helped. At any rate, a walk, single, and double with a RBI for a very good day.

Should we be worried about Wil Myers being pulled for a pinch runner after his RBI single 7th? The Herald-Sun reports he fouled a ball his foot in the 5th inning and was limping a bit after that. Acting Manager Dave Myers was quoted as saying, “He was limping, then he wasn’t limping, then he was limping. So I’m going with the limping.”

I’m beginning to worry about our new catcher Juan Apodaca. He’s 0 for 9 with a walk in three games so far. That’s hardly a good sample size. But he has what strikes my eye as an unusual history of simply not being in very many games in his 8 years playing professional ball (70 games in AAA).

Overall, a great start to the longest home stand of the year.

Outside the game —
  • Today’s weather prediction isn’t good for Bulls fans. Keep an eye on the webcam.

The Tides’ numbers are poster children for a statistician’s concern with small sample size. There’s a nifty stat called Pythagorean Expectation (PE) that estimates won-loss records based on runs scored vs. runs allowed. By that measure, the Tides’ record should be 5-10, not 9-6. Why is the PE so far off? Apparently when they lose they lose big; when they win, they win by just a little. That implies problems with their bullpen. But, remember, the reason I mentioned this was to point out that with small samples you can get weird results. The PE for the Bulls, by the way, is 11-4, pretty close to actual.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bulls are Back; Looking Good

Season: 9-5; Home Stand: 1-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

J.D. Martin was supposed to fill out the Bulls bullpen as a long reliever. Instead, he’s taken over Mike Montgomery’s spot in the rotation. His first two starts weren’t very impressive. Last night he walked the first batter, who moved to second on a sacrifice, and the third batter hit a home run. So things were looking even worse. But then the next nine batters failed to get on base and Mr. Martin went on to have a very impressive 7 K appearance. The rest of the crew pitched well, ending up with a season-high 16 Ks, although I have to point out that Adam Liberatore had to throw 4 K’s to get through the 7th inning (one of the batters who struck out reached first base on a wild pitch).

Tim Beckham, until last night, has not been having a great season. OK in the field, but awkward-looking at bat even before he sprained his ankle. He looked good last night, though. His two-hit, 3 RBI night may be a breakthrough for him. Hope so. See the quotes in the Herald-Sun article as well.

It was a small crowd last night which let us hear the sounds of the game better. I have to say that the hits coming off Vince Belnome’s bat were particularly crisp-sounding. He went three for four. Gonna have to add him to my “player to watch” list.

Outside the game —
  • We sit just above the concourse behind the third-base dugout. Looking out toward the right-field seats we kept seeing these odd little flurries of motion during the evening — it was the wagging of tails! Looks like the Bark-in-the-Park promotion went very well. Couple of very cute shots during the “Kiss Cam” routine.
  • Also thought the “Frisbee Dogs” act was fun to watch.
  • Alexander Torres got some attention over at Rays Colored Glasses. Hope he’s right. story provides some solid background on what Torres has been working on since late last season.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Get Out of South Carolina

Season: 8-5

Alex Colome is my guy to watch among this year’s pitching crew. That made it all the more difficult to listen to him throw the bases-loaded walk yesterday. But that’s what happened as the Bulls lost yet another game when they outhit their opponent. 

By now the Bulls must be tired of playing the Knights, but they are here for two more games, then Norfolk comes in for a couple followed by the Bulls first opponent from outside the South Division.

Wil Myers, who has been anything but a superstar in waiting, showed some of his power yesterday in hitting his first triple. Hak-Ju Lee continued his stellar getting on base performance with a hit and two walks (OBP - .522, OPS - 1.143!) and his sixth stolen base ties him for second in that category for the International League. 

Outside the game —
  • I was wrong yesterday (as noted in the comments). Looks like the Bulls will have to move someone off the roster to make room for Beliveau. We’ll probably hear something by tonight’s game.
  • Hak-Ju Lee got some love from the Process Report.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

New Reliever Coming to Bulls

Several sites (e.g., Biscuit Crumbs and Rays Index) are reporting that the Rays have acquired a left-handed reliever from the Rangers and are sending him to Durham. Jeff Beliveau (stats) came up through the Cubs system and has made one two-inning appearance at Round Rock this year.

I think, but could be wrong, that as long as Mike Montgomery stays on the DL the Bulls will not have to make a roster move. Beliveau goes on the Tampa Bay 40-man in Jeff Niemann’s spot.

He will be joining the other recent refugee for Round Rock, Juan Apodaca and several Bulls who came up through the Cubs system.

Breaking a Bad String

Hak-Ju Lee hit a home run. Pitchers got 12 Ks and no BB. Not quite good enough.

Third loss in a row, and the Bulls outhit their opponents in every game. 

Season: 8-4

A Win!!

The last time the Bulls won a game in Knights Stadium was back in August of 2011. It, too, was a game won by late-inning heroics. Some interesting names in the story. It looks like the Bulls have just one pitcher from that team still on the roster (Alex Torres) and just one position player from this year (Leslie Anderson) came to bat in that game.

The heroics last night came in the top of the 9th with Wil Myers coming up with a 2-out bases-loaded single that drove in two runs. His hit was followed by a Leslie Anderson single that drove in another run. That would be enough.

Outside the game
  • Pitcher Mike Montgomery is off to Florida where he will be under the eye of the Tampa Bay trainer/rehabber crew. He remains on the 7-day DL.
  • Catcher Juan Apodaca came off the DL and started the first game in Charlotte.
  • This is the last year that the Knights will be playing in Knight Stadium. This is the website for their new place which will be in downtown Charlotte. This will bring in an era where the Charlotte Knights will be playing baseball in … Charlotte!
New stadium for the Knights in downtown Charlotte

Saturday, April 13, 2013

4-1: Pretty Darned Good Stand

Season: 7-2; Home Stand: 4-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The Tides’ pitcher, former big-leaguer Freddy Garcia, is more than a bit irritating to fans. Here’s hoping he gets promoted to Baltimore before we have to put up with his shuffling and twitching and brushing his hand on the mound and strolling around the mound and calling the catcher out again. One of the pleasures of minor league ball is that umps usually don’t put up with that sort of posturing and expect pitchers to bring the ball to the plate in a reasonable amount of time. Nevertheless, even after giving up 10 hits over 5 innings, Garcia got the win and the Bulls lost. The Bulls had their chances, but couldn’t get the runs across.

It didn’t help that J.D. Martin’s second spot start didn’t go well at all, including the home run by the first first batter.

Hak-Ju Lee is becoming the Bull to watch. He made a spectacular fielding play in the 5th, although he also committed 2 errors (4 on year). At bat he had a double, two singles, two RBI, scored a run and stole his 5th base.

A great home stand. We got to see some terrific pitching, solid hitting, and generally exciting baseball. If we are waiting for Wil Myers to blossom (he trails several Bulls in all hitting categories), everything we’ve been told ensures us that he will.

Outside the game —
  • Prior to the game Leslie Anderson was award the Al Lopez Award, an award given by the Tampa Bay Rays to the most outstanding rookie in spring training camp.
  • What’s up with the stats sheets? Not useful.
Charlotte is off to a slow start, but it looks like they are hitting well enough.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Coping With Rain

DBAP, 9:40 pm, July 25, 2010
DBAP, 8:35 am, April 7, 2014

Two bits of information will help you deal with a rainy day:

1. There’s a web cam watching the park. From the Bulls web site click gameday, then stadium camera. Or you can click this.

2. After the tarp is taken back off the field, it’s about 30 minutes before play begins.

If you’re already at the game when the tarp is pulled out on the field, then, of course, you’re out of luck. If it’s a rainy day and you haven't left home yet, then just keep checking the webcam. If the tarp isn’t on the field, then they are getting ready to play. 

In my case it takes me about 30 minutes to get to the park. So once I see the tarp being rolled up I head out. That usually works. But sometimes the rain comes back.

You should know that the IL and their umpires really, really, really don’t like to call a rain delay once a game has started. To actually postpone a game? Well, they are even more reluctant to do that.  See that photo up top? They had not yet called the game.

That was, by the way, an amazing sight to see. Even Wool E. Bull got involved.

Here's the video of that storm:

Purple, No Wait, Make That Golden, Haze

Season: 7-1; Home Stand: 4-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Rays Colored Glasses

Ah, April in central North Carolina. Sunny days are blessed with a thin golden haze drifting in lovely clouds creating an aureate glow in the waning sunlight. On the way to the ballpark an amber dustcloud curls through the air and gathers on the streets making miniature gilded drifts that swirl up and billow behind slow moving cars.

Ah, a North Carolina spring when you eye seeks out the pine trees and notes the efflorescence of their stamens, bright yellow against the deep green. You know as long as they are visible, that pollen ain't goin' nowhere. It’s just gonna keep on blowing through and covering every g-d surface, with a sticky, ugly mess. There's a downside to April in North Carolina.

Ah, a North Carolina April where if you can be allergic to it, it's blooming at just about the same time as the pine pollen starts drifting down from pines.

But, we have baseball in the golden glow! Oh, yeah. Great baseball in the haze. Really, you could see the haze and occasional billows of pollen being blown off the roof.

For 7½ innings we were treated some some terrific pitching by both the Tides’ Jair Jurrjens and the Bulls’ Alex Colome. Colome was particularly sharp, not allowing even a hit until 5th inning and only one more in the 6th. I am very impressed with this guy. For his part Jurrjens did let in two runs, but he was assisted by a couple of nice plays by center fielder, and former Bull, Jason Pridie.

Although the Bulls threatened in the 6th, scoring a run and leaving the bases loaded, the game went into the bottom of the 7th with the Bulls ahead by only two runs. The first two batters, Fontenot and Belnome, went quietly. Then the bottom fell out for the Tides' Scott Proctor who was followed by former Bull Adam Russell. Nine more batters came to the plate before the inning was over. They included Fontenot, who got a double his second time around, and Belnome who unfortunately can claim credit for two outs in one inning. The rest of the team collected 2 walks, 3 singles, and 3 doubles to score 7 runs.

Just before that blowout inning, Josh Leuke came in to close out the 8th with a K. After his long wait, he faced four more batters. One reached on an error. He struck out the other three earning him the oddity of the night, a "save" in an 9-0 game.

Outside the game —
  • We've been curious about this year's pitching rotation. J.D. Martin is scheduled to start tonight and while Martin has plenty of experience as a starting pitcher we thought he was brought in to be a long reliever. Turns out (according to Kinas on the radio and the Herald-Sun) that new guy Mike Montgomery has forearm tightness and may miss a couple of starts.
  • The other new guy, catcher Juan Apodaca, is here and in uniform (#13). He's being carried on the disabled list, but that was him warming up pitchers last night.
  • We saw Tim Beckham trip as he crossed first base Wednesday afternoon. The Herald-Sun is reporting that he is day-to-day.
  • A big storm blew in last night. Maybe it will wash some of the pollen out of the air and off the pine trees. We can hope. Otherwise, sniffle, sniffle, sniffle, cough, cough, cough.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Nice Day; Nice Baseball

Season: 6-1, Home Stand: 3-0

We have had some very uncomfortable April days at the DBAP, but yesterday wasn’t one of them. Perfect weather, interesting baseball, and a win. Just terrific.

Leslie Anderson’s bat has some serious pop to it this year. Yesterday you could hear an especially loud “crack” on each of his two home runs (helped a bit by the fact that there was only 3,300 of us cheering). Anderson also showed a good glove at first. So things are keeping on track for Anderson who is beating on the Rays' door. He was the Bulls best hitter last year and he was recognized by the Rays as the top performer in this year’s spring training. Single, two home runs, a walk, 4 RBI on the day. 

Matching Anderson in RBI was outfielder Jason Bourgeois. He had three doubles and two walks, so he had just about as good a day at the plate as you can have. He also made a terrific throw from center field to Chris Gimenez at the plate in the 8th inning to catch a runner trying to score from second base. Bourgeois was signed by the Rays in the off-season to a minor league contract. He’s had considerable major league time, mostly with Houston in 2010 and 2011, which leads me to worry that he’s playing on one of those “opt-out” contracts. Hope not. He’s looking very good this year.

Chris Archer worked hard yesterday. Jimmy Dupree over at the Herald-Sun got some good quotes about his outing from Charlie Montoyo and Archer himself. Good story. Check out link above.

We are all in for a treat as we watch shortstop Hak-Ju Lee this year. If you are one of those who like to debate deep philosophical issues such as: what matters most, a strong arm or a quick release? Lee seems to fall within the quick release school. He is a treat to watch. He was also the key figure in a very unusual play yesterday. On first base after a bunt single,  he took off on one of Jason Bourgeois’ doubles. Coming around third base he confronted Bulls third base coach Dan DeMent signaling him to stop. He touched DeMent in his scramble to get back to third and was called out. Charlie Montoyo, a bit tongue-in-cheek, commented for the Herald-Sun: “He’s got to stop grabbing the coaches when he goes by third base. It doesn’t work in this league — I don’t think in any league."

DeMent, by the way, is a coach in the Rays system who works most often with the Class A Hudson Valley team. He’s in town to help out while Charlie Montoyo is in LA.

Outside the game

Norfolk comes to town today. Here’s the matchup:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hold Alex in Your Hearts

Most Bulls fans know bits and pieces of Alex Montoyo’s story. Charlie Montoyo’s five year old son is about to undergo yet another open-heart surgery, his fourth in five years. Charlie is off to Los Angeles in a day or so and Dave Myers will be managing in his absence.

See Harold Gutmann’s terrific story in yesterday’s Herald-Sun.


Season: 5-1

If you missed the first inning, you pretty much missed it all last night. Brandon Guyer set all sorts of records with his two home runs and 5 RBIs in the inning as 12 Bulls came to bat to score 10 runs. But there were hints of more that auger well for 2013.

Catcher Craig Albernaz, who is sure to get more playing time this year, had an RBI double in the inning and cracked two very authoritative-sounding, but caught, shots later in the game. Third baseman Cole Figueroa also had an RBI double and went on to pick up a single and a triple. Four other Bulls got hits in the inning, one of the biggest in Bulls’ history.

Not to be overlooked was Alexander Torres’ opening the game with 3Ks. He went on to have a very solid five innings. That raises our hopes regarding young Mr. Torres.

Bulls’ relievers were less impressive. At an inning each, neither new guy Steve Geltz nor Frank De Los Santos looked sharp. Possibly coming in with a huge (12-0) lead had something to do with it. But the two of them gave up 8 runs and pretty much ruined their ERAs for quite a while. (Speaking of ruining an ERA, Gwinnett starter Daniel Rodriguez was charged with nine runs on only one out — ERA = 243.00!)

Will Inman did just fine and Josh Lueke closed it out with some serious heat.

Outside the game —
  • Regular readers may remember a project organized by Sam Stephenson that put together photography and stories centered on the Bulls and the DBAP near the end of the 2011 season. He’s back with something that should be very interesting as he has put together a crew to record the full 2013 season. Here’s one story and here’s a link to their exceptionally well done web site. Once they get going you will want to add the RSS feed as a regular place to visit. Stephenson and writer Adam Sobsey were interviewed yesterday on WUNC radio. Worth a listen.
  • On opening day I almost went into full-blown rant mode when Doc and Merle Watson’s version of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was not played for the 7th inning stretch. Pleased to report that they are back and in fine form.
  • Great fun to watch/listen to current and former Bulls read lines from “Bull Durham” played as part of the evening between-innings work. Gotta find my 20th Anniversary hat. Should he hanging around the house somewhere.
  • Adam Sobsey introduces the Bulls via Indy Week.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Baseball At Last

Trooper Mike Potts and Son to throw opening pitch
photo Durham Herald-Sun

Season: 3-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, News & Observer

As our regular readers know, here at WDBB we tend to highlight the quirks of the game or stuff that catches our eye. We figure most fans have already seen or listened to the game or possibly followed one of the links. So we all sort of know what happened.

That perspective makes it really fun to write about an opening day and even more fun to point out what a bizarre end it was. I don’t know how to research this, but a baseball game with no earned runs by either team has got to be an oddity. If no earned runs, then no RBIs either. Very strange.

All the scoring action took place in the 9th inning after a superb 6 ⅔  inning outing by Jake Odorizzi and an impressive four outs in eight pitches by Adam Liberatore (see, I said I look for the quirks of the game). But then in the 9th Josh Leuke walked a batter and followed that with a fielding error that put runners on first and second. Another error, this one by shortstop Hak-Ju Lee let a run in.

In the end, however, conventional baseball wisdom lost the game for the Braves. In the 9th Wil Myers led off with a single and the Braves went into a “no-doubles” defense (fielders back near the warning tracks) for reasons admirably explained by color commentator Scot Pose (By the way, great to have fellow University of Arkansas Alum Pose back in the radio booth this season. He brings a lot to the game.) Problems arose, however, when that alignment allowed a weak Leslie Anderson liner to drop in front of the Braves center fielder and Myers was able to reach third base. Chris Giminez drew a walk and, again, conventional wisdom called for the infield to be drawn in. That can often work. This time it didn’t. The Braves shortstop couldn’t handle a Brandon Guyer grounder and two runs scored.

Meanwhile, the weather could not have been better. We experienced one of our proudest moments watching former Durham Bulls pitcher Trooper Mike Potts and his son throw the first pitch and the standing ovation that greeted them. The men’s choir’s rendition of the National Anthem was spot on. The baseball was crisp. I’m gonna withhold judgment on the Bull Durham doll race for the moment. It was kind cute, though. And it got some attention outside our area. The “little bulls” parade is still my favorite.

Solid set of videos at WRAL site.

Outside the game —

A comment to another post points out that the starting rotation seemed to be disrupted by the postponed game, lengthy game, double header, etc. down in Norfolk, not sure why that should be. I'm sure if we could ask Charlie Montoyo we could get a better answer but here's my guess. All five starters this year (Archer, Colome, Montgomery, Odorizzi, and Torres) are on the Rays 40-man. In addition to being on reduced pitch counts for the early part of the season (75-85) Tampa Bay wants to have at least one of those guys available for a spot start at any moment. That means putting them on a schedule and keeping them on a schedule.

But that's absolutely pure speculation. If there's another reason that makes more sense please share it with us.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Player Added; Player Never to be Added

As we wait for the first home game to start we hear that the Bulls bullpen will be getting some help to fill the hole opened when Brandon Gomes was called up to the Rays. Adam Liberatore, a 26 year old left-handed reliever, is coming up from the Montgomery Biscuits. He appeared in 16 games for the Bulls last year with a stellar 1.29 ERA over 21 innings. Happy to have him. Stats.

On the other hand, Robinson Chirinos, a catcher we saw the year before last, and liked a lot, has been traded to the Texas Rangers. Chirinos and former Bull Steven Vogt had been designated for assignment by the Rays a week or so ago. That’s two catchers out of the Rays system in just a few days.

By the way, it’s great to hear (thanks, Rob) that that Steven Vogt has started his career as a Sacramento River Cat with a single, home run, and a strike ‘em out/throw ‘em out play.

Let's Go to a Ball Game!

The last game played by the Durham Bulls in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park was on September 1, 2012. That was a long, long time ago. I hope that you are as ready as I am to drive over there and see some baseball today.

Parking for Bulls baseball games has always been a bit tricky, but mostly these days we've got paved parking, even covered decks for some. And the field's looking better than it used to.

As important as nostalgia is to baseball, I have to say that I really like the DBAP and Wool E. Bull and can't wait to see him spin out his go-cart;

And watch the Bull smoke!

Have fun today!


OK, I couldn't let the day go by without at least some baseball stats ...

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Headed Home!

Season: 3-1
Wrap, Box 1, Box 2

This is an interesting team coming to Durham.

In four games they put together 35 hits, scored 19 runs, drew 20 walks, hit 6 doubles, two triples, but just one home run. Speedy? Heck yes. They stol 6 bases while getting caught just once. The pitching looks good with the starters putting together an ERA of 2.95 and the relievers just 1.20 (Team ERA 2.16).

Sure it’s just four games against a team whose front office messes with them even more than the Rays mess with the Bulls. But I’m encouraged. Listing to the game — the audio stream was working today. Hooray! — they just sounded like fun.

There were some serious oddities with the pitching rotation (the Bulls are running one short in the reliever ranks) and the team has already put in a bunch of innings. We were scared to death that today’s second game was going to go into extra innings. Will it sort itself out? I hope so.

But I just didn’t hear anything to worry about.

And now we get to see these guys at last!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Great Start!

Season: 1-0
Box, Wrap, Virginian-Pilot

Has it really been 215 days since the Bulls last played a baseball game? It has. And how different this one was as every Bulls batter except Vince Belnome got a hit — and he got two walks and an RBI sacrifice fly.

Chris Archer only gave up a couple of hits and just the one run in his five very efficient (82 pitches) innings. Kirby Yates gave up a home run for the only other Tides score.

We’ll have to go with Patrick Kinas’ call of the game to judge young Mr. Hak-Ju Lee, but it sure sounded like he’s going to have fun in AAA — 2 runs on two hits (triple and single) and a walk, and two stolen bases.

Pleased to discover that the various media seemed to be working OK (I don’t have MiLB television, though). Although signal not good, AM 620 was broadcasting. Gameday and audio streaming through internet was working. And the Bulls iPhone app was working when I tried it.

Outside the Game —
  • Steven Vogt (recently designated for assignment by the Rays) was traded to Oakland and will start the season with the Sacramento River Cats,  Oakland's AAA team. We’ll miss him on the club for a lot of reasons. Does this mean we will see more of Craig Albernaz in the lineup? Maybe. 
  • We haven’t seen anything on the web regarding Robinson Chirinos who was DFA’d with Vogt. Not sure exactly when the clock started for him.
  • Have not heard if there’s a replacement coming for Brandon Gomes, who was called up Thursday.
Double Header Tonight! Starts at 6:05. 

Tonight’s games will not be on AM 620. If you are one of the 10 people in the Triangle with an HD radio the games will be on 99.9 HD3. Otherwise the games will be streamed or available through smartphone apps. Probably 7 inning games, but not sure about that.

Last note: Patrick Kinas is back doing play-by-play. Good. He calls a good game. I will enter here, once again, a plea for Kinas’ pre-game interviews and commentary to be made available as podcasts. Seems like that would be simple and painless to do. Hey, stick an ad in the middle and make some money!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Brandon (Gomes, that is) We Hardly Knew Ya’

Rays reliever, sometime starter, and former Bull, Jeff Niemann is going on the disabled list. Brandon Gomes left Norfolk for St. Pete after dinner last night.

As much as I wish Brandon well (I thought he should have stayed with the Rays out of spring training), this early shuffling does not bode well for the Bulls. What do the Rays know now that they didn’t know several days ago?

Have not heard if someone is on his way over from Montgomery.

Maybe Tonight

Harbor Park, Norfolk, VA courtesy LittleBallParks

A rainout last night, but if the weather maps and predictions are right the season should begin tonight. Looks like they are going to try to have a double header tomorrow (Saturday) to get back on track.

It wasn’t at all clear last night how to get to either gameday or audio through the website. I’m hoping that was because I checked in at 7:15 and everybody had already gone home.

By the way, here’s my guess on the rotation:
Archer, Colome, Montgomery, Odorizzi, Torres.

As we wait for the season to start, here’s some interesting stuff.
  • The Bulls are playing in Harbor Park (photo above) a place for some reason not much loved by the folks who roam around watching baseball. Stadium Journey considers it “not remarkable.” Amanda Lippert, who has the good judgement to name the DBAP her favorite park of 2013, wasn’t much impressed back when she visited Harbor Park a few years ago. Indy Week reporter, Adam Sobsey had some positive thoughts on the park in his visit back in 2011 (scroll about halfway down).
  • The MiLB website has picked the top hitting lineup in the International League, the Reds affiliate, the Louisville Bats.
  • And they’ve picked the team with the best pitching rotation and that would be our Durham Bulls.
  • The first time the Bulls and Bats meet this year will be June 8th, in Louisville.
  • Stacy Long, blogger and reporter for the Montgomery Advertiser, has a very interesting piece on how the Rays have assembled the players in their system.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Opening Day

Local media has some good coverage of this Bulls this morning
  • Steve Wiseman and Harold Gutmann over at the Durham Herald Sun have this story;
  • Then Cory Smith from the Raleigh News & Observer has this piece;
  • Most impressive of all is Aaron Schoonmaker's piece for WRAL that has a solid story to go with video interviews of Chris Archer and Wil Myers.
  • Down in Norfolk, the Virginia Pilot looks at the Tides.
  • Can't wait until Monday? The Mudcats (now Single A team of the Cleveland Indians) open over in Zebulon on Friday.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

While We Wait

  • The buzz on Twitter is that the Bulls had a "media day" today, but WDBB doesn't count as "media" so we weren't there. Look to the Herald-Sun, News & Observer, and Indy Week for articles tomorrow.
  • Several times a year the question comes up, “How much do these guys make?” Unlike in the majors, however, the answer isn’t all that simple. Over at Rays Index we have a starting point. He has recently posted a chart that estimates the salaries of all the players on the 40-man roster. A player not on the 40-man can be expected to be making something less that $80,000 per season. But there’s a catch. Almost all of them have individual contracts and the terms of those contracts aren’t always available.
  • Why do minor leaguers make so little money? You may ask. Well, mostly because minor leaguers don’t have a union. And why is that? Because they are all living the dream of someday being a major leaguer and diving into the swimming pool of cash the major league players' union has built for their members. For a slightly less cynical view, take a look at this article from a while back.
  • And then there’s this terrific piece from yesterday's Slate magazine. It seems that in 1945 there was a World Series played in Germany between teams made of of major leaguers, minor leaguers, and Negro leaguers. Guess what? Nobody seemed to care that the black players were playing. The soldiers just wanted to see some baseball.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Opening Day Lineup?

I doubt that the status of either Steven Vogt or Robinson Chirinos will be settled before Thursday. That gives us this roster to work with. So here’s my guess. Jump in folks.

SS - Hak-Ju Lee
CF - Rich Thompson
RF - Wil Myers
1B - Leslie Anderson
C - Chris Gimenez
3B - Cole Figueroa
LF - Brandon Guyer
2B - Tim Beckham
DH - Jason Bourgeois

Starting Pitcher: Chris Archer

Bench: Craig Albernaz, Vince Belnome, Mike Fontenot, Cody Rogers

I see three former Durham Bulls on the Tides roster, Russ Canzler (2011), Jason Pridie (2007), and RHP Adam Russell (2011). Any others?

Remembering Sidd Finch

Photo Courtesy Sports Illustrated

Once each year Watching Durham Bulls Baseball invites all of our readers to take a moment to recall the all too brief career of an extraordinary baseball player, and horn player of some note, Sidd Finch.

Photo Courtesy Sports Illustrated

For those unfamiliar with Mr. Finch's contributions to the game back in the Spring of 1985 we commend to you the Sports Illustrated article that first brought the young man to our attention. Also see our previous comments from 2011.