Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Season: 69-41; Trip: 2-2
Wrap, Box, Columbus Dispatch

Mike Montgomery did not pitch a very good game last night, a couple of the 5 walks he gave up scored. And yet he did leave the game with a tie score, two outs, and a runner on first. He did have a shot at a no-decision. Not to be. Frank de los Santos tossed a pickoff throw into right field and the runner at first went all around the bases to score. Montgomery got the loss. Gotta give some credit to smart, aggressive base running by Columbus' Carrera.

We haven’t been very impressed with Mr. Montgomery this year. He has the worst numbers of any pitcher on the roster (ERA: 4.26, FIP: 4.53, WHIP: 1.41). Nevertheless, a little luck last night would have been nice.

This was the first two-home run game for the Bulls since July 20th (they lost that one to the Pawtucket Red Sox 9-6). Base running was off by a good bit, and that could have made a big difference. Tim Beckham and Jason Bourgeois both got caught stealing, and Bourgeois got picked off. Not a good night.

Matchup Durham Bulls vs. Toledo Mud Hens

The second most famous team in minor league baseball, the Toledo Mud Hens, is not having a good year. They are also something of a poster child for the limits of what the stats can tell you, because most of their stats say they should be doing better than they are. They are 15 games below .500 and yet are in the middle of the pack on hitting and pitching within the IL. Without diving into the numbers we’d have to guess they must have some problems with their relievers and perhaps roster turmoil.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Durham Bulls Hitting

We haven’t looked at the Bulls hitters since June 28 and they've had quite a few changes since then. Evan Frey came and went, Juan Apodaca is no longer with the Bulls, Kevin Kiermaier has joined the team (but only has a few plate appearances), and Brandon Guyer has gone on the disabled list. So something of a mess, but the Bulls are still winning.

The players marked with * signs are on the Rays 40-man, which means that it’s fairly easy to call them up. But if a player isn’t on the 40-man (such as Leslie Anderson or Vince Belnome) then the Rays will have to make room one way or the other (the Rays are very creative about that when they need to be). I've left Guyer on the table just to remind us how well he'd been doing, and Craig Albernaz is there since he could easily show up in the near future. Data are from FanGraphs. Table(s) are sorted by wOBA values.

For more about the lesser known measures of Weighted Runs Above Average (wRAA) or Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) click on the links.

Durham Bulls as of July 29, 2013

Vince Belnome404.321.91925.9.412
Leslie Anderson380.319.90822.1.404
*Brandon Guyer373.300.82712.7.374
Kevin Kiermaier17.231.7190.3.355
Cole Figueroa391.301.7595.4.348
*Tim Beckham378.276.7320.6.332
Mike Fontenot350.267.717-1.0.327
Jason Bourgeois333.292.719-1.2.326
*Chris Gimenez272.241.663-2.1.321
*Ryan Roberts90.247.675-1.1.315
Shelley Duncan266.223.701-3.6.313
Craig Albernaz88.237.587-3.9.275
Jesus Flores115.200.526-8.2.241

So, how do the Tampa Bay Rays look by the same metrics? Pretty good. Wil Myers is getting a lot of at bats and is doing very well. His home runs push his wOBA up nicely. I think the sabermetrics guys have some estimates about how well these numbers translate from AAA to the majors. (if someone out there knows, jump in.) The only direct comparison we have here is Ryan Roberts, whose batting average is essentially identical, as is his wRAA, and his wOBA is 12 points better with the Bulls.

But even if the ∆ between AAA and MLB is substantial, it sure looks Anderson and Belnome could add value to the Rays. Fortunately for the Bulls, that’s not going to happen before September, however, and maybe not then. But these numbers are pretty compelling. One obvious candidate among the Rays to be moved out, if needed.

Are any of the Bulls trade bait? Maybe.

Tampa Bay Rays as of July 29, 2013

Wil Myers144.328.8917.4.379
Evan Longoria440.276.86118.5.367
James Loney386.321.83814.6.361
Luke Scott246.264.8178.0.354
Kelly Johnson312.254.7907.0.341
Matt Joyce333.240.7595.3.333
Desmond Jennings443.263.7606.5.332
Ben Zobrist442.268.7455.8.330
Sean Rodriguez142.264.7150.5.317
Jose Lobaton198.253.687-1.3.305
Ryan Roberts151.248.688-1.2.303
Yunel Escobar370.247.674-4.0.300
Jose Molina203.236.603-7.0.270
Sam Fuld136.200.546-7.2.246

Two Out of Three; Martin Gets (More) Famous

Wrap, Box

Wrap, Box, Columbus Dispatch

Season: 69-40
Wrap, Box, Columbus Dispatch (1), Columbus Dispatch (2)

Those three ugly games after the All-Star break are quickly disappearing in the rear-view mirror. The Bulls’ two remaining 40-man guys (starters, that is), didn’t do very well back then. Now it’s all better. Mike Montgomery picked up a win on the 24th and last night, after two poor starts, Jake Odorizzi was very, very good. Only two hits over 7 innings and 101 pitches, and the first of those hits didn’t come until the 7th inning.

Odorizzi’s opponent, the Clippers’ Danny Salazar, was essentially matching him through five innings. But Salazar is on his way back from Tommy John surgery and left after five innings. In the 6th, however, poor defense by the Clippers let two runs in. Two more errors in the 8th set up two more runs.

But that is what the Bulls do this year. They just keep banging out singles and doubles, run the bases, and chip away. Yes, Belnome, Anderson, Duncan, and the much-missed Brandon Guyer are strong guys, but they aren’t going to beat an opponent’s brains in. What happens is that when the opposition looks up at the scoreboard around the 7th or 8th inning, they discover that they’re losing by a couple of runs and one of the Bulls two closers, Kirby Yates (ERA: 1.29, 14 saves) or Josh Lueke (ERA: 0.57, 13 saves) is warming up. Could not be a good feeling for them.

Last night also saw Charlie Montoyo do something that is fairly common this year, but something of a change from previous years. Cory Wade came in to pitch in the 8th and after a K got into trouble with a double and run-scoring single. Montoyo went for the left-on-left matchup and brought in Adam Liberatore to pitch to Clippers' Ezequiel Carrera. Yes, that’s a common enough move, and it worked. Carrera struck out. It just isn’t particularly common for the pre-2013 Charley Montoyo. More than that, after Liberatore walked the next batter to put runners on 1B and 2B, Montoyo brought in closer Kirby Yates for the second night in a row. Yates got a K with finish the 8th, and three quick outs to finish out the game.

Now, this sort of pitcher usage is common in the majors, but for most of the years we’ve been watching the Bulls it seemed that the manager and pitching coach would just as often go for a “development” opportunity. That is, more likely to leave a guy in for another batter or two (or three). This year, it seems as if Montoyo (and Allen, of course) are much quicker to pull a pitcher, much more willing to seek one or two outs from a reliever instead of one or two innings. That’s partly because after the early season turmoil the Bulls have more depth (and much more quality) in their relievers. As it is, Bulls relievers might be getting a bit bored. In the last three games they’ve only put in 7 innings, and only 6 pitchers have been used (Yates twice).

Outside the game —

  • Brandon Guyer’s broken finger is reported to be a season ending injury. I don’t think we’ve witnessed a season with more severe injuries to position players. He joins Hak-Ju Lee and Rich Thompson on the “7-day DL”, but not likely to return. And just when he got his batting average up to .300.
  • J.D. Martin has been named IL pitcher of the week. This is the second time this year for him. Quite likely if he were on any other roster than the Rays he would be banging on the door for a callup. As it is, even Chris Archer who just pitched a complete game, 2-hit shutout of the Yankees in Yankee Stadium, could be odd man out when Alex Cobb comes off the DL. Don’t get me wrong. Could not be happier than to have J.D. among us. Hope he's having as much fun pitching as we are watching.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bulls Away, Fix the Field

Scott Strickland plowing up (actually aerating) the DBAP, morning July 26)

Season: 67-39; Home Games Left in Season: 15
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

I don’t know about you, but I am really, really tired of watching/listening to the Durham Bulls play the Gwinnett Braves. Nine out of the last 17 games, more than half, have been against Gwinnett. From a winning and losing point of view, that’s OK. The Bulls have won 7 of those 9 games, and I really don’t mind watching Ernesto Mejia strike out against Josh Lueke, but some variety would be nice. At least for the next eight days we’ll be listening to different teams. And then the Bulls will be back home to play … Gwinnett (aaarrgh!!).

New guy Kevin Kiermaier was fun to watch last night: Good arm, stolen base, ran down a couple of fly balls.

Also nice to see Jason Bourgeois seem to get back into his game: timely hits made all the difference, and he threw out a guy at the plate as well.

Merrill Kelly continues to be very impressive. Interesting to see that he, and others are now routinely nearing 100 pitches per game. Tells me the season is moving along.

The worrisome news is that, according to the Herald-Sun, Brandon Guyer’s finger got broken in that hit by pitch in the first inning last night. No further word (and none likely given how close hold the Bulls/Rays are about such things). The Herald-Sun also reports that Tim Beckham should be back in the game soon.


The last couple years the Columbus Clippers dominated the West Division of the IL. Not so this year. At 7 games below .500, they are far behind the division leaders, the Indianapolis Indians.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Figueroa and Guyer Team Up to Win

Season: 66-39; Home Games Remaining: 16
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Cole Figueroa played shortstop and batted leadoff.  Brandon Guyer played right field was in the #2 spot last night. They made a terrific 1-2 punch.

Figueroa led off the 1st with a single. Guyer reached on an error that allowed him to go to second base with Figueroa on third. Figueroa came home for the first Bulls run on a Leslie Anderson grounder.

In the 3rd inning Figueroa laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt that moved Jason Bourgeois from first to second. Bourgeois scored when Guyer singled. Guyer then stole second base and third base, but was left stranded.

In the 5th Figueroa grounded out, but Guyer walked and got his third stolen base of the night (he's up to 22 stolen bases), but was stranded at second.

In the 7th Figueroa came to bat with two outs and ran out a grounder to short. Guyer singled him to second base. Leslie Anderson walked to load the bases. New guy (more later on him) Kevin Kiermaier came in to run for Anderson. Braves pitcher Wirfin Obispo balked in Figueroa.

So, between the two of them, they accounted for all of the hits, two of the runs, and one of the RBI. Pretty good night. And they ended up with Figueroa hitting .303 and Guyer at .300.

Meanwhile, the story from the broadcast booth was Gwinnett Brave pitcher Brandon Beachy, who is on his long trek back from Tommy John surgery and who may be scheduled to start for the Atlanta Braves on Monday. It points out a feature of AAA baseball that is rarely so obvious — yes, Beachy cared about winning, but he probably cared much more about specific pitches and his ability to put them where he wanted them to go. Hence he gave up 4 stolen bases, but only 2 hits, both singles. He's probably pleased with himself. The Braves are probably pleased with his performance as well.

From a fan's perspective, the other highlight of the night was the Braves' Ernesto Mejia's at bat against the Bulls' Josh Lueke in the 8th inning with two outs and a runner on second base. Lueke had come on with no outs and runners on first and second base. A run scored (the Braves' only run) on a grounder to short. Lueke struck on the next batter. Over the course of the 10-pitch Meijia at bat Lueke really … worked … hard: 97-98 mph fastballs mixed with breaking stuff. Mejia fouled off five pitches for finally missing one to end the inning. The 9th was anti-climatic: Lueke struck out two and the third out was a long fly to right field.

Outside the game —

  • As mentioned above, Kevin Kiermaier came in to run for Leslie Anderson in the 7th inning last night. He then took his place in center field for the 8th inning, but did not come to bat. We saw him in the Bulls' last 2012 home game when he was jumped all the way up from A-ball to fill out some end of season roster holes. He was a leading candidate for the WDBB's Moonlight Graham Award until Robby Price (also with Montgomery this year) came up for the last two games of the season. Kiermaier has been with Montgomery all season where he leads the team in batting average and is #2 on OPS. Stats. He sounds excited to be here. Relatively new outfielder, Evan Frey, was sent to Montgomery.
  • Tim Beckham didn't play in the last three games. The Herald-Sun reports that he was on the "temporary inactive list". I have no idea what that means. Hope he returns to action soon.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Boomin', Losin', and, At Last, Winnin'

Season: 64-58; Home Stand: 6-3
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

As this is being written, if Twitter is to be believed, the Bulls are heading down I-85 to the Atlanta suburbs. Probably last night’s affair is fading. Nevertheless, it was a game of superlatives. Well, maybe “superlatives” isn’t quite the right word, but it will have to do.

Between them the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Durham Bulls, in an 8½ inning game,
  • Sent 97 hitters to bat
  • Scored 27 runs
  • On 33 hits, 12 walks, 3 hit batsmen, and no home runs (although one run was scored on a single and a 3-base error, a semi-inside-the-park-home run by Jason Bourgeois)
  • Used 10 pitchers
  • Over 4 drizzly hours

In the end, it was sort of the opposite of a pitchers’ duel for both teams. In fact, the last three games of this series was essentially boomin’ and losin’ (or winnin', depended on which side you were on).

The hero last night? Undoubtedly Mike Fontenot who made a hot grounder look easy and drove a stake through the heart(s) of the Pawsox, who would not stay dead in this game. They just kept climbing out of their coffins, even in the top of the 9th when they had runners on second and third and could go ahead in the game if the grounder had gotten past Fontenot. But the grounder didn’t and the Bulls prevailed at last.

The Herald-Sun and the wrap lays some of it out, so let’s do our WDBB thing and draw a couple of pictures to show just how odd these last four games have been.

First of all, the pitching. Just a couple of days ago the cumulative ERAs of Bulls pitching was on a nice downward slope. Now look at the last four games. Remember that these are cumulative ERA, so it takes a lot to push them up or down. And note that it isn’t just the starters, everyone was pushing that ERA up.

click for larger chart

Another way to look at those number is game-by-game and there the last four games are even more startling.

Lastly, if the importance of pitching ever needed emphasis, look at this one. The Bulls bats have been booming, but, except for last night, it wasn’t enough.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Durham Bulls Not Yet Back From All-Star Break

Season: 63-38; Home Stand: 5-3
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Up in the stands we are beginning to wonder when the Bulls are going to come back from the All-Star break. The starting pitching crew that left the field back on July 14 does not resemble the crew that’s here now. Merrill Kelly and C.J. Riefenhauser combined for a truly awful 6⅔ innings, 14 hits, 9 runs, and two of the Bulls’ 4 errors. How bad was it? Well, note that even with the 9 runs, the Red Sox still left 11 runners on base.

Then there was Tim Beckham channeling B.J. Upton in 7th. (Note: for those who were not around to witness young Mr. Upton’s tenure as a Bull during 2004-2006, let’s be kind and just say that he was then a “developing” shortstop and a thrill to watch as long as you didn’t sit near first base — he committed 106 errors over those years). Beckham made a difficult stop, but then sailed his throw several rows above the camera well.

Now, the 8th inning was nice, much like the 8th inning the day before. Leslie Anderson and the aforementioned Tim Beckham hit home runs. Ramon Ramirez shut down the Red Sox. But too little, too late.

We should, however, give some credit to Red Sox knuckleballer Charlie Haeger. Until the 8th, none of the Bulls came close to figuring him out. Baseball lore asserts that the knuckleball, when thrown just right, is virtually impossible to hit well. Throwing it just right is the key, and Haeger was apparently doing that last night.

Well, Matt Buschmann is the fourth of the starting crew to appear since the break. He’s on the mound tonight. Maybe …

Outside the game —

Saturday, July 20, 2013

More Rust

Season: 63-37; Home Stand: 5-2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

There was a lot not to like about last night’s game. It was slow, almost 4 hours for a 9-inning game. The second inning was just awful, Mike Montgomery served up 3 BBs, two home runs, a double, and a single. The Bulls got an exceptional number of free rides — a season-high 10 walks and 2 hit batsmen by Red Sox pitching (plus two sac flies) — but left 12 runners on base. And it was hot!

But the game had its moments. Shelley Duncan twice came to bat with the bases loaded. The first time he doubled in two runs, the second time he hit a freakish comebacker to the pitcher that led to an inning-ending double play. Tim Beckham pulled off a nifty, behind-second-base grab and throw in the 3rd inning. (Is he major-league ready? Yeah, probably so.) Vince Belnome continued his exceptional on base performance, 2 BBs, single, double. And there was the almost comeback in the 8th. Not enough, but a big try.

Outside the game —
  • Ryan Roberts made the most of his visit back with the Rays getting a big hit up in Toronto to help win the game.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Back From the Break, a Bit Rusty

Season: 63-36; Home Stand: 5-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Jake Odorizzi showed the effects of a seven day break in his routine, but perhaps more worrisome is the similarity of last night’s game to his outing back on July 5, when he had a nasty 4-run inning. The major difference is that last night was worse from an overall stats point of view (fewer innings, more BB). But it could have been more lopsided if Bulls defenders had not caught two runners at the plate as they were trying to score.

Nevertheless, the Bulls had a shot at catching up in the 7th and 8th and could not quite get there.

Cole Figueroa had a good night drawing three walks and scoring two runs. He is a terrific leadoff guy.

This was, I think, Evan Frey’s first experience in front of the Blue Monster in left field. He had something of a baptism of fire when Pawtucket started bouncing balls off of it. He was in left because Jason Bourgeois was back in center field. With Brandon Guyer in right, for the first time in recent memory the Bulls had three outfielders in the outfield.

New guy Ramon Ramirez had a very nice inning plus. Sure wish someone in the real media would chase down how come he's here. Glad to have him, mind you, just curious.

Outside the game —
  • Hope that Ryan Roberts has his passport with him. Roberts was leaning on the dugout rail last night, a last minute scratch from the game. The speculation was that he wasn’t fully recovered from a hamstring problem. Turns out that Rays’ first baseman James Loney is off on a paternity leave and Roberts was just hanging out at the DBAP before leaving to join the Rays in Toronto.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Matchup: Durham Bulls vs. Pawtucket Red Sox ... and More

The Pawtucket Red Sox are the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox and they are having a good year, much like their parent club. They are leading in the very competitive North Division, but they had a 1-9 stretch going into the break.

The Bulls played four games against them in Pawtucket back in early May and split the series 2-2. One of the wins was a combined no-hitter led by Jake Odorizzi, who will likely be on the mound this series.

Outside the game —
  • A little bit of early season history for folks just checking in with the Bulls: Three key Tampa Bay Ray pitchers have had various kind of trouble this year, David Price, Brandon Gomes, and Alex Cobb. In their stead, several guys who started with Durham have been with the Rays during the season, Chris Archer, Alex Torres, and Alex Colome among them. David Price is back in the lineup. Alex Colome came back to Durham and went on the DL. Some folks are starting speculate about Archer and Torres, both of whom have been doing very well. Examples of the commentary are at Rays Index and at Rays Colored Glasses. What does it mean to the Bulls? Not sure. But bullpen turmoil is likely in a couple of weeks.
  • C.J.  Riefenhauser got a few more comments regarding his appearance in the Futures game.
  • The International League won the Triple A All-Star game 4-3. Wrap. Box. The Bulls’ Vince Belnome started at 3B and went 1 for 3. J.D. Martin pitched a scoreless 2nd inning. Kirby Yates pitched a scoreless 8th inning.
  • The N&O has a nice feature on the Bulls today.
  • If you’ve been following the saga of Duece, the missing border collie who got spooked by last weekend’s fireworks, he’s been found and is back.
Lastly, a little bit of weirdness, and a test of your Korean language skills. Just watch. Then wait for the reruns for a couple of different angles. And you might have to click through to Youtube.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Durham Bulls at the All-Star Break

The Durham Bulls are 98 games into a 144-game season. They have 21 home games left and 25 away. Their last home game is August 25, not much more than a month away. How are they doing? Great!

The Bulls are 28 games above .500 and lead their nearest opponent in the South Division (the Norfolk Tides) by 11½ games. At 63-35, they have the best record in the International League.

All charts can be seen in a larger size by clicking on the chart.

Looking at my favorite performance metric — cumulative runs scored minus runs allowed — the Bulls look equally spectacular, although just sightly below the great team of 2010. That team, by the way, way “only” 18 games over .500 at 98 games, but went on to end the season 33 games over .500 and far ahead of their nearest South Division rival.

The pitching up to the break has been beautiful as well. The cumulative ERAs of the starters and relievers has shown a steady decline over the last 20 games with the results showing in the 15-5 record over that same period.

If we look at the hitting as seen in the game-by-game OPSs over the same 20 games the Bulls are consistently above .600. That will win you a lot of games.

How about our friends down in the bandbox by the bay, the Tampa Bay Rays? Not bad. Not as good as the Bulls, but not bad. At 96 games into the season, the Rays are 14 games above .500, and trail the Red Sox by 2 ½ games in the tough AL East.

The Rays cumulative runs-scored, runs-allowed chart is showing substantial improvement over the last few weeks.

Looking at their history, an optimist might conclude that the Rays are on track to reach for the heights of 2010, much like the Bulls.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Anderson Leads Bulls To Eighth Win in a Row

Season: 63-35; Streak: 8-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Even if it feels like mid-season, it isn’t. The middle of the Bulls’ season occurred back on June 18, almost a month ago. Nevertheless, these next couple of days are the only really free days the players will have till the end, so let’s hope they enjoy them.

Three Bulls will be heading to Reno, Nevada for the Triple-A All-Star game, J.D. Martin, Vince Belnome, and Kirby Yates. A fourth Bull, Reliever C.J. Riefenhauser, gets his time off after pitching in the All-Star Futures game last night (one inning, did not allow a runner on base).

The Bulls go into the break looking very good. We’ll do some statistical stuff over the next couple of days, but this 8-game winning run pretty much establishes the Bulls as the best team in the International League.

Leslie Anderson, who has been knocking on the Rays’ door for a long time now, kept it up last night. He started in left field. Anderson got on base with a single in the 2nd, and scored on Evan Frey’s sacrifice fly. In the 6th he put one into the Diamond View stands. If there’s a worry about Anderson these days, it’s that he seems to be really straining to get up to speed on the base paths.

J.D. Martin got his 11th win, the best in the International league. He’s tied for the most starts (19), 3rd in innings pitched, and 6th in ERA. He’s having a great year and is expected to put in an inning out in Reno against the Pacific Coast League.

After the 7th inning, we went up to catch a late meal at the Tobacco Road restaurant and watched the last couple of innings there. Josh Lueke added thrills to the end of the game as he had a lot of trouble finding the plate (although I think he did hit the plate with the bouncer that let a run in). He got a save, but his ERA ballooned up from 0.45 to 0.66 and his WHIP went from 0.81 to 0.84. Not sure when the Rays are going to call him up and keep him up, but surely before the end of the season. In the meantime let's enjoy his work … even if it does mean a couple of thrills and exceptional patience between pitches.

Outside the game —
  • More on C.J. Riefenhauser’s night in New York here. Too bad he couldn’t wear his Bulls hat.
  • Former Durham Bull Ben Zobrist is playing in the All-Star game. He gets a nice feature about his time with the Bulls in today’s New & Observer. [Note: that’s twice in recent days we’ve had something nice to say about the N&O. What’s going on over there?]

Sunday, July 14, 2013

And Then There Was Seven

Season: 62-35; Streak: 7-0

Seven wins in a row. Still the best won-lost recored in all of baseball.

Matt Buschmann looked very, very good. Eight of nine Bulls got at least one hit. Eight of nine Bulls scored a run. The new pitcher had a clean 2K inning. Tim Beckham made a brilliant, you-had-to-be-there-to-see-it play. It didn’t rain. This is fun, fun, fun.

This was a game where blunders didn’t seem to matter. In the 3rd inning Leslie Anderson was inexplicably caught standing between first and second base. Did he misunderstand a signal? Did the batter (Fontenot)? He was the third out and on another day it might have mattered. As it was, the Bulls got four more runs the next inning and never looked back. Mike Fontenot did, however, get thrown out at the plate to end the 5th inning. Not sure that was a smart base running move either.

I’m impressed with Mr. Buschmann. He pitched his first game with the Bulls at the end of May. Since then he’s been in 9 games and picked up 5 wins with a nice ERA of 2.36 (and a WHIP of 1.16). Combine him with his Montgomery Biscuits colleague Merrill Kelly (6 starts, 4 wins, 1.70 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) and you have a partial explanation for the Bulls’ recent success. Best of all, from a fan’s view, neither Buschmann nor Kelly is on the Rays’ 40-man roster. That means we will likely get to see them at work the rest of the season. 

About that pretty play: In the 5th inning Braves catcher Jose Yepez hit a very hard grounder to third baseman Cole Figueroa’s left. Shortstop Tim Beckham moved to back him up. Figueroa got a bit of his glove on the ball and Beckham had to make an off-balance stretch to get to it, turn and make a throw from essentially behind third base. The quickness of the transfer and the strength of Beckham’s  throw to first base was a a good reason to be at the game.

We don't know why Ramon Ramirez is here, but if he keeps having strong innings, we are fine with it.

For all you Moneyball readers/watchers: Who’s got the best On-Base Percentage in the International League? That would be the Bulls’ Vince Belnome, who had a hit, three walks, a RBI, and scored a run last night. His OBP is .448. 

I was wrong (imagine that!) about who would be helping the Bulls while Charlie and Neil are away. According to the Herald-Sun, Dave Myers (hitting coach) is running things with help from Rays pitching coordinator Dick Bosman coaching pitchers and outfield/baserunning coordinator Skeeter Barnes as first base coach. 

Last game before the All-Star break tonight.

Outside the game —
  • Here’s hoping that the Bulls can get their bench back over the All-Star break. Jason Bourgeois and Ryan Roberts are slowed down and the Bulls only have 12 position players to begin with. 
  • I’m not a Red Sox fan, but their Triple A team will be here right after the break and here’s an interesting article about why the parent club is doing so well this year. Turns out it’s the pitching.
  • Nuke still having trouble getting to the finish line.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Another Shut Out

Season: 61-35; Streak: 6-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Cole Figueroa hit his third home run. Merrill Kelly hit two batters. Brandon Guyer threw out a runner trying for home. The Bulls won their sixth game in a row to reach a stunning 61-35 record. It didn’t rain (well, not too much). Does it get any better? Rumor has it the sun may come out today.

I like watching Cole Figueroa play baseball. The 26 year old does everything well. A home run was just icing on the cake as he pushed his batting average over .300 yesterday (and he carries a very nice wOBA of .343). He’s .415 in his last 10 games, with 5 doubles and the home run to go with his 11 singles and only 2 strikeouts. To top it off, playing 3B last night he made a tricky bouncing ground ball to his left look routine as he handled it and got the second out in the 9th. Fun to have him with the Bulls this year.

Mr. Kelly did more than just hit batters, of course. He’s been with the Bulls a little less than a month, made 6 starts, won 4 of them, and has a nifty 1.70 ERA. Very nice.

Outside the game —
  • Alex Colome has been placed on the DL and sent to Florida. Could be serious trouble.
  • To replace him, recently signed Ramon Ramirez is coming up from Port Charlotte where he made one 3-inning appearance with the Stone Crabs.
  • Speaking of transactions, this is a clever way to show the Triple-A All-Star game.
  • Interesting profile of Frank De Los Santos over at DNA of Sports
  • At Bull City Summer, Adam Sobsey speculates on how the Bulls season might run out.


Another way to look at pitching performance, this chart shows the game-by-game ERA of Bulls pitching over the last 20 games, then plots a simple trend line for starters, relievers, and the team as a whole. What jumps out is that there were five games with no earned runs at all (with the additional oddity that in one of those games the Bulls lost, June 23). The pretty part of the trend is that, for the most part, neither starters nor relievers are allowing many runs. Of course, the Bulls won 14 out of those 20 games, an amazing number in its own right.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Drizzly Drama

Season: 60-35; Streak: 5-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

In recent days an essential bit of game gear is a rain jacket or umbrella. After a drought a couple of years ago, this year has been near-constant rain varying from light showers to the occasional flood-producing deluge. Local farmers are watching crops rot in the fields.

On the other hand, the Durham Bulls seem to take to the weather like … well, you supply the image. Fans, especially the hydrophobic ones such as myself, tend to check on the tarp status and end up watching the rain from dry seats at home.

Mistake on my part, because, as much fun as it was to watch it on the big screen, it would have been a lot more fun to be there. It was a long haul. Even the broadcasters seemed to lose interest after the Knights’ home run in the top of the 7th put them ahead 4-3, and even more so when Leslie Anderson grounded out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning. Worse, Charlotte picked up another run in the top of the 8th.

In the bottom of the 8th, however, Ryan Roberts interrupted the broadcasters’ nattering on about decades-old baseball trivia with a huge homer over the Bull. Mike Fontenot got on with his fourth hit of the day, was sacrificed to 2B and scored after a wild pitch and scoring error to tie the game.

The bottom of the 9th was classic 2013 Bulls baseball. Vince Belnome got an extra base hit, a triple, to lead off the inning. Shelley Duncan struck out. Leslie Anderson hit a line drive over the head of the drawn in right fielder to bring Belnome in to win the game.

I forget just how young Mike Montgomery is. For that matter, how young most of these guys are: Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi, and C.J. Riefenhauser are all just 23 years old. So, while he wasn’t having an off night, neither did he look all that strong. On the other hand, 96 pitches, not bad.

Outside the game —
  • Careful readers of WDBB may recall that some time ago the good folks at PETA took umbrage at the treatment of opossums out in Brasstown, NC. Now it appears that they have taken up the cause of the Rays’ rays in a fish tank down in Tropicana Field. I know, these are just fund-raising gimmicks targeting folks who have never seen a ‘possum or a cownose ray, but still seems a bit silly.

The Bulls are now 25 games above .500. At 60-35, they have the best record in the International League. [Note: According to Bulls GM Mike Birling, the Bulls have the best record in professional baseball!] The Braves won their last two games and are in town for three before the break. They are 19 games back of the Bulls. The Bulls lead the IL in batting average and are .001 off the lead (Buffalo Bisons) in OPS. They are second in the league in ERA, 0.05 behind the Indianapolis Indians.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bulls Back in Town

Season: 59-35; Last 10: 8-2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Tim Beckham hit his second home run of the season, a solo shot in the 1st inning. Jesus Flores hit his second home run of the season, a three-run shot in the 7th to pretty much close it out. That gave the Bulls their fourth in a row and their eighth win out of the last ten games. They are 9½ games ahead of Norfolk in the IL South Division and tied with the Indianapolis Indians for the best won-loss record in the International League. Pretty darned good.

His last time out, Jake Odorizzi had five good innings out of six, but took a loss. Last night when he fielded a grounder and then threw the ball into center field we were thinking that history might repeat itself. It didn’t. He kept the game in control.

An oddity in the lineup was Chris Gimenez batting in the #4 position. Possibly a gimmick to help him regain his focus. It might have helped just a bit. Gimenez and Anderson were in the outfield again as Ryan Roberts, Brandon Guyer, and Jason Bourgeois were all on the bench with various ailments and ouchies.

Outside the game —
  • Catcher Juan Apodaca was taken off the disabled list and released. He had a couple of good moments with the Bulls, but we were always wondering what he had to offer over Craig Albernaz (also on the DL, but likely to come off now).
  • Tim Beckham has a nice feature article on him in today’s News & Observer. It appears that the N&O has basically decided to try to do profiles this year rather than regular game coverage, deferring to the Herald-Sun for that. Sort of makes sense. 
  • The Herald-Sun is reporting the interim manager of the Bulls during Charlie Montoyo and Neil Allen’s time with the Futures Game will be Bill Evers, very successful manager of the Bulls in their early Triple-A years.

Monday, July 8, 2013

At Last, a Run

Wrap, Box, Gwinnett Daily Post

Season: 56-35; Trip: 1-1
Wrap, Box, Gwinnett Daily Post

Merrill Kelly and Josh Lueke combined to shut out the Braves and the Bulls finally scored a run after being blanked for 18 innings. Oddly enough, they got that run without getting a hit..

Looks like Mr. Kelly is the real thing. Three wins in five starts; an ERA of 2.03 over 31 innings; a WHIP of 1.13. A very nice addition to the rotation.

About that run: The Bulls loaded the bases after Cole Figueroa flied out to begin the 8th. Tim Beckham was hit by a pitch, then stole 2B. Vince Belnome was given an intentional walk, but Ryan Roberts got a walk to load the bases. A pitching change didn't help because Leslie Anderson hit a sac fly to center that scored Beckham for the first Bulls run since the 7th inning against the Tides last Friday.

But it was enough for Bulls' to get a split in their first visit to Georgia. Now they are off to Charlotte.

Outside the game —
  • C.J. Riefenhauser will be joining Charlie Montoyo and Neil Allen at this year’s All-Star Futures game. Congratulations!
  • Three years ago Dan Johnson hit his 23rd home run and 77th RBI. The Bulls were only 86 games into the season. This year the best power hitting Bull has 11 home runs (Anderson) and most productive Bull has 50 RBI (Belnome). Wil Myers led in both categories before he left, 14 and 57. That may help explain why Bulls fans remember Johnson so fondly.
  • Brandon Guyer leads the Bulls in HBP with 12, but consider Shin-Soo Choo of the Reds with 20.
Matchup: Knights vs. Bulls

The Bulls match up well against this year’s Knights. The mismatch between their actual win-loss 41-50 and their Pythagorean Expectation of 43-48 implies a weakness in their relief corps.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bulls Beat Bulls

Season: 55-34
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Former Bulls Russ Canzler (2011) and Jason Pridie (2007) accounted for a couple of last night’s runs, including one in that ugly, ugly 3rd inning. Jake Odorizzi had very, very good 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th innings. But somehow when he gave up the single at the top of the 3rd for his first runner on base, things went awry. By the time he was back on track four runs were across.

Meanwhile the Tides’ Tsuyoshi Wada was essentially untouchable for most of the first six innings. And when he was touched early his fielders pulled off double plays.

The result? A big crowd saw a decent ball game and a couple of exciting plays (see catcher/left fielder Chris Gimenez’ play below).

Bulls fans got to see Frank De Los Santos back. Except for the Pridie home run, looked OK for his two innings. Ryan Roberts’ gear must’ve shown up. He was at 2B and got the games’ sole RBI for the Bulls.

Outside the game —
  • Leslie Anderson reported to be working his way back.
  • Two years ago the Bulls were down in Georgia. Alex Torres started and got the win in a rain-shortened 3-1 game. Other familiar names in the box score: Leslie Anderson, Desmond Jennings, and Brandon Guyer.
  • Nuke the puppet continues to find interesting ways to lose races.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fun Fourth

Season: 55-33

The Durham Bulls' All-Stars had an all-star night in front of an all-star crowd, the largest ever to see a Bulls game (11,754). J.D. Martin got his 10th win, Kirby Yates got his 10th save, and Vince Belnome was 1 for 2 with two BBs, an RBI, and scored a run. Plus it seemed like every inning started with a play at first base. 

Martin looked particularly strong, giving up his usual solo home run, but mostly the bases were clear. There was one stretch of 12 hitters who didn’t make it to base. 

Nobody was giving up freebies last night. Bulls pitching did not award a single base on balls and didn’t hit a batter. That’s exactly the kind of pitching we like to see. Crowd was thrilled to see Kirby Yates close it all out with a K. Great night at the park.

Outside the game —
  • Even with Evan Frey added to the roster, the Bulls still had absolutely no depth on the bench last night. Leslie Anderson is day-to-day after getting hit in the knee by a pitch in Charlotte Wednesday night. Ryan Roberts is here (but without his gear which was misplaced by the airline). Jason Bougeois is at 65% (according to Kinas). That’s all there is folks.
  • Very well-done profile of Durham Bulls star Vince Belnome in today’s News & Observer. Worth a look.
  • Last year the Bulls were also in town playing the Tides. A big crowd (11,117) watched the Bulls beat these Norfolk Tides 8-2, but Bulls were 4 games below .500 (they are 22 games above .500 today). Leslie Anderson, Tim Beckham, and Chris Gimenez are the only players from this year’s team who were in the game.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Celebrate! Remember!

More about the Flag

Season: 54-33
Wrap, Box, Charlotte Observer

Cole Figueroa is demanding that the Rays start paying attention to him. He’s hitting .300. He’s started games at 2B (16), 3B (53), SS (2), and the outfield (6). Last night he was 3 for 4 with a double and 2 RBI. His plate discipline and batting eye is exceptional, only 18 Ks in 300 plate appearances.  And durable. His 77 games is matched only by the Bulls’ 2013 superstar, Vince Belnome.

It was a doubling night. Bulls hitters got 5 doubles last night and swept the Knights at home. (Swept? Well, maybe that’s a bit overstated. Just a one-game stand, after all.)

Matt Buschmann seems to have profited from his weeks in Montgomery this year. He went 6 innings for the first time and gave up just the one home run. Josh Lueke got into and out of trouble. All’s well that ends well.

Charlotte's hoping that the next 4th will be celebrated in their new park downtown.

Let’s look at where the Bulls are on the 4th of July.

The Bulls are ahead of  tonight’s opponents, the Norfolk Tides,  by 7½ games (The Tides are, however, tied for the IL wild card spot). At 21 games above .500, this is the best the Bulls have been all year. Starting last night, the Bulls have a 12-game stretch against their South Division opponents, all the way to the All-Star break. Five games against Charlotte, 2 against Norfolk, and 5 against Gwinnett. Should be fun.

In recent days the pitching has been steadily improving, even as the staff is under severe stress and turnover. A tribute to the talent in the Rays system and the work of Neal Allen and Charlie Montoyo.

This is a pretty good hitting performance over the last couple of weeks. Team was 12-8 in the stretch shown.


This year’s Triple-A All-Star game between the Pacific Coast League and the International League will be played in Reno, Nevada on July 17. Three Durham Bulls will be there: Vince Belnome, J.D. Martin, and Kirby Yates.

Congratulations to all three for their selection — and for their terrific performance as Durham Bulls this year. Have fun in Reno.

Check out the link for a set of profiles. WDBB has little to add — we even stole the image!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Almost Slip Slided Away

Game 86, July 2, Durham Bulls Athletic Park, 10 innings
Durham Bulls (Rays) 6; Columbus Clippers (Indians) 5
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

This year’s Bulls are not a home run hitting team. In fact, they are last in the International League in home runs. Last night was the exception. Leslie Anderson hit the Bulls' first home run since June 26 in the 4th inning. When Shelley Duncan hit a homer in the 6th it was the first time the Bulls had hit multiple homers since June 17th. They were needed, because what looked to be a comfortable 5-2 lead was given away by reliever Steve Geltz in the top of the 7th. A walk, a single, and another walk loaded the bases. Another single put a run in and a sac fly brought in another. Jeff Beliveau came in with runners on first and third. A sac fly scored the tying run.

The score stayed 5-5 until the bottom of the 10th when Leslie Anderson singled past a drawn-in infield and Tim Beckham (running for Vince Belnome) scored. Kirby Yates had pitched the last of the 9th and all the 10th to get the win.

Newcomer Merrill Kelly (subject of an interesting, unattributed article in a local website) looked just fine. A solid 6 innings with only a small spot of trouble in the 5th. He seems comfortable at Triple-A.

The fabled Daisuke Matsuzaka has lost more than a step, certainly a ghost of the guy who made a big difference to the Red Sox a few years ago. His return to the big leagues does not seem likely.

Newcomer Evan Frey got his first Bulls hit and seems to cover center field quite well. Cole Figueroa played shortstop for the first time (I think) this season.

Very small crowd at the game. No surprise given the weather we’ve been having lately. We were among the missing, watching the fans with their umbrellas from the comfort of our home. Reported misty rain throughout the game.

Outside the game —
  • Broadcaster Kinas said that Jason Bourgeois will be/has gone on the disabled list.
  • Pitcher Frank De Los Santos (remember him?) is off the disabled list and is pitching for the Florida Stone Crabs. Three innings so far, and has allowed only one hit. Looking good.
  • Weird schedule sends the Bulls to South Carolina tonight, back to Durham for two games, then off to Lawrenceville, Georgia.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Rain and Rosterification

DBAP, July 2, 3:30 pm
Game 84, July 1, 7 innings
Durham Bulls 1, Columbus Clippers 2

Game 85, July 1, 7 innings
Durham Bulls 5, Columbus Clippers 0

Season: 52-33; Home Stand 2-1
Box (1), Box (2), Herald-Sun

With the sight of the tarp on the field at 3 in the afternoon, might as well take a look at last night and at all the changes in the Bulls roster. Have to mention, however, that it could be Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching  for the Clippers tonight against one of the Bulls new guys, Merrill Kelly. Last time we saw Matuzaka in the DBAP he was on a rehab appearance pitching for the Pawtucket Red Sox, and the Bulls had Hideki Matsui here making a comeback run.

Mike Montgomery got in a “complete” game in his seven innings last night, but none of the Bulls were able to figure out the Clippers’ Danny Salazar. Salazar went 6⅓ innings before he faced any more than the minimum number of hitters. Good pitching and good defense (2 double plays, two very nice throws from the outfield cutting off advancing runners) helped.

In the second game, the Bulls going (yet again) with a committee of pitchers, went much better. Pitching was solid with the crew getting a rare shutout. Only 4 so far this year, the last back on April 29, but only 7 innings.

Shelley Duncan had a particularly impressive night, 2 for 3 and the only RBI in the first game and 3 for 3 with a RBI in the second game. Left field seems to agree with him.

Rosterification and more —
  • Alex Colome is back, but it appears the Rays broke him and he may be headed for the DL.
  • We have to mention the rare instance of WDBB being more or less right about something when, right after we published our analysis of Bulls pitching, Will Inman was released.
  • That helps make sense of the addition of RHP Ramon S. Ramirez to the team. The 31 year-old Ramirez certainly brings a lot of experience to the Bulls, but not quite sure what else. Stats.
  • Similarly, the Bulls desperately need an outfielder and in Evan Frey they seem to have acquired a player much like Rich Thompson. His advanced stats are not very promising, but we like speed and that appears to be his strength. We saw him pinch run in the first game and start in center field for the second game. Stats.
  • Ryan Roberts hit two home runs for the Rays last night and was optioned back to the Bulls. Hope he brings that bat with him.
  • J.D. Martin won the June version of the BCS/RPI award. (Click on the link. Not enough time to explain here.)
  • After the deluge, Bull City Summer had a chat with groundsman Scott Strickland.
  • Wonder if after all the frog-strangling rains PETA is going to take a second look at that award they gave the DBAP?
  • Speaking of food, the Durham Food Truck Fest coming on July 10 is one heck on an idea. May be forced to get out of my seat and take a stroll around the park.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Durham Bulls Pitching and Pitchers

Last night’s game got rained out and the double-header scheduled to start today at 5:30 does not look promising. Looking out my window some of the local critters are lining up two-by-two and marching off in the direction that guy down the block who’s been building that big boat …

The break gives me a chance to update some of my pitching/pitcher charts.

The Bulls pitching crew has been subject to considerable turmoil this year. An outrageous 42 of the roster transactions to date have involved pitchers (so far — the day is young). Nevertheless, when you look at the team over the last 15 games we have a nice downward trend in ERA (and won 9 of the 15). There is a spread between the starters and relievers, but it’s only about ⅓ run per game and almost entirely with the middle relief crew (and the Bulls have had to go with two “bullpen” games in the period).

Click on any of these to get a larger, more legible version.

It seems odd to have to warn about small sample size at this point in the baseball year, but here it is. Some of these guys really don't have much time with the Bulls. Every pitcher on this list that’s on the Tampa Bay 40-man has been with the Rays. One of them, Alexander Torres, is still there. Not sure when or if he’s coming back, but I left him on for the moment.

The ERAs below are pretty good, Lueke and Yates are exceptional and their combined 17 saves says a lot about why the Bulls have done well this year. Will Inman has had some physical problems, as has Mike Montgomery. Pretty sure that Montgomery is settling down. Not so sure about Inman. But very hard to tell.

The WHIPs of the crew are mostly pretty good as well. Obviously Liberatore and Inman are worrisome. A new guy,  C. J. Riefenhauser, just came up from Montgomery. He may balance things out. Not sure why either Inman or Liberatore didn’t go to Montgomery instead of Sandoval. Probably just another instance of my not understanding minor league contractual concerns very well.