Saturday, June 28, 2014

Split; Off to the Sox

Season: 45-38; Home Stand: 2-6
Wrap, Box, Indianapolis

Rehabbing Jeremy Hellickson extended his losing streak to four (although I’m not sure exactly why since he only allowed one run ...yet another scoring rule I don’t understand). But neither Jake Thompson nor Doug Mathis were exactly stellar since they gave up 5 earned runs between themselves. Doug Mathis does deserved some points for just getting through 4 innings leaving some flex in the bullpen for today’s game in Pawtucket. Mikie Mahtook’s home run came late, but it came. He remains the most reliable Bulls hitter.

Jeremy Moore delivered two perfect throws to the plate to prevent runs and two double plays show that it could have been worse.

Some (much) credit must go to Indianapolis' Casey Sadler, who pitched a fine game for the Indians.


The Bulls split a 4-game home series with the PawSox early in June. The Sox are doing pretty well in what is turning out to be the most competitive division in the IL. It looks like the Bulls have a slight edge in pitching and Merrill Kelly gets a start tonight ... a good thing. Should be a good series if the Bulls can get past knuckleballer Wright tonight.

Outside the game —
  • Leslie Anderson continues doing well for the league-leading Yomiuri Giants (Japan Central League. A slash line of .311/.367/.467 with 31 RBI looks very good. 
  • J.D. Martin is doing OK as a starter for the Samsung Lions in Korea.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Paywalls and Durham Bulls Fans

How much baseball information should we get for free?

That’s the question that comes to mind as the Herald-Sun went behind a paywall and Durham Bulls fans who don’t subscribe to the Herald-Sun lost what was essentially our only source of independent reportage.

Over the years that I’ve been doing this blog I have routinely linked to newspaper accounts of the games and other interesting (if not always relevant) baseball news. In practice that has meant primarily the Herald-Sun and, for a couple of years, Durham’s Independent Weekly. On rare occasions Raleigh’s News & Observer will have a reporter on the scene, but reportage on the Bulls outside of the Herald-Sun is cut and pasted from the Bulls’ press release. And that’s what the Herald-Sun does when the Bulls are on the road. To be fair, that’s also what the home town papers of all the Triple A teams seem to do. Some home town papers do considerably less than the Herald-Sun even when the teams are home.

This year, as far as I can tell, the only regular home game reportage has been the Herald-Sun. So the question is, for me, what is it worth? And what should I then provide to readers of this blog?

As blogs go, WDBB is a pretty modest enterprise. I don’t allow advertising primarily because it is usually ugly (and doesn’t really pay anything to speak of — but I could probably be bought). Nevertheless, in the last month WDBB has had readers from 42 states and 12 foreign countries. Mostly, mind you, visitsors come from North Carolina (59%), but more from Raleigh (21%) than Durham (18%). So, if I link to the Herald-Sun site, and assuming all the Durham folks reading WDBB already subscribe to the Herald-Sun, 82% of WDBB readers would have to pay to see it. That isn’t going to happen. They aren’t likely to pay and, unless something changes, I am not likely to link.

So, why don’t I just pay the $10 a month, and then tell everyone what the Herald-Sun said? That’s legal (maybe) and that’s what I’m thinking about doing. My preference, however, is to provide a link for every comment of fact that I put in the blog.

On the other hand, why doesn’t the Herald-Sun get its ad sales crew’s act together and figure out what to sell on specific pages of the website? For the Bulls stories you'd think Mellow Mushroom, Tyler’s Taproom and Tobacco Road would be interested. Or, for that matter, what about Durham Bulls ads?

Maybe $10 from a Durham Bulls nutcase like me will get them more than a Moe’s ad that targets Bulls fans on their way to-from the game.

As for the Bulls fans from around the country and the world that appear to be interested in the team, isn’t there something to sell them? How about prestige? Or pride in Durham?

I mentioned yesterday that I’d written the Herald-Sun, but today I see that even the “contact us” links are now on the other side of the paywall. I don’t expect an answer. More than that, putting their contact info on the other side of the paywall strikes me as near-suicidal for a news gathering organization. It’s the 21st century. Are they expecting their reporters to get their tips by telephone? A telephone number is on the home page. I dialed it. Got a robot.

I wonder if I could even buy a Herald-Sun at the ball park? Does anyone know? Is the print edition of the Herald-Sun available at a news stand anywhere around the DBAP?

This is a lengthy way of explaining why WDBB has stopped providing links to the Herald-Sun. They have a well-above average reporting crew and if you are a Herald-Sun subscriber I commend their work to you. Their coverage is surely better that the amateurish stuff we do here at WDBB. But it’s beginning to look like we are the only independent voice you’ve got — and that should really scare you.

Note: The Tampa Bay Times (née St. Petersburg Times) also has a paywall up, but they at least let you visit a few times a month for free. We don't link to them either.

More from Moore

Season: 45-37; Home Stand: 2-5
Wrap, Box

As we mentioned yesterday, the stats on the new Durham Bull Jeremy Moore weren’t all that promising, but it seems that he was injured at the end of spring training. Looking back, some of the bloggers were putting him in contention to stick with the Rays at the end of spring. He’s certainly making his mark. An RBI double in the 2nd inning and a beautiful grand slam in the 5th accounted for five of the Bulls’ runs in the game. So let’s welcome him to the team. And let’s not forget catcher Curt Casali, who had two RBIs, or Ray Olmedo, who had the other one. A good night for Bulls hitters.

As regular readers will know, we like Matt Andriese a lot and we were very pleased to see him come back from his absolutely awful start of a few days ago. Six strong innings, followed by some of Brandon Gomes’ best work since he re-joined the Bulls

And then there was Steve Geltz. We like him. We liked his work as a pitcher last year. After 50 games away from the team on a drug suspension we didn’t expect much, but he simply blew three batters away. His return creates a roster problem once Alex Colome is on his way back from the Rays after tonight’s game in Baltimore. Geltz sure made his statement that he belongs with the Bulls.

Cannot pass up the chance to point out the game's quirk. Bottom of the 7th, two outs, Ali Solis batting as DH. Solis hits a "towering" pop up over shortstop Robert Andino's head. Solis does what he's supposed to do, he runs it out. In fact, he keeps on going until he's halfway to second base. That tells you a bit about how "towering" the pop up was. And, you know where's this is going, Andino dropped the ball, picked it up, and began a run down of Solis, who was eventually tagged out. What coach has ever said, "Run it out, but wait on first base just in case he drops the ball?"

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Belnome Breaks Out; Bulls Break Streak

Season: 44-37; Home Stand: 1-5
Wrap, Box

At last! Boy that was some long 8-game losing streak and what better than for the Bulls most erratic pitcher, Nate Karns, to get the win and a Bulls struggling hitter, Vince Belnome, to get a home run, two doubles and an intentional walk (how’s that for regained respect)?

Was there a downside? Well, yes there was. I was unable to attend the game and only was able to listen to the last two innings. But that was my problem, not the Bulls.

After that awful slide, sure was nice to hear them celebrate a win. Fortunately for the Bulls, they are in the IL South and in spite of the long slide, they remain 4.5 games ahead in the division.

New guy Jeremy Moore was in the lineup. The last (and only) time we saw his name was during spring training when he hit a non-roster invitee list. His stats from Montgomery are nothing special and  yet he has both Triple A and major league experience. I did not hear the profile from Patrick Kinas, but I’m guessing that there are injury issues there. At any rate, in his first game he went 2 for 4 with a double and 2 RBI. That gives him great Durham Bulls stats. We Bulls fans have an outfielder who can hit. What more could we ask for?

Outside the game —
  • Alex Colome will put on a Rays uniform for a start against Baltimore Friday. Good luck. Except for his last game, he has done a stunning job with the Bulls since his return from suspension. That means Jeremy Hellickson will likely have another start with the Bulls as part of his rehab.
  • The Durham Herald-Sun newspaper has put itself behind a paywall ($10/month for digital subscribers), so we will no longer be providing links to their coverage. Too bad, because, unless I've been missing something all year, they were the only regular reporters with press box and media access to the team. At least they were only ones I’ve ever found since Adam Sobsey stopped writing for Indy Week. Doesn’t seem fair to our vast readership to quote or link to something they would have to pay to see. (Note: We’ve done the same for the Tampa Bay Times, which has also gone behind a paywall.) We’ve emailed the Herald-Sun. Will let you know if anything comes of it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nice Day Goes Bad

Season: 43-36; Home Stand: 4-0; Streak: 0-7
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The Bulls were ahead 3 to 1. Mike Montgomery was doing a stellar job on the mound. The offense was looking good. And it was a pleasant afternoon at the DBAP, the sort of day we love.

We were a bit puzzled when Montgomery left. And are now very concerned to learn that it was because of elbow discomfort (see the Herald-Sun link). Nevertheless, even after the Chiefs tied it up in the 6th we were still expecting the Bulls to pull it off.

Then came an ugly 8th. On our scoresheet we second-guessed Charlie Montoyo after the first batter doubled off of Brandon Gomes and the next batter, the best hitter in the International League, Steven Souza, was not given an intentional pass. But that’s not what Montoyo does. He’s only ordered one so far this year. Souza singled the runner to 3B and the Chiefs were off, eventually scoring four runs off of two Durham Bulls pitchers.

On the other hand, as much as it pains me to say so, the Syracuse Chiefs are clearly the best team in the IL today. They mopped the floor with the Bulls and the Bulls are a pretty decent team themselves. This will change, of course, depending on the whims of the baseball gods and the fortunes and management decisions of the parent teams. They’ve got talent and seem to be well-managed by former Montgomery Biscuits manager Billy Gardner. They have taken eight games from the Bulls this year. That has not been done in Bulls Triple A history, according to broadcaster Kinas. So, credit where credit is due. The Bulls will not see them again this year unless they both make it through the first round of the playoffs. Now that would be a rematch worth watching.


On their last road trip the Bulls split a four-game series with the Pittsburgh affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians. Plus, it happens that the Pirates are playing the Rays today as well. The Indians lead their division of the IL and also lead the Bulls in every category in this table (but not by much). The Bulls have their work cut out for them today, and for the rest of the week.

Cole Figueroa Called Up

Cole Figueroa is on his way back (already there?) to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Jerry Sands, who started the year with the Durham Bulls and was expected back in a few weeks, has hurt his wrist and will be going on the disabled list.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sad Six

Season: 43-35; Home Stand: 0-3; Streak: 0-6
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Rumor has it that Rays rehabber Jeremy Hellickson might be on his way back to the Rays after yesterday’s start. I hope so. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out. He’s 0-3 in three starts. In 10 innings he’s given up 26 hits and 12 earned runs, for an ERA of 10.8 (and an FIP of 3.50). To his credit, only 4 freebies (2 walks, 2 hit-by-pitch). [stats]

Is he the only reason the Bulls are losing? Well, it’s true that in the two games before mid-season the Bulls scored 21 runs. In the six games since mid-season, they have only scored 19 runs. Yesterday they didn’t score any. And he isn’t the only pitcher doing poorly. In that same six game stretch, Hellickson is only responsible for 8 runs. The other 50 (50!) are on other players, including the guys who committed 6 errors in those games.

Things will get better, but as Charlie Montoyo was quoted in today’s Herald-Sun, “We’re not playing very good. Bad baseball.”

Bad pitching isn’t helping. Updated from yesterday,

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Pretty in Pink?

Season: 43-34; Home Stand: 0-2; Streak: 0-5
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Syracuse

As spectacularly ugly as we thought the pink jerseys were (even if the cause is most definitely not), Bulls pitching in the 2nd inning last night was even more spectacularly ugly. Alex Colome looked a bit shaky in the first inning, starting out giving up a single and walk, but then a K had us thinking things were OK. A single did drive in a run before the inning was over, but Hak-Ju Lee’s baserunning put the Bulls back in the game. The game was 1-1 when the 2nd inning began. And then ...

Single, double, single, single, hit by pitch, double, K (yeah!), single, walk ... and six runs were in and Doug Mathis came on with two runners on base. A K, then a single, walk (pushing a run in), single, walk, single, and single before the last out and five more runs were in. That could be an historically bad inning for the Bulls, but it would be too painful to check and I’m not sure I’d know how anyhow. How bad was it? Suffice to say that, as the chart below shows, it pushed the season’s team ERA up by 0.15 points.

Usually in trying circumstances like these we find a way to blame the Rays for the Bulls troubles. Not last night.

We left.

Sad to say that Robby Price took one for the team in the 9th. Although apparently a very different personality, Mr. Price is becoming this year’s Craig Albernaz as the infielder pitches, plays outfield, and goes to "extended spring training" as roster changes require. He has become a particularly important Durham Bull.

Outside the game —

  • The Rays have a double-header coming up on Friday in Baltimore. Under a relatively new rule they can expand their roster by one player for the one day. In turn, that means that the Bulls can expect more pitching roster turmoil (see, we can blame something on the Rays after all). It might mean Hellickson will leave for Baltimore, but he will likely have to show significant improvement over his last two outings.

Bulls ERAs Soar
Only for masochists … click chart for larger image

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Stormy Night

Season: 43-33; Home Stand: 0-1; Streak: 0-4
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The Durham Bulls returned home to a field that looks as bad as I’ve ever seen it in my time going to the DBAP. Scott Strickland will surely have it in shape by the All-Star game, but (and this is coming from someone who has vast experience in killing grass and other forms of plant life) the turf has a long way to go. I did not get a chance to chat with him, and I’m sure he got tired of answering questions last night, but it’s ugly out there.

As was the pitching. Matt Andriese had his worst night of the year, only going four innings as he served up 6 runs (including 2 homers). When he led off the 5th inning by giving up two doubles, C.J. Riefenhauser came in to throw some gasoline on the fire. Not a good night for either pitcher.

The Bulls are cold. We can hope Mike Montgomery will help turn things around today.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Matchup: Durham Bulls v. Syracuse Chiefs

The Syracuse Chiefs are the Triple A team of the Washington Nationals. At 42-30, they lead the International League 6-team North Division by 2 games. [standings] If matched up across the divisions, Syracuse and Indianapolis would be tied and the Bulls would be a full game behind both teams.

These teams are very well-matched, but the Chiefs have a series edge since they won every game of a 4-game series in Syracuse in early May. They arrive from Norfolk on a 3-game winning streak. The Bulls are coming off a 3-game losing streak, a very long road trip, and a rare day off.

So this is a chance for the Bulls to show us what they’ve got. They should be able to beat these guys.

Outside the game —
  • Meanwhile, I love pointing out that the Durham Bulls manager, Charlie Montoyo, has been named manager of the International League’s All-Star Team. Congratulations. Well-deserved.
  • Brandon Guyer, who had been rehabbing with the Bulls while they were on the road, has been activated and Ray’s outfielder David DeJesus has been put on the DL with a broken hand. That  probably means that Jerry Sands is going to stay with the Rays a bit longer. Good for him, but it means that the Bulls are back to just two outfielders on the roster. Guyer started in Thursday night’s game against Houston.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bats Bash Bulls - Twice - Come on Home

Wrap, Box, Louisville Courier-Journal

If ever you wanted confirmation that Bulls fans and Rays management live in different universes, check out Hellickson’s and Maddon’s remarks here. After the Bulls put up a 3-spot for him, Hellickson gave up 7 runs and dug a hole the Bulls could not get out of.

Season: 43-32; Road Trip: 5-5
Wrap, Box, Louisville Courier-Journal

And then Nate Karns, who had not pitched in 10 days, for reasons I either missed or were not reported, did not seem to appreciate the rest, 8 runs in 3 innings did a bit of damage to his ERA. And then Merrill Kelly had a very rare bad outing.

All of which must have been frustrating for the hitters. They had one of their best days of the year: 14 hits, 4 doubles, 2 triples, 22 total bases, 8 runs, and still lost the game?

It was a long trip and Louisville is looking better than they have been all year. The Bulls get a day off and we get baseball back in Durham. Better new all around.

Outside the game —
  • Nice long story about reliever C. J. Riefenhauser in DNA of Sports.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bitten By the Bats

Season: 43-30; Road Trip: 5-3
Wrap, Box, Louisville Courier-Journal

Enny Romero has now had two very decent starts, only to end up with a loss and last night’s no-decision. He’s coming along very well. But C.J. Riefenhauser got tagged with a two-run homer in the 8th and that was enough to win.

Unfortunately, when the Bulls got runners in scoring position, they couldn’t get them home (they left 11 runners on base), so while they outperformed the Bats in most categories, they still lost the game.

Veteran Shelley Duncan, who played for the Durham Bulls last year was on the field in a Louisville Bats uniform, batting as DH. He had a key hit, RBI, and a walk. Duncan is one of those players that we like even when his numbers don’t quite support our enthusiasm. See our review of what he did for us last year.

In a feature mentioned at the link and re-printed in that beautiful book, Bull City Summer, Duncan refers to himself as a “hitter”, not a first baseman or a baseball player, just “hitter.” And that’s what he is. Very pleased to see him back in baseball (he was unsigned at the start of the season). Now, if he will just be quiet for another game or two till the Bulls get out of town.

Outside the game —
  • Jerry Sands is having a good time as a pinch-hitter with the Rays, even though he broke three bats in one AB in one game (but hit the winning RBI). Last night he had the winning home run. Sure wish he could make it back for the upcoming Home Run Derby. Dan Johnson, Shelley Duncan, Jerry Sands, and Wilson Betemit.  Could we get Chris Richard back to be the umpire? Now wouldn’t that be fun to watch?
  • Now there's a list for you? Who are the great Durham Bulls home run hitters — muscle, that would be on your Durham Bulls fantasy team? [maybe we should save that for an off-season exercise]
  • Also at Rays Index is an interesting speculation regarding the holes if the Rays decide to blow themselves up during or after this season. Where would the current Bulls roster fit if they did?

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Durham Bulls at Mid-Season

In Triple-A the teams only play 144 games. Last night’s 12-2 win over Louisville was a wonderful way to mark the middle of the season for the Durham Bulls. At 43-29 the Bulls have the best record in the International League, are on a 3-game winning streak, and lead the second place team in the South Division (Gwinnett) by 7½ games.

Plotted by games above/below .500, here’s what the South Division looks like. Note: click on any of the charts to get a larger view.

We like tracking runs scored minus runs allowed. It creates a graphic that we think tells us something about both pitching and hitting. This also looks nifty to we Bulls fans (as long as the trend (a moving average).

The pitching is, as would be expected, a big part of why the Bulls are where they are. This chart tracks the cumulative ERA of the starters and relievers over the last 15 games. The team ERA (3.23) is the second-best in the International League, but that ERA of the relievers has got to be admired as a major component of the Bulls’ success.

And then look at these WHIP (Walks, Hits, per Inning Pitched) numbers. Unlike the last chart which is plotting cumulative numbers across the season, this shows WHIP game-by-game. What really matters are the trend lines. And I have to say that the trend of the team staying just above 1 is very impressive.

The hitters are doing pretty darn good recently as well. This is a game by game plot of the team OPSs at each of the last 15 games. Very nice.

Since I have the data, I thought some folks might be interested in the equivalent Rays charts for at least their division of the AL and Runs Scored/Runs Allowed.

Here they are.

They are at just 70 games in a much longer season. But it sure looks like they will have done well — very well, in fact — to reach .500 by the end of the year.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Indy Win in 10

Wrap, Box
Wrap, Box

Must note that with rehabbing major leaguers sometimes you are helped and sometimes you are hurt. In this case, the Bulls weren’t hitting and Hellickson gave up three quick runs. Matt Andriese had a fine 5+ innings, though.

Season: 41-29; Road Trip: 3-2
Wrap, Box

That long string of zeroes up there, going back to the 3rd inning on Wednesday, is not a pretty sight. All praise to Mike Fontenot for the RBI that broke the drought.

Merrill Kelly came out of the bullpen for a start and did a great job fine, with no earned runs during his six innings. On the other hand, the Bulls had trouble stringing hits together until the 9th and, notably the 10th. I’m guessing that Kelly started simply because he had not pitched in a long while. If someone heard differently, please let us know.

I did catch the last few moments on MiLB-TV (audio stream not working for my computer last night). Pretty, pretty 10th inning double by Cole Figueroa won the game.

Outside the game —
  • One of our favorite guys, Brandon Guyer, is reported to be joining the Bulls as part of his rehab assignment. I’d guess that when he finishes his rehab he will be swapped out for Jerry Sands. Although I am sure Mr. Sands would rather be with the Rays, would be nice to have his bat back with the Bulls.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


You will not see a prettier play than this … I don't think Kevin Kiermaier will be back any time soon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Rosterification: Lueke, Lara, Solis, Acosta

As mentioned earlier today, as soon as the Bulls go on the road, the Rays usually start running Durham’s roster through a Cuisinart.
  • RHP Josh Lueke is officially on the roster and 
  • LHP Brulio Lara has been assigned to the Montgomery Biscuits.
  • A report out of St. Petersburg says that Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan is coming off the DL and Ali Solis will be assigned back to the Bulls. Solis only had 7 plate appearances in his time with the Rays and did not get a hit. Maybe next time.
  • Pure speculation on my part, but my guess would be that Mayo Acosta is headed back to Extended Spring Training. He’s got some fairly amazing defensive stats in his 6 games. In 9 steal attempts he’s thrown ‘em out 5 times for a 56% rate, and no passed balls.

Mini-Sweep in Norfolk

Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot

Mike Montgomery had another very solid day on the mound while Wilson Betemit and Mike Fontenot feasted on Norfolk pitching. Mikie Mahtook had a very rare 0-fer, but got a RBI sac fly.

Season: 40-27; Road Trip: 2-0
Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot

For the first two innings Alex Colome was looking a bit shaky. But from the 3rd through the 7th he was back on his game. This was his third start since coming back and he is making a solid claim for promotion.

Meanwhile we noticed a nifty bit of quirkiness in the 2nd inning (that also got Mr. Colome out of some trouble). With a runner on third base and 1 out a ground ball went out to Mike Fontenot at 2B. The runner at third broke for the plate and Fontenot’s throw to Mayo Acosta at home was perfect: 4-2, for out #2 and a runner on 1B. Two pitches later the runner broke for second and Acosta’s throw to Fontenot was in time: 2-4, out #3 on your scoresheet. What more could a baseball geek wish for?

Mikie Mahtook’s home run (his third) in the second inning tied it up. Justin Christian doubled and then scored when he stole third base and the catcher’s throw went sailing past the third baseman. The 8th — single, double, single — ended with the bases loaded and a tough moment for Belnome when he struck out, one of three on the evening. We are confident he’s going to break out, but it sure seems like he’s slipping back into the slump that began his season.

Check out the Virginian-Pilot story linked to above. Tides’ manager is very impressed with Bulls pitching.

Outside the game —
  • Former Bull Josh Lueke passed through waivers and is on his way back to the Bulls. His numbers last year with the Bulls were exceptional, with 17 saves and a stunningly low ERA of 0.63 over 57 innings. However, from a fan’s point of view he was a human rain delay. Since we frequently like to watch the 9th from the top of the Blue Monster, we sometimes felt we were never going to get back to our car. Still, we’d go home with a win. This year, he’s not having much success with the Rays (who is?).
  • Rehabbing former Bull Jeremy Hellickson is expected to show up in Indianapolis for a start maybe tomorrow. (Per broadcaster Kinas).
  • While listening Norfolk broadcasters, one of them went into a mild rant about the illegibility of the blue lettering on orange background of Bulls jerseys. Guess they were running out of things to say.

These are the best two teams in the International League. The Indians have won their last three, the Bulls have won their last two. The Indians have led the West Division from the very beginning of the season. Their superstar prospect Gregory Polanco just got called up, so we will have to see what difference that makes. Statistically the teams are very evenly matched in hitting, but with a slight ½ run difference in ERA.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Split; Nice Home Stand

Hak-Ju Lee turns a double play over Norfolk’s Francisco Peguero. Saturday, June 7, 2014.
Photo by Christine T. Nugyen, Durham Herald-Sun

Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Matt Andriese had a great day, while the quirky inning of the game was the Bulls 8th where they scored 2 runs without getting a ball out of the infield (3 errors by Norfolk).

Season: 38-27; Home Stand: 6-4
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

A pretty decent home stand, the longest of the year. Now the Bulls are off for their longest road trip of the year, 2 games in Norfolk and four each in Indianapolis and Louisville, followed by a day off. So we won’t be back to the DBAP for almost two weeks. Maybe, just maybe, the turf will get a chance to recover.

If it seems like I’m avoided talking about yesterday, I am.

Nate Karnes, acquired by the Rays as part of what seems like an aggressive approach to unloading competent catchers (Lobaton to Nationals in this case, but see also Giminez, Vogt, Navarro, Jaso, Albernaz, Rodriguez, Chirinos, Ashley), has actually been doing much better than his stats indicate. Four out of his last six games have been well-pitched no-decisions. But yesterday was awful.

Then Brulio Lara made it very much worse with a 4 walk, 4 run, 2/3 of an inning. I know that’s hard to do. Here’s how. You come into the game and strike out the first batter. Then you walk the next two. Get the third batter to fly out. Then walk the next two, bringing in a run. You leave the game with the bases loaded and your replacement (Doug Mathis) gives up a bases-clearing, 3-run double. That gave Lara an ERA for the game of 54.00!

About Mr. Lara: Nothing in his performance to date says that he is ready to pitch at Triple A level. Any talented left-hander will get his shot, but in 9 appearances, Lara has given up a run per inning pitched, has more walks than K’s (12 to 10) and has 3 losses and a blown save. He’s been with the Bulls for almost a month now. Seems like it’s time for the Rays to consider he get some more time at a different level.

Doug Mathis is back from his Bulls-pitcher-in-waiting position (last appearance May 27). I can’t imagine how he keeps himself in condition to play, but he’s done OK (not counting the three runners he inherited and let score yesterday) and has been a help to the Bulls. I take back critical things I’ve been thinking, and maybe saying, about him.

Hitters? Cold, cold, cold although Jayson Nix did hit a homer in the 9th. In fact — game trivia alert — he got 7 of the Bulls 11 total bases last night.

Outside the game —
  • More background on Kirby Yates. The Rays would have done well to give him a shot last night. Instead, they went with Grant Balfour who gave up a bunch of runs to lose the game against the Mariners in the 9th.
  • The Hak-Ju Lee photo from Saturday’s game certainly shows that he is back to form on the field. I am contually amazed at an athlete’s selective amnesia. Ordinary human beings would likely never put themselves back into situations that led to a year’s worth of trial and pain. But there he is. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Kirby Yates to Tampa Bay Rays

Kirby Yates, he of the spectacular stats (16 saves, 0.36 ERA)  is off to St. Petersburg. 

Good for him. 

One more hole in the Durham Bulls All-Star squad, but he has worked so hard for the chance. 

Good luck. 

Durham Bulls Hitters at 60

Actually 62 games into the season, but the most games by any single Bull is 55 (Justin Christian). Also, these numbers do not include the stats from the June 6 game against the Pawtcket Red Sox. Probably a good thing.

The mid-season is upon us, only 10 games away.

To set the stage, here are the basics about this table:

This table keys to two relatively new stats that we like a lot. The first is Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) and the second is Weighted Runs Above Average (wRAA). Think of them as two measures of overall offensive contribution to the team. The table is sorted by wOBA, the chart is sorted by wRAA. Players with * are on the Rays 40-man roster. The players who are struck through are currently with the Rays, but we expect at least two of them back (Solis and Sands). Those two Bulls have been added to the Rays' 40-man. Congrats to them both.

Comparing this table to the one from mid-May two tables what jumps out is Mikie Mahtook’s improvement from .363 to .406. Vince Belnome’s uptick from .310 to .330 is welcome. Hak-Ju Lee improved from .274 to .285, but he has a long way to go in his hitting. Worrisome are the slight drops in the numbers of Wilson Betemit, Mike Fontenot, and Cole Figueroa (although Figueroa spent several days with the Rays over this period). A pleasant surprise are Robby Price’s numbers. For a guy who keeps getting added to/dropped off the roster, he’s doing very well.

Mikie Mahtook2452227.330.904.40613.7
Curt Casali252080.299.840.3853.5
*Kevin Kiermaier2434143.305.823.3724.9
*Jerry Sands2654219.268.825.3727.4
Robby Price262897.282.782.3703.2
*Cole Figueroa2738166.277.801.3664.9
Justin Christian3455235.275.778.3554.9
Mike Fontenot3450205.275.725.3371.5
*Vince Belnome2653232.225.705.3300.4
Wilson Betemit3251224.223.717.324-0.7
Jayson Nix311772.217.691.320-0.4
Ray Olmedo3347191.250.613.290-5.6
*Hak-Ju Lee2336142.220.591.285-4.7
*Ali Solis2629109.186.458.212-9.8

Source: FanGraphs

click on chart for larger image

Pitiful; Let's Worry About Norfolk

Season: 37-26; Home Stand: 5-3
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Last night was the worst offensive performance by the Bulls this year. Just three hits (two singles and a double) and no walks added up to a team OPS of a sorrowful .233.

Meanwhile the erratic Enny Romero gave up 6 runs in 3 innings, which could not be overcome. Nevertheless, it was an improvement over his start on May 27 when he gave up 8 runs in 1⅔ innings. Merrill Kelly had six innings in relief (!), and did just fine.


The Tides are back. The Bulls last played them on April 21, in Norfolk. The Baltimore Orioles Triple-A franchise recently ran off six wins in a row, but they lost last night to the RailRaiders to break the string.

What’s worth noticing in the table is that they lead the Bulls in hitting both average and OPS. To win the Bulls are going to have to go after their weakness, their pitching, which shows up in their ERA and the distorted Pythagorean Expectation.

Friday, June 6, 2014

DPs and Shutout #7

Jayson Nix gets to third base, beneath PawSox's Garin Cacchini
Photo by Bernard Thomas, Durham Herald-Sun

Season: 37-25; Home Stand: 5-2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Two runs in the 8th won the game, but let’s point out the quirky stuff before getting to that. Three double plays helped keep young Mr. Alex Colome out of trouble last night. In fact, they kept any PawSox runner from even getting to or beyond second base until the 9th inning.

Look a bit more closely and you discover that they were three completely different kinds of double plays. And that is the sort of thing we love here.

In the 1st the DP was a classic 6-4-3,  ground ball to shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, toss to Mike Fontenot covering second, and a nice throw to Wilson Betemit on first to wrap it up. Nice start to the inning.

Then in the next inning, with one out and a PawSox runner on first base, the batter struck out and catcher Mayo Acosta (nice to see him in a game, by the way) threw out the runner attempting a steal. K, 2-4 on the scoresheet.

The last DP came in the 6th when the PawSox again had one out and a runner on first. This time the batter hit a line drive to right field, Justin Christian caught it and threw to 1B Wilson Betemit to double off the runner. 9, 9-3 on the scoresheet.

So, if you now check out the box score you will see that Colome only let 5 guys on base in the game (4 singles and a walk), and of those 3 were ensnared in double plays. That is a terrific 8 innings of baseball.

Nevertheless, picking up the Bulls seventh shutout was not entirely easy. First they had to get some runs across and they never did solve knuckleballing PawSoxer Steven Wright. They did load the bases in the 3rd with none out, but could not score. They had to wait until they could deal with a more conventional guy in the 8th to get some runs across. In that inning they loaded the bases with one out. and a ground ball infield single by Justin Christian scored Hak-Ju Lee and a sac fly by Vince Belnome brought Mikie Mahtook home.

Closer Kirby Yates gave us a thrill in the 9th by serving up a leadoff triple in the 9th, then walking the fastest guy on the PawSox team, Mookie Betts. Yates was thereby doing his part for all of our cardio-vascular systems (I was watching from the top of the Monster by then). Coach Neil Allen came out for a talk (wonder what they say when they get out there?). Yates got the next three batters and all was right in the world.

Outside the game —
  • Kevin Kiermaier hit a home run for the Tampa Bay Rays and Jerry Sands got his first major league hit, an RBI single last night. The Rays, unfortunately, lost, and have now dropped 10 in a row.
  • Speaking of Kiermaier, he gets some love from The Process Report and we begin to wonder what will happen when Brandon Guyer and Wil Myers come off the DL. Will Kiermaier come back for more development (Sands will surely be back) or will he stay

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bulls Bats Get Iced

Season: 35-24; Home Stand: 3-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Noise Nation/Horn & Bell

This time the IronPig’s pitching completely dominated Bulls hitters. Not their worst of the year — that would be the three-hit outing over at Charlotte on April 25 — but close. And Mikie Mahtook got three of the 4 hits. Curt Casali got the other. The result was the Bulls’ third shutout of the year.

Matt Andriese, the pitcher we like a lot, kept the ‘Pigs scoreless, but Braulio Lara had an awful ⅓ of an inning in which the Lehigh Valley folks got all their runs. Mr. Lara begins to worry me. He’s been with the Bulls for just a couple of weeks (first appearance May 10), but does not seem to be very effective, yet.

Outside the game —
  • Leslie Anderson has an OPS of 1.015 with 31 RBI in 37 games with the Yomiuri Giants. (Japan) [stats]
  • J.D. Martin is 3-2 on 7 starts with a 5.53 ERA with the Samsung Lions (Korea) [stats]
  • Who are those guys? They two of WDBB's favorite players from 2013. Loved watching both of them play the game. 

Thought I'd pull up this picture. This is the running ERA of the relievers and starters. The Bulls went 10-5 over the 15 games shown (3 rotations), so it looks like the starting crew is steadily improving. Relievers are doing just fine, just not as great as they were.


The Pawtucket Red Sox come to town today. They are one of the traditional powers in the International League (the Bulls played them for the championship last year). So far, they have not found their stride. They are last in the IL North, 3-7 in their last 10, and just dropped three games over in Norfolk. On the other hand, being last in the IL North does not mean you're out of the race. Those six teams are only a few games apart from top to bottom. [standings] PawSox infielder veteran Ryan Roberts spent some time with the Bulls last year. He was essentially an infielder-in-waiting for the Rays and did not add much value in his 37 games with the Bulls.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Strike 'Em Out; Throw 'Em Out

Season: 35-23; Home Stand: 3-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The thrill of the game (for me, at least) came on the very last play(s). Jeff Beliveau on the mound in the 9th inning (he of the 0.00 ERA). Runner on 1B by way of a lead-off walk. But Mr. Beliveau gets to two outs an out (fly ball to left field) and up to 3-2 on the batter. Runner goes. Batter strikes out looking. Catcher Curt Casali pegs out the runner. Games ends on a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play that was a kick. Beliveau’s ERA still 0.00 and he now has 6 saves.

Meanwhile, earlier in the game, Enny Romero had his best start is a very long time. Just one earned run over 6⅔ innings. Vast improvement over his last game, actually over his last seven games. And then Brandon Gomes had a nice outing of four K’s after giving up a hit. He’s a real asset to the Bulls, but you have to think he won’t be with the team all that long.

I made a note to myself that the IronPigs can’t seem to sort out their middle infield crew, and yet they also kept the ‘Pigs in the game with two very timely double plays. So could be just a matter of the manager making do with a short roster.

All the Bulls' scoring came in the 2nd, when they put up four runs on a walk, single, and two doubles.

The oddity of the game was seeing infielder Jason Nix at 1B and Wilson Betemit playing 3B. There is no reference to Nix ever playing 1B in his minor or major league career. But he did a decent job. Wonder where he got his glove?

For Betemit, however, he just hasn’t played much 3B for the Bulls. He’s played that position quite a bit over the years and looked just fine at it yesterday.

Outside the game —

  • Meanwhile the Gwinnett Braves lost again. The Bulls are now 12 games above .500 (the best so far this year) and 4.5 games ahead of the Braves in the standings.
  • The Rays continue their downward slide. Unfortunately the three most recent additions from the Bulls — Sands, Kiermaier, and Solis — have not been able to help very much. Sands and Kiermaier were hitless yesterday and Solis did not play (although he was report to be OK after the boink into his nose on Saturday.
  • I think I mentioned that the Rays found a place on their 40-man by putting infielder Tim Beckham on the 60-day Disabled List. At one point we were worried that the middle infield could get a bit crowded with Fontenot, Olmedo, Nix, Lee, and Price leaving little room for Beckham. But that problem has been put off for a while.
  • A note yesterday pointed out that the 11 callups so far this year match the total number of callups for all of last year.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang

Season: 34-23; Home Stand: 2-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

I could not go to the game last night. I didn’t even get to my radio until the bottom of the 7th inning where I learned that, contrary to my expectation, Alex Colome had done just fine before handing the game off to Merrill Kelly. The Bulls were ahead 3-0 and I figured that since Kelly was in things were OK.

More than OK. By the end of the inning the Bulls picked up 6 more runs on four singles, a double, a Jerry Sands home run, and an IronPig fielding error. Justin Christian homered for the 10th run of the game in the 8th inning.

Bulls pitchers got their 6th shutout of the season. Bulls hitters created the biggest win margin of the year. Gwinnett lost, opening up a 3½ game spread. The Bulls are now 11 games over .500, their best mark of the year. Things are right with the world.

Meanwhile, I have a question for those who listened/watched the game: Why was Vince Belnome playing left field? I’m guessing that it was Mikie Mahtook’s day off and that Charlie Montoyo wanted to keep Belnome's bat in the lineup instead of Price or Nix. But that didn’t work since he was the only Bull not to get on base last night.

About Alex Colome. I assume that readers of this blog know all about the drug suspension. If not, the Herald-Sun story summarizes it. I’m not a very tolerant guy and I find it hard to forgive. Nevertheless, he obviously spent his time away from the game working on his craft, and that’s good for him and for the Bulls. He certainly performed far above my expectations last night.

Cole Figueroa started at 3B. Welcome back.

Outside the game —
  • The Rays lost to the Red Sox, again, last night. Their only run was a distinctly weird inside-the-park home run by Kevin Kiermaier. Kiermaier started in right field in the place of injured former Bull Wil Myer.
  • In that same game Ali Solis got his first major league start. While in his first AB in the 3rd a pitch went into the dirt, bounced off the catcher’s shin guard, and hit him in the nose. He was taken out of the game. Reports are that his nose is not broken.