Sunday, August 31, 2014

Reset! 3:30 at the DBAP!

After winning three in a row, the Bulls were behind 4-1 last night at Harbor Park in Norfolk, Virginia. The lights in right field had been a problem that was just getting worse. The umps suspended the game in the 7th inning. In a variant of the timelessness of baseball, we are about to be treated to skip in space and time.

At 3:30 pm today, the umpires are going to reset the stage the way it was last night at 9:34. It was the top of the 7th inning. Jeremy Moore had drawn a walk. Wilson Betemit hit a fly ball to right field that was caught for the first out, but Ali Solis reached 1st base on a fielding error by the same right fielder, who may have lost the ball in the darkness. Ray Olmedo was at bat.

That’s how the game will resume. The gameday link will show you the setup as it stood last night. My guess is that Charlie will stick with the lineup except bringing someone in to replace Matt Andriese, who might not have started the 7th anyhow (6 innings, 76 pitches).

Here’s our problem: Do we show up for the 3:30 game, watch the final innings, and then hang out until 5 o’clock for the second game? Or do we listen to the first game and keep with the schedule we already had in mind.

Your/our choice. Should be fun in any circumstance. Today and tomorrow are the last regular season games of the year.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Good-bye to Gwinnett

Wrap, Box

Season: 71-67; Trip: 0-2; Games Left in Season: 6
Wrap, Box, Gwinnett Daily Post

If this sort of play continues, it’s going to be a really short post-season for the Durham Bulls. Consider their performance against the second-worst team in the International League these last two days, a team playing just to stay out of the cellar.

Over those two games in Lawrenceville, the Bulls scored just two runs (both on home runs) on 8 hits (all singles except for the two homers), drew only 5 walks, and struck out 23 times. Two Bulls hitters (Nick Franklin and Hak-Ju Lee) are hovering around the Mendoza line (.200), one is firmly below it (Acosta, .128). Meanwhile Bulls' pitching gave up 15 runs on 27 hits, aided and abetted by five walks, one HBP, and 4 errors. Four of the 15 runs were unearned.

Too much champagne? Maybe. From the video, they had a really good time Monday night.

After last night's game, they were off for a long bus ride to Norfolk. They play four games over the next three days before coming back to Durham.

Outside the Game —

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Champs of the South!

Season: 71-65; Home Stand: 6-4; Home Games Remaining: 2
Wrap, Box

With this win the Durham Bulls cannot be caught. They are the Champions of the International League South Division! They play the winner of the IL West Division in a best-of-five series beginning 3 September. The Wild Card slots remains unsettled. It looks like Columbus in the West and Syracuse in the North.

This was a very satisfying win for the fans (mostly) and for the Bull (surely). We got to see the Bulls clinch the South Division title of the International League for the 7th time in 8 years. A very big deal.

In Triple-A baseball bragging rights rightfully go to the teams who win the division titles. September is a crap shoot. In September the majors can expand their roster to include all the players on their 40 man roster and those players come from their Triple-A teams. Every team takes a different approach to the call-ups. Some bring up almost all of the roster, others are very selective. That means that the team that’s in the playoffs may not be anything like the team that got them to the playoffs.

How did the Bulls get there this year? Mostly through good pitching and especially good relief pitching. Last night was textbook for 2014. Matt Andriese had a decent enough 5⅔ innings, albeit with several worrisome long outs for a pitcher who normally induces a lot of grounders. Then Steve Geltz and Josh Lueke did not allow a single base runner for the next 3⅓.

Hitting over the year, was not so much of a factor. But last night key hits by Justin Christian and Cole Figueroa and smart base-running Hak-Ju Lee got the first two runs in. In the 6th a double by Mike Fontenot and a single by Cole Figueroa put Fontenot on 3B where he scored on a Mikie Mahtook ground out. That put the Bulls ahead, although Fontenot and Figueroa set the table for another Mahtook RBI in the 8th that made things a bit more comfortable.


I was disappointed that the Bulls chose to celebrate their championship by rushing off the field, not even bothering to acknowledge the fans who were also cheering. Sure it was a small Monday crowd, but the team did the same thing last year. That annoyed me then, it annoyed me last night.

That rush from the field to me just shows how wide the gulf is between those who play baseball and those who watch the game. You will note that all the photos of recent celebrations, including yesterday’s, are taken inside the clubhouse. The 500,000 folks who came to Bulls games this year just don’t seem to count. And maybe we don’t. Nevertheless, I think that at least a modest effort to share the celebration would be appropriate.

In the meantime, let’s celebrate among ourselves.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Nice Win; Nice Day at the Park

Season: 70-65; Home Stand: 5-4; Home Games Remaining: 3
Wrap, Box

Seems like a very long time since we were at the DBAP. The Bulls are still pitching well, but hitting remains below average, but usually enough to win a game. Also on a slightly upward trend.

Last evening the pitching was not good enough to keep runners off the bases — Gwinnett did get 10 hits and 4 walks — but the pitching was good enough to strand 12 Braves runners.

Enny Romero’s last couple of outings have been impressive. No doubt the young man can throw hard. 96 and 97 mph readings were typical for the night. He was certainly helped by some smart baseball from Nick Franklin and Cole Figueroa keeping runners from scoring.

Hak-Ju Lee’s triple in the 5th was the big hit. And it was a huge thrill for the fans. Sunday’s are “Kids Run the Bases” games and often enough the place is seething with folks not paying particular attention. But for that one moment they were. Everyone came to their feet to watch the hit go into the right field corner and see Lee move around the bases.

Not much hope that Lee will see a big improvement in his performance this year. But maybe this is a good sign going into the playoffs?

Adam Liberatore came on to close out the game, not his typical role, and gave up a home run. That moment just highlights how important he’s been this year. It was the first home run he’s given up this season (and he only gave up 1 last year). In 51 appearances and 62 innings he’s got stunning numbers: ERA - 1.74; WHIP: 0.94(!); FIP: 1.43. Pitches per out a mere 5.03. And he’s clearly (until recently) Charlie’s premier fireman. Over the year he has come in the game with a total of 27 runners on base, far more than any other Bulls reliever. Only 3 have scored. Best of all, from a Bulls fan point of view, he isn’t on the 40-man. However, after these last two years it seems inevitable that he will be, but let’s hope not until after the playoffs. By the way, he got a save.

Outside the game —

Just in case you missed them, several roster moves while I was up in the mountains.
  • Brandon Gomes came back from Tampa Bay
  • Vince Belnome came back from Tampa Bay
  • Wil Myers finished his rehab and returned to Tampa Bay
  • RHP Jake Thompson was put on the temporarily inactive list
  • RHP Doug Mathis went on the Disable List
  • Reports have Tampa Bay catcher Ryan Hanigan and outfielder David DeJesus rehabbing elsewhere in the Rays system. Just how their progress might affect the Bulls is hard to predict. The Rays might, however, try to stretch things out to September so they don’t really have to do anything at all. 
  • We're still keeping track of the Rays' trek to .500 here.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tampa Bay Rays Reach .500

In mid-June the Tampa Bay Rays were 18 games below .500 and I made the comment that they would be doing well if they could get up to .500 by the end of the season. In mid-July I even created a chart (of course I did) that plotted a path to .500 and noted that they were doing a bit better than could be expected.

Well, yesterday they reached .500 at game #122 on the season, very likely breaking all sorts of records. So, it’s only fair that we update our chart.

Congratulations Tampa Bay!

click chart to enlarge
Update: 24 August

Back from our travels. Seems only fair to take a look at what happened while we were away.

24 August 2014

Update: 27 August

Drifting back downwards. Will they get back by the end of the year?

26 August 2014
Update: 1 September

Sliding down to the path. Can they stay on it?

31 August
Update: 11 September
Not looking good.

10 September

A last update: 29 September
Could not get back on track.

28 September

11 Innings! 19 K's! Shutout 13! 1-0 Walkoff Win!

Season: 66-61; Home Stand: 1-0
Wrap, Box

So, let’s imagine that you are parents and you know that fireworks after a Durham Bulls game is a wonderful show. So there you are with your kids, who aren’t exactly baseball fans. They came for the fireworks. The game’s been going on for 4 hours! The Bulls have burned through four pitchers and the Knights have gone through five of them. The Bulls, in fact, had a combined no-hitter going through the first 8 innings. You might be enthralled with the inch-by-inch progress, but I can tell your kids ain’t. Some are asleep. Some are bouncing around like sugar-addicts seeking yet another fix.

Then in the top of the 11th new guy Cory Burns gives up a one-out double. Charlie Montoyo orders a rare, very rare, intentional walk. It’s only the second intentional walk he’s called for the entire year. Burns K’s the next batter, making it 18 Ks on the night for Durham pitching. But then he walks the next batter and that loads the bases. Things are not looking good for the Bulls, but Mr. Burns strikes out Knights shortstop Carlos Sanchez and the Bulls are out of the inning.

By this time (bottom of the 11th) the Bulls have not a single position player left on the bench. They started out with Hak-Ju Lee, Wilson Betemit, Jeremy Moore, and Mayo Acosta there. By the top of the 11th they are all in or have made an appearance in, the game. Tim Beckham leads off with a single. Mike Fontenot sacrifices him to second base and Mayo Acosta, hitting something like .110 on the season comes to bat. Even with that poor history, we fans know what could happen.

Meanwhile, the kids are wondering if they are ever going to get around to fireworks. Some moms are seriously questioning their own and their husbands' sanity. Why are we still here?

Well, here’s why. Mayo Acosta hits a double and the Bulls get their very first walk-off in a very long time. Bulls pitching has held off the best hitting team in the IL to just four hits.

All is right with the world.

Cue the fireworks.

Outside the game —
  • Brandon Gomes has been optioned back to the Bulls. Look for roster changes.
  • Update: Vince Belnome has been called up (16 Aug)
Note: WDBB is leaving town for a week. Not sure if we’ll be able to connect reliably from up Brasstown way. Maybe. Enjoy the games. We’ll be back.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Last Stand in the North Successful

Season: 65-61; Trip: 2-3
Wrap, Box, Democrat & Chronicle

For their last game in the North in the regular season, the Bulls had some fine pitching and a hit fest — 16, including two doubles and two home runs. Merrill Kelly, who wakes up each morning wondering whether he’s going to be a starter or a reliever, started and led the shutout allowing just two hits.

Hak-Ju Lee, who is having a generally awful season (including two E’s last night) hit a home run in his first at bat to lead things off for the Bulls. That helped as the Bulls had trouble pushing runs across until the 8th. Still, they were seeing the ball well and putting a lot of guys on base.

Mike Fontenot’s last several days have been terrific. Last night he went 4 for 6, as did Mikie Mahtook. Ray Olmedo only went 3 for 4, but drew two walks and scored three runs. Tim Beckham’s return remains strong. He was 1 for 5 last night.

Outside the game —
  • Justin Christian’s punishment of a three-game suspension for threatening the pitcher that hit him seems a bit harsh . (He made a few steps toward the pitcher with the bat still in his hand. I saw it. He was carrying the bat in the middle, at the balance point. Not in a striking pose. What was he supposed to do? Throw the bat away and then come after the guy who’d just hit him? No doubt, however, that he was really upset. As was Charlie Montoyo.) The punishment extends to the entire team. The Bulls are not allowed to replace him, so they will be a position player short for the next two games. Expect to see infielders in the outfield. At least the Bulls will be at home with the short left field wall. Christian’s right hand bat will be missed, though.
  • I missed any update there might have been regarding Wil Myers. If he’s still with the team, that will help fill the gap.
  • Meanwhile, that was the last out-of-division game of the year for the Bulls. And they will not be back in the North unless they 1) win the South Division and 2) win the first round of the playoffs against the West champion.
  • If I’ve counted right, the Bulls have 12 home games and 5 road games left, all against South Division teams.
  • Ice Bucket Challenge. I don’t know if this is a local or national challenge, but all sorts of local leaders and celebrities are participating in an “ice bucket challenge”, which amounts to standing in front of a camera and dumping a bucket of ice water over your head — all in a good cause — ALS treatment and research. All the local mayors seem to have joined in. Not to be outdone, Wool E. Bull, General Manager Mike Birling, and a cast of ... a lot ... have joined in.
  • Note for twitteristas: See the hashtag #keepthecup that is out there. Good idea.
  • Over at Rays Colored Glasses Robbie Knopf speculates on where Tim Beckham might fit in the Rays situation next year.

The Bulls come home well ahead of anyone else in the South Division, but stuck just a few games above .500.

Click on chart for larger view

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Split; Roster Turmoil

Season: 64-61; Trip: 1-3
Wrap, Box 1, Box 2, Democrat & Chronicle

Lots of transactions and player shuffling over the last couple of days. But first these two screwy, and long, games.

The first one was a resumption of Tuesday’s game when the rains came down and the game was stopped after the second inning. That meant the Bulls came into the night to play their fourth double header in a week. That’s a lot of baseball and a lot of turmoil. Then, to top if off, the Bulls blew a 3 run lead and the game dragged on into the 11th inning before Mike Fontenot doubled and Vince Belnome went all the way from first base to home. Vince is not the quickest guy on the Bulls, but by the time he rounded third he had worked up a real head of team. Not real sure Charlie Montoyo could have stopped him. But he didn't try. He was waving his arms like a berserk windmill. Nevertheless, the Bulls had 15 hits over two nights and certainly one of their best hitting games in a long while.

Speaking of Charlie, he got tossed a few minutes later after Justin Christian got hit on the third inside pitch of his at bat. Very ugly words exchanged, most notably between Christian and a Red Wings fan whom the umps didn’t notice that Christian was inviting down into the dugout.

Speaking of fans, I gave up around the 4th inning of the second game, near midnight. I could see at least two, maybe three, fans left in the stadium. Gotta admit that 16 innings of baseball, even if you’re winning the second game, is a bit much.

Is Wil Myers to become a base stealer, or just having fun? He stole two in the first game (didn’t play in the second one). Noticed that in addition to his major league helmet, he’s in the long trousers worn by most, but not all, the Rays.

Players moving around —
  • Let’s start with Tim Beckham. He was an important part of last year’s championship team. He started out at 2B, then played most of the rest of the year at shortstop after Hak-Ju Lee’s injury. He was in 122 games last year and had excellent numbers. Plus, he did OK in a September callup. He ripped up his knee in training over the winter and has finally made his way back. His opening night at second base was pretty darn good, 4 for 6 with 3 runs scored, and an RBI. Playing second base.
  • Also moving onto the roster was Cory Burns a right-handed reliever, up from the Rays AA team, the Montgomery Biscuits. Burns has a bunch of Triple-A experience. [stats] He’s been doing just fine as a short reliever in Montgomery. The question might be how come he was there in the first place. Burns came on for 2+ innings in the second game, gave of three hits, but no runs and K’d two batters.
  • Moving off the roster was Robby Price and Doug Mathis, both to the Hudson Valley roster, meaning that they can’t play in a Bulls uniform, but they are still traveling with the squad.
  • Then Brandon Gomes was called to the Rays (and he appeared last night for two scoreless innings to close out the Rays/Rangers game).
  • And Cole Figueroa is coming back. Mr. Figueroa is one of my favorite players and as much as I have hoped that he’s enjoyed bringing home the huge major league money (compared to Triple A money), I have worried about his lack of playing time with the Rays. He’s mostly been on the bench since his last callup. He does join the crowd of infielders on the Bulls roster. The Bulls now have six ballplayers who range from pretty good to excellent middle infielders — Figueroa, Fontenot, Franklin, Lee, Olmedo, and Beckham, and that doesn’t count Wilson Betemit who is a decent third baseman, and Robby Price who just went off the roster. What’s happening is that some of them are spending time in the outfield (Ray Olmedo was in left field for the first game last night). 
  • At any rate, I’m happy to see Cole Figueroa and Tim Beckham back. I’d guess that Charlie’s going to have a tough time filling out a lineup. The odd man out, from a performance perspective, is young Hak-Ju Lee. He’s having a terrible year. Would it help for him to spend some time in Montgomery? Don’t know. What’s obvious from the stands is that he’s not hitting well at all and that he’s using is arm to compensate for not very good footwork in the field.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bulls Lose Both; Montgomery?

Season: 63-60; Road: 0-2
Wrap, Box 1, Box 2, Democrat & Chronicle, MiLB

The headline for these two games are the Bulls being no-hit in a game that was played out on two different days (24 July and 11 August) and two different places (Durham and Rochester); and the grand slam by rehabbing Wil Myers. I lean toward the Democrat & Chronicle as the best story on the no-hitter. I'll let the Rays bloggers wax poetic over Mr. Myers. Don't get me wrong, it was a pretty shot. Just wish a few more Bulls could get on base and score.

We are obsessed with the fact that the last time the Bulls were 3 games over .500 was back on April 11, 9 games into the season. At that moment they were 6-3 and climbing upwards, never to look back — until now.

While worrying about that, let me ask the question: What happened to Mike Montgomery? He was to be the star of the Durham Bulls pitching staff this year. He certainly started out that way with 7 wins in 14 appearances, including a no-hitter. But beginning in late June/early July things haven’t looked all that good. In seven appearances, five have been very weak, including 4 losses, two no-decisions, and only one win. In those seven starts he’s only gone a total of 26.2 innings, and has given up 21 runs. Plus, he’s been working really hard for those outs. Last night, for example, it took him 73 pitches to get through just 2⅔ innings. At a far-distant guess there is something afoot. We noted a couple of long breaks back in June where he only made two starts in the second half of the month (6/14, 6/23, 7/5).

He’s up to almost 1,800 pitches this year, slightly below average for this year’s starting pitchers, but that’s a near-pointless metric in the minor leagues. I would not be surprised to see him shut down again sooner rather than later. Have to think that something’s not quite right.

Meanwhile, Bulls hitting has not improved. Two more games since yesterday’s chart (4 games in two days has to be some kind of record as well). I had to change the scale on the left of the chart since the Bulls had not had a game this year where they were below .200.

click on chart for larger view

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bulls Manage (Just Barely) a Split

Season: 63-58; Home Stand: 2-3; Home Games Remaining: 12
Wrap, Box 1, Box 2

These two games were characterized by decent Bulls pitching, but absolutely pitiful Bulls hitting. Yes, some can be attributed to the Bisons’ pitching crew but just five hits over two (7 inning) games and only one double, is simply not very good. Even more worrisome, it appears to be part of a trend. As the chart below shows, not once in the home stand did the Bulls hit above average on the OPS stat. The two games they did win were 1-0 shutouts. Another troublesome stat: the Bulls struck out 44 times over the last five games and only drew 8 walks, a hint of some collective anxiousness. Seems like hitting coach Dave Myers has some work to do.

Will having Wil Myers around for a while matter? Who knows? He does get to wear the shiny major league batting helmet instead of the toadstool that minor leaguers have to wear. There’s an oddity to add to the concussion controversy. In baseball it’s the players who insist on inviting concussion, apparently because the safer helmets required of minor leaguers just don’t look right on those studly guys.

But I digress. Myers did get one of the two hits in game one as DH and will apparently be “reporting” to the Bulls in Rochester. Not sure what that means.

Nate Karns looked OK in game 1. With a little run support he might have done better. In game 2, Alex Colome actually looked to be struggling, but he was whistling in his fast ball and, mostly, keeping it under control.

Outside the game —
  • Remember a couple of weeks ago when we huddled in the stands and watched the rain come down on a fairly dull game? It was on 24 July in a game against the Rochester Red Wings and Red Wings had scored just one run on 5 hits in 4 innings against Alex Colome. The Bulls were hitless over three innings. Jayson Nix was in the lineup and had been in the middle of a double play. Box.
  • That game starts up again up in Rochester today. I think they simply play on with some adjustments to the batting order. The Bulls are due up in the bottom of the 4th. Not sure how this works, but on that day Vince Belnome batting in the DH slot and #3 in the order was coming to bat. (Game Log)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Double Header Today! Negro League Night

Great baseball men! Great stories!

1st Game starts at 4:05! Nathan Karns starting. 7 innings
2nd Game 30 min after 1st game. Alex Colome starting.

Wil Myers DHing?

More info.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Loss; A Win

Season: 62-55; Home Stand: 1-1; Home Games Remaining: 15
Wrap, Box 1, Box 2, Bisons

We are struggling almost as much as Bulls pitching to find something good to say about the first game last night. How about quirky instead?

In the 2nd inning Ali Solis was up there with one strike on him and the Bisons’ pitcher bounced one in the dirt in front of home plate. The ball hit Solis’ bat, went foul, and Solis had a second strike called on him. He swung at the next pitch, missed, and was out.

Also, good to see Jake Thompson back from the DL. Would have been nice for the Bulls or Rays to let fans know why he was on the DL in the first place, but that’s not what they do. And media apparently never asked either. He pitched just two thirds of an inning and left two runners on base for Doug Mathis, but Mathis kept them from scoring.

But nothing good to say about either Merrill Kelly’s or Brandon Gomes’ evening.

And then it drug on for almost 3 hours. Knowing another game was in the offing, we left and watched the second game on TV.

There we saw a terrific performance by Enny Romero. No secret that Mr. Romero has not been our favorite Bulls pitcher this year, but last night was superb. Six innings of one hit, shutout ball was very impressive.

Also impressive was new guy Nick Franklin. There was his game-winning home run and some very nice play at second base (game 1) and shortstop (game 2). That included his slick beginning of the double play that ended the game. He’s off to a slow start at bat, but the homer helps. And he seems to be a class act. After he was called out for his “star of the game” interview at the end of the game, he went out of his way to acknowledge the fans who had stuck in there (it was about 11:30 by then)

Quirky in Game 2? Well, I don’t recall seeing a pitcher call out an ump as forcefully as Josh Lueke did home ump Seth Buckminster in the last inning. I’d bet he wasn’t ever going to get a called third strike after that, so probably good he got a double play behind him to clear the bases and end the inning and game.

Outside the game —
  • Saw Tampa Bay’s Wil Myers in the dugout. The Herald-Sun is reporting that Myers worked out with the team Thursday and will do so again today. Then start playing on a rehab assignment. Possibly for as long as two weeks. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Matchup: Durham Bulls vs. Buffalo Bisons

The Buffalo Bisons are in town for a five-game set. Today we have two seven-inning games to make up for the game that was rained out up in Buffalo last July 13th, just before the All-Star break. The first game starts at 6:05, but I haven’t noticed much publicity, so we may have the park to ourselves for the first hour. I’d expect Enny Romero to get one of the starts. For the other, hard to say. Maybe Merrill Kelly? 

These two teams are very closely matched, as evidenced by the fact that they have exactly the same won-loss records. Unfortunately for the Bisons, their won-loss record puts them in 4th place in the IL North while the Bulls are 6 games out in front in the South. To win, I’d guess that the Bulls need to get to the Bison’s bullpen as early as possible, since relief pitching seems to be the only advantage the Bulls have, and I’m not sure about that. The Bisons are coming up from Norfolk, after winning 3 out of 4 against the Tides.

Durham Bulls Run for September

Here we are in early August. The Bulls are back home for 5 games (doubleheader tonight!). Then off to Rochester for the last out-of-division games. Back home for a long 10-game stretch against Charlotte, Norfolk, and Gwinnett. On the road for five games. Home for two.

That’s it. In three-plus weeks the season is over.

Keeping focus for fans and players is gonna be hard. The players are, understandably, probably thinking about September call-ups as the Rays move towards a rebuilding 2015.

Fans are thinking about the playoffs — they begin with South meeting at West September 3rd. So let’s take a look at the team and how ready they might be for the last 28 games of the season.

Here’s the IL South Division with markers for the teams who would be meeting if the playoffs started tomorrow. They would be the North winner playing the Wild Card, Syracuse playing Pawtucket, and the West winner playing the South winner, Columbus playing Durham. But both of those divisions have much tighter races than the South Division. [standings]

What this chart also shows is that there’s a distinct downward trend in the wins and losses for the Bulls since the All-Star break, 8 wins and 11 losses. Fortunately, Norfolk, which had been on quite a run, has fallen off. Charlotte bears watching, though. They’ve come up out of a -22 hole, beat the Bulls three out of four recently, and are hitting and pitching very well.

[Note: Clicking on a chart will give a larger view]

The trend in the runs scored/runs allowed metric has leveled out, but only around a plus ten. That’s well below previous winning years (see the next chart), so a bit worrisome.

Pitching over the last 25 games has been OK, in the upper ranges of the International League. The relief pitching has been exceptional and is what has kept the Bulls in contention all year.

Bulls hitting, as measured by team OPS over the last 15 games, is ticking upwards.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Split; Bulls Come Home; Games on FM

Season: 61-55; Trip: 3-5; Home Games Remaining: 17
Wrap, Box, The Morning Call

The Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs were supposed to be a weak-hitting team, the doormat of the International League. But they produced 42 hits against Bulls pitching over these four games, including 3 home runs, a triple and 11 doubles. The Bulls only had 40 hits so a 2-2 split sort of makes sense.

Probably the idea behind yesterday’s game was to get out to the stadium, have some fun, then take a day off (IronPigs), go home and take a day off (Bulls). After 180 pitches and 3½ hours the Bulls finally got off the field and eventually left town. Which is one way of saying that the pitchers really worked for the win. It was not a gift from the IronPigs.

Yesterday morning’s game was a good example, notable mostly for it’s length, than for the pitching by either side. Bulls pitching gave up 12 hits and 5 walks, but then IronPigs weren’t able to bring many home, leaving 12 men on base. The Bulls didn’t do much better, they left 11 runners on base. In some ways the game really wasn’t decided until the 8th, when Jeremy Moore cleared the bases of Bulls on a single to deep right field. That put the Bulls up 7 to 3, the Pigs got two back in the bottom of the inning and the Bulls got one back in the top of the 9th.

Every Bull got a hit, except for Hak-Ju Lee. Betemit and Solis got 3 hits each, a great day for the two of them.

As an aside we have to pass on Patrick Kinas’ humor during Mike Montgomery’s awful 3rd inning. (Note: cannot guarantee accuracy here. You’ll have to ask him.) Bases loaded, count is 2-2, and Kinas says something like, “and now perhaps we’ll some some Montgomery magic on the mound.” Montgomery threw a ball making it 3-2. “Well, if he can’t pull a rabbit out of the hat, maybe a hamster.” Next pitch was a ball, walking in a run. No more comments about Montgomery magic, although he did get out of the inning. Could have been worse.

Outside the game —
  • Double header on Thursday. First game starts at 6:05 against the Buffalo Bisons. Making up a rained out game a month ago.
  • Not happy with AM 620? Try FM 99.3. Low power FM is on the air with coverage of much of Raleigh area. Not sure about the rest of the region, yet. I’m having decent luck from northern Wake County, which helps since the AM radio in my car isn’t very good. This is a good deal for me.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Oops Leads to Catastrophe

Season: 60-55; Trip: 2-5
Wrap, Box, The Morning Call

The Bulls are playing this morning up in Allentown, so this will be short.

Alex Colome and Ray Olmedo botched a play at third base in the third inning and things went down hill from there. It probably shouldn’t have made a difference and certainly should not have carried over into the next inning (4 runs), but it seemed to. By that time I’d stopped listening so I’m not sure.

Outside the game —
  • Dealing with roster turmoil is part of the game at AAA level, as noticed in this Morning Call article. By the way, The Morning Call is just about the best of the bunch in home town International League coverage of any paper we’ve seen.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bats Sleep, Then Wake Up

Wrap, Box, Lehigh Valley

Season: 60-54; Trip: 2-4
Wrap, Box, The Morning Call

The Bulls hitters got off to a good start, Nate Karns worked himself out of some tough jams, and a three-run homer tied a bow on it.

Mikie Mahtook doubled in Justin Christian, stole third base and then scored on a Mike Fontenot single to start things off in the 1st. Jeremy Moore hit a solo home run in the 3rd. So Karns was working with some solid backup. However, the Iron Pigs scored in the 1st and former Bull Russ Canzler homered in the 4th to bring them close. And then the Iron Pigs loaded the bases in the 5th and things looked grim before Karns got a called third strike to end the inning.

Robby Price pretty much put the game away the next inning when Lehigh Valley put two Bulls on base with walks and then he cleared the bases with his 3rd home run of the year.

Mikie Mahtook scored on an Ali Solis single in the 7th. Nick Franklin got his first hit as a Durham Bull in the 8th, a double that scored Justin Christian. Mike Fontenot scored on a Hak-Jul Lee fielder’s choice in the 9th.

In relief, Steve Geltz had a nice recovery from his recent ugly outing and Adam Liberatore continued his dominance in the inherited runners category for Bulls pitchers. Liberatore has only let 3 of the 23 runners he’s inherited score. No other Bull even comes close.

Outside the game —
  • If the ballplayer in this photo from last night's Pirates-Diamondbacks game looks familiar, he should. That’s Jayson Nix and he’s gone from a Durham Bulls infielder to the Pittsburgh Pirates active roster. Broadcaster Kinas mentioned it last night. I also did not know that he had been on an opt-out contract and that he’d asked for his release at essentially the same time that the Rays had brought in Nick Franklin on the David Price trade. Looks like a good move for Nix and we continue to wish him well — unless he shows up playing for the Indianapolis Indians in the playoffs. Not very likely, it seems.
  • Speculation continues that Wil Myers might show up on a rehab assignment this weekend. Keep an eye on the Bulls website. And don’t forget their promotion linked to his appearance.
  • Two Rays pitchers were designated for assignment a while back, Erik Bedard and Juan Carlos Oviedo. There was some small chance that Oviedo might show up in a Bulls uniform, but they were both released by the Rays.
  • A prospect, Blake Snell, pitching for the Charlotte Stone Crabs, threw a 6 inning no-hitter a couple of days ago.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Two For the Road

Season: 59-53; Trip: 1-3
Wrap, Box 111, Box 112, Charlotte Observer

The Durham Bulls drifted back down to six games above .500 after a dismal showing in dismal weather in Charlotte. The first game last night was the last 6 innings of a 9 inning resumed game from the previous night’s postponement. (Got that wrong yesterday. Pretty sure I heard the radio guys say it was to be 7 - innings.) The overall highlights of the first game were the four Charlotte home runs: One given up by Mike Montgomery on Thursday; two by Brandon Gomes and one by Doug Mathis on Friday.

The second game saw newcomer Nick Franklin in the lineup at second base. But he ended up being just one of many Bulls who went to bat with runners on base (the Bulls left 13 runners on base last night) and didn’t push any in.

Trivia of the night: Charlotte pitchers gave up 9 walks last night. Not a record for the Bulls, but close.


Bulls took 3 out of 4 from the Phillies Triple A team, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs at the end of May. The Pigs are having an awful year and, if their Pythagorean Expectation is to be believed, it could be even worse. They currently are in last place in the IL North Division. Does that mean the Bulls should have an easy time of if? Well, no, because let’s face it, the Bulls have been playing middle-of-the-road baseball lately.

To their credit, the Iron Pigs have one of the few fan blogs in all of minor league baseball, Noise Nation/Horn and Bell. The other being, well, WDBB, of course. They also get fairly good coverage from their local paper, which also has an Iron Pigs blog.

Jayson Nix Departs Bulls

Durham Bulls infielder Jayson Nix turned out to be the odd man out of the David Price trade. We speculated yesterday on who that might be and, as usual, got it wrong.

Mr. Nix has been an asset to the Bulls this year, playing just about every position in the field, but mostly second base. In 54 games the 33 year old had 25 RBI and a decent slash line of .275/.343/.413. His July numbers were particularly strong, so we can hope that he can catch on with another team. He was a help to the Bulls and we liked watching him play the game.

Good Luck!

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Win, Some Rain, a New Infielder

Season: 59-51; Trip: 1-1

Alex Colome looked good after 10 days rest. Belnome, Lee, Nix, and Mahtook had 2-hit games.

They will resume the postponed game as beginning of a double header (7-inning) at 6:05 today. Mike Montgomery had given up a 2-run homer in the 2nd, but rain was coming down much of the game as the teams spent two hours mostly sitting in dugouts.

David Price and Nick Franklin

The big news yesterday was the trade of former Bull David Price to the Detroit Tigers. For a look at the deal from the Rays point of view here are a couple of links. Over at Rays Index, Cork Gaines seems to think the deal makes sense. The Process Report weighs in here. And Robbie Knopf at Rays Colored Glasses has his thoughts.

We here at WDBB don’t much care about either the Smyly or Adames piece of the trade. What we want to know is how the deal will affect the Durham Bulls’ chances for at least a South Division title if not another Governors’ Cup. Since it looks like a one-for-one for starting pitchers down in St. Petersburg, the key Durham Bulls consideration is the young middle infielder from the Mariners organization Nick Franklin

The 23 year-old, switch-hitting Franklin had a lot of time with the Mariners last year (102 games), but only 17  this year. He has impressive numbers in his 75 games with the Tacoma Rainiers, .294/.392/.455. He has split his time between 2B and SS. So there’s no question that his bat will bring a lot to the Bulls. His OPS ranks near the very top of the Bulls, in the statistical company of Mikie Mahtook and Jeremy Moore. [stats]

However, a lot depends on the Rays assessment of where he stands on his development path. Don’t forget that Cole Figueroa is still sitting on the Rays’ bench and Franklin certainly seems like a bat the Rays could use. Franklin could go to the Rays sooner rather than later. Is he going to take up a 40-man slot? Don’t know. [Update, 10:30: Yes.]

But let’s assume he comes to the Bulls. Who will leave? And where? And what serves the Bulls' best interests? Obviously, the weakest link in the Bulls infield is Hak-Ju Lee. The question with Lee would be what would help him the most, seeing more Triple-A pitching, or spending some time in AA? I’d bet on sticking with the Bulls. That leaves Jayson Nix, Mike Fontenot, Ray Olmedo, and Robby Price (but don’t forget Figueroa and someday, someday, Tim Beckham will be back). Faced with similar choices this year, it has always been Robby Price who's been pushed off the bus.

I think we’ll know pretty soon and you can be sure that the decision will have nothing to do with the Bulls Governors’ Cup prospects. There’s a reason the Rays wanted Franklin. We just don’t know exactly what that is yet.