Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Comes to an End; Waiting for Spring

A good bit has been happening with the Bulls, including quite a few roster changes. To summarize, the 2016 Bulls are going to be nothing like the 2015 Bulls.

As a reminder, here’s a link to a list of the 31 hitters and 36 pitchers that put on a Bulls uniform last year.

Boog Powell, who played in 56 games last year and was a very exciting Kevin Kiermaier-type player, was part of a trade to the Seattle Mariners. Too bad. I was hoping to see more of him in 2016. 
C.J. Riefenhauser, who did a fine job in relief in 2015 (29 games, 2.86 ERA) was part of the same deal. 

We have to thank the Bulls’ Hit Bull Win Blog for a terrific update on a big 40-man roster shuffle a while back. From that we can deduce that there’s a very good chance that a couple of guys from last year may show up back in Durham, if they don’t stick with the Rays out of spring training (or get traded). Among our favorites staying on the roster are:
Taylor Motter, Mikie Mahtook, and Richie Shaffer. Unfortunately, three of our favorite guys were designated for assignment: JP Arencibia, Kirby Yates, and Brandon Gomes. Arencibia has signed with the Phillies; Kirby Yates is off to the Cleveland Indians; and Brandon Gomes has signed with the Chicago Cubs.

Again, with great thanks to the Bulls front office, we heard of even more transactions;
  • Hak-Ju Lee, who has never seemed to really recover from his knee injury back in 2013, declared minor league free agency and signed with the San Francisco Giants.
  • LHP Scott Diamond, our favorite 2015 starting pitcher, is off to Toronto.
  • Joey Rickard got picked off in the Rule 5 draft, by Baltimore, which means he goes directly on their 40-man. Good luck. He was terrific at the end of last season.
  • Jim Miller, a very reliable reliever in 2015, is off to Milwaukee.
  • Jake Elmore is off to Milwaukee as well.
  • Joey Butler, who started 2015 with the Bulls but spent most of the year with the Rays, signed with Cleveland.
  • Robert Zarate, a very erratic guy and sometime Bull last year, is off to Pittsburgh.


The Bulls have also put up their list of the top 10 moments of 2015. Not quite sure why an ACC tournament that screwed up the playing field for the Bulls is in the top 10, though. (Have I ever mentioned that I’m not an ACC fan, or a Trinity College fan?)

Congrats to Mike Birling though for winning the International League Executive of the Year award. Well-deserved.

I see they’ve got a new tagline, "Known for Baseball, Famous for Fun" on web page.

This mild winter appears to have treated the field very, very well. 

Lastly, I have very mixed feelings about the new safety netting that’s going to go up over the dugout areas (and in front of my seat). I spent one year in a seat behind home plate and found the netting a distraction. Not sure just how it will work out. However, I have to say that all too often I’ve seen folks down by the dugout, with children, paying absolutely no attention to the game. So maybe they do need to be protected from themselves. For myself, I have not been particularly worried since Jon Weber left and I haven’t had to dodge one of his bats. From the image it doesn’t look like they’ve started work on that project yet.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

The New Richest Ex-Durham Bull

A few years back we headlined Carl Crawford as the richest ex-Durham Bull ever. That record, a mere $142,000,000, has been  crushed.

The same monster checkbook that bought Crawford just bought David Price for $217,000,000, who will go to work for the Boston Red Sox next season.

Price didn’t spend a lot of time with the Bulls. As a rising star he came up from Double-A Montgomery near the end of 2008 and even went up to the Rays for a few September relief appearances. He started 8 games as a Bull in 2009 and never looked back. [stats]

We wish him well.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Former Bulls in the Playoffs

If former Bulls figure into your calculations, then you should be rooting for the Blue Jays and the Royals this playoff season. Good luck with that. Two Blue Jays and two Royals spent time in Durham as they were coming up to the major leagues. And one ex-Bull is over in the National League.

David Price of the Toronto Blue Jays spent some time here as a 22-23 year-old as he was coming up through the Rays system. But not very much time—just 4 games in 2008 (18 innings) and 8 games in 2009. Stats.

Toronto catcher Dioner Navarro only spent part of one season (2010) with the Bulls. Stats. This Bulls fans remembers him mostly for him taking a 102 mph hit-by-pitch from Aroldis Chapman. Video here.

Wade Davis, now a reliever/closer for the Royals spent a lot of both 2008 and 2009 with the Bulls, all as a starter. Stats. As an example, here’s a mention of him from a game back in 2009.

Ben Zobrist, the durable and very talented ballplayer now with the Royals, had playing time with the Bulls in 2006, 2007, and a rehab stint in 2008. Stats. You could make a good argument that the Rays would have been much better off this year if they’d figured out a way to keep him.

Jason Hammel is the only ex-Bull on the National League side, pitching for the Chicago Cubs. Back in 2005-2007 he was with the Bulls pitching to catcher Kevin Cash, the Rays current manager. Stats.

Who did I miss?

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Few Charts for the Tampa Bay Rays

Just for grins, I keep a few charts about the Durham Bulls’ parent club, the Tampa Bay Rays. The first is simply the wins and losses over the season, plotted as games above or below .500. As can be seen, back around game 70 in early June the Rays peaked at 10 games above .500. They were at a season low of 6 games below .500 as recently as September 27th. And they wrapped things up in 4th place.

Note: click on a chart for a larger image.

One reason why they finished in 4th is that, oddly enough, their opponents scored more runs than they did. This chart is a running total of the net runs scored minus runs allowed for the year. As can be seen they just barely crept back to a midpoint.

How does this compare to previous years? Here’s the last five. Not quite as bad as last year, but not nearly as good as the previous three years when they made the playoffs either outright or through a wild card slot.

I got intrigued with the “game score” stat this year and tracked the Rays starting pitchers. Game score is sort of “quality start” with a few twists. Here’s a couple of charts that came out of those data.

50 is “average” and for the last several weeks of the season clearly the starters as a group were above average. However, the Rays only won half the games. Conclusion: starting pitching is really important, but the Rays bullpen and hitters just have not been up to par.

Here’s another way of looking at the game score stat, by individual pitchers. Note the number of games and innings pitched. An oddity is that Chris Archer had the best game score of the year (95 on August 20) and the worst (a 3 on September 26)

The last chart has little to do with the Rays, but back on September 1st it seemed that the Rays had at least a remote chance to go after a wild card slot. Here’s how that played out.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The 2015 Durham Bulls in Charts

The 2015 Durham Bulls ended the year at 74-70, tied for third place in the International League South Division, four games behind the division winner, the Norfolk Tides. As the first chart shows, the Bulls peaked at 12 games above .500 back on June 15 (game 66) when they began a slide down to 7 games below .500 in mid-August. Then began a fun-to-watch climb that lasted until the end of the season.

[Note: clicking on a chart will get you a larger image]

This was a season with considerable roster turmoil, mostly driven by injuries in the Tampa Bay Rays system that started in spring training  and continued throughout the season. Thirty-one different players came to bat for the Bulls this year and 36 different players pitched (including a couple of position players). That compares to 21 hitters and 26 pitchers in 2014; 19 and 16 in 2013.

What happened to the Bulls in mid-season? In a word, pitching. The starting pitching this year was never very good and, as a team, did not really improve. The relievers had a terrific start and showed some hope at finish, but the middle was awful. Note that these are cumulative numbers. They really should not be showing so much variance except for the above-noted roster turmoil. The end-of-year team ERA was 3.82, 11th in the 14-team International League. They did lead the league in strikeouts (1,117), but also led the league in home runs awarded (116).

Durham Bulls hitting fell off the edge of the cliff at about the same time as the pitching. However, it recovered very nicely and, excepting a hiccup in August, ended well. [Note for stats geeks: Our interest is in team performance here and team wOBA is a pain to keep track of. Plus it follows essentially the same path this year, as far as I can tell.] The Bulls’ team OPS was tied for third place in the International League and at .715, well above the league OPS of .689. Note also that the league as a whole wasn’t hitting all that well this year. The Bulls’ 123 home runs were in second place, as were its 263 doubles. That really helped the OPS, since the team batting average (.250) was 12th in the league. My superficial impression that the Bulls were a running team was off by a good bit. With 160 attempts (119 successful) they were well behind Indianapolis who tried 236 times (168 successful).

At the end of the day, a team has to score more runs than their opponents. In 2015 the Bulls did not. This chart is a running total of the net runs scored minus runs allowed for this year. We get the statistical quirk of ending the year at exactly zero.

The Bulls have done worse, most notably in recent years in 2012. The oddity in this chart is last year, 2014. Last year the Bulls were also barely above .500 (75-69) but that was enough to win the South Division. The South Division of the IL was much more competitive this year, we got to watch four very good teams go at it all year.

Next: Pitchers and Hitters

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Governors' Cup Goes to the Wire

Congratulations to the 2015 Governors' Cup Champions
The Columbus Clippers

Indianapolis and Columbus fans witnessing a terrific championship series. Every game has been decided by just one run and that run scored in the last or next to last inning.

We have to point out that a lot more Columbus fans watched the two games in Columbus (more than 23,000) than the two games so far in Indianapolis (7,200). That reflects a very successful experiment by Columbus leadership to open the gates for the playoffs.

Meanwhile the baseball has been a huge amount of fun for all concerned. Two very deserving teams battled each other all year are going for the championship tonight. Seems only appropriate. So far the home teams have won every game, but it has been a fight to the wire.

Game 1 at Columbus, Sep 15
Columbus Clippers 6; Indianapolis Indians 4
MiLB wrap, Box, Columbus Dispatch, Indianapolis Star
Attendance: 11,408. Attendance story.
[Note: The Columbus Dispatch goes behind a paywall after of couple of visits. Too bad for them and us]

Game 2 at Columbus, Sep 16
Clippers 5; Indians 2
MiLB Wrap, Box
Attendance: 11,894 (Governors’ Cup Playoff record?)

Game 3 at Indianapolis, Sep 18
Indians 6; Clippers 5
MiLB Wrap, Box, Indianapolis Star
Attendance: 3,845

Game 4 at Indianapolis
Indians 5; Columbus 4
MiLB Wrap, Box, Indianapolis Star
Attendance: 3,417

Game 5 at Indianapolis
Columbus 3; Indianapolis 0
MiLB Wrap, Box, Indianapolis Star

Monday, September 14, 2015

Bulls in the Bandbox by the Bay

Unless I’ve misremembered or miscounted (likely) ten Durham Bulls went “up” to the Rays this month, or just at the end of August. Six were position players and four pitchers. How are they doing?

I guess that depends on your point of view. So far in September the Rays have played 11 games, won only 4 of them, losing 7. Except for the last 3, they’ve all been road games, so they really haven’t spent much time in the bandbox by (or at least near) the Bay.

Of this crowd I have to say that only one of them has had much of an impact, J.P. Arencibia. And he was actually called up on August 26 and got in 5 games before the rest of the crew showed up. Among the pitchers only Andrew Bellatti has done particularly well. The rest? Not so much. Most of the numbers here are for September, unless otherwise noted.

Also note that with nearly 40-players on the bench, the Rays have been doing a lot of pinch-hitching and pinch-running. Does not seem to have made much difference in the won-loss column, though.
  • J.P. Arencibia: 15 games (Aug-Sep), 39 plate appearances, 14 hits, 3 doubles, 5 HR, .368/.359/.842
  • Mikie Mahtook: 10 games, 24 PA,  6 hits (double, triple, home run), two complete games. .228/323/.509 on the year (66 pa)
  • Richie Shaffer: 9 games, 26 PA, 4 hits, (double, home run) four complete games. .209/.320/.442 on the year (50 PA)
  • Nick Franklin: 4 games, 3 PA, no hits. .133/.198/.438 on the year (81 PA)
  • Joey Butler: 5 games, 6 PA, 1 hit. .272/.325/.719 on the year (265 PA)
  • Luke Maile: 6 games (1 start), 10 PA, 1 hit (a double) .100/.100/.200
  • Matt Moore: 2 starts, no-decision and a loss, games scores of 51 (OK) and 23 (not good)
  • C.J. Riefenhauser: 4 games, 3.1 innings, 2 ER, no decisions.
  • Kirby Yates: 3 appearances, 4 innings, 2 ER, no decision
  • Andrew Belatti: 4 appearances, 4.1 innings, 0 ER, 1 loss, 1 win

Thursday, September 10, 2015

2015 Governors' Cup

International League Governors' Cup - History
2015 Background

North vs. Wild Card
Scranton/WB RailRiders (NYY) v. Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh)

Sep 9: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre@Indianapolis
Indianapolis 7; Scranton 3
Box, Indianapolis Star, Scranton Times-Tribune, MiLB.com
Attendance: 2,333

Sep 10: RailRiders@Indians
Indians 6; RailRiders 1
Box, Indianapolis Star, Scranton Times-Tribune, MiLB
Attendance: 3,706

Indianapolis one win away from Governors' Cup finals.

Sep 11: Indians@RailRiders
Indians 4; RailRiders 2
Box, MiLB, Indianapolis Star, Scranton Times-Tribune
Attendance: 4,507

Indianapolis sweeps Scranton/WB. Update: Sep 14, still hanging out in Indy.
Nice feature on Manager Dean Trainor here.

South vs. West
Columbus Clippers (Cleveland) v. Norfolk Tides (Baltimore)

Sep 9:  Columbus Clippers@Norfolk Tides
Columbus 5; Norfolk 2
Box, Wrap, Virginian-Pilot, Columbus Dispatch
Attendance: 1,459

Sep 10: Columbus Clippers@ Norfolk Tides
Suspended by storm. Game resumes today, Sep 11, at 4:30pm, then travel to Ohio
Virginian-Pilot, Columbus Dispatch

Sep 11: Columbus Clippers@Norfolk Tides
Tides 6; Clippers 1
Box, MiLB, Virginian-Pilot, Columbus Dispatch
Attendance (9/10): 1,777

Sep 12: Norfolk Tides@ Columbus Clippers
Clippers 6; Tides 2
Box, MiLB, Virginian-Pilot, Tides Wrap, Columbus Dispatch
Attendance: 3,131

Sep 13: Norfolk Tides@Columbus Clippers
Tides 6; Clippers 5
Box, MiLB, Virginian-Pilot (Columbus Dispatch), Tides Wrap
Attendance: 2,468

Sep 14: Norfolk Tides@Columbus Clippers
Clippers 5; Tides 0
Box, MiLB, Virginian-Pilot, Tides Wrap
Attendance: 10,734 (Free ticket idea paid off)
Note: Columbus Dispatch is behind a paywall, but story is reprinted in Virginian-Pilot

Governors' Cup Finals

First game: Sep 15
Stories: Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Indians

Columbus Clippers (Cleveland) v. Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Bulls Wrap Season With a Shoutout

Season: 74-70
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Taylor Motter finished the Bulls’ season with a bang, actually two bangs — his first two at-bats were solo home runs. And he scored the third of the  Bulls’  six runs of the game when he was hit by pitch in the 6th inning and came home on Nick Franklin’s single. As we’ve remarked before, he is our favorite for a non-roster September call-up, but we admit it’s unlikely. But who am I to guess about that? Two of the guys who I didn’t think would make it (J.P. Arencibia and Luke Maile) are playing with the Rays today.

New guy Jared Mortensen did a terrific job in his second AAA start. He had one of the longest outings of any Bulls pitcher this year, 7⅔ innings, and did not allow a run. Nice to see that the crowd knew how well he had done. In fact, it was a terrific end-of-season bunch there at the DBAP. We had a proposal and a tear-inducing father home from deployment moment that was shared with all of us.

And then we had the battery of Dominguez (José) and Dominguez (Wilmer) to close things out. This was only the third game this year that Wilmer Dominguez has caught. I think that he has been playing essentially a Mayo Acosta role down in Montgomery this year. But he might have gotten the start because he knew Mortensen from Montgomery. He took advantage of the opportunity. He threw out Norfolk’s very quick outfielder Julio Borbon trying to steal (Borbon came in the game with 23 steals under his belt). On his first at bat he alertly took off for first base when Norfolk’s catcher could not handle the third strike, and made it. Then in his third at bat he hit a two-run single and he singled again in the 8th. Pretty good for only your second AAA game ever and only your third game this year!

With Gwinnett’s win over Charlotte, the Bulls ended the year in a tied for third place and 4 games above .500. Considering where they were just a few weeks ago, pretty good.

Things got a bit testy in the 6th. Hard to tell just why. Norfolk’s pitcher was obviously not ready for prime time and had an awful debut into AAA baseball. Maybe next year.

We’re still sorting out this year’s stats and opinions. Let me know what you thought of the DBAP and this year’s team.

Opening Day: April 7, 2016. Only 212 days away!!!

Outside the game —

  • The St. Pete Times is reporting that Nick Franklin and Andrew Bellatti were called up after the game.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Norfolk Takes Title

Season: 73-70; Home Stand: 1-1
Wrap, Box, Norfolk Wrap, Virginian-Pilot, Herald-Sun

I don’t want to write about that first inning. Those masochists among you can get the play-by-play here. Let’s go on to something different.

Congratulations to the Norfolk Tides for winning the South Division. They’ve had a great year and we’ve seen some good games between the two teams. Today should be fun.

Yesterday saw the Triple A debut of Kyle Bird. He came up the Bowling Green Hot Rods, Rays A affiliate, to fill in for Jim Miller. Did just fine in his 1⅓ innings.

Kyle Bird

Outside the game—
  • The West Division championship remains undecided! Standings.
  • Some years ago the Bulls played their last game with all players using the same bat, until it got broken. Wonder if they will do that again today?
  • If the Gwinnett Braves beat the Charlotte Knights today, and the Bulls win, the Bulls will end the year tied with the Knights for third place. 
  • I’ve been a bit critical of the Herald-Sun this year, but Brooke Pryor’s piece on Jared Sandberg's year is a very nice job. Thanks.
  • The Bulls started the year down in Gwinnett with the umpiring crew of Jon Byrne, Jansen Visconti, and Doug Vines. They are ending the year with the same crew.
  • This promotion by the Gwinnett Braves could have some some odd unintended consequences. Can imagine a taxi pulling up outside the stadium and a guy in a Braves hat dragging his wife into the stadium. ... well you get the picture ...

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Two Pitchers; Two Styles; One Result

Season: 73-69; Home Stand: 1-0
Wrap, Box

I loved this game. Two very different pitchers at work, few mistakes, pure baseball.

The Bulls guy, Bradin Hagens, is a pitch-to-contact guy. By that I mean that the opposing hitters are going to get a chance. And they did last night. But they just mostly hit the ball to Bulls fielders. Hagens did not give up a single walk in his 7 innings and had only one strikeout, the last batter. He even took on some of the fielding work himself with an unassisted putout in the 2nd and fielding two comebackers in the 3rd. Stats geeks will love him as well. His Game Score was 70, one of the best by a Bull all season. To top it off, he is finishing the season with four wins in a row.

The Tides guy, Chris Jones, was a bit more conventional and ended the night with 6 out of 7 innings of solid pitching, including 7 K’s with his 1 walk.

If not for the 1st inning, things could have been 0-0 when both pitchers left the game. But the 1st was enough. Rehabbing Steven Sousa (broken hand) was dh-ing and batting second. He got a hit. Taylor Motter walked. Sousa scored on a Corey Brown single. Motter scored on a Cameron Seitzer single. And that was essentially it for the rest of the game.

Yes, reliever Robert Zarate provided some thrills in the 9th. But a little cardio work is good after you’ve been sitting all that time.

I’m liking two of the new guys a lot. The first, who’s been here a while, is Joey Rickard. Quick hands at bat. Good in the outfield. Have not seen his arm tested yet. The second is recent arrival Cameron Seitzer, who appears to be a real pro at first base, in spite of last night’s E, and a decent left handed bat.

With this win (actually with Friday’s win) the Bulls are sure to finish the season above .500. Good news.

The Bulls set a new season attendance record with well over a half a million fans through the gates.

Outside the game —
  • Hak-Ju Lee passed through waivers and has been assigned to the Bulls. At a guess he will be in uniform either tonight or tomorrow. Not sure of the rules.
  • Gwinnett lost to Charlotte last night, but neither the South Division championship nor third place in the division is set. Nor has the West Division championship been decided. Standings.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Boog Booms One

Season: 72-69; Trip: 2-1
Wrap, Box, Charlotte Observer

Has Boog Powell turned into a home run hitter? He’s the guy who bunts his way on base a lot of the time and yet in the last two games he has put one over the wall. We expect it of Corey Brown, who hit a just barely fair one in the 9th for his 19th, or Taylor Motter, who’s 12th dinger in the 7th was the shot that doomed the Knights, but Powell?

Things got a bit testy in the 9th when the Knight’s Wendelkin tossed a pitch behind Taylor Motter. But Wedelken got ejected and if things didn’t calm down, at least the field got cleared of excess players after some intense discussions. In the last couple of games there was a good bit of plunkin’ and near-plunkin’ goin’ on. So maybe the umps had had enough. Too many home runs? Over the three game series 15 home runs were hit, 9 by Knights, 6 by Bulls, but that seems to be the result of the Knight’s very, very pretty Little League park. By the way, after Wendelkin got ejected, his replacement walked Motter and Corey Brown followed with his home run that put the game out of reach. Have to wonder what the chatter between dugouts was after that.

Meanwhile Blake Snell pitched his last minor league game of the year. With the Bulls he was 6-2 with a 1.83 ERA. He is an amazing young ballplayer. We can hope to see him for at least some of next season. The Rays have been appropriately cautious of him, limiting his pitch count and innings with the Bulls. Have to think that he will get in at least a couple of innings with the Rays before the end of this season.

We also saw Ernesto Frieri for the first time since July 7th. Frieri has been on the Durham Bulls’ books since passing through waivers on June 20, appearing in only 7 games. José Dominguez, another on and off pitcher, had a rough inning.

Now what? Standings. Norfolk leads Gwinnett by 2 games, they both have three games left to play.

Gwinnett plays Charlotte for their last three games down in Georgia. Norfolk comes to town for three games at the DBAP. As noted, Norfolk is just 2 games ahead of Gwinnett for the South Division title. That’s a big comedown for the Tides. They had led the division by six games as recently as August 18th, but they’ve had their troubles since then. Nevertheless, Gwinnett has to win all three against the Knights, and the Tides have to lose all three against the Bulls to take them completely out. We won’t go into tie-breaker rules. Makes my head hurt. Seems to me that both Norfolk and Gwinnett are going to have to work for it. By the way, the IL West is still a dead heat between Indianapolis and Columbus.

The Bulls are one game back of Charlotte. There’s a way for them to get out the cellar before the end of the year.

These last three games have odd timings: 6:35, 5:00, and 1:00. Don’t be late!

Roster moves —
  • A pitcher, Kyle Bird, has been brought up all the way from Single A Bowling Green. Seems to be somewhat specialized for his age (22). 69Ks in 69 innings. Stats.
  • Jim Miller was placed on the Temporarily Inactive List. Update: Reported to have become a new dad. Congrats!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Cruisin' Into the Seventh ...

Season: 71-69; This Trip: 1-1
Games left in season: 4
Wrap, Box, Charlotte Observer

The game started at noon because two Carolina football teams were playing on a Thursday (!) night in downtown Charlotte (one of the teams lost).

Pretty much the Bulls were cruisin’. Boog Powell was back in leadoff and had a great, great game with 4 hits (two doubles and a home run). New guys Cameron Seitzer, Alec Sole, and Wilmer Dominguez were in the lineup and did just fine, although Sole didn’t get a hit. The whole team had five doubles and a home run. They were ahead 7-3 going into the 7th. You’d think it would be enough.

With the noonday sun, came a little rain, in the shape of absolutely the worst performance of the relief crew this year. Too bad, because Andrew Bellatti had seemed to be sorting himself out and new guy Parker Markel was doing just fine. But Bellatti gave up 3 homers and five runs in his time on the mound and Markel gave up another one in the hitter-friendly park.

Outside the game —
  • With the loss the the Bulls were officially eliminated from the South Division race. To be realistic, they'd not been in the running for along time. That was not what I’d been hoping for. What I’d like to see by the end to this season is a stable .500 record and maybe, just maybe, getting up into third place. That’s a maybe for the Bulls, but they’ve got to win, and Charlotte has to lose in a race that’s getting very tight. 
  • Standings
  • The South Division race is down to just a one game difference with Gwinnett having a very good shot at pushing Norfolk off the bus. To get there the Bulls will have to be the spoilers for them. Gwinnett is one game back. Gwinnett and Norfolk play tonight in Norfolk, but the key games will be the last three Bulls/Tides games in Durham and the Braves/Knights games down in Georgia.
  • The South isn’t the only race undecided. The West Division is a dead heat. The difference there is that the second place team, whichever one it is, has a lock on a playoff spot.
  • About playoffs from the players’ perspective: David Hall of the Virginian-Pilot has a terrific set of interviews with Tides players from a couple of days ago. Worth a read. Players, until they get on the field, aren’t big fans of minor league playoffs.
Goodmon Awards Announced

I like these Durham Bulls awards and I almost always agree with them. Here’s this year’s:
  • MVP: Taylor Motter. You bet. He was fun to watch and did everything very, very well.
  • Pitcher of the Year: Scott Diamond. Again, agree that he was the best of the bunch
  • Team Spirit: Jhan Mariñez. I like the choice. Terrific reliever. Expect him to be on next year's 40-man. Maybe this year's.
  • Community Service: J.P. Arencibia. Makes sense to me.

Here’s how the IL South looks today

click on chart for larger image
And here’s the “path” to what WDBB considers a reasonable goal for this year’s team, but they can still make it into 3rd place with some luck (and a win today). Four games left! Hang on!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The New Durham Bulls Win Another

Season: 70-68; Home Stand: 4-2
Wrap, Box

The new Durham Bulls kept up their late season pace last night. Only two of the new players were on the field, José Constanza in left field and Cameron Seitzer at first base. Constanza had two hits and a RBI. Seitzer had his first AAA hit. Old hands Corey Brown, Ryan Brett (who had a 4 for 5 night), Nick Franklin, Jake Elmore, plus new guy Joey Rikard contributed RBI.

This was the best outing that Scott Diamond has had since back on July 6. And it was, by far, his most efficient. He went 7⅓ innings on only 87 pitches. That is a stellar 3.95 pitches per out. He was already the most efficient starter on the team at 4.90, but this was an exceptional outing. Parker Markel gave up his first run.

Outside the game —
  • Here’s a bit more discussion of Hak-Ju Lee. At a guess, another team is going to claim him, but my guesses aren’t usually accurate.
  • Congratulations to Taylor Motter for making the International League All-Star team! Yet another argument for a call-up for him. He was 1 for 4 with a walk while playing shortstop last night.
  • J.P. Arencibia made the Orioles pay for dumping him at the beginning of the season. He started at catcher last night up in Baltimore and picked up 6 RBI on two singles and a home run in an 11-2 win, while catching Drew Smyly in Smyly’s best performance since finishing his rehab with the Bulls a couple of weeks ago.
  • And a small rant about the Herald-Sun. First, they messed up their website so I had to make several calls to get to it. Then they didn’t bother to send a reporter to last night’s game and did a cut and paste job from the Bulls wrap. I’ve come to expect that of my hometown paper, the N&O, but Durham’s?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Rosterification: Round 1

  • Hak-Ju Lee was designated for assignment, probably to make room on the Tampa Bay 40-man roster for Luke Maile. If he passes through waivers then he could get in a game or two as a Bull before the end of the season
  • Ernesto Frieri came off the disabled list.
  • Jared Mortensen is a 27 year old Canadian right-hander who has started 17 games this season for the Montgomery Biscuits. Has been in the Rays system since 2013. Stats.
  • Cameron Seitzer  is a 25 year old mostly first baseman and designated hitter for the Biscuits the last two years. .308/.383/.475, pretty good. Stats.
  • Alec Sole is the youngster of the crew, only 22. The infielder (ss, 3B, mostly) is jumping up from the Charlotte Stone Crabs. He started the season in Bowling Green. Stats.
  • Wilmer Dominguez a 24 year old catcher who has been with the Rays system since 2009. He has only played in one game this year (at Montgomery), so there’s a story there. Stats.

Back Above .500

 Wrap, Box

Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Season: 69-68; Home Stand: 3-2
Games Remaining: 7; Home Games: 4
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The last two of these games kept the Bulls within reach of a respectable .500 season. They did get eliminated from the wild card, but that was a bridge far, far, too far. And the Bulls’ win last night certainly put that out of reach for Gwinnett.

From now on expect chaos in the lineups. From our point of view we are likely to find the candidates for this year’s Moonlight Graham awards. The awards were not granted in 2014 for reasons that escape me at the moment, surely a good reason, though. Leading candidates at the moment are: Infielder Juniel Querecuto (4 games back in late May, 12 plate appearances) and pitcher Kyle Winkler (3 appearances in mid-June, 3 innings).

As mentioned earlier today, 6 Bulls have been called up and, so far, only one replacement has been announced, veteran José Constanza. We’ll see what happens next.

Meanwhile, let’s make note of the work of Bradin Hagens last night. His post All-Star performance had been something of a disaster. In his first six starts after the break he had 5 losses and a no-decision. However, on August 20 he had a nice 5 inning start and a win; on Aug 26 he had another good start and went 6⅔ in a win; and then last night he went another 6⅔ for another win. So something is on track and he has made a big difference as the Bulls crawled out of that 7 games below .500 hole they’d been in.

So now (and this weekend) is the time just to go out to the park and take a look at next year’s players.

Six to the Rays

The first round of September call-ups were announced last night. This is going to get complicated today and over the next couple of days as we find out who's going to be filling in.

  • Matt Moore
  • C.J. Riefenhauser
  • Kirby Yates
  • Mikie Mahtook
  • Richie Shaffer
  • Luke Maile
All except for Luke Maile are are the Rays 40-man so nothing needs to be done there except to make room for Maile. That will probably be announced today. Worst case, for the Bulls, is for a current member of the Bulls team to be designated for assignment, which would mean that he could not play for a few days, if at all.

Note that the Biscuits clinched the second half win are in the Southern League playoffs. They likely will be making the case that they not get stripped of their best players.

Today is José Constanza's 32nd birthday. He will be celebrating in a Bulls uniform. If the name is familiar, he spent much of last year in a Gwinnett Braves uniform and the early part of this year in a Louisville Bats uniform. Last played in mid-July. Stats.

Long-time Durham Bull Justin Ruggiano is back with the team that drafted him, the LA Dodgers.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Fun While It Lasted

6th Inning: Hak-Ju Lee slides safely under/past the tag of Knights’ 1B Dayan Viciedo as pitcher Brad Penny and 2B Michah Johnson cluster in frustration. Thanks, Sue

Season: 67-67; Home Stand: 1-1
Games Remaining: 10; Home Games: 7
Wrap, Box

Each of the three Durham Bulls pitchers allowed at least one earned run last night and that was enough to break the streak. Those fans inclined to seek good news at the far reaches of probability, possibility, and plausibility are slowly coming back to earth. But wasn’t that a pretty run?

About that photo up at the top by our good friend Sue Roth (who sits not far from first base, obviously) — I am not a fan of even the idea of sliding into first base and have been pleased to see it seemingly disappear from most player’s trick bag. But this time it made sense. As the first batter in Durham’s piece of the 6th inning, Hak-Ju Lee made a hard bunt between pitcher and first base. Thereafter there was a gathering of Knights: Pitcher Brad Perrry, First Baseman Dayan Viciedo, and Second Baseman Micah Johnson. Viciedo has the ball and Lee is sliding under and past the tag to reach the base. A fraction of a second later Johnson kicks Lee in the head and they had what I hope was a friendly discussion about that.

Back to the rest of the game.

Matt Moore had brilliant innings followed by not very good innings all night. And easy 1st inning, then two walks and two K’s in the 2nd. In the 3rd a single, a run-scoring double, and two wild pitches let two runs score. Three up, three down in the 4th. Same in the 5th. In the 6th a single, then an error by Richie Shaffer, and another single loaded the bases. Moore hit the next batter for another run. Kirby Yates gave up a run on 2 hits in his 1⅔ innings. Andrew Bellatti gave up a home run in his inning.

But the hitters did have their chances. After being absolutely shut down for 14 outs, a double by Cory Brown broke up the perfect game Brad Penney had going. Then in the 7th the Bulls scored two runs before Mikie Mahtook struck out with the bases loaded. That got the Bulls within a run, but the Knights got two more runs before the Bulls even threatened in the 9th and that fizzled out.

Nevertheless, an 8-game run is a big deal. Thanks, Bulls, for the thrills as the season winds down.

Friday, August 28, 2015


Season: 67-66; Home Stand: 1-0
Games Remaining: 11; Home Games:8
Wrap, Box

The Bulls kept their streak alive at the DBAP last night. Remarkable.

Both managers pushed their luck, though. Jared Sandberg got away with it. The Knights’ manager, Joel Skinner, did not. The question both managers faced was how long to leave a struggling pitcher in the game. The Bulls Scott Diamond got out of a bases loaded situation in the 4th inning with a lineout to left field. However,  in a bases-loaded no-outs situation in the next inning, he got the first out on a popup, his second out on another popup, but the next batter singled and two runs scored. By that time Diamond had faced 27 batters and thrown 90+ pitches. The Bulls were down 3-2 going into the 6th.

Over on the Charlotte side their pitcher, Kyle Drabeck, went into the 7th inning, but a walk and two singles later he faced the same situation, bases-loaded, no-outs. He wild-pitched in a run, got a K, but then a two-run single by Luke Maile put the Bulls ahead 5-4. He left the game at 27 batters and 104 pitches.

Neither starting pitcher had stellar Game Scores: Diamond’s was 38, Drabeck’s was 40.

But the Bulls' relief crew only gave up one hit. Jim Miller was particularly impressive. I don’t think I’ve seen him more focused on each pitch this year. Two K’s and a pop-up and he got the save

Kudos to Luke Maile for his game-winning single in the 7th and to Mikie Mahtook for his two-run double in the 3rd.

Outside the game —
  • J.P. Arencibia started at catcher for the Rays last night and Joey Butler, who helped win the last two games for the Bulls, joined him in the lineup as the DH. The two of them made the difference in the Rays win before just 9,000 fans in St. Petersburg (the Bulls had almost 8,000 in Durham). Arencibia drove in run with a sac fly. Butler hit a game-tying RBI and then scored the winning run on a wild pitch.
  • Along with Butler leaving, José Dominguez is back. He passed through waivers. I didn’t notice him in the bullpen last night, but he was probably there.
You can get headaches trying to figure out the combinations and permutations of the next 11 games. However, I think that it’s safe to say that Columbus and Indianapolis have a lock on the Wild Card and IL West championship. Indianapolis certainly looks like the winner, but one or the other would have to lose almost of their remaining games to fall out of the wild card lead. Standings.

Norfolk, on the other hand, has lost their last four games and is only ahead of Gwinnett (who they are now playing) by two games.

Here's the pattern since mid-season (game 73).

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot

Season: 66-66; Trip: 2-0
Wrap, Box

The Bulls reached .500 for the first time in almost exactly a month (July 26) with their seventh win in a row, the longest streak of the year. On game six of the run, Tuesday night, Joey Butler broke it open in the 11th inning, and he had a lot to do with Wednesday afternoon's win. Names we’ve grown to love this last week looked terrific, Taylor Motter, Richie Shaffer, and Butler all had hits in the 11th and Hak-Ju Lee brought in the third run with a sacrifice fly, a run it turned out the Bulls would need as Kirby Yates made the bottom of the 11th a bit more thrilling than necessary.

Then yesterday Joey Butler was at it again, this time with two home runs in support of Bradin Hagens. Along with Mikie Mahtook’s 4 for 5 day at the plate, a timely sacrifice fly by Taylor Motter, and a disruptive stolen base by Lee.

Both games were also bit unusual for Jared Sandberg’s tactics or, rather, his use of some traditional tactics he seems to have avoided this season.

For example, he has only called for 8 intentional bases on balls all season. He did so in the bottom of the 9th on Tuesday and it worked.

Similarly, he has not been a big fan of pinch-hitting, but yesterday in the critical 7th inning, when the Bulls were behind 3-4, he put Nick Franklin in to bat for catcher Mayo Acosta. Hak-Ju Lee had singled with one out and Acosta has a dismal batting average. A few pitches into the at bat Lee stole second base and Franklin then drew a walk (note that the Tides’ catcher set up well off the plate for a 3-1 pitch so it was an unintentional, intentional in hopes of getting a double play). When Mikie Mahtook hit a double to bring in Lee and Franklin and the winning runs, Sandberg looked like master tactician.

Pitching? Blake Snell was terrific on Tuesday and Bradin Hagens got his second win in a row, getting past two important errors by Bulls fielders.

Outside the game —
  • J.P. Arencibia went up to the Rays! Congratulations. It turns out that his recent time behind the plate with the Bulls will serve him well. See this link for more than you probably want to know about how they pulled off the roster moves.
  • Desmond Jennings is hurt, again. That opens the door for any number of Bulls on the 40-man, to include Joey Butler, Mickie Mahtook, or Richie Shaffer
About these seven wins and the next 12 games —

This has been a remarkable run. The team ERA dropped from 3.99 to 3.90 (with 132 games played, it takes a lot to move the averages that much). The starters went from 3.92 to 3.88, while the relief crew outdid themselves with a drop from 4.09 to 3.93. The hitters moved the team seasonal wOBA from .317 to .321 over the seven games. That may not seem like much, but, again, at this point in the season that’s a big move. The team wOBA hasn’t been that high since July 22. The last time the team pitching has been in this range was back on July 16th.

The rest of the Bulls dozen games are against South Division opponents and 9 of their final 12 games are at home. The Bulls start with Charlotte, have a couple of games against Gwinnett, a few more with Charlotte, and end up with Norfolk. Recently Norfolk has fallen off its terrific run to the top and Gwinnett, which had been making quite an attempt, has also fallen off. With roster turmoil coming for all four teams, who knows what the future holds. For the time being, let’s celebrate a return to .500 baseball.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

September Song — Taylor Motter

About this time each year we try to make the call-up case for one or more member of the Durham Bulls who is not on the Rays 40-man roster. Folks who’ve been around for a while will recall Chris Richard, or Leslie Anderson, or even Jon Weber.

You will also note that WDBB has been notably unsuccessful in its endeavor — but not for lack of trying.

We listed the current Bulls who are on the 40-man a couple of days ago.

We tend to look at these players from the narrow-minded view of the Durham Bulls, recognizing that Durham Bull-ness is not a particularly big deal to Rays management. If the Rays are going to do what it takes to put a player on the 40-man (i.e., dump a player who is now on the 40-man), they need a reason. Well, we’re not going to try to make that argument for them. What we want to do is ask you, Bulls fans, who’s the guy you think should be in a Rays uniform this September because he was a terrific Durham Bull.

Here are the hitters from the current crew who are not on the 40-man [Note: I've left Joey Rikard off, not because he doesn't have terrific numbers, but he only has 68 plate appearances.]

Taylor Motter
Cory Brown
Boog Powell
J.P. Arencibia
Luke Maile

And my choice — Taylor Motter.

Most of statistical reasons are obvious, especially the wRAA above. In addition to these stats, he leads leads the team (and the International League) in doubles with 36. He leads the team in RBI with 66 and that's 5th in the IL. His number of stolen bases (26) also leads the team and that's tied for 5th in the IL. Although most of his 113 games have been in right field, most recently he's been spending a good bit of time at 3B. He's got games at 2B, SS, LF and CF as well. And his hair is almost as good as (better than?) John Jaso's.

So, he's our 2015 non-roster pick among the hitters.

We'll get to the pitchers another day.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Five in a Row; Is There Hope for the Future?

Season: 64-66; Home Stand: 5-0
Games Remaining: 14; Home Games: 10
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

For the first time in what seems like a very long time I was able to get to the DBAP to watch a game. I certainly didn’t expect the Bulls to pull off a 5-in-a-row, but they did. This was the best at-home series of the year.

The Bulls’ were hitting homers last night, Nick Franklin, J.P. Arencibia, and Hak-Ju Lee in the first three innings. But it was Lee who had the big night at bat, 4 RBIs.

Everett Teaford had his best start in a very long time. In fact, the last time he had a Game Score as good as last night (58) was in a no-decision game back on June 16. Nice to see him in good form. Particularly impressive was the moment in the 5th when the umpire apparently decided to ignore the pace of game rules and let two Columbus batters in a row step in and out of the box numerous times. Both batters drew walks, but Teaford managed to sort himself out and get out of the inning unscathed (we won’t count the inning-opening home run).

My first time seeing new guy Parker Markel. He looked pretty good with his 3 K’s over 2 ⅔ innings. At a guess, however, he’s the odd man out when José Dominguez returns. Dominguez passed through waivers yesterday and will be coming back to the Bulls.

For the first time in recent memory Boog Powell was not the leadoff batter, Mikie Mahtook was and Powell was second. However, he did start toward the plate at the very beginning of the game and came back toward the dugout with a big grin on his face. Habit.

Carolina Dreamin’

These five wins in a row got broadcaster Patrick Kinas running the math a bit. His colleague Scott Pose wasn’t challenging the numbers, but he also wasn’t buying into it either. Standings.

Let’s take a look. The rest of the season the Bulls are playing against International League South Division teams. Five against Norfolk (2 away, 3 home); 7 against Charlotte (4 home, 3 away); and 2 against Gwinnett at the DBAP. All of those teams are above .500 and Gwinnett in particular has been hot lately. Half of the remaining games will take place place after the September call-ups and it’s hard to say what Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, or Tampa Bay will do to their South Division teams.

What we can point out is this:

Yes, the Bulls are hot, but so are the Braves. You have to think that Gwinnett could make a run at the top spot, but no one else is likely to sneak into the wild card slot. Could something happen? Sure. Likely? We can only hope.

A more reasonable wish is for the Bulls to establish a winning season. That’s what this chart will be showing. Getting above the 0 mark is a winning season. And that, given this July and August, would be a significant accomplishment.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Season: 63-66; Home Stand: 4-0
Games Left in Season: 15; Home Games: 10
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The game story from last night is, as it should be, Matt Moore’s 16 Ks (a Bulls record) and the 4 more by the relievers to set a season team high of 20 Ks. Certainly very fine performances by Matt Moore, Robert Zarate (who got the win) and Kirby Yates. And yet after Moore gave up the home run in the 6th, the Bulls were losing the game.

So, yes, there was some great pitching on both sides until the 7th. However, the Clippers put in Michael Roth to take the place of Toru Murata and Roth never got an out. In fact, it wasn’t until his 13th pitch that he even threw a strike. That is, he walked the bases loaded on 12 pitches, something of a pitching accomplishment all of its own. A Boog Powell sacrifice fly brought in the tying run and Roth was pulled from the game. A Nick Franklin single brought the go-ahead run in and a J.P. Arencibia single brought in two more.

The last time the Bulls won four games in a row was back in June, from the 7th to the 12th, but only two of those wins were at home. We have to go back to the end of May for four home wins. And lots of folks are showing up for the games as well.

A feature of the Bulls’ recent success has been plate discipline. They’ve drawn 21 walks over the last four games. Before we get too excited about that, however, we have to also note that they have struck out 35 times over the same four games (the Bulls lead the IL with 1,071 Ks on the season).

This win over Columbus is a modest help to Gwinnett in the wild card race. The Braves are still 2½ back, but aren’t out of it.