Sunday, May 31, 2015

Bulls Win; Nice to See Joe Dillon Back

Dan Johnson, Joe Dillon, Jose Lobaton
Walking back to dugout after a Lobaton home run
July 5, 2010

Season: 28-23; Home Stand: 4-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Rays Colored Glasses

What a terrific home stand this is becoming for us fans. Big crowds. Interesting baseball. And a bunch of wins. Plus we have 4 more games to go. Life is good!

Very pleased to see our favorite 2015 Bull, Alexi Casilla, back in the game after some time on the disabled list. Slightly annoyed that WDBB is the only place that recognizes that he’s the best hitter on the team. But maybe they’ll come around.

Ryan Brett DH’d and led off with a home run his first at bat. Things were quiet until the 5th when Richie Shaffer, whose bat had been quiet since his fabulous first game with the Bulls, poked one over the Blue Monster. Unfortunately, a Shaffer error and a single took starter Scott Diamond out of the game. An unimpressive José Dominguez gave up a single and then walked in a run, bringing up some bad memories of all the runs the Chiefs had given the Bulls on Friday night. He got out of the inning, however, with a strikeout and a popup, leaving the bases loaded.

The Rays/Bulls are certainly being cautious with Mr. Dominguez. Since coming off the DL he’s only had 5 appearances, none of them particularly successful.

Jordan Norberto came on for the 7th and it got a bit ugly after two outs. Two singles and Jared Sandberg was quick with the hook, giving the ball to the spectacular young Jhan Mariñez. But Mariñez’ last outing was a one-out save on May 24th. It took him two batters to shake the rust off. First he hit a batter to load the bases, then he walked in the Chief’s second run. He got a ground out and then struck out the side in the 8th. But the game was tied.

It got very interesting in the 8th. Alexi Casilla grounded out. Ryan Brett singled off the pitcher’s glove and Taylor Motter singled to right. Mikie Mahtook struck out and Alan Dykstra came to bat.

When Mahtook came to bat, broadcaster Patrick Kinas began a lengthy exposition on the positioning of Chief’s center fielder Darin Mastroianni, pointing out how shallow he was and that, especially after Mahtook’s K, it didn’t make any sense to play that shallow. Essentially, and I’m sure he has made all his colleagues in the booth aware of it, he called the shot for Dykstra. Dykstra put the 5th pitch he saw over Mastroianni’s head, both runners scored, and the Bulls were up 4-2.

Ronald Belisario, in the grand tradition of Bulls’ closers, gave us some thrills in the 9th. He gave up two singles before Alexi Casilla started one double play, then made a very pretty grab and throw for the third out. It was his 12th save, which ranks him #2 in the International League.

Outside the game —
  • About that photo up top. Joe Dillon was one of my favorite Durham Bulls back in 2009 and 2010. What I admired about him in those years was how hard he worked and how much he seemed to love the game. What I like about that photo is how looks to me so much like three guys on their way home from work. The photo says to me, “We’re baseball players, this is what we do.” You can see him tonight, probably out at third base when the Chiefs are at bat. He’s their hitting coach. Nice to see him back at the DBAP.
  • When Alexi Casilla came off the DL somebody had to go. After 4 games with the Bulls, Juniel Querecuto went back to the Charlotte Stone Crabs. 
  • Tampa Bay Rays infielder Tim Beckham tweaked a hamstring in last night's game in Baltimore. If serious, we can expect ripple effects down here.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

One Hit Wonder

Season: 27-23; Home Stand: 3-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

This was billed as a pitchers’ duel and, in its way, it was. At least Matt Buschmann showed up for the gunfight. His opponent, the Chiefs' A.J. Cole, decided to commit suicide after the first three innings. I don’t know that I’ve seen a pitcher come so thoroughly unraveled as the Chief’s Cole did in the 4th. After getting a pop-up from J.P.Arencibia to start the inning, he then proceeded to walk the next five, count ‘em, five batters to drive in two runs and leave the bases loaded when he was pulled out at last. And they were not close calls, by the last three BBs the pitches were unreachable by the batters. A ground out by Ryan Brett scored the third run, before the inning ended with another ground out.

And to be clear, the Bulls were not hitting all night. In fact, the team only had 1 hit (by Juniel Querecuto in the 3rd inning) in 23 ABs. That’s a batting average of .043! Throw in the walks and hit batsmen and you get an OPS of .356. Not the worst of the year, but still less that half the league average.

Speaking of hit batsmen, the Bulls' Brett was hit, but Buschmann and Romero combined to hit three Chiefs for a season high.

We are beginning to expect a solid performance from Matt Bushmann, and we got another one last night. His Game Score of 70 is his fourth +50 start in a row and his 8th of the year. He has had only 2 starts with a less than 50 GSc.

Enny Romero is back and showed up in long relief after C.J. Riefenhauser got in his one inning of rehab. Romero had no walks and 4 Ks. And a lot of heat. Several 97 mph fastballs in the mix, but it did take him 50 pitches to get through his 2⅓. Ronald Belisario got his 11th save with a three-pitch, two batter appearance.

Mikie Mahtook’s 3 strikeout, 0 for 4 night just adds to our worries about the young man. He looked just fine in right field, but May has been ugly at the plate. In his last 44 ABs he has had 19 strikeouts and no walks. In fact, on the year he has drawn just 9 walks and only 1 this month. Yet, from the stands, he does not look all that awkward at the plate as hitters in slumps often do. As with much of the rest of this team, hitting coach Dave Myers has some work to do.

Outside the game —
  • Everett Teaford has been sent down to Montgomery. The weakest of the Bulls starting crew, we wish him well.
  • Ryan Brett officially came off of his rehab assignment. As we saw, he was in the game at 2B last night. Like essentially everyone else, he was hitless last night, but he did get an RBI as he drew one of the 4th inning walks.
Comparing Bulls Teams

Fifty games into the season, how do these Durham Bulls compare to previous teams? By the net Runs Scored measure, only so-so, but much better than the 2012 gang. Considering all the roster turmoil and injuries, things are doing better than might be expected.

click on chart for larger image

Friday, May 29, 2015

Matchup: Syracuse Chiefs vs. Durham Bulls

The Washington Nationals’ Triple A team, the Rochester Chiefs, come to Durham today start a three-game series, the last the teams will play each other this year. The Chiefs are coming off a pretty awful run that saw them losing 12 of their last 13 games, including a 4 game sweep over in Norfolk earlier this week.

The Bulls and Chiefs played a three game series up in Syracuse earlier this month and won two out of three.

In the matchup, there’s been some change over the month, much of it not favoring the Bulls. The Chiefs stayed last in batting average; the Bulls dropped from 7th to 11th. The Chiefs also stayed 13th in the IL for OPS; the Bulls dropped from 3rd to 8th. The Chiefs were at #8 in ERA and dropped to #9; the Bulls dropped from #2 to #7.

The Chiefs have seen even more turmoil than the Bulls, as hard as that is to imagine. They have had 25 different players come to bat this year, but “only” 20 different pitchers. The Bulls have just 19 different ballplayers come to bat, but lead the Chiefs with 22 different pitchers.

The Chiefs’ parent team is breaking out of a slump. The Chief’s look to break out of theirs.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Win Streak Ends; Pitching Picture

Season: 26-23; Home Stand: 2-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Rochester Wrap

We’ve been putting up a lot of stats lately that seem to back up the idea that starting pitching is important. This game was a good example because veteran (31) Everett Teaford never quite got a handle on the game. The 4th inning was particularly painful because he had two outs and none on base before things fell apart. Four doubles, a single, and a walk later he finally got the last out with two runners on base. Four runs had scored. The game was then pretty much out of reach given that the Red Wings starter was cruising. Note: The two runs in the 1st inning were scored after two outs had been recorded.

The Bulls did pull off a couple of double plays yesterday and, as was pointed out on twitter, the combination of Querecuto-Reginatto-Arencibia has a melodic turn. The 4-4-5 beat fits nicely into a song.

Otherwise, all the new guys didn’t do any better than the old guys and the rehabbers. Ryan Brett was back and did get a double and a walk at DH. Rehabbing C.J. Riefenhauser pitched an inning and gave up two hits, but no runs. Richie Shaffer came down from the clouds with a 0 for 3 day. Juniel Querecuto was 1 for 3. About the only hitter who had a good day was J.P. Arencibia who went 3 for 4 with an RBI.

Outside the game —
  • The Bulls’ 5-game winning streak came to an end. They get a well-deserved day off today. Hope the weather stays nice.
  • We could hope that the roster will stabilize, but there’s too many players on the disabled list here and with the Rays for that to happen. Eventually, you have to think folks are going to get healthy and stay healthy. Until that happens we can expect the constant shifting and changing of this team to continue.
  • For example, yesterday it was announced that pitchers  Enny Romero and Preston Guilmet are coming back from the Rays.
Pitching Chart

This is a traditional stat, ERA-Earned Run Average, shown in a non-traditional way — as it changes over time, in this case over the last 15 games. Remember that less is more when it comes to ERA and the drift upwards shown in the team ERA is not a good thing. Today’s 3.60 puts the Bulls 7th in the 14-team International League. The Bulls lost 9 of these 15 games and obviously the pitching was a big piece of it. However, that’s a nice little downward trend in the starting pitcher ERA (not counting yesterday, of course). Overall, the reliever trend is very worrisome, especially as it was trending upwards even as the Bulls were winning. But, remember that it’s mostly relievers who have been spending all that time in the RDU and Tampa airports this month. 

click chart for larger image

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Brown Hits the Bull

Season: 26-22; Home Stand: 2-0
Wrap, Box, Rochester Wrap

Dylan Floro had a solid outing, scattering Red Wings' hits around, and Cory Brown hit the Bull. First time this year.

I couldn’t make the game, and I regret it. Looks like it was fun to watch.

Outside the game —
  • Two ballplayers who started the year with the Bulls are back — Ryan Brett and C.J. Riefenhauser. Both of them were called up to the Rays in April, broke something while there, and went on the disabled list. If I understand the rules, they are officially here on a rehabilitation assignment and don’t count against the Bulls roster, but they are on the 40-man roster of the Rays and once they finish their rehab something will have to happen. There’s a good chance that they will stay here. 
  • Meanwhile, they will give the Bulls' bench a small break. However, each comes with a little tag attached to them that tells the manager what the player can, and cannot, do. Possibly a pitch count for Riefenhauser, but Brett played a full game yesterday, so maybe he’s ready to go.
  • The clock would be ticking for Mr. Querecuto, making him a leading candidate for this year’s Moonlight Graham award.
  • A couple of sources are reporting [MLB Trade Rumors, Rays Index] that Grant Balfour has opted out of his contract with the Rays. Too bad. We liked watching him even if he looked dissatisfied with himself most of his time here. He kept checking the pitch speed clock and never seemed to be that into the game. On the other hand, he put up some decent, but not great, numbers in his 8 appearances as a Bull. Good luck. Maybe he will catch on with another club.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Welcome to the New Durham Bulls!

Season: 25-22; Home Stand: 1-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

When the Bulls took the field last night not one of the players on the infield started the season with the Bulls. Not one. We won’t count catcher Luke Maile. Starting pitcher Matt Andriese has only had three appearances with the Bulls. First Baseman J.P. Arencibia’s first game was in mid-April. At second base was Leonardo Reginatto who began the season with the Montgomery Biscuits and played his first game for the Bulls on April 23, but he has gone back to Montgomery once along the way. At shortstop was Juniel Querecuto, who was called up from the Single A Charlotte Stone Crabs just yesterday. And at third base was Richie Shaffer who was called up from the Montgomery Biscuits on Sunday.

This, of course, reflects the chaos down in St. Petersburg, but the Bulls have a few of their own homegrown problems. On the DL and leaning against the dugout railing last night were, as reported in the Bulls Game Notes,  Hak-Ju Lee (left hand laceration), Vince Belnome (shoulder), and not seen, but on the list, Alexi Casilla (hamstring).

Meanwhile on the field the Red Wings’ Jason Wheeler went 5 innings allowing only one baserunner, Luke Maile. But the 6th didn’t go so well. Maile led off with a single. New guy Juniel Querecuto hit a double; Taylor Motter singled those two home. Leonardo Reginatto singled. Eugenio Velez singled. Curt Casali doubled home 2 runs. That was then end of Wheeler’s night. But after a K and an intentional walk of Corey Brown, the other new guy, Richie Shaffer, hit a sacrifice fly to bring in the last run.

By the way, after his extraordinary start where he had a slash line on his first appearance of 800/.800/2.200 (Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging) to go with 3 RBI; Richie Shaffer’s numbers have plummeted to: .571/.500/1.571 with 4 RBI on 7 at bats. Still not too bad.

Outside the game —
  • As mentioned, there’s chaos down in Tampa Bay. Tim Beckham got turned around on his way to Durham and started at shortstop for the Rays last night. He went 1 for 3 in their loss to the Seattle Mariners. Jake Elmore was called up from the Bulls, started in left field, and was 2 or 2 with a walk.
  • By the way, note who is playing center field for the Seattle Mariners: Long time Durham Bull, and member of the All-DBAP team,  Justin Ruggiano. I had lost track of him.
  • The really important news is that the Bull Durham Beer Company is brewing and serving. I am far from expert on the subject of beer, but I tried the Lollygagger Kolsch and liked it.
  • Speaking of beer, I commend to you the dedicated research and explication reflected in the "Beers of Coca-Cola Park" by fellow Triple-A blogger KramsKorner up Lehigh Valley way. If there's someone out there who'd like to take on the challenge of doing something like this for the DBAP, please let me know. But the bar has been set pretty high, I'd say.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Newest Durham Bull Runs the Bases

Season: 24-22; Trip: 4-4
Wrap, Box, Times-Tribune

Young Richie Shaffer was called up from the Rays AA team, the Montgomery Biscuits (stats), and very likely blasted his way into Durham Bulls history. Playing third base, Shaffer hit two home runs, a double, and a single in 5 at-bats in his very first AAA game. That’s an amazing “slash line” of .800/.800/2.200 (Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging), an OPS of 3.000, to go with 3 RBI. Those are going to be really cool numbers to see on the scoreboard when he first comes to bat at the DBAP, possibly late this afternoon.

Meanwhile, his recent Biscuits colleague, Leonardo Reginatto, playing 2B, was also having a great night going 2 for 3 with 2 RBI. Not to mention the rest of the team. Only two Bulls did not get an RBI in a game where the Bulls scored the most runs in a single game this year. Allan Dykstra and J.P. Arencibia contributed a home run each.

Nevertheless, the RailRiders batted around in the 9th inning and scored 4 runs off of Andy Oliver, causing Jhan Marinez to be called in to save the game.

Outside the game —
  • The Bulls have won three in a row and got a 4-4 split on this road trip. Extraordinarily good work, especially given the roster turmoil and injuries. 
  • The Rochester Red Wings (Twins) are in town today. The Bulls just had a 1-3 series against them in Rochester, so they know each other well.
  • Doesn’t look like fans out there love their teams as much as we love our Durham Bulls. Average attendance at the Bulls’ 29 away games this year has been 5,459; for the 17 home games 7,573. That’s a pretty large 2,114 fan per game difference.
  • When I checked in to the game I found that the radio stream was running the Indy 500, as was both AM and FM radio. Fortunately, Patrick Kinas responded to a Tweet and pointed out where I could find the game being streamed by WRAL. Seems to me that the Bulls could have done some Tweeting themselves and put something on their website. All the normal links via MiLB went to the Indy 500. Very poor job on the part of the Bulls, unless I missed something else. Not everyone is on Twitter and I don't think I'm the only one trying to listen to Bulls away games.

The Bulls come home tied with the Norfolk Tides for second place in the South Division. Not bad given that ugly losing streak they went through recently.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Buschmann Rules

Season: 22-22; Trip: 3-4
Wrap, Box, RailRidersBlog

The Bulls pulled back up to .500 with their second win in a row, giving every appearance of coming out of their slump. But also give credit to Matt Buschmann for another superb outing (Game Score: 77).

I wasn’t listening, nor have I read any follow-up, but pulling Jordan Norberto after just two batters does not look good. Here’s hoping that he’s OK.

Meanwhile, a much-reduced player crew took the field and put together a three-run 5th inning that was enough to win the game.

Outside the game —
  • By much reduced, I mean really much reduced. In the last few days three infielders have gone on the disabled list: Hak-Ju Lee, Vince Belnome, and Alexi Casilla. Leonardo Reginatto was called back from Montgomery and Tim Beckham is on his way, but the next couple of days are going to be tricky. As far as I can tell, today the Bulls have one player on the bench, whomever isn’t catching. Catcher Mayo Acosta is probably traveling with the team and could probably be activated, though.
  • Pitcher  Enny Romero went to St. Petersburg, pitched three innings, and is coming back. Talk about a long walk from and to the bullpen! He did his job, but did walk in a run.
  • To take his place, Bulls reliever Preston Guilmet was called up. He has 14 appearances in the majors, 4 in 2013 and 10 last year with Baltimore, so he’s been there before. Good luck!
My Last Game Score Chart

After two days of looking at Game Scores over time, what about individuals? Here’s the average game scores this season for Durham Bulls starters. It’s a pretty close match to our view of them measured by other stats. Beginning to think this may be a pretty useful for evaluating starters. Note that here in AAA not all starting pitchers are destined to remain starting pitchers. And a not-so-good sign for the Bulls is to note that #2 and #3 are on the 40-man and are already going back and forth to the Rays.

Update: Third Baseman Richie Shaffer called up from Montgomery Biscuits [stats]

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tim Beckham Coming to the Bulls

Infielder Tim Beckham is coming to the Durham Bulls after a solid start with the Tampa Bay Rays this year — 33 games, decent stats. Commentary implies that in the short run the Rays need a pitcher more than they need an infielder. They called up Enny Romero, who has been doing an above-average job for Bulls.

Mr. Beckham is showing some real pop this year, as discussed over on Rays Index. Here’s hoping he brings that to the DBAP. The Bulls “power hitters” this year are still looking for a charging station.

After a long rehab, Beckham only got in 15 games with the Bulls last year and our guess was that 2015 might be his year. We've watched him a lot over the years and his arrival certainly helps fill the hole that Hak-Ju Lee's injury has left, plus he is certainly a much better hitter. This could be a real boost to the Bulls upcoming home stand. Here's hoping being optioned doesn't work on his head.

A Win Against the RailRiders!

Season: 22-22; Trip: 2-4
Wrap, Box, Scranton Times-Tribune

Yes, this win was aided by the exceptional generosity of RailRiders pitchers and fielders (8 walks, 3 errors, 2 unearned runs), but you know what, the Bulls will probably be happy to take it. Over the last 10 games, the Bulls have lost 8, and 5 of those losses were to these RailRiders. It was nice to see the win.

I have mixed feelings about Everett Teaford. His ERA is up there at 5.50. His average Game Score (44) isn’t all that great. But he did a good job last night. Preston Guilmet got his first save of the year. He had 10 last year with the Norfolk Tides, so maybe we’ll see more of him in a closer role.

Mikie Mahtook went 1 for 5 last night with 3 K’s. He’s had 19 strikeouts in the last 10 games as his batting average has dropped down to .256. Worrisome.

But young Leonardo Reginatto is back and making the most of it, including a run scored and an RBI last night while batting in the 9 spot.

Outside the game —
  • Vince Belnome was put on the disabled list yesterday, joining Hak-Ju Lee. That was the 59th transaction of the year.
  • Alexi Casilla did not play last night.
  • Two more games and the Bulls are back in town for 9 games over 11 days. Tomorrow’s game is their last game in the North Division in 2015. 
  • An interesting analysis of the Tampa Bay region as a sports venue over at Rays Index. Attendance is a big issue down there. The implication is that the area has more sports than they can support. 
  • Locally, however, we have one more baseball team, the Holly Springs Salamanders, a Coastal Plains League team playing in Holly Springs nice new park.
More on the Game Score stat —

Here’s the similar look at the Game Score stat I did yesterday, except for the Tampa Bay Rays. The circled data points are the anomalies — a below average GSc that the team won, above average GSc the team lost. What jumped out to me is how someone (hitters or relievers?) is not following up on good work by Jake Odorizzi. He had two terrific starts in the period (and one 49) and still the Rays lost the games.

click on chart for larger image

Friday, May 22, 2015

Walk-Off Losses; Rosterizing; and the Game Score Stat

Wrap, Box

The Rays don’t seem to know what they want Matt Andriese to become. He’s had 7 appearances with the Rays this year, three not-very-good starts and 4 relief appearances. With the Bulls he’s had a relief appearance and this start, which began well, but didn’t end all that great, followed by Jordan Norberto, who was awful.

Season: 21-22; Trip: 1-4
Wrap, Box, Scranton Times-Tribune

The Bulls then traveled to Moosic, Pennsylvania for a re-match against the RailRiders. Dylan Floro had a brilliant start, his best of the year, but Andrew Bellatti, just back from Tampa Bay couldn’t hang on.

Outside the game —
  • Hak-Ju Lee has gone on the disabled list for an injury to his hand. I’ve missed all the details, but he was spiked on his glove hand and left the game Wednesday night.
  • Leonardo Reginatto is back up from Montgomery and played last night.
  • The team’s best hitter, Alexi Casilla, left game two on Tuesday evening and has not played since. First reported as a hamstring problem, but if someone’s got more current information, please add.
  • Pitcher Everett Teaford went on the temporarily inactive list when Andrew Bellatti was added to the roster.

Game Score?

The Game Score stat and the importance of starting pitching.

I’ve been reading up on Bill James’ “Game Score” stat recently and tracking the Bulls (and the Rays) starting pitchers.

Game Score is a way of evaluating the performance of the starting pitcher. Overall the computation is pretty simple and fairly intuitive. And baseball seems to agree since it’s showing up in box scores.

Here’s how it’s calculated:
Start with 50 points. Add 1 point for each out recorded, (3 points per inning). Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th. Add 1 point for each strikeout. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed. Subtract 1 point for each walk.

And here’s one take on what it means (from the Wikipedia link):
The game score concept expands on Major League Baseball’s official definition of a “quality start”. MLB defines a quality start as six or more innings pitched while allowing three or fewer earned runs. The game score system defines a quality start as a game score above 50.
The advantage that the system has over the official definition is that it allows a statistician a better view of the degree of quality in a pitcher’s performance. Game scores can be quantified, and a pitcher’s performance tracked over time. It is also possible to compare different pitchers. If one averages a 60 and another averages 55, presumably the first pitcher has had a better season.

Does it pass the “so what?” test?


This chart shows the game scores of Bulls starting pitchers for the last 15 games. This has not been a good stretch for the Bulls, they’ve only won 4 games and they’ve lost 11. How does that track against starting pitcher performance? Pretty well. The circled scores are the only three anomalies of the 15. Otherwise it sure looks like an above average game score is associated with a team win (3 out of the 4 wins had above-50 game scores) and a low game score with a loss (9 out of 11 losses had below-50 scores). Please note that the wins and losses shown are team's wins and losses, not the pitcher's.

It sure looks like a good part of this recent tough run can be attributed to starting pitching.

click on chart for larger image

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Win and, How Bad is the DBAP Press Box?

Wrap, Box, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

Wrap, Box

Season: 21-20; Trip: 1-2
Wrap, Box, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

At last! A win. A bit ugly what with 3 errors and 12 runners left on base. But a win nonetheless with good jobs turned in by Enny Romero, Jhan Marinez (ERA 0.55 after 8 appearances and 16 innings!), and Ronald Belisario, who came into the game in the 8th with 1 out and runners on 1B and 2B and K’d the Red Wings out. A clean 9th inning got him his 7th save. New guy Preston Guilmet started the 8th and Jared Sandberg had had enough after 3 hits, two runs scored, and only one out.

Alexi Casilla left the game early on for an undisclosed (so far) reason. If anybody hears anything, please add to comments.

Outside the game —

In the “now it can be told” category.

First, let me point out that WDBB is not considered to be part of the "media" and we have never been in the press box or the broadcast booth (old or new) at the DBAP. Never thought to ask, to be honest. They might have let me in, but probably not now. And let me say that from where I sit, I have a hard time telling a curve from a slider from a changeup without checking the speed gun.

Now, on to the story …

I was watching the MiLB TV version of one of the games and listening to the Red Wings' broadcast team since the delay for Patrick Kinas was at least a minute or so and arrived well after the action on the screen. One of the broadcasters, whose name I didn’t catch, went into a fairly lengthy rant about the DBAP broadcast booth.

According to him, it's the worst in all of the International League. No other place in the IL puts the broadcasters where they can’t see the game! He likes the park, hates the booth. As we all know, the broadcasters are high up above first base, so they obviously don't have a very good angle to observe pitches. Nor can they see all of right field. And when the fans stand up, apparently their view is completely blocked. So the broadcasters end up calling the game from the video monitors.

I’ve wondered about that odd configuration myself. As we all can see, with the remodel came a club-like spot up above home plate, which must be really nice for the fans, but ... remember those scenes from “Bull Durham” where the broadcaster is essentially faking his calls?

Just how do folks way up above first base tell exactly where the ball crossed the plate?

Monday, May 18, 2015

And Today the Best Durham Bulls Hitter is ...

Alexi Casilla

This is our first look at the Durham Bulls hitters this year. It’s a bit early and the sample size is pretty small. But still worth a look, I thought. I used a cut off of 50 plate appearances before sorting the table.

This table is sorted by Weighted on Base Average (wOBA), which is one of those newish stats that makes a lot of sense once you dig into it. It essentially weights the various ways a batter can get on base. The explanation at the link might help. The second not-usual stat is Weighted Runs Above Average (wRAA). That stat compares the player to the rest of the league in terms of runs contributed.

The players marked by an asterisk are on the Tampa Bay Rays 40-man roster. The players marked with a strike-thru are players who have been with the Bulls and might be coming back before the year is out. Joey Butler went up to the Rays, Leonardo Reginatto went down to Montgomery.

To be honest, I was surprised to see Mr. Casilla come out on the top of the list. I think he’s a terrific second baseman, with a very accurate side-arm snap throw that rarely misses (only one error on the year). But I had not been paying attention to his bat. That could be because I usually undervalue switch hitters. But there he is with 31 hits (5 doubles, 3 home runs), 9 walks, and 14 RBI. At 38 games into the season he is the best of the bunch.

What about the players at the other end of the table? Two are catchers and they, mostly, don’t count. But Hak-Ju Lee and Alan Dykstra? Hard to say. Both are serious talents, neither is having a good year (and it’s been a long time since Lee had a good year).

Hitting coach Dave Myers needs to help these guys find some answers.

This table is a rough guide to what wOBA numbers mean.

Big Crowds; Big Losses

Season: 20-18; Home Stand: 0-4
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

This may have been the worst Durham Bulls home stand in my memory. Fortunately, also one of the shortest.

After playing to virtually empty stands in Buffalo and Syracuse, the Bulls did not reward the 38,503 fans who came out to the DBAP over the last 4 days. Instead, Bulls pitchers served up 5 home runs and 12 doubles among the 53 hits and 26 runs scored.

Meanwhile, Bulls hitters managed just 29 hits, with 3 doubles and 2 home runs, and scored only 8 runs.

A few years ago during a hitting drought a rumor circulated that Bulls hitters had taken their bats down to that open area behind the gate in right field and built a bonfire with them. Time to do that again?

In an effort to find at least some light, let me mention the return of José Dominguez, who had a nice inning; and the nice work of Jordan Norberto and Andy Oliver, who kept things from being even worse.


The Bulls hit the road for four games in three days in Rochester, then meet the RailRiders on their home turf for four games, then they are back a week from today, hoping the ACC teams have not torn up the ragged-looking DBAP turf too much.

The Twins’ AAA team, the Rochester Red Wings lead the league in batting average and are second in OPS, so they are going to be a challenge to Bulls pitching. Then there’s the oddity of a scheduled double header on Tuesday. Not sure why/how that happened, but that is going to be a real stretch for the bullpen. I don’t think any of our current Bulls position players have any pitching experience, but I think that Mayo Acosta is still traveling with the team and he’s got 3 innings under his belt last year.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bulls Slide to Third Place

Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Steve Wiseman in the Herald-Sun pretty much said it all in his first sentence: “The Durham Bulls had chances and chances and more chances to score and avoid extra innings on Friday night.”


Season: 20-17; Home Stand: 0-3

OK, I know it was Star Wars night and all, but those were quite possibly the ugliest uniforms I’ve ever seen on baseball players. And then the Durham Bulls went from first place to third place in the International League South as this even uglier home stand continues.

Dylan Floro looked pretty good through the first four innings, got hit hard in the 5th (2 doubles and a single, one run); and hit harder in the 6th, two singles and a home run. Not sure why Floro gets to stay up into the 90’s in his pitch count while other pitchers are being pulled much earlier.

New guy Preston Guilmet, last seen pitching for the Buffalo Bisons but claimed from the Toronto system the other day, had a nice inning, as did Jhan Marinez, but it was too late. The Bulls haven’t hit the ball well for the last week. In fact, last night all the offensive excitement was over after the first two batters, a single by Taylor Motter and a home run by Nick Franklin.

Rosterizing —
  • Infielder Leonardo Reginatto has been sent back to Montgomery. We liked watching him play and he was doing a decent job at bat (.300/.323/.350). He’ll probably be back when/if the Rays give up on Hak-Ju Lee.
  • Bryce Stowell was also sent to the Montgomery Biscuits. Too bad, because he had pretty decent numbers. I expect he will be back as well.
  • As mentioned above, the Rays claimed reliever Preston Guilment from the Toronto Blue Jays. Stats. He looked just fine last night.
  • Rehabbing Jake McGee is on his way back to Tampa Bay.
  • Rehabbing Nick Franklin was pulled from the game after his home run last night. So he might be on his way back as well.
  • José Dominguez came of the disabled list and should be in the bullpen for today’s game.
  • According to The Tampa Tribune, Andrew Bellatti is coming back to the Bulls. He did a terrific job as a reliever for the Rays. We’ll have to see if he’s going to be starting or in relief as a Bull. 
Standings Chart

For a couple of days the Tides and the Knights were losing games along with the Bulls. Not yesterday, so that changes the chart to show the Bulls sliding into third place.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Rough Night at the DBAP

Season: 20-15; Home Stand: 0-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

On my scorecard I’d circled the bases-loaded end of the Bulls’ 1st inning and base-loaded end of 2nd inning and made a note to myself, “That doesn’t look good.” In the end, it didn’t matter. In the RailRiders’ 5th a flurry of “ground balls with eyes" pretty much ripped up my scoresheet. And then the was the 9, count ‘em, 9 walks by the relief corps (10 walks on the night, the worst performance this year). Aaaaaargh! Go home. Tomorrow’s another day.

There’s something not right about Jordan Norberto. In his last two appearances he’s gone 2.1 innings, given up 6 hits, 8 walks, 4 earned runs on a lot of pitches (89). He did escape the 5th after walking the bases loaded. But the 6th was simply awful and painful to watch (I left near the end of it): single, single, single (run scores), walk, ground out (run scores), fly out, walk, walk (run scores). Bryce Stowell comes in.
But, even Stowell, a very reliable guy, gave up four walks and a run.

Ah, but today’s another day.

Outside the game —
  • Regular television broadcasts start today. For the rest of the season’s home games you will be able to watch the superb Explorer Post 50 crew’s work. Time Warner Cable 323 or 1250. Over the air 50.2. Details and schedule here.
  • The Herald-Sun is reporting that Jake McGee has finished his rehab and is going back to the Rays. And that Matt Andriese is coming back to the Bulls. I find Andriese’s return a bit odd since he picked up a 4-inning save against the Yankees last night.
  • In the same article rehabbing Nick Franklin states that he thinks he’s ready to go back.


When we looked at hitting a couple of weeks ago, the hitters were on a slight upward trend. Not so at the moment. The last four games have been well below average. The quirk is that the hitters’ worst game (May 13) was a win.

This charts the team OPS (on base percentage + slugging) for each of last 15 games. The blue line is the average OPS for international league teams over the last three years. The trend line is a five-game moving average.

click chart for larger view

Thursday, May 14, 2015

One is Enough

Season: 2014; Trip: 3-3
Wrap, Box, Buffalo News, Bisons Wrap

The Bulls were behind the Bisons in virtually every statistical category except for one — runs scored. And that, of course, made all the difference.

In their absolute worst offensive game of the season (just two total bases on two singles), the Bulls prevailed when the pitchers and defense (2 double plays) had a shutout.

Sharp base running was the difference. With one out in the 6th inning, Taylor Motter stole second after a single. Nick Franklin walked and then they pulled off a double steal with Mikie Mahtook at the plate. Motter scored on a Mahtook ground out.


The Bulls come home tied for first place with Charlotte in the IL South (Charlotte has a modest .006 pt lead). The Bulls have a four game set with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Yankees AAA team, who are 5-5 in their last 10. Their parent club is riding high and the statistical difference between the two is not all that great. Should be a good series. The Bulls leave town for Rochester as soon as the series is over.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Starting Stumbles

Season: 19-14; Trip: 2-3
Wrap, Box, Buffalo News

Pitching, in just one awful inning, was enough. Then the Bisons brought on Todd Redmond. This will be the last time the Bulls see him this year. That’s a good thing.

Hard to find much to like in this game, so let’s at least mention the solid job that veteran (33) Jim Miller (stats) has been doing for the Bulls. He came in last night and pitched 2+ innings and kept the Bulls within reach. In 11 appearances so far he has pitched 19⅓ innings for an ERA of 2.79 (FIP of 2.68) and a decent WHIP of 1.19. He has not allowed any home runs and not one of the 4 runners he’s inherited has scored. He spent the last two years with the Yankees AAA team, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, but his numbers so far with the Bulls are much better than those years.

Jake Elmore, who had been up with the Rays, was back and playing 3B, 0-7 with on walk so far. Hanging out in St. Petersburg seems to mess with your game — a lot.

Pitching Update

Back on April 30 when we first looked at this chart things were on nice downward trend. That continued for several days, but recently the starting crew has had its problems.

These are the last 15 days of the cumulative ERAs of the starting and relief pitchers. As the season progresses you would expect to see less variability in the ups and downs, but this is a fairly obvious and worrisome trend. Note that the Bulls have had 21 different pitchers so far this year, ranging from Dylan Floro’s 40 innings to Jose Dominguez’s and Matt Andriese’ 2 each.

click on chart for larger image

Monday, May 11, 2015

Big Bats Emerge

Wrap, Box,

Five home runs aren’t enough, and an intentional walk plus an unintentional walk lost the game.

Season: 19-12; Trip: 2-1

Bulls hitters hit three more home runs (Mahtook, Dykstra, and Arencibia), but this time the pitchers matched them with solid performances.

Enny Romero made his 2015 debut with the Bulls after a long getting-ready stretch that goes back to spring training. We were not particular fans of Mr. Romero last year, but he certainly had a solid performance yesterday. How long he sticks with the Bulls is likely to be the subject of intense speculation down St. Petersburg way.

Alan Dykstra has built an odd record since joining the Bulls. The 6’5“ switch-hitter has only had 3 hits in his 10 games for a batting average of .088. However, those three hits are a double and 2 home runs plus he’s managed 10 walks (including at least one intentional walk). That leads him to an extraordinary batting average/OPS gap. His OPS is .590.  He carried an OPS of .930 with Las Vegas of the PCL last year, with 74 RBI. Yesterday he followed up Saturday’s 2 run shot with a solo one in the 5th inning. We’ve been skeptical of Mr. Dykstra. Could we have been wrong?

Overlooked in the offensive stats was how often the defense made a difference yesterday. It was a double play that closed the deal in the Bulls favor on Friday. Yesterday it was three of them that made big differences.

Outside the game —
  • The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that Grant Balfour has an end-of-May opt-out to his minor league contract. That certainly means that he won’t be around Durham after this month. 
  • The Process Report has a nice profile of Andrew Bellatti written by Adam Sobsey, one of the co-authors of Bull City Summer*.

The Bulls rode over to Buffalo yesterday for a rematch with the Bisons tonight. And, yes, it was just a couple of days since the Bulls were playing them at the DBAP. Interesting to see what’s happened to their numbers since we last looked prior to that series. The Bulls have gone from 9th to 6th place in batting average ranking, from 5th to 3rd in OPS rankings, and from 4th to 3rd in ERA. Meanwhile, the Bisons went from 5th to 10th in batting average, 7th to 13th on OPS, and from 1st to 2nd on ERA. But we still need to remember that this is early in the season and rosters are in  turmoil. Very hard to detect meaningful trends. But the Bisons have been on a tough run, losing their last six games.

*Possibly the best book available on minor league baseball. On the shelf at Quail Ridge Books and on half-price sale down in the ballpark store.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Thrilling 9th

Season: 18-11; Trip: 1-0
Wrap, Box,

Last night I was off having fun playing guitar in a group of friends, but my iPhone First Pitch app kept up with these annoying notifications telling me that the Bulls were losing, badly. The last time I looked the score was something like 6-1, so I stopped looking.

Then I got to my car, turned the radio on and discovered the Bulls were back in the chase after scoring a run in the 6th and three more in the 7th. I was home and had the computer fired up by the top of the 9th. There I saw Hak-Ju Lee single and steal a base, Taylor Motter get a walk, Alexi Casilla sacrifice them over to 2nd and 3rd, Eugenio Velez bring Lee home on a sac fly, and Corey Brown double in the go ahead run.

Then Andy Oliver got his first save opportunity and squeezed the thrills out it. After the first batter popped up, a single and a walk put men on 1B and 2B. Then Lee, playing shortstop, tried for a force out at 3B on a ground ball. Didn’t work. Bases loaded. One out. The heart-stopper was a line drive to third baseman Leonardo Reginatto. He grabbed the line drive, then tagged the base for an unassisted double play. Game over.

And so the Bulls have their fifth win in a row and added to their lead in the IL South. The relief corps has now gone eight games without letting a run across. That means that Matt Buschmann was charged with all 6 of last night’s runs, which didn’t do his ERA any good. And the 3 home runs by Syracuse ruined his FIP.

Rosterizing —
  • After a grand total of 2 innings pitched in one game, Matt Andriese is headed for St. Petersburg, probably for a start opportunity. 
  • Andrew Bellatti, who has had 5 appearances and doing very well, was added to the 40-man and called up. Congrats!
  • Jake Elmore, last seen in a Bulls uniform on April 21, is on his way back. His playing time with the Rays was limited. Only 14 plate appearances in 7 games. But solid numbers: .308/.357/.973. Not sure why he’s coming back unless Nick Franklin has finished his rehab.
How about them Rays?

We don’t have a lot of Rays fans around here, but it’s fun to keep an eye on them and run at least a couple of the same charts we do for the Bulls. Here’s the games above/below .500 chart for the American League East. The Rays are doing pretty well and are staying in touch with the Yankees in spite of all the pitching injuries, flu, etc.

click on chart for larger image
Their runs scored minus runs allowed chart is less encouraging.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Matchup: Durham Bulls vs. Syracuse Chiefs

The Syracuse Chiefs are the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. Not having a great year. But the year is young. Unless there's more roster shuffling, the numbers favor the Bulls.

Bulls Sweep the Bisons

Season: 17-11; Home Stand: 3-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Another noisy Education Day and some good baseball to be watched.

At first it seemed that the Bulls were going to run away with the game, especially after scoring two runs in the 1st inning and loading the bases with none out in the 2nd. However, the Bison’s Todd Redmond, who we have seen a lot over the years in various uniforms, struck out the side. Then the Bisons tied it up in the 3rd. Eventually, however, Redmond faltered and Belnome’s RBI of Lee in the 4th followed by Motter’s sac fly that brought Casilla home in the 6th were the difference.

All praise to the Bulls bullpen. They have not allowed a run in the last seven games.

We have to mention the deep confidence that Sandberg must have in Allan Dykstra. Dystra started at DH! Here’s a guy batting .000 since joining the Bulls. And he started out with a pop-up to 3B, a fly out to centerfield, and a ground out to 1B. In the end, however, he got his first hit of the year, a double  to left field in the 8th inning.

Hak-Ju Lee had a good day, three singles in 4 AB. Maybe ...

We should probably be a bit worried about both Mikie Mahtook and Taylor Motter, who collided in the outfield in the 3rd inning (Mahtook hung on to the ball, though). Both seemed banged up. Rob McLamb of the Herald-Sun has a bit more information, but not much more.

Outside the game —
  • OK, let me rant about parking for day games. If you buy a season parking package, it turns out it doesn’t count for day games. One option is the parking garage over by the new county admin building. It has one of those automated deals where you put your ticket in and then your credit card. The machine spits back your ticket and your credit card gets charged for the parking. In this case $5. So far, so good. Here’s the fun part.
  • It took me 30 minutes to get out of the garage and when I put my ticket in to get out of the gate, the machine wanted another $2.00 before it would let me go! Now there I was with a host of not happy folks behind me that were certainly not going to be understanding. So I put my credit card in and I was free. But I don’t think I’ll ever use that parking deck again, and I certainly can’t recommend it as a day game solution.
  • Elsewhere, an interesting article in The Economist magazine on the statcast system being used to generate data for major league baseball.
  • The Bulls are up in Syracuse for three games against the Chiefs.
Chart —

This chart tracks the game by game runs scored minus the runs allowed by the Durham Bulls. What does it mean? Other than the profound observation that it takes scoring more runs than your opponent to win a game? Not too much. However, it turns out that if you crank the data through a formula called the “Pythagorean Expectation” you can come up with numbers that very often matches the team’s won-loss record, which I find both very interesting and a bit creepy. If you crank the Bulls current runs scored and runs allowed through the equation you come up with a “PE” of 17-11, an exact match of their current won-loss record. How cool is that?

click on chart for larger image

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Durham Bulls Take First Place

click chart for larger view
Season: 16-11; Home Stand: 2-0
Wrap, Box, Standings

The Durham Bulls took over first place in the International League South Division with the win (and the Charlotte Knight's loss). This last week has been very pretty for the Bulls and their fans. Last night we saw Dylan Floro do his thing, pitching a scoreless 6 innings giving up only 4 hits and no walks.

We have to feel some sympathy for catcher Luke Maile as he began dealing with veteran (37 year-old) Grant Balfour. Balfour loves to spike pitches into the dirt and in his first Bulls appearance he did quite a bit of that. Nevertheless, Maile handled all but one of them, Balfour got two K’s, and the Bison’s stranded thier guy on 2B.

We’d guess that Mikie Mahtook was disappointed when Joey Butler was called up to the Rays after Desmond Jennings went on the DL. From a Bulls fan’s perspective, however, he is getting much more playing time and pumping up his numbers. In our view he should stick with the Bulls until the Rays are ready to put him to work full time. He faced big leaguer Daniel Norris of the Bisons and got an RBI single and a nice double off of him.

Nick Franklin showed off his major leaguer status in his long trousers and big leaguer’s “TB” batting helmet (didn’t notice that earlier). It’ll probably take a few more concussions before the big guys opt for something less attractive than what they’ve got. Ego is really something to see. Batting DH, Franklin drew two BB's, but he did appear to tweak something in his last AB. Hope not serious.

Outside the Game —
  • Sorry to say that the infield looks even worse. Hope that some sort of magic happens as the year goes on. But it hasn’t happened yet.
  • Bark in the Park last night. Fun to stroll through that area as we came into the park last night.
  • Matt Andriese gets his first start as a 2015 Durham Bull at the 11:00 Education Day game today.