Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Best (Former) Bull Beats Bulls

Season: 41-37; Trip: 1-3
Wrap, Box, Toledo Blade

Not much new in the basics of the game story, much like the last couple of weeks — not all that good of starting pitching (although better than some in recent days), very good pitching by opponents, another loss. That would be nine losses and two wins since the Bulls came home back on June 18th. So lets just jump right to the oddities.

The first Toledo Mud Hen hit of the day, who eventually scored the Mud Hens first run, didn’t come until the 3rd inning. It was a single by their new second baseman, Alexi Casilla. Who? That’s right, Alexi Casilla! It seems that yesterday morning the “data-driven” Rays traded the Bulls' best hitter to Detroit for something not reported (money? player?). Detroit assigned Casilla to the Mud Hens and I’m guessing he just drug his bags from one locker room to the other sometime before the game.

Good Luck, Alexi. Loved watching you play and you helped the Bulls while you were with them.

Something had to give when Tim Beckham finally showed up. However, in keeping with WDBB tradition, we gloriously struck out the other day by naming three, count ‘em, three possibilities. I whiffed on all three. Age before beauty, I guess. Looking back at our hitters chart from a few days ago, three of the “above average” guys are gone — Alexi Casilla, Allan Dykstra, and Eugenio Velez — while all of the below-average crew remains. Don’t get me wrong, I like all of those guys. It’s just that something other than these data are driving the Rays decisions.

Meanwhile Tim Beckham is finally in a Bulls uniform and playing third base. Third base? Well, of course he is. The fact that in 623 minor league games and in 32 major league games he never once played third base should be no real surprise. We’ll see. What’s next? Center field? That’s what was done with the famous Melvin (formerly known as B.J.) Upton. Beckham did get two hits, stole a base, and scored the only run. Oh, he also picked up his first error as a third baseman (a throw in the bottom of the 8th). In fact, we are happy to have him with the Bulls. Here's hoping he stays healthy and shows some of that bat pop he had at the end of last season.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Split in Ohio

Season: 41-36; Trip: 1-2
Wrap, Box 1, Box 2, Columbus Dispatch

The way the first game went, it looked as if the Bulls were back on track with exceptional starting pitching from new guy Robert Zarate and timely hitting from Ryan Brett and Corey Brown. Included in the good news was their first shutout since June 7 (OK, a 7 inning game, but it still looked good). J.P. Arencibia had his game as a catcher in the game as well (no wild pitches, no passed balls, no steals, pretty good).

The Bulls and the Clippers both went to their bullpens for the second game, and that looked OK until Ernesto Frieri could not hold on to the tie game in the 7th.

Richie Shaffer played first base in both games. A rusty Alexi Casilla struck out three times in the second game. New guy Boog Powell got two singles and two walks in the first game, plus a triple in the second game.

The Bulls will play a two-game set against the Clippers in August at the DBAP. Let’s hope they get a grip on themselves before then. This 1- 6 stretch has been tough.

Outside the game—
  • Norfolk now leads the IL South Division.
  • Matt Andriese is reportedly heading back to the Bulls.
  • Scott Diamond has been assigned to the Montgomery Biscuits, but I’m suspicious about that. Smells like a paper transaction to me. He hasn’t been below AAA since 2010. I’m guessing he had an opt out, is looking for another job, or is about to be released. Decent numbers for a 2015 Bulls starter. In fact, he is essentially the best of the surviving three (Floro and Teaford being the other two).
  • Bulls are off to Toledo to see if they have any better luck in that part of Ohio.

Continuing my interest in the Game Score stat, here’s the last 15 games. It shows the pretty dismal performance of the starting pitchers over the last several games. Starting pitching isn’t everything, of course, but it does make a difference.

click on chart for larger image

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Can't Handle the Clippers; Ruggiano Rules

Season: 40-35; Trip: 0-1
Wrap, Box, Columbus Dispatch

Looks like Matt Moore is ready to go to the bigs. As for a AAA team from Columbus, Ohio, not so ready. Against the Clippers he’s 0-2 (10.1 innings, 12 hits, 5 ER, 2 HR, 3.97 FIP, 4.35 ERA).

It’s possibly a measure of how desperate the TB Rays are to have a hitting first baseman that we saw young Richie Shaffer start at that position last night. Shaffer has a grand total of 16 appearances at the position, all in the 2012 and 2013 Arizona Fall League. As for regular season baseball—not ever. Wonder if he even has a glove? But there he was last night, just in time to not quite figure out a popup that dropped for a hit and let two runs across.

Meanwhile, the new Durham Bulls were mostly quiet against the Clippers, losing their fifth game in a row against them. Hak-Ju Lee, of the grand slam home run the other night, was ejected in the 3rd inning for arguing balls and strikes, something that seems to happen a lot to him this year. New outfielder Boog Powell was 1 for 3 in left field.

The scheduled second game wasn’t played because of poor field conditions. The plan is to try to have another double header today, first game at 4:00 today.

Outside the game —
  • For the forty-leventh time this season we are reporting that Tim Beckham is on his way to the Bulls. We’ll believe it when we see it. Who will be the odd man out in the Bulls infield? My money is on Ryan Brett, but the Bulls could give up on Vince Belnome or Hak-Ju Lee. My track record on such predictions is woeful, however.
  • Justin Ruggiano, thought by some to be the best outfielder in Durham Bulls history and who was recently DFA'd down from the Seattle Mariners, hit three home runs at Triple-A Tacoma yesterday.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Rainout; Rosterizing

As the Durham Bulls go into today’s double header at 5:30 (or so) up in Columbus, the team will be looking quite a bit different from the team that left town yesterday.
  • Alan Dykstra and Eugenio Vélez have been released. When we looked at this year’s hitters the other day, neither of them were standouts. What would apparently be more of a problem, however, is that room needed to be made for a talented youngster on his way up and another reportedly talented guy on his way down. Dykstra is 28 and Vélez is 33. Here’s hoping that both of them catch on elsewhere.
  • Nick Franklin is on his way down from the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s been with the Bulls before. He’s got a huge reputation and the Rays traded some valuable stock for him last year. Expect to see him spend time in the middle infield. He has not been doing particularly well with the Rays this year and really hasn’t had much playing time. The Rays just traded for a first baseman and needed room on their roster.
  • Boog Powell is a young (22) player on his way up. He’s been assigned from Montgomery. See this profile from “Dr. Miraculous” over in Montgomery. Stats.
  • In the bullpen will be Enny Romero, back from Tampa Bay. No telling how he will be used. He spent some time with the Bulls in mid-May when he made 3 starts. He was up to TB and then came back to make 2 relief appearances at the end of May. He made four appearances in relief for the Rays this month.
  • Kyle Winkler is the young pitcher who came up from the Biscuits and made three appearances before going back to them a couple of days ago. He’s been traded to the LA Angels.
  • Robbie Knopf over at Rays Colored Glasses has done a profile on young Richie Shaffer.
  • WDBB favorite from 2011 and 2012, Dane De La Rosa, has decided to retire. He was with the Norfolk Tides, but did not make an appearance in any game that we saw this year.
  • Oh, yeah, Matt Moore may get the start in the first game this afternoon.

Friday, June 26, 2015

10 PM Start Time? Dumb Decision

Just for the record. We've missed a couple of games...

Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Season: 40-34; Home Stand: 1-6
Wrap, Box, Toledo

The only adults associated with the Bulls and the DBAP last night were 1) those who never came in the first place or 2) those who left early. In what kind of world does it make sense to start a baseball game at 10:00 pm at night? Who is making these decisions? And why? And this on a day (night) when all concerned have to hit the road, the Bulls up to Columbus, Ohio and the Mud Hens to Norfolk?

For non-local readers, yesterday evening the tarp was on the field at 7 pm as a series of thunderstorms moved through the area. Not a lot of people showed up for the game, even though the “paid attendance” numbers were at 9,027. After a 2:52 delay, the 3:08 hour game was played. In round numbers, that means starting the game at 10:00 pm and finishing it at 1:00 am. That is so late that even the local paper, the Herald-Sun doesn’t have an on-line article. Even a nutcase like myself gave up following the game through streaming about 11:00pm. So essentially all except a very few truly dedicated fans (or dedicated beer drinkers) missed a thrilling 6th inning.

That thrilling inning is sort of my point. In what kind of world do we have 18 professional athletes play a game at midnight with nobody watching? And why should they? Who makes these decisions? Whoever “they” were it’s time they are called out. That was a really dumb decision. You should be ashamed of yourselves. We fans love watching baseball.

The Bulls depart town after what was the worst home stand in recent memory, winning only one out of seven games and dropping from first place in the International League South Division to third place. What happened? Well terrible starting pitching was certainly a factor. Dylan Floro had two miserable starts. Rehabbing Matt Moore may have pleased the Rays with his progress, but he still lost the game. Young Robert Zarate, who had only started a few games in his career came up from A-ball and actually had the best start of the bunch, but still lost the game. The chart shows the ugly drift upwards in the starters' ERA over the last week. What’s missing? Well, maybe who’s missing might be the better question. Matt Buschmann and Ronald Belisario come to mind.

The season is half over and the turmoil down St Petersburg way has been extraordinary. The Bulls are off to play against the very teams that just beat their brains in, Columbus and Toledo. Will they get it back together? We’ll see.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Matchup: Durham Bulls vs. Toledo Mud Hens

The Bulls and second-most-famous team in minor league baseball meet for the first time this year for a three-game series at the DBAP.

The Toledo Mud Hens are the Triple-A Team of the Detroit Tigers. They are not having a good year.
They are currently in last place in the IL West Division. Nevertheless, the teams match up pretty except for the pitching. If momentum means anything, perhaps the Bulls are due to break out of their loss streak. Five in a row is not a good thing, especially the four at home.

Monday, June 22, 2015

How About Them Rays Hitters?

Since I was already building the spreadsheet for the Bulls hitters, I thought it would be interesting to apply the same criteria (50 plate appearances, sorted by wOBA) to the Bulls' parent club. So, how are the Tampa Bay Rays doing?

Joey Butler155.329.888.3869.2
Logan Forsythe275.288.804.3549.3
David DeJesus179.301.805.3515.7
Steven Souza265.225.768.3385.6
Brandon Guyer164.278.745.3332.8
Evan Longoria278.270.760.3283.8
Kevin Kiermaier230.253.717.3110
James Loney118.275.698.302
Tim Beckham105.213.692.296-1.2DL
Jake Elmore95.264.643.282
Asdrubal Cabrera255.208.589.257
Desmond Jennings72.222.544.254-3.2DL
Nick Franklin76.143.468.211-5.9
Rene Rivera195.165.467.208-15.7
Bobby Wilson59.145.349.166-6.7DFA
Source: Fangraphs.com

Answer: Not bad, not bad at all.

Good-Bye Columbus

Game 71, Sunday, 21 June123456789RHE
Columbus Clippers (Indians)100201100
Durham Bulls (Rays)110000000

Season: 39-32; Home Stand: 0-4
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

I have enormous respect for Matt Moore. Before his surgery I thought he was one of the best pitchers in the game and I certainly hope that he continues on his path to a full recovery.

I also hope that he will forgive this mild rant about yesterday’s game. You see, I thought that a Bulls win would have been nice. And I thought that showing at least a bit of respect for Bulls tradition by wearing a full Bulls uniform would have been nice. I understand that it’s the norm for rehabbing major leaguers to wear their long pants, and bat wearing their major leaguer helmets. But there’s at least one fan that doesn’t like it and thinks that it’s simply a form of showing off. Especially when the rehabber is focused on his rehab and not helping the Bulls win a game. Take this quote from Moore after the game (from the Herald-Sun link above):

“The changeup is still a pitch that is coming around,” Moore said. “Still testing waters with it a little bit. I had some good swing and misses with it. Had a pop up with it. But its’ still one of the things that maybe in another situation and the game is bigger I may not throw that lefty-lefty change up there. I may go with another pitch because the changeup isn’t typically my strength. But they want me to get some work on it and he took care of it.”

To summarize, Moore gave up three runs (two homers) and took the loss. Rays fans are probably happy. Bulls fans (at least one of them) are not. I think it would have been nice for him to mention that his mistakes helped lose the game. (Note: maybe he did and the Herald-Sun left it out. If so, my apologies. But that line, ...'and the game is bigger...', struck me the wrong way.)

New guy Ernesto Frieri made his first appearance with the Bulls. He’s been on the roster for a couple of weeks. He last pitched for the Rays on June 1, so we could have expected some rust. And that’s what we saw. He has almost 300 appearances as a major leaguer and at 29 he probably still has some gas in the tank. Let’s hope he figures out what he needs to figure out while he's with the Bulls and helps the team. Stats.

When Frieri came off the DL yesterday, Bradin Hagens was sent back to Montgomery. He is tied with his Montgomery teammates Kyle Winkler and Leonardo Reginatto for the least number of innings pitched by a Bulls this year (3) — that’s assuming Mr. Frieri does not go back on the DL.

Former Bull Matt Buschmann pitched 7 innings and took a win for the Louisville Bats yesterday. Guess that means he might be coming back to the DBAP, in a different uniform. Box.

Two home runs, by Corey Brown and Luke Maile, were all the scoring yesterday. Columbus pitching simply dominated the Bulls. In the last three games Bulls hitters struck out 42 times. It’s a mostly ugly hitting picture in recent days. Pleased to see them leave town and we hope the Bulls take advantage of their day off.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Bulls Hitters at Mid-Season

We last looked at the Durham Bulls hitters as of May 17th. Now we are only two games from the Bulls’ mid-season. So how are hitters doing?

[Note: We used a cutoff of 50 plate appearances to generate our list. Players below the 50 plate appearance cutoff were Bobby Wilson, Juniel Querecuto, Mayo Acosta, and Nick Franklin]

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. Butler went up to the Rays and hasn’t come back yet (and is doing so well that he might not). Curt Casali and Jake Elmore went up, Reginatto came back up from Montgomery and was just sent back down.

Richard Shaffer is new to the Bulls and has the least number of plate appearances of the group. But his numbers are superb. Alexi Casilla remains very high, but he has spent a lot of time on the DL in the last month, as shown by his relatively low plate appearances. Deserving of special mention is the exceptional year that Taylor Motter is having.

The last column in the table is the change in wOBA since the May 17th. The best performances are of  Alan Dykstra and Corey Brown, both of them going from negative wRAAs to positive.

I was surprised at J.P. Arencibia’s numbers. Subjectively, I thought he was doing better than that. I remain very worried about the season that Mikie Mahtook, Vince Belnome, and Hak-Ju Lee are having (as are they, I am sure).

Richard Shaffer2482.3001.090.4849.6NA
*Joey Butler2994.317.892.4146.2NA
Alexi Casilla30134.328.865.3997.4-.018
*Jake Elmore28110.326.814.3955.8.025
Taylor Motter25285.291.759.3495.4.008
Corey Brown29222.236.759.3473.9.035
Allan Dykstra28159.214.712.3442.5.063
Eugenio Velez33222.276.711.3352.0-.006
*Curt Casali26132.205.674.3250.2.039
J.P. Arencibia29206.230.701.320-0.4-.039
*Mikie Mahtook25198.239.647.302-3.1-.040
Leonardo Reginatto25134.269.606.284-3.8-.031
Luke Maile24173.200.574.281-5.3.018
Vince Belnome27162.180.554.278-5.3-.021
*Hak-ju Lee24178.235.588.275-6.2.019
*Ryan Brett23122.205.558.262-5.4NA

What wOBA Means

Above Average.340
Below Average.310

Mystery Pitchers; Bad Luck Ending

Season: 39-31; Home Stand: 0-3
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Starting pitcher last night was Robert Zarate. He did 4 innings. He was followed by Bradin Hagens for 3 innings. Who? Followed by whom?

Welcome to the 2015 Durham Bulls! Even with the diligent efforts of the front office, even with a program, it’s hard to keep track of the players on this year’s team. For that matter, even if you wear your radio at the park, sometimes they don’t know much about the players. So you just have to kind of figure it out on your own.

Zarate showed up a few days ago and pitched in relief in a couple of road games. Not much history available. Stats. But he looked pretty darned good last night. He only let one run in on his 61 pitches, several of which were in the high 90’s. I think he’s going to be fun to watch. He left with the game tied at 1-1.

Bradin Hagens just came up from Montgomery, where he was doing OK. Stats. He also did just fine. When he left the game was 2-2.

So it looks like the Rays have not done the Bulls too much harm in this round of moves.

Can’t say as much about this umpiring crew. So far they’ve called 10 Bulls games this year and they are not the best of the bunch. But it was a hot night and maybe, just maybe, the home plate ump could justify what was a bit of exuberant bat-tossing by both teams that led to two ejections. On the other hand, they really did miss the call on Cory Brown at second base and that really did make a difference.

Meanwhile, a bit of tactical trivia that also made a difference. Bulls managers have historically been very reluctant to call for intentional bases on balls. So far in 2015 manager Jared Sandberg has only asked for 6 in four games. The Bulls lost every one of those games.

Take last night. Top of the 10th. Game tied. Runner on second base. No outs. Jhan Marinez K’d a batter. Got a ground out (runner went  to 3B). Then told to intentionally walk Columbus’ Jesus Aguilar, who had 2 hits and 2 K’s on the night. Next batter hit a home run and Clippers were ahead 5-2.

The Bulls could not catch up. However, Third Baseman J.P. Arencibia hit his 11th home run and the Bulls did get within reach. Note: Vince Belnome started at 3B, but got thrown out of the game for throwing his bat after a called third strike in the 5th.

Outside the game —
  • Former Bull, and Tampa Bay ace, Matt Moore is scheduled to start this afternoon. High hopes that he does well down in the bay area. Here too. Possibly the best pitcher we’ve had the opportunity to see here.
In the Wings —
  • Over with the Montgomery Biscuits, Leonardo Reginatto started at 3B, then shifted over to pitch in the 15th(!) inning. He gave up a home run in a 1-0 loss. Juniel Querecuto was 0 for 5 at shortstop. Bryce Stowell pitched the 13th and 14th innings. Box


With the loss, the Charlotte Knights moved ahead of the Bulls in the International League South Division. This is a very competitive bunch of teams this year.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

There're Holes in Our Bats,

Dear Wool E, Dear Wool E.
There're holes in our bats,
Dear Wool E., some holes.
(apologies to Harry Belafonte...)

Season: 30-30; Home Stand: 2-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Bulls hitters struck out 18 times last night, setting a season record. Usually dangerous Cory Brown led the pack with 4. Probably some sort of hex for being the first Bull to be named hitter of the week this year. New catcher Bobby Wilson was in the lineup and got one of the Bulls 4 hits.

What about the pitching? Really not all that bad, except for Andy Oliver in the 8th. In that inning he gave up just one single and then struck out the three remaining batters. Problem was that the guy who singled was wild pitched completely around the bases! So he took an earned run on his outing.

The Herald-Sun reported that manager Jared Sandberg was ejected from the game, but it doesn’t show up in the box score, so not entirely sure that the Herald-Sun got it right.

Rosterification (Are you tired of trying to keep track? So am I) —
  • Pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser is back from Tampa Bay
  • Infielder Alexi Casilla came off the DL and played second base last night.
  • Infielder Leonardo Reginatto was sent to Montgomery (where he hit a triple and a home run last night).
  • Pitcher Kyle Winkler was sent to Montgomery
Outside the game —
  • Montgomery Biscuits blogger “Dr. Miraculous” is not happy with the way the Tampa Bay Rays treat his team. Interesting read. 
  • Groundsman Scott Strickland tweeted a terrific photo from the night before last. Thrilling moment.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Before the Rain

Season: 39-29; Home Stand: 0-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

According to Brook Pryor over at the Herald-Sun, Dylan Floro’s problem was that his two-seam fastball wasn’t working and he didn’t switch to his four-seamer soon enough. Well, something sure happened in the first two innings and that makes as good a sense as anything else. In the meantime, Columbus’ Michael Roth was doing a very good job of keeping the Bulls in check.

One of those games where it was OK to see the storm coming.

New to me was to see manager Sandberg staying in the dugout when the Bulls were at bat. Hitting coach Dave Myers took 3B and infielder Vince Belnome took 1B.

Roster summary —
  • Matt Buschmann took his opt out and we have not heard if he has signed with anyone else yet.
  • Ronald Belisario got added to the Tampa Bay roster.
  • Catcher Bobby Wilson “accepted the assignment” from the Rays to the Bulls. Saw him in the dugout last night.
  • Catcher Mayo Acosta was taken off the roster, but was seen in the bullpen.
  • Pitcher Ernesto Frieri, who’d been sent down from Tampa Bay, is on the disabled list.
  • Pitcher Bradin Hagens was called up from the Biscuits. He’s got some interesting stats. No word on whether he is to be a starter or reliever. He’s done both at Montgomery this year.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Good Pitching & Hitting, Umpire Thins Out Opposition

Season: 39-27; Trip: 4-1
Wrap, Box

With last night’s win the Durham Bulls went 12 games above .500, the best so far this year. Mid-season is only 6 games away (AAA only plays 144 games) and we have to say that the team’s record is terrific.

One reason is that they are getting good pitching from odd places. Last night reliever Jordan Norberto got his second start in a row and lasted even longer than last time. He essentially set the stage for Jim Miller, who got a win even though his stint was not impressive. Then the new guys, Robert Zarate and Kyle Winkler, pitched one inning each of shut out ball and semi-new guy Preston Guilmet (he seems to spend a lot of time on the Rays-Bulls shuttle) got his second save.

Another reason is youngster Richie Shaffer is just pounding the ball. I saw his shot last night and he just crushed a ball in that oddly shaped stadium. At the DBAP it might have gone over the Bull.

Maybe, just maybe, Alan Dykstra is coming out of his season-long slump. He was 3 for 4 last night and made his way above the Mendoza Line to .210. And there’s Cory Brown, who was named the International League Hitter of the Week yesterday. He had a very timely triple in the 6th that won the game for the Bulls.

For oddity, how about this? The home plate umpire threw out three Indians last night, all for grousing about balls and strikes. First it was hitting coach Butch Wynegar in the 3rd. Then in the 9th it was catcher Tony Sanchez, followed by manager Dean Treanor. The Bulls have seen a lot of this particular umpiring crew, 16 games this season. Last night it was a four-man version. It strikes me as particularly stupid for a catcher to argue balls and strikes on the first game of a three-game series.

Rostering —
  • Two Bulls pitchers had Jun 15th opt-out clauses in their contracts: Matt Buschmann and Ronald Belisario. Just what circumstances were involved in the clauses aren’t clear (typically assignment to the 25-man active squad). Nevertheless, according to Broadcaster Patrick Kinas, both have exercised their options. That means the Rays have 48 hours to do some kind of deal or both players are gone. No matter what happens, it would seem that neither player will be back in a Bulls uniform. Also according to Kinas, both players were still with the team last night as they wait for decisions down in St. Petersburg.
  • Too bad for the Bulls. Buschmann was the front end and Belisario was the back end of quite a few Bulls wins this year. Belisario is probably the best closer in the International League and Buschmann, while he’s never made it to the major leagues, is certainly an above average pitcher.  
  • Meanwhile, catcher Bobby Wilson, the Rays backup catcher all this year, has accepted an assignment to the Bulls and should show up in a couple of days. That could add a lot of experience and depth to the team. Stats.
  • And then there’s Grady Sizemore, who was signed yesterday by the Rays. He’ll probably show up with the Bulls after spending some time with the Stone Crabs. Not sure about that one. Stats.
  • Additional commentary here and here

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bye Bats; Hello Indians

Wrap, Box, Louisville Courier-Journal

Richie Shaffer got three home runs in a game where both teams beat up on each other.

Wrap, Box

First loss after a 6-game winning streak. Mikie Mahtook back in the lineup. See that J.P. Arencibia put on catcher’s gear for the first time in a long while for top of the 9th. Wonder if he’s been carrying his mitt around with him all year?

Unusually poor outing by Matt Buschmann

Season: 38-27; Trip: 3-1
Wrap, Box, Louisville Courier Journal

The basic take on the game by the Bats’ manager, Delino DeShields, was, “We wuz robbed!” Seems like a foul ball in the 9th should have been fair (in his view). And that would have led to a Bats win. Then he goes on to complain about the whole series. I wonder if the same umpiring crew is going to be in Louisville for a couple of days?

But the Bulls did get 3 out of 4 on the road. Pretty darn good, especially with the turnover and turmoil.

Scott Diamond got his seventh win. Kirby Yates got his first K since coming off of rehab. Mikie Mahtook, Richie Shaffer, and Luke Maile got the RBIs.

Outside the game —
  • According to the radio, this was the last game as a Bull for Ronald Belisario. He has an opt-out contract and the guessing is that he’s going to execute it unless the Rays call him up. He has been huge help to the Bulls with 17 saves over 27 appearances, 30+ innings, two losses and a blown save (all when his pitch count got up). A decent WHIP of 1.22. Out of 11 runners he inherited, only one of them scored! Good luck!
  • To my great surprise, the local N&O actually had some Durham Bulls coverage. Two feature articles by Nick Gray. One is about the increasing use of shifts in AAA ball and interviews Bull Alan Dykstra on their effect on his hitting. The second is about the Bulls new star Richie Shaffer. Good reporting. Nice to see some coverage.
  • Ballpark Digest is conducting some sort of poll on favorite ballparks. The DBAP is still in the running.

The Bulls roll up the road to Indianapolis to face what could be their toughest out-of-division opponent this year. The Triple-A club of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Indianapolis Indians are 6 ½ games ahead in the International League North Division. The have an edge on the Bulls in most statistical categories; have won 9 of their last 10 games; and just won 3 out of 4 against the Gwinnett Braves.

The only statistical flaw that jumps out is that their run differential is awfully low for their won-loss record. In fact, if you crank it through the Pythagorean Expectation (PE) equation their won-loss record “should” be just 36-29. That is, they should have lost 5 more games than they have. Typically two explanations are given for these oddities: luck and relief pitching. We will have to see. Over the course of a season, the PE come spookily close to matching the actual won-loss.

[Note: the Bulls’ PE is also anomalous. Won-loss “should” be 35-30. That is, they should have lost 3 more games than they have.]

Friday, June 12, 2015

Rays' Memo to Sandberg: Toss Lineup Card in Shredder

From this distance it would seem that the Tampa Bay Rays need to do a few things:
  1. Fire their training crew and get some folks in that can keep pitchers healthy;
  2. Lease a jet to shuttle guys around from place to place; maybe one of those Russian monster transports so they could put a bullpen inside to warm guys up while moving around;
  3. Or both of the above.
Here we go, not necessarily in order:
  • Andrew Bellatti, with Rays, got broken and went on the DL
  • Preston Guilmet, who pitched for the Rays last night, is coming back
  • Matt Andriese, who was scheduled to start in Louisville tonight, may start for the Rays instead, here’s hoping they don’t break him, too
  • Enny Romero, who may not have ever made it back into a Bulls uniform will be back with the Rays.
  • C.J. Riefenhauser has been called up.
  • Rays catcher Bobby Wilson was designated for assignment
  • Bulls catcher, Curt Casali, likely to be called up.
  • Bulls infielder Alexi Casilla went back on the DL with, I think, a hamstring issue.
  • Bulls infielder/DH Vince Belnome came off the DL and was the DH last night.
Commentary on the transactions at various locations. Tampa Tribune, Rays Colored Glasses, The Process Report, Rays Index.

Will there be some backfill for the Bulls? Probably. In time to find a starter for tonight? Who knows?

Here’s best wishes to Curt Casali. He has had limited playing time this year and this may be his chance. Guess that Mayo Acosta will be filling in for a while.

Bats Bashed


Season: 36-26; Trip: 1-0
Wrap, Box, Courier-Journal

We like it when the Bulls play the Bats. Seems like a lot of the really exciting games over the last several years have been Bulls/Bats contests. Last night, though, was in the Bulls' hands.

Three games in a row the Bulls have scored 4 runs in an inning, and they have won all three games. This time it was two, two-run homers by J.P. Arencibia (#10) and Luke Maile (#2). Cory Brown got a homer in the 1st, and the Bulls now lead the International League in home runs with 48. J.P. Arencibia is tied for first place with his 10 and Cory Brown is in second place with 9.

Meanwhile Everett Teaford had his best game of the year with a GSc of 63, pitching 6 full innings giving up only 1 run.

Rosterification —
  • The roster moves of the Rays are so bizarre that we’re going to do a separate post. Watch this space! Short version. The Rays are calling up three pitchers, sending one back and one to the DL; dumping a catcher; and calling up a catcher.

This chart shows the team OPS for each of the last 15 games. The Bulls won 11 of those 15 games. The trend is very nice. But the scores for the last four games is very impressive. Undoubtedly the Bulls bats are very, very hot.

click on chart for larger view

Thursday, June 11, 2015

How to Win a Marathon

Season: 35-26; Home Stand: 3-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The finish of this longest game of the year (4:12) is well-covered at the links, including the heroics of infielder Leonardo Reginatto who now has a place in the 2015 Durham Bulls record books as a pitcher.

But how in the world did they get there when they had a 7-3 lead going into the 6th inning? Well, I’d like to blame the Tampa Bay Rays, who told the Bulls not to start Matt Andriese, so they had to go with Jordan Norberto who had never started a game in his professional career, and who was, by WDBB’s measures, the Bulls’ worst reliever. But Norberto got out of his 2+ innings in decent shape. The Rays also took away a reliever, Preston Guilmet, which came into play later on.

But we have to admit that the first big mistake was leaving generally superb reliever Jim Miller in the game with two outs in the 6th. Jared Sandberg was ready to take him out since he was over 50 pitches and C.J. Riefenhauser was ready to go. Sandberg, who seems to be quicker with the hook that Charlie Montoyo, even went out to the mound. But Miller apparently talked Sandberg out of pulling him. Didn’t work. The very next batter hit a home run and the IronPigs were then 4 runs back at 7-3. Riefenhauser came in to finish out the 6th.

Andy Oliver, not the Bulls’ best reliever, but not the worst either, came on in the 8th, struck out a batter, then loaded the bases with three quick walks. The last man standing in the Bulls’ bullpen was closer Ronald Belisario. Yes, it was true that this would be his 12th appearance in the last 21 Bulls’ games, but that’s what closers do, right? This was to be, however, a 5-out save and Belisaro had only attempted that twice before this year: one save and one loss. On the other hand, the Bulls really did not have a choice in the matter. The bullpen was empty.

A run scored on an infield out at first and the next batter flied out. The Bulls got the run back on a Reginatto double in the bottom of the inning, so they went into the 9th with a comfortable 3-run lead. After all, Belisario does lead the IL in saves.

A walk, a single, and a home run (by former Bull Russ Canzler), and the game was tied. The marathon began. Young Brazilian infielder Reginatto kept the Bulls in the game until the IronPigs pitching faded in the bottom of the 12th. Note that the rules of the game meant Reginatto also had to keep on coming to bat, which he did in the 12th. He was hit by a pitch and was on 2nd base when Taylor Motter’s home run brought home Hak-Ju Lee to win the game.

Outside the game —
  • As mentioned, Preston Guilmet has been called up. Enny Romero is coming back. Kirby Yates was taken off his rehab status and is coming on to the Bulls roster.
In the wings —
  • According to the Tampa Tribune’s Roger Mooney, Matt Moore will have a rehab start with the Durham Bulls on June 18. That would be their first home game after the Bulls get back from their current trip.
The Bulls are now alone in first place in the International League South Division.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

More Banging; Switch Pitching

Season: 34-26; Home Stand: 2-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The Bulls had their second big hitting game and a superb pitching performance by Scott Diamond (who has quietly established the best won-loss record of the Bulls starting crew).

Cory Brown led the wrecking crew with two home runs and 5 RBI, but some base running antics also helped. We’ll get to that.

Hak-Ju Lee was in the game for the first time in over two weeks. Just a bunt single at bat. He handled a bunch of opportunities in the field, but also made a throwing error trying to get a double play started. Overall, he looked fine.

We have to admit that from the stands we sometimes (usually) can’t know what’s really going on, but it sure looked like IronPigs pitcher Phillipe Aumont went through a mild meltdown in the bottom of the 5th and then came fully unraveled in the 6th, helping the Bulls pick up their four runs in that inning.

It started with Taylor Motter getting to first base on a walk with one out. Aumont did his best to keep him on base, but Motter eventually stole second while J.P. Arencibia was batting. Motter did quite a bit of dancing off the base and then Aumont came off the mound and started shouting at him. Arencibia came out of the batter’s box and there was a general yapping among the crowd of players and umpires, but apparently no warnings issued. Might have been, not sure, a dispute over Motter stealing signs/indicating pitch location. At any rate, Aumont struck out Arencibia and got Dykstra on a fly ball.

Next inning Eugenio Velez reached first on a single and immediately stole second base and started dancing. Numerous pickoff attempts/steps off the mound had little effect, but Aumont did get a K and a fly out. But then things crumbled. Leonardo Reginatto got to first on the shortstop’s throw into the dirt and Velez scored. Then Aumont got called on a balk. Lots of yammering back and forth with the home plate umpire. Reginatto went into his dance off second base and Aumont served up a single to Ryan Brett and Reginatto scored. That was it for Aumont, who left the field muttering, loudly, and glancing at the ump. The next batter, Cory Brown, hit his second home run of the day off of Aumont’s replacement, Cesar Jimenez.

As I said, sitting up in the stands you can never know just what's going on, but it sure looked like the Bulls baserunners got inside Aumont's head, to his and his  team's disadvantage.

Kirby Yates, one of WDBB's favorite guys, is back in the Durham Bulls bullpen, officially on a rehab assignment. He is far from being his old self and it was surely handy that the Bulls had a 7-1 lead when he came in. Three doubles, a home run, a wild pitch, and only one out before Jhan Mariñez came in to put out the fire.

In the wings —
  • Rays star and former Bull Matt Moore pitched a couple of scoreless innings down in Port Charlotte. Box.
Outside the game —
  • If you are intrigued by the idea of an ambidextrous pitcher, as I am, here’s a couple of videos. The first is about his glove. What I find interesting is how long he’s been working on this skill (and having a glove designed) and how natural he is switching the glove around. He’s been doing this since childhood. The second shows the first several batters he faced in his major league debut.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Beautiful Boomer

Season: 33-26; Home Stand: 1-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Watching a Durham Bull hit a grand slam home run is one of the great thrills a fan can have. The first one I’ve witnessed this year came last night from J.P. Arencibia with Leonardo Reginatto, Cory Brown, and Taylor Motter on base in the 3rd inning. Over the Blue Monster and a very pretty thing it was.

By the end of the night Arencibia had 5 RBIs on the homer and a double. Taylor Motter had a perfect evening going 3 for 4 with a walk. Everyone else, except for Eugenio Velez got a hit or two. Nice night for the Bulls hitters.

Which helped, because while Matt Buschmann certainly had a much better outing than his last where his Game Score was a miserable 33, last night it was just a so-so 52. Decent enough, but in need of the run support that he got.

Early on in the game we got to see what looked to be two failures of the modern enthusiasm for shifting players around. The very first Lehigh Valley batter got a triple off of the shift (he later scored) and in the 4th a single off of a shift moved a runner to 3B and he scored later on. The successes/failures of shifting are not something I actually watch all that closely (and would not be able to track efficiently under any circumstance). There must be some data out there if the coaches and managers are going to all this trouble. Watch manager Jared Sandberg at the next game and you will see what I mean. He is routinely signaling position info to his players.

I also wonder if this puts an additional stress on the pitcher to locate his pitches in support of the shift?

Two former Bulls were in the Lehigh Valley lineup last night. They were both 0-fer, so they did no harm. Russ Canzler was a major star for the Bulls back in 2011. Since that time he has AAA  time with Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, the Yankees, and twice in the Phillies’ system. I worry every time he comes to bat against the Bulls.

Jayson Nix was with the Bulls for 55 games last year coming to the Bulls from the Phillies. He left in August and got some major league time with Pittsburg and Kansas City. He started this year in the Baltimore system with the Norfolk Tides and now has a few games back in the Phillies system. He made a couple of nice plays at second base last night.

Outside the game —
  • Hak-Ju Lee came off the disabled list yesterday. We can expect to see him in a game soon.
  • Vince Belnome has been spending his time on the disabled list growing a mohawk. Hoping he comes back soon and re-captures some of his old form with or without the new hair.
  • Discovered Cracker Jack for sale at the last concession stand on the first base side. Scratched that itch and won’t feel guilty at the 7th inning stretch any more. All is right with the world.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Matchup: Bulls vs. Iron Pigs

The Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A team, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, come to town today for a three-day series. The Bulls took 3 of 4 from them back in late April and their season has not gone much better since then.

They have not been treated well by their parent club. We complain about the Bulls' roster turmoil, and it has been high — the Bulls have seen 22 different pitchers and 19 different position players in just a couple of months. But, and this has got to be a near-record, the Iron Pigs have had 33 different position players and 21 different pitchers! That has to be a management challenge of the first order. Plus we have to remember that several of those players on both teams have been rehabbers with very specific playing/pitching prescriptions.

In the matchup what jumps out for me is the team OPS. Without diving into the numbers more than I want to, that indicates either impatience or lack of muscle (or both?).

Could be a much better series that the numbers imply, and we’ll get to see some Phillies fans in the stands. Not quite as obstreperous as the “Red Sox Nation”, but they’re working on it.

One Out of Three

 Wrap, Box

Wrap, Box

Season: 32-26; Trip: 1-2
Wrap, Box, Gwinnett Daily Post

Back at the beginning of the season folks were high on Dylan Floro, but we didn’t quite see why. After four very nice starts in a row, the Bulls winning three of them, maybe we’re starting to understand. He’s very efficient. He throws strikes and mostly lets the fielders do the work. He works very quickly (last night’s game was only a little over 2 hours). Will he do well in the majors? Hard to say. So much attention is paid to velocity these days that control guys like Floro can be overlooked. Maybe.

Meanwhile, J.P. Arencibia continued his improving performance. Beginning to like the guy.

Outside the game —
  • The Rays are swapping out Enny Romero for Andrew Bellatti. Not sure when Bellatti will be back since players get more time to get back to the Bulls than they are allowed when going to the Rays.
  • Long-time major league reliever Ernesto Frieri has accepted an assignment to Durham. Only 29, he is obviously looking to get back in to the form that saw some terrific seasons in 2010 to 2013. Stats
In the wings —
  • Reliever Kirby Yates had an inning as a starter down in Florida.
  • Outfielder Mikie Mahtook got his second hit as a major leaguer, and his second home run.
Pitching Efficiency

This is a home-grown stat that we like to keep track of. Very simple. How many pitches does it take to get an out?

As mentioned earlier, Dylan Floro is a standout in this category, but most of the Bulls crew seem to be doing well by this measure.

click on chart for larger image

Friday, June 5, 2015

Arencibia/Casali Rule!

Season: 31-24; Home Stand: 7-2
Wrap, Box

Bulls fans could not have hoped for a better home stand than what we just went through. Nine games in eleven days; seven wins; good crowds, over 65,000 fans; decent, but not great, weather. Not only that, the Bulls end the stand back in a three-way tie with Charlotte and Norfolk for first place in the International League South Division.

They are off to Lawrenceville, Georgia to play the Braves for three games, then back to the DBAP. This is the first real break for the DBAP’s turf in a very, very  long time.

The fun part of last night’s game was watching J.P. Arencibia and Curt Casali shine. Neither of them is having a particularly good year at bat, but times could be changing. Arencibia played first base and batted 4th. Casali was the DH and batted fifth. Between them they accounted for 6 of the Bulls' 9 hits, 2 of the RBI, and all of the runs scored.

Arencibia started in off in the 2nd inning with a single and Casali hit a home run to bring him in (Casali’s second home run in a row since he’d homered Wednesday night in his last at bat).

With one out in the 4th inning Arencibia singled again, Casali singled him to third base, and Richie Shaffer drove him in with a double.

Arencibia led off the 6th with a double, went to third base (again) on a Casali single, and came home on a Corey Brown sacrifice fly.

Scott Diamond kept things quiet until the 5th and Sandberg was quick with the hook. Probably because the relief crew needed the work and they have been exceptional during this home stand. In the last four games they have not allowed a single earned run over those 15+ innings.

In the wings —
  • Bulls reliever Kirby Yates made his first rehab appearance with the Charlotte Stone Crabs. One not-very-successful inning. Box.
  • Juniel Querecuto has moved to Montgomery. He was 1 for 4 playing shortstop in a Biscuits loss to the Jacksonville Suns. Box. Wrap.
Bulls Relievers

I mentioned the relievers' recent performance above. Here’s a chart that shows how they’ve been doing this year. As with most of the charts so far it’s early days in the season and the sample size is small. This shows the ERA and the Fielding Independent Percentage (FIP) for the relief crew. FIP is one of those newish sabermetric stats that tries to focus on just those things the pitcher controls. As the season goes along FIP and ERA will probably get closer in synch. This chart is sorted by FIP.

A few more caveats: Obviously, José Dominguez’s sample is too small for any kind of conclusion, just 5 innings so far this year. Ronald Belisario’s 14 saves are the best in the International League and he’s coming up on his opt-out date. All who are on the 40-man have seen time with Tampa Bay this year. A couple of players currently with the Rays have seen significant time with the Bulls this year, but aren't on this chart.  Jim Miller and Jhan Mariñez have been really impressive and important to the Bulls this year. Even with all the caveats, for these are mostly very good numbers. The overall ERA for Bulls relievers on the year is 3.10.

click on chart for larger image

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Damp Time at the Park

Craig Robinson, of FlipFlopFlyBall, "Ballpark on Stilts"

Season: 30-24; Home Stand: 6-2
Box, Wrap, Herald-Sun

Matt Buschmann had his not-quite-worst outing of the season (worst would have been back on May 8th up in Syracuse). And the Bulls never quite got on track. Also to be noted was his his recent tendency (four in the his last two games) to hit guys. Last night the rain was certainly having its effect on his footing and his grip on the ball, though.

Seeking just a little bit of light, we have to note that this was the first time in his last 5 appearances that Jordan Norberto didn’t allow a run, and his first two-inning stint since April 22. Not much effect on his pretty awful numbers, but maybe ...

Meanwhile, "Please stop the rain ..."

Outside the game —
  • Everett Teaford is back from Montgomery. Assume that he will go into the rotation.
  • George Habel, Bulls front office exec, has been writing about the food choices at the DBAP.
  • FlipFlopFlyBall is the website of artist and baseball obsessed infographics guy Craig Robinson. His drawing/painting above is part of a series putting ballparks in interesting places. Also note the Bull on his homepage. He has very graciously allowed WDBB to use a couple of his images this year. Please don't reuse them without his permission.
In the wings —
  • Rehabbing Rays pitcher (and former Durham Bull) Matt Moore, 2.1 innings with Charlotte Stone Crabs. Box. Claw Digest.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bulls Back in First; Fresh Fruit

Season: 30-23; Home Stand: 6-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

With this win the Bulls are now in a three-way tie for first place with the Charlotte Knights and the Norfolk Tides (they got rained out last night). All three teams have had their ups and downs this year as the chart will show.

Have to say the the Bulls are responding well to the daily shuffling of positions that seems to have become the norm. Last night, for example, Taylor Motter started at shortstop. He has played every position on the field except 1B and catcher this year, but only 4 times at shortstop. Ryan Brett was out in center field for just the second time this season. Mostly he’s been at second base, although he only has 13 games under his belt.

With all the shuffling, the Bulls were left with just two players on the bench last night, catcher Curt Casali and infielder Leonardo Reginatto. Pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser officially came off rehab and warmed up in the later innings, but didn’t come into the game.

In a game like this one, fans pick out moments that speak to them. In my case it was Ryan Brett’s base running in the 4th inning. His hit to center field shows on the books as a double, but if he had not been running hard right out of the box he never would have made it to second base. And then when Eugenio Valez singled to right a few minutes later, Brett was again well-ahead of the throw with a nifty, hand-slapping slide past home plate to tie the game. Very nicely done.

Meanwhile, the 4th was the only really tough time for Knight’s pitching. But it was enough. The Bulls got another run in the inning and mostly kept the Knights off the bases for the rest of the game.

Enny Romero got a 3-inning save in spectacular fashion. After the Knights got the tying run to third base with just one out and Romero simply blew away the next two batters with 97 and 98 mph fastballs.

In the Wings (players who have been with Durham this year) —
  • Reliever Bryce Stowell gave up 2 runs on 3 hits in the last inning of a Montgomery Biscuits 4-1 loss to the Jacksonville Suns. Box. Wrap.
Outside the game —
  • We don’t really go the the DBAP in search of healthy food. But these guys, out of Durham’s Co-op market, have brought some to us. They are over near the ramp up to the first base side of the stands and doing beautiful presentations of very fresh-looking fruit. Reasonable prices, too, it seems to me.

Nice to see the Bulls back in first place

click on chart for larger image