Wednesday, August 12, 2015

September in August


Season: 56-61; Trip: 0-2

Let me preface this rant with the usual caveat that I am far from being an expert on baseball or minor league baseball. I’m just a guy who follows the Durham Bulls.

It seems to me that the Bulls parent club, the Tampa Bay Rays, has given up on the Durham Bulls. To some extent that’s been true much of the year — we’ll some day get to the puzzle of hiring a bunch of players on opt out contracts at the beginning of the season — but these two games sure look like the Rays don’t really care if the Bulls win or lose.

Take Monday’s game, for example. The starting pitcher was Bradin Hagens who was last seen in a one-inning relief stint on August 8 (following Matt Moore’s 6 innings and Andrew Bellatti’s 1 inning). Hagens has been a starter with the Bulls since his return to the team in early July. Not very successful, 1 win and 4 losses, but his numbers are OK: ERA-3.12, FIP-3.35, WHIP-1.04, Average Game Score - 55. Still, you have to think that going from starter to reliever and back to starting is difficult and not to be done if your concern is winning games.

He was followed in that game by Dylan Floro in his first appearance this year as a reliever, after 22 appearances as a starter. Granted, Floro hasn’t been all that impressive this year; however, the events that seem to be dragging down his numbers are one-inning blowups. So are the Rays betting that if he’s a reliever he has a better chance of helping the Rays? Guess so. Not on Monday. On Monday he gave up 2 runs on 3 hits in his one inning. Hagens took the loss with his 3 runs on 5 hits over 5 innings.

Then we have last night’s game. Yes, the Tides are hot and their pitcher, Elih Villanueva, was superb, and the Tides did pull off a rare triple play. But the Bulls were handicapped by their starting pitcher, rehabbing Drew Smyly, who in his three starts as a Bull has done the team no favors (he’s given up 10 runs in 10.2 innings), last night being part of a package as he gave up 2 earned runs over 4 innings. Who was in relief? The Bulls best remaining starting pitcher, Scott Diamond. Since the All-Star break Diamond has had two starts and 3 long relief appearances. He cleaned up the debris left by Drew Smyly on July 26, actually got a win after another housekeeping follow-up to Smyly on Aug 8. We have to note that his two starts were not very effective.

Our larger point is that it certainly appears that the last consideration by the folks down in St. Petersburg is what impact their dictates might have on winning a baseball game.

Traditionally, followers of AAA baseball teams expect that the games of September will be those where we get a look at who’s had a good year in AA and who among our favorites might get a callup. Bulls fans, of course, spend the early part of September worrying about who is going to be available for the playoffs. 

But in August? We simply aren’t used to being so painfully a part of the day-to-day struggles of the parent team. Undoubtedly, once the players get between the lines on any given night they are playing to win. But you have to think that sometimes they are doing it handicapped by the uncertainty floating up from Florida. 


  1. The minor leagues are for developing players, which is more important that wins. You should know that by now.

    1. Locker room chatter from some years ago. Question asked of a hot up and coming pitching prospect by one of the position players, "Are you pitching today or 'developing'"?