Saturday, April 30, 2016

What If?

Game 23, April 29, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Louisville Bats: 4
Durham Bulls: 2
Season: 10-13; Home Stand: 1-5
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

For the stats geeks, one play made all the difference. For the fans, not so much. As Blake Snell started the 6th he was moving into unknown territory, having not gone more than 5 innings this year. He gave up a single. The next play was a very hard grounder just to the left of second base. Bulls shortstop Daniel Robertson knocked it down, but could not start the double play. Result: runners on first and second, no outs. In our section of the stands, the ruling was 3-1 to call the play an error on the shortstop. The official scorer called it a hit. Snell then got an out, but next gave up a home run and the Bats were ahead 3-2. He walked the next two batters and was pulled from the game. His replacement, new guy Danny Farquhar, let one of the baserunners in. So all four runs were charged against Snell and his ERA went up quite a bit. If it had been an E6, some of those 4 runs would have been unearned.

On the other hand, the Bulls had their first error-free game in a long while. They committed 11 in the previous six games.

This was as dismal a home stand as I can remember. Unless something got on track on the bus ride to Louisville, it’s not going to get much better. The Bulls play five games games against the very same teams they just played in Durham — two against Louisville and three against Indianapolis.

Outside the game —
  • Joey Rickard, who was a great-looking young Durham Bull at the end of last season, went to the Baltimore Orioles in a Rule 5 draft action. He beat the Rays the other day.
Chart: ERAs and FIPs

The ERAs and FIPs(Fielding Independent Percentages) of the Durham Bulls pitching crew, sorted by innings pitched. the usual early season, small sample warnings apply.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Again, and Again, and Again

Game 21, April 27, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Bats: 6
Bulls: 2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Relief crew lets another get away.

Transactions —
  • Kyle McPherson to extended spring training. Not sure what that means.
  • Justin Marks, left-handed relief pitcher assigned from the Charlotte Stone Crabs. Stats.

Game 22, April 28
Bats: 8
Bulls: 3
Season: 10-12; Home Stand: 1-4
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

How much more could go wrong? Rain delays game forever; pitcher Matt Andriese gets called for two balks; manager gets tossed; new guy doesn’t pitch very well, but isn’t helped by the three unearned runs; and the “closer” lets an inherited runner in and gives up a home run. The back-to-back home runs by Taylor Motter and Richie Shaffer in the 4th were fun, though.

The Bulls new pitcher, and sole left-handed reliever, Justin Marks, made his first appearance.

Pitching Chart

The Bulls are still just 22 games (193 innings) into the season. Nevertheless, the ERA trends are disturbing. Added to that are the ugly defensive numbers: 15 unearned runs and worst-in-the-league 23 errors.

click for larger image


Bulls slide below .500. Gwinnett moves back up into first place.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Matchup: Durham Bulls vs. Louisville Bats

The Louisville Bats come to town today. They are the Cincinnati Reds Triple-A team. Even though they are currently 3rd in the IL West, they lead the Bulls in every category, especially hitting. Note also that the Bulls have slipped to last place in the International League in batting average and their pitching is now in 12th. These are going to be challenging games.

April 27, 2016
Louisville Bats (Reds)
Durham Bulls (Rays)
RS=Runs Scored; RA=Runs Allowed; Rk: IL Ranking; Source:

Turn the Page

Game 20, April 26, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Indianapolis Indians: 9
Durham Bulls: 0
Season: 10-10; Home Stand: 1-2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

“Just turn the page and move on,” said Kyle McPherson, as quoted in the Herald-Sun. That’s good advice from someone who gave up 7 runs on 6 hits (4 homers and a BB) in 1/3 of an inning.

But up to that point the hitters had not been doing all that well, either. In fact, this was the worst hitting performance of the year.

Too bad, because Mayo Acosta’s brilliant defense was keeping the Bulls in the game until the 9th. He was credited with 4 “caught stealings” and the Bulls were only two runs behind. Then came the 7 run shelling of McPherson that was ended by first baseman Cameron Seitzer taking the mound for the last two outs.

Outside the game —
  • Pretty nifty video starring in Mikie Mahtook.
  • Commentary on the value of some of the Bulls key players — “expendable

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What a Difference a Day Makes

Game 19, April 25, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Indianapolis Indians: 12
Durham Bulls: 1
Season: 10-9; Home Stand: 1-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

On Sunday we saw the best Bulls run differential of the year, +6. On Monday we saw the worst, -11.

Austin Pruitt, who, until last night, had a stellar start to his season, in just 3.2 innings saw his ERA go from 1.89 to 3.57. His FIP grew from 2.40 to 3.60; his WHIP from a superb 0.68 to a still pretty good 1.10. What hurt the most was what happened after a brilliant catch and throw home by Dayron Varona in the 2nd inning, that made up for the two singles that opened the inning. Pruitt then walked the next three batters, pushing in a run. A Taylor Motter home run kept the Bulls in the game, but 3 Indian runs in the 3rd and 4 more in the 4th could not be overcome.

The Bulls' new pitcher came in for the 9th, right-handed (of course) Danny Farqhar. Not an auspicious beginning as he gave up 2 more runs. Farquar is a 29 year old who opened the season with the Rays after several years with the Mariners. This year he’s only had 5.1 innings in 6 appearances. He’s does have 185 innings of major league time so it's a puzzle that he has not made more appearances with the Rays.  However, the Rays sent him down essentially in exchange for Jhan Marinez. With his time in service it’s surprising that he had options left. Stats.

Cole Figueroa was one of my all-time favorite Bulls and it was mostly good to see him again. I’d rather he’d been able to stick with the Yankees or the Pirates, and I’d rather he did not get his first hits this year against the Bulls — a single, a double, and a triple with 3 RBIs. Maybe he’ll go back up to the Pirates before we play against him again.


Now for something much more important than my usual geek stuff. You may never have noticed that the front row of the Terrace View seats don’t have cupholders — they don’t. That's a circumstance that has led to more than one spilled cup of beer over the years. Mike Birling, the justly famous general manager of the Durham Bulls, promised that cupholders for those seats would be part of the multi-million dollar renovation a couple of years back, but they weren’t. In our annual conversations on the topic since then he has assured me (and others) that he’d take care of it. Several years on, after a visit to a local auto parts store, we’ve fixed the issue ourselves. Voila! Cupholders!

Monday, April 25, 2016

K's and Dingers; Fun at the DBAP

Game 18, April 24, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburg): 1
Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay): 6
Season: 10-8; Home Stand: 1-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Fun day at the park as several Bulls had a terrific game, starting with Jamie Schultz and his 12 K’s, and then there was Richie Shaffer getting his first home run in the 5th inning and another in the 7th.

But there was more, a lot more. Jake Goebbert came into the game with an awful OPS of .255 and raised it to .316 with two singles. Still awful, but there’s hope. Similarly, Kyle Roller punched a home run and raised his OPS up to .868, an above average number.

The three homers plus RBIs by Nick Franklin and Carlos Corporan led the Bulls best run differential of the year. Plus they went into a tie for first place in the South Division.

In addition to Jamie Shultz’s superb performance, we saw Andrew Bellatti on the mound for the first time since April 13. Did OK in his 22 pitches. Time to call out Eddie Gamboa’s superb ERA of 0.71 and there’s his WHIP of 0.95. He had 2⅓ innings yesterday and looked very good.

Outside the game —
  • Blake Snell had a superb start against the Yankees and is back in Durham. 
  • The Rays fiddled around with the 40-man roster to add Jhan Marinez and then he was called up. He had an inning in relief last night. No word on his replacement. Possibly Danny Farquar?
  • Luke Maile is reported to be a couple of days away from coming back.
  • No word (that I heard) on Mikie Mahtook’s status.

Team Hitting

OPS (on base percentage plus slugging) is one of those stats that has fallen out of favor for evaluating individual players. But we are less interested in that than we are in team trends. For that it works just fine. What we see here is that the Bulls’ hitting over the last 15 games fell off from a very hot, small sample start. It fell below this year’s International League average. We are still early enough in the season for one game’s results (the best team OPS of the year — 1.024) to push it up quite a bit.

click on chart for larger view

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Matchup: Bulls v. Indians

The Bulls are back after a difficult couple of days at Norfolk. Now they start a three-game set with the Indianapolis Indians, the Pirates farm club.

This table says something about the problems of early season stats. The Indians are well ahead of the Bulls on almost every metric and yet the Bulls are doing relatively well on wins and losses. And weather has had a big effect on the Indians schedule.

As of April 24

Indianapolis Indians (Pirates)
Durham Bulls (Rays)
RS=Runs Scored; RA=Runs Allowed; Rk: IL Ranking; Source:

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Win, Roster Moves, and More

The Durham Bulls go into a double-header today after a rainout and a flurry of roster transactions following Thursday’s win:

Game 15, April 21, Harbor Park, Norfolk, Virginia
Durham Bulls: 4; Norfolk Tides: 2; 10 innings
Season: 9-6; Trip: 5-3
Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot

On a very windy day, the game went into the 10th tied at 2-2. A Richie Shaffer double made all the difference and Jhan Marinez got his second win in relief.

But then things got busy.
  • Blake Snell got called up to pitch against the Yankees. This attracted a lot of attention in the webworld, including these notes from the Tampa Tribune, Rays Index, MLB Trade Rumors. Apparently he will be sent back to the Bulls after his start today.
  • Young Chih-Wei Hu has been called up from Montgomery to fill Snell’s spot. He’s carrying an ERA of 0.00 in his first two starts with the Biscuits. He could be fun to watch if he gets a start in Durham. Stats.
  • MLB Trade Rumors reported that Rays reliever Danny Farquhar was being sent down. Have not seen that anywhere else and not quite sure how that works out.
  • Mikie Mahtook went on the disabled list for a pulled muscle, joining Luke Maile, who may, or may not, come off soon.
  • To fill Mahtook’s spot Cameron Seitzer has returned from “extended spring training”. Seitzer played in game 1 this year, and several games last year. He was taken off the roster to make room for veteran Jake Goebbert. Goebbert is batting .050 in his 11 games (2 for 40 with 5BB) since being claimed from the  Pirates. Seems like the Bulls would have been better off if Seitzer hadn’t been gathering rust these last 14 games.
Outside the game —
  • The DBAP got new infield grass (So now I get to worry about brown patches in right field). All because those Trinity College guys are messing things up. And then the ACC tournament is coming. But does look good from the stadium cam
  • N&O columnist Jake Shaffer reported that Peanut Guy, Da’Quan Samuel, got “fired” because season ticket holders were getting annoyed. Well, yeah, Samuel was a bit over-the-top, but so is Shaffer. “The peanuts will never taste as good.” Really? On the other hand, the column got a comments supporting Samuel. For myself, after two years, yeah, I got annoyed sometimes. Particularly on days when the stands were almost empty. On the other hand, on an Education Day it was fun.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bulls Take 2 of 3 from Braves; Off to Norfolk

Game 12, April 18, CoolRay Field, Lawrenceville, Georgia
Durham Bulls: 5
Gwinnett Braves: 4
Wrap, Box

Bulls were outhit 13 to 7. Kyle Roller got his first home run. Note that no Bull has more than 1 homer and the team has only 7 in the first 14 games. Mikie Mahtook back hitting at leadoff and has an impressive 3 for 5 and 1 run scored.

Game 13, April 19
Durham Bulls: 2
Gwinnett Braves: 7
Wrap, Box, Gwinnett Daily Post

Bulls didn’t get a hit until the 8th inning. Only 830 fans in the park (1,172 on 12th and 1, 268 on the 14th). Braves not getting local folks excited. Jamie Schultz’s Game Score of 23 the worst of any Bulls pitcher this year. Mikie Mahtook left game in late innings with pulled muscle.

Game 14, April 20
Durham Bulls: 5
Gwinnett Braves: 3

Another impressive start by Austin Pruitt. Mike Mahtook misses first game of the year (pulled muscle, no further info). Doubles by Dayron Varona and Richie Shaffer, plus a sac fly by Nick Franklin drove in the runs.


After 14 games the Bulls finally play someone other than the Braves or the Knights. The Baltimore Orioles franchise is off to a stunning start at bat, but pitching has been awful, so far. As with the Bulls, all of their games have been against Gwinnett and Charlotte. Games in Harbor Park are often interesting, and fun to watch if you’ve got MiLB-TV.

As of April 21:

Durham Bulls
Norfolk Tides 
RS=Runs Scored; RA=Runs Allowed; Rk: IL Ranking; Source:

Monday, April 18, 2016

Split With Charlotte; On to Gwinnett

Game 8, April 14, BB&T Ballpark, Charlotte, NC
Durham Bulls: 2
Charlotte Knights: 0

Wrap, Box

First shutout of the season. Jamie Schultz looked very good. Taylor Motter got his first home run.

Game 9, April 15
Durham Bulls: 6
Charlotte Knights: 2
Wrap, Box

Austin Pruitt has another terrific start (Game Score-78). Mikie Mahtook got his first home run. Jake Goebbert got his first hit of the season. Luke Maile pulled hamstring. Ends up going on DL. Mayo Acosta added onto the active roster.

Game 10, April 16
Durham Bulls: 1
Charlotte Knights: 4
Wrap, Box

Game 11, April 17
Durham Bulls: 1
Charlotte Knights: 2

Wrap, Box
Season: 6-5; Trip: 2-2

Blake Snell started off game by giving up 4 hits and a hit batsman. Overall a shaky start although only one run scored. Mahtook batted 5th, the first time this season he has not batted leadoff. Mahtook and Shaffer have played in every game so far this season. Mayo Acosta made his first appearance since Sep 6, 2015. Note: Acosta is mostly a bullpen catcher for the Bulls. Home run given up by Snell is the 11th this year by Bulls pitching, the worst in the IL.


The Bulls will play the Gwinnett Braves at Lawrenceville the next three games. They lost two out of three to the Braves in Durham last week. The Braves are turning out to be one of the best teams in the league so far this year, and certainly the best in the South Division.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Awkward Day for the Durham Bulls Starter

Game 7, April 13, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Gwinnett Braves: 6
Durham Bulls: 2

Season: 4-3
Wrap, Box

The Bulls finished off their first home stand of the season with some pitching/playing oddities, a noisy education day crowd of 8,700, and a 2nd place IL South record of 4-3.

Matt Andriese never looked comfortable in his 5⅔ innings. Guess we could blame some of it on the umpires, who called two balks, but Andriese himself was responsible for the 2 wild pitches and an error.

Some late inning excitement (and two runs scored), but the early dominance of Gwinnett’s Mike Foltynewicz could not be overcome.

Tidbits from the home stand:
  • Mikie Mahtook has been outstanding in his leadoff role. He played in all 7 games with a terrific On Base Percentage of .455, 3 triples, 8 runs scored, and a stellar OPS of 1.075. Playing right and center, his fielding has been superb as well.
  • Richie Shaffer started off ablaze and has since slightly cooled off, but his OBP of .484 is even better than Mahtook’s, partially due to the 6 BBs he’s drawn and his OPS over the 7 games is a superb .979.
  • Dayron Varona was fun to watch in his 4 games. A canon of an arm, team-leading OPS of 1.078, and willingness to try anything, e.g., pitching the 10th inning on Tuesday.
  • At the other end of our concerns are Jake Goebbert, 4 games, no hits, 3 BB; and Kyle Roller, 5 games, 1 hit, but 6 BB. 
  • We mentioned the long pants earlier.
  • We haven’t mentioned that hitting coach Ozzie Timmons is usually not on the field coaching 1B, a break from tradition. Jake Goebbert and Kyle Roller are the ones that I’ve noticed.
  • Haven’t sampled much of the food yet. Your comments/observations welcomed.
The Bulls are off for a very long, 10-game road trip to Charlotte (4 games), Gwinnett (3 games), and that odd run past Durham and over to Norfolk (3 games). They are back on April 24 to play their first out-of-division games with Indianapolis (Pirates) and Louisville (Reds).

ERA Trend

With the usual early season/small sample warnings, here’s how the collective ERAs are looking. Yes, it’s a small sample and just today's events moved the marker quite a bit; nevertheless, a 2-run gap between starters and relievers is worrisome.

click on chart for larger image

Sandberg Gives Away a Durham Bulls Game

Game 6, April 12, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Gwinnett Braves: 6
Durham Bulls: 5
10 innings

Season: 4-2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Gwinnett Wrap

What in the world was outfielder Dayron Varona doing on the mound in the 10th inning? Especially after reliever Jhan Marinez had only thrown 14 pitches in the 9th? And at least two other relievers were available? Varona in nine years as a professional baseball player (7 in Cuba) had, according to Baseball-Reference.Com (stats), never pitched in a game. Result: Gwinnett scored a run and the Bulls did not recover in the bottom of the inning.

I’m sure there’s an explanation. Something to do with orders from Tampa Bay, or the problems with today's 11:00 am game, or something like that. Wondering why either the Herald-Sun failed to ask or Manager Jared Sandberg failed to answer the question.

The Braves got a gift from the Bulls. I’m guessing they didn’t even say thank you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Be Still My Heart

Game 5, April 11, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Gwinnett Braves (Atlanta): 5
Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay): 6
11 innings
Season: 4-1; Streak: W-3
Wrap, Box, Gwinnett Wrap, Herald-Sun

A game not for the faint-of-heart. The Braves tied the Bulls in the 6th and then loaded the bases in the 8th, 9th, and 10th innings. But they did not score a run. In the top of the 11th they went ahead by a run. In the bottom of the 11th, however, Carlos Corporan got his first hit of the season and with the help of Nick Franklin, Kyle Roller, and Dayron Varona, the Bulls had a walk-off win. The Braves had twice as many hits as the Bulls, 16 to 8.

First Look: Pitcher

LHP Adam Wilk: 4⅔ innings, 6 hits, 3 ER, 0 BB, 2 K’s, Game Score - 42
Wilk has time in the Detroit, Pittsburgh, and LA Angels systems. Looks like one of those pitchers that the Rays seem to find each year that can help the Bulls (and maybe the Rays) before the end of the season. Plus he’s left-handed. Stats.

Observations: Dayron Varona has one heck of an arm and he’s quick in the field. Playing right field last night he made a superb throw from the corner to 2B. Later a very powerful throw home was off-line, but still impressive. Jake Goebbert certainly has spent his time figuring out the Blue Monster in left. The Braves were tattooing the wall all night and he played each of them perfectly.

Mikie Matook’s third triple in five games pushed his OPS up to .939.

A very familiar face was playing second base for the Braves, Reid Brignac. Coming up through the Rays system he spent part or all of 2008, 2009, and 2012 with the Bulls. Beginning in 2013 he’s been with Colorado, the Yankees, Philadelphia, and Miami. He is not on the Braves 40-man this year. A left-handed batter, the Bulls had good luck with a shift last night.

Outside the game —
  • Richie Shaffer received some well-deserved recognition as the International League Hitter of the Week.
  • Taylor Motter was profiled over at DRaysBay.

Chart: The Game Score stat of Durham Bulls pitchers. First time through the rotation.
Yes, this has all the problems of small sample size, but, what the heck, this is a good time to just introduce this stat. Basically, Game Score is a measure of how a starting pitcher did in a game. See the formula at the link. If you agree that starting pitching is key to the game, then you want to see your starters keep their game scores above 50. However, starting pitching isn’t everything. We’ll get to that.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Promising Pitcher; Pants!

Game 4, April 10,  Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Charlotte Knights: 4
Durham Bulls: 6
Season: 3-1; Home Stand: 3-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

In his first Triple A start Austin Pruitt was spectacular — the longest and best outing of any starting pitcher this year. Kyle McPherson, who followed him, not so much.

In the top of the 4th RF Jaff Decker crashed into 2B Daniel Robertson not too long after hitting his home run in the bottom of the 3rd. Dayron Varona took his place and hit a double and a homer (3 RBI). Now that’s depth in right field.

What’s really different about the Durham Bulls this year? Trousers.

OK, it took me a while to notice, but I’m guessing youth (as in managerial youth) finally won out. Yesterday most of the Bulls were in long pants. In all previous years the only players in long pants were re-habbing major leaguers. Pitcher Austin Pruitt and 1B Richie Shaffer were holdouts in knee breeches.

First Look: Pitchers

RHP Austin Pruitt: 6 innings, 3 hits, 1 ER, 1 HR, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 11 K’s, Game Score - 73
For his AAA debut Pruitt had a career high number of strikeouts, a solid 6 inning start, and a win. He spent last year in Montgomery, pitching 160 innings and recording 122 K’s. He looks to be a very solid asset. Stats.
RHP Kyle McPherson: ⅔ innings, 2 hits, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 HBP, 2 K’s
McPherson was simply awful in his short outing. He has been playing pro ball for parts of 9 seasons, although the last time he put in a lot of innings was in 2011 in the Pittsburgh system. He’s coming back from surgery and spent 2015 in the Rays system. The Rays are good at spotting pitching talent, so we hope that this game is an anomaly.  Stats.

Outside the game —
  • Set your recorders for PBS’s documentary on Jackie Robinson. Starts tonight on WUNC. 

Bulls hitting against Charlotte was pretty darn good. Here’s the team OPS for each game compared with a three-year International League average, and this year’s running IL average. [Update: I forgot to add that the current season OPS of .840 leads the IL]

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Little Luck and a Win

Game 3, 9 April, Durham Bulls Athletic Park

Charlotte Knights: 2
Durham Bulls: 3

Season: 2-1; Home Stand: 2-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun (paywall)

Consider Saturday night’s win a gift from the Charlotte Knight’s battery of catcher Hector Sanchez and reliever Phillipe Aumont. Hats off to broadcaster Patrick Kinas who called out the shaky teamwork of the two from the beginning of the 8th inning. A single by Richie Shaffer was followed by two wild pitches that got him to 3B (and a walk that got Kyle Roller on base). A double by Daniel Robertson tied the game. Another wild pitch scored pinch-runner Nick Franklin, and that was enough to win the game.

The Lineup
(just the players we are seeing for the first time)

DH Jake Goebbert: 0 for 3, 1 BB
Goebbert is a left-hand hitting first baseman who was very recently claimed from the Pirates system. He played all last year at AAA  El Paso (Padres) and carried a very nice .844 OPS. He could end up be a real asset to the Bulls. Stats.
RF Dayron Varona: 1 for 4
Varona has had his 15 minutes of fame this year when he accompanied the Tampa Bay Rays to Cuba to play the Cuban National Team. He was the only Cuban on the Rays and got a bit of returning hero treatment. He had a decent 2015 at A and AA last year and 40 games in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Stats.
C Carlos Corporan: 0 for 2, 2 BB
Well-traveled, 32 year-old Corporan played in the Rangers system last year, but went to spring training with the Yankees. The Rays got him from there. He adds some depth and experience to a roster that’s unusually young (average age of hitters is 25.4). Stats.

The Pitchers

RHP Jamie Schultz: 4⅓ innings, 5 hits, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K’s, 2 HR, Game Score - 41
Schultz made his AAA debut and, with the notable exception of the two solo home runs, did just fine. He spent all of last year in Montgomery, starting 27 games and pitching 135 innings with 168 K’s. Think he’s going to be fun to watch. Stats.
RHP Eddie Gamboa: 3⅔ innings, 0 hits, 0 runs, 1 BB, 3 K’s
For the last three years knuckleballer Gamboa bedeviled Durham Bulls hitters as a reliever for the Norfolk Tides. Very happy to see him wearing a Bulls uniform. He’s going to be fun to watch. Stats. Interesting conversation with Neil Solondz about his knuckleball and joining the Rays here.
RHP Mark Sappington: 1 inning, 0 hits, 0 runs, 1 BB, 2 K’s.
Sappington came to the Rays out of the Angels system and spent last year in Montgomery. This was his AAA debut. He had a good year last year and has some interesting comments in his Solondz interview. Stats.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Close, but No Comeback; Watch Out for the Wind

Looks Breezy!
Game 2, 8 April 2016, Durham Athletic Park
Charlotte Knights (White Sox): 8
Durham Bulls (Rays): 6

Season: 1-1; Home Stand: 1-1
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun (paywall), DRaysBay

The Bulls had a nice lead going into the 6th, but Andriese ran into a bit of trouble and new-to-the-Bulls reliever Tyler Sturdevant let two runs score and gave up one of his own. The Bulls came back to tie it up, however 2015 stalwart Jhan Martinez couldn’t hang on.

Continuing my look at this year’s team …

The Lineup

(note: The “slash line” is: Batting Average/On Base Percentage/On Base Percentage+Slugging; “*” indicates player is on 40-man roster)

RF Mikie Mahtook*: 2 for 4, 1 BB, scored 2 runs. Season — .333/.400/.733
CF Jaff Decker: 2 for 5, scored 2 runs. Season — .500/.500/1.100
SS Taylor Motter*: 1 for 5. Season — .300/.300/.600
1B Richie Shaffer*: 3 for 5, scored 1 run. 3 RBI. Season — .625/.667/1.542
2B Nick Franklin*: 1 for 5, scored 1 run. Season — .222/.222/.444
3B Daniel Robertson: 3 for 3, scored 1 run, 1 HR, 2 RBI. Season — .500/.625/1.625
DH Kyle Roller: 0 for 3. 1 RBI (sac fly). Season — .000/.000/.000
Roller spent the last two seasons with the AAA team of the Yankees, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders. Exclusively a DH and first baseman he was signed as a minor league free agent. Solid stats. Looks like a good addition to the roster. Stats.
LF Patrick Leonard: 0 for 4. 1 RBI (bases loaded ground out). Season — .250/.250/.625
C Luke Maile: 0 for 4. Season — .250/.250/.625

The Pitchers

RHP Matt Andriese*: 5 ⅓ innings. 6 hitds, 4 ER, 0 BB, 9 K’s.
Matt Andriese is essentially with the Bulls for a month or so while the Tampa Bay Rays work with a 4 (instead of 5) man pitching rotation. He had a fine year last year in his 65 innings with the Bulls and his 65 innings with the Rays. Stats. Solondz interview.
RHP Tyler Sturdevant: ⅓ inning. 1 hit, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 inherited runners scored.
Sturdevant spent 2015 with the Cleveland affiliate, the Columbus Clippers. Decent stats.
RHP Ryan Garton: 1⅔ innings. 1 hit, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K’s
Garton is working his way up through the Rays system. He had 70 K’s in 61 innings last year with Montgomery. Stats. Solondz interview.
RHP Jhan Martinez: 1⅔ innings. 2 hits, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K’s.
Martinez was a star of the 2015 Bulls bullpen. Have to think he will come around. Stats. Solondz interview.

Outside the game —
  • Rosterification begins. Cameron Seitzer who started at 1B on Thursday is off the roster and Jake Goebbert has been assigned. Gooebert was claimed off waivers from the Pirates. We’ll profile him when/if he ever shows up at bat.
  • Baseball America had some love for Blake Snell's game Thursday (Thanks to DRaysBay for the link).
  • Tampa Bay has released a top prospects list. Several Bulls are on it. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Singing in the Rain — Nice Start

Game 1
Durham Bulls (Rays) - 7
Charlotte Knights (White Sox) - 3
Season: 1-0; Home Stand: 1-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun (paywall), N&O, WRAL

The weather was ugly. Cold mist swept across the field as the National Anthem was sung (quite well, by the way, by a Duke a cappella group). Blake Snell kept things on track for the Bulls. Charlotte’s Scott Carroll only lasted an inning and a third. After the rain stopped, the temperature dropped like a stone, but it was baseball! And the Bulls won!

Here begins my look at this year’s team. Starting with last night’s lineup.

The Lineup

(note: “slash line” is Batting Average/On Base Percentage/On Base Percentage+Slugging;(OPS) “*” indicates player in on 40-man roster)
Also note that former Bulls broadcaster Neil Solondz has interviewed a bunch of these players. All of the interviews worth a listen. See the links below.

RF Mikie Mahtook*: 2 for 5, scored 2 runs. Season — .200/.200/.400
Mahtook spent much of last year with the Bulls playing in 98 games with .209/.304/.670. And he really looked good in his 41 games with the Rays (.295/.351/.970). So why is he back? Hard to tell. Perhaps to get playing time? The Rays really like the outfielders they have. Stats. Interview.
CF Jaff Decker: 3 for 5, stole 3B in 1st inning. Season — .600/.600/1.400
First game as a Bull. Decker signed with the Rays as a minor league free agent. Had some major league time with the Pirates last year and 69 games with the Indianapolis Indians (.214/.371/.693). Stats. Pre-season interview with Neil Solondz.
SS Taylor Motter*: 2 for 5, stole 2B. Season — .400/.400/.400
Motter was a star for the Bulls last year. He played in 127 games with a slash line of .292/.366/.837 with 26 stolen bases. He apparently impressed Rays in spring training, so there’s a good chance he will spend some time with them this year. Stats. Solondz interview.
DH Richie Shaffer*: 2 for 3, 1 BB, 3 RBI. Season — .667/.750/.1.417
Shaffer had a busy 2015 playing for the AA Montgomery Biscuits (39 games), the Durham Bulls, (69 games — .270/.355/.937), and 31 games with the Rays at the end of the season. Stats.
2B Nick Franklin*: 1 for 4. Season — .250/.250/.500.
Franklin played in 57 games for the Bulls last year (.266/.353/.853) and 44 games with the Rays. Stats. This will be his 8th year in baseball, but he’s still just 25 years old. Maybe this year?
3B Daniel Robertson: 0 for 3, 1 BB, scored 1 run. Season — .000/.250/.250
Young (22) Mr. Robertson came out of the Oakland system and played in 78 games in Montgomery last year. This was his first game at AAA. Stats. Interview. A player to watch this year.
1B Cameron Seitzer: 1 for 3, 1 BB, scored 1 run, 1 RBI. Season — .333/.500/.1.167
Seitzer came up from Montgomery at the end of 2015. He did fine in his 7 games as a Bull. Another player to watch this year. Stats.
LF Patrick Leonard: 2 for 4, scored 2 runs, 1 RBI. Season — .500/.500/1.250
Leonard (also a youngster at 22) also made his AAA debut last night. At Montgomery in 2015 he was mostly an infielder, splitting time at 3B and 1B. Last night was his first game at AAA. Seems like the Bulls have a lot of third basemen this year. Stats. Interview.
C Luke Maile*: 2 for 4, scored 1 run, 2 RBI.  Season — .500/.500/1.250
Luke Maile had 84 games with the Bulls last year (.207/.298/.594) and 15 games with the Rays. We like him a lot. Stats. Interview.

The Pitchers

LHP Blake Snell*: 5 innings, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K’s
Snell is much written-about, so I won’t add anything here except to say that he’s the Rays hottest pitching prospect and the Bulls will be lucky to keep him for a couple of months. He helped the Bulls a lot at the end of last year. Stats.
RHP Dylan Floro*: 3 innings, 1 ER, O BB, 5 K’s
Mr. Floro, on the other hand, was not our favorite Bulls pitcher last year. He’s back, this time as a reliever, and things are looking up. He certainly did a good job last night. So perhaps the 25 year-old is back on track to the majors. Stats.
RHP Andrew Bellatti*: 1 inning, 1 BB, 1 K
Bellatti probably should not be in Durham, but the Rays are pretty deep, so they can afford to leave a young (24) player here. Expect him to be rotating back and forth, much as he did last year (46 innings as a Bull, 23 innings as a Ray). Stats.

Outside the Game —
  • Think I’m going to get used to the netting. Here’s some TV of the netting going up.
  • Unlike most years the Bulls have a bunch of position players on the 40-man (7) and only 3 pitchers.
  • Also, the Bulls don’t appear to have any left-handed relief pitchers.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Opening Day —2016

Today’s the day. The Bulls are back!

The team’s roster is here and there’s quite a few of players we’ve seen before. Most notable among the hitters are Mikie Mahtook, Richie Shaffer, Taylor Motter, Nick Franklin, and Luke Maile. Pitchers include Matt Andriese, Andrew Bellatti, Dylan Floro, Jhan Marinez, and Blake Snell. Several new guys up from AA. It’s a good looking team.

A few changes have been made at the park. Most visible is the new netting that stretches from first base to third base. I’m not sure I like it, since it will be in front of my seat. I also think folks should be paying attention to the game and not lallygagging. On the other hand, players seem to like it and I certainly have to respect their views.

And then there’s the food and other stuff as discussed in this TV spot this morning.

Today’s game starts at 6:05. That means we’re going to be on the Durham Freeway during rush hour. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Weather forecast looks OK, especially for April.