Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Durham Bulls in 2016: Part 1

This is the first of several posts where we review the 2016 Durham Bulls season. We'll start with some overall team stats, then take a look at individual players.

Overall, this was not a good year for the Durham Bulls. At 20 games into the season they dropped below .500 and never got back. There was a moment, however, at the end of July that they had a clear shot at winning the IL South Division. But they fell off the edge and never recovered.

See also  Part 2 - The Pitchers, Part 3 - The Hitters, Part 4 - The Tampa Bay Rays, and Part 5 - The DBAP.

Wins and Losses

How bad was it? Well, let's just point out that this was the worst year in Triple-A history of the Durham Bulls.


Overall, pitching was decent this year. As the chart shows, the relief crew was not very good for much of the year; however, the team average ERA stayed below the IL average. At the end of the year the team ERA of 3.67 ranked 7th in the International League.

This was not a stable crew.  The Bulls saw 34 different pitchers take the mound. That included four position players and a couple of rehabs.

On balance, however, we have to say that pitching was not the problem in 2016.


Durham Bulls hitting in 2016 in a word — awful. Their end of year OPS was .685, 12th in the 14-team International League and .047 behind the league leader Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Their batting average was a dismal .238 tied for worst in the league with the Syracuse Chiefs.

Of the 23 players who came to bat this year (two of them were pitchers with just one plate appearance each), only three played in over 100 games. The best of the bunch was infielder Daniel Robertson who hit .259 with 43 RBI and a decent OPS of .713.

Geek stuff comment: I chose OPS since folks are reasonably familiar with the stat. Plus, when charted in this manner the curve matches the same curve for wOBA very well. For an individual player, by the way, an OPS of .685 is characterized as falling between "poor" and "below average". Obviously, early in the season the hitting was really bad and there was a steady improvement, but not enough to make up for the dropoff in pitching as season's end.


To discuss defense we had to invent a stat since none of the ones I'm familiar with seemed to get at the issue. In midseason it just seemed like the Bulls were giving away a lot of games.

This is a very simple stat, "Defensive Difference Index". It is the running total of unearned runs as a percentage of all runs allowed. Seems to me that this measure accounts for the fact that a lot of mistakes such as wild pitches, errors, and passed balls don't end up making a difference. Here we see that the Bulls really weren't very good at defense this year, but certainly had a very good run near the end, bringing themselves down to near the IL average.

How did they compare? Well, that's where this stat may have some problems. The Bulls were nearly the worst in the league. They ranked 12th out of 14. But the worst team in the league by this measure was the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, who won the North Division. The best team in the league was the Charlotte Knights, who did not do well at all. However, the Columbus Clippers, the best record in the IL, ranked #4. Guess that it means that it takes everything to have a winning team.


  1. You really have to wonder what is going on within the Rays' organization as it pertains to developing hitters. Of course at the conclusion of last season, they fired Dave Myers and brought up Ozzie Timmons. That has not worked out extremely well either. Also I have to really wonder if Jared Sandberg is the answer in Durham. He has had a lot of talent especially this year with Shaffer, Robertson, and Mahtook being there during parts of the year but they could never put it together for any sustainable period of time. I think that everyone in Durham really became spoiled with the way that Charlie Montoyo did things. They won and they won with class. You knew that when the first pitch was thrown in April that you would be witnessing mid-September baseball in Durham. It is not like it used to be.

    1. Amen! Part 2, pitchers, is almost ready. Then a look at the hitters. And then I'll get around to our comments on the Rays, Sandberg, and rest. My view, at the moment, is that they have some systemic issues that have become visible here the last two years.