Friday, July 28, 2017

Wins, Trades, & Matchups

The Bulls took 3 of 4 up in Buffalo and are moving on to a re-match with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Four decent games, including a solid outing by new guy Michael Roth. That's going to be important since roster turmoil is surely going to get worse before it gets better (if it ever gets better).

The big news is that Casey Gillaspie has been traded to the White Sox for a pitcher who has gone on the Rays 25-man. Gillaspie was assigned to Charlotte by the White Sox, so the Bulls will be seeing him in the Knights' dugout next Tuesday. I'm guessing that the change in uniform will help him regain his stroke and that could mean trouble for Bulls' pitchers next week. After a tough 2017, we can only wish Mr. Gillaspie well. We've enjoyed watching him at 1B.

In other news, Jamie Schultz, last seen in a Bulls uniform for one inning in the second game of the year, April 7th, is back from the disabled list.


Meanwhile, the IronPigs split a four-game series with the Gwinnett Braves since last the Bulls saw them. They are just 1-1/2  games back in the North Division and hold a 3-1/2 game lead in the IL wild card race. The Phillies have been shuffling the IronPigs roster at least as much as the Rays have been shuffling the Bulls roster.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Buffalo and Then Allentown

Not a bad home stand, 4 wins and 3 losses against very good teams. Since one pitcher, new guy Michael Roth accounted for 2 of the 3 losses, we can (as is our wont) blame the quality of the Tampa Bay scouting team for some of the Bulls' troubles. And it really does seem as if starting pitching tells a lot of the story for this stand as the starting crew got 4 above average Game Scores in all four wins, and the below average scores for all three losses.

But, there was the oddity last night of the Iron Pigs breaking the tie of a Bulls wild pitch that let a batter get on base after a strike out (and eventually score) and a walk-off after an IronPigs wild pitch let a runner get to third base and then score on an infield single.

Nevertheless, the Bulls still have a big lead in the South Division.


The Bulls are off to Buffalo for four games, then to the IronPigs home for three games. The Bisons are having a tough year, but, as we've seen, the IronPigs are a very, very good team.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

IronPigs Come to Town

The Bulls did a fine job against the leading team in the IL West, the Indianapolis Indians, taking 2 out of 3 games. And they stayed well on top of the IL South.

But today they come up against a rarity for 2017 — a team with a better won-loss record than themselves. The Lehigh Valley IronPigs are the Phillies' AAA franchise and they have been having a great year. They come to town having won 6 of their last 7 games, and firmly back in contention for the IL North leadership. About the only area where there's much of a gap between the two teams is in defensive performance.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Bulls at the All-Star Break

The All-Star break ends for the Bull over in Norfolk tonight. By the way, the PCL won the All-Star game 6-4. Bulls players did pretty well. Box. Patrick Leonard at 3B drew two walks; Willy Adames, at short, was 2 for 3, with a home run; and Mike Marjama started at catcher, but was 0 for 2.

Bulls at the break.


They are solidly in first place in the IL, 21 games over .500 and 10.5 games ahead of second place Gwinnett.

click on chart for larger image


The Bulls ERA ranks third in the IL, but they are much better than the league average and the relievers have simply been doing a superb job. Note the blip among the relievers is entirely the result of one very bad inning a couple of days ago.

Hitting - Team

Overall, the Bulls rank 6th in the IL in OPS, well behind Scranton/WB's .787. But they are doing OK.

Hitting - Individual

The interesting feature of this table is how much Willy Adames has improved his numbers as the year has gone by. Another player worth point ing out is Mike Marjama. Have the Rays finally produced a hitting catcher?

Source: FanGraphs


Here's our home-grown measure of defensive play — the Unearned Run Average. That is, how many unearned runs per 9 innings. As can be seen, letting in an unearned run is a pretty rare event this year for the Bulls, a very good thing.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Matchup: Bulls v Mud Hens

The Toledo Mud Hens are back for the second time this season. That's a very rare event, unprecendented in my experience, for an out-of-division team to visit twice in one year. At any rate, the Bulls and Mud Hens are 3 and 3 on the season.

The Mud Hens are in 3rd place in the IL West and their weakness certain appears to be their hitting. Otherwise, their base numbers are bad at all.

The Bulls, of course, are coming off a hitting gem, but pitching disaster yesterday.


Durham Bulls: 7
Charlotte Knights: 11

Box, Herald-Sun, Play-by-Play

We haven't been writing much about individual games this year. Last night's spectacular one-inning blow-up is going to be an exception.

The convenience-store (7-11) outcome was driven by the two-pitcher, 9-run, no-out beginning to the 8th inning that followed a brilliant start by Austin Pruitt in his new role as a starting pitcher (perfect through 4 innings).

Pruitt was followed by two clean innings by Neal Wagner, and one by Danny Farquar in his first appearance back with the Bulls. Meanwhile the Bulls had put up 4 runs and were cruising toward yet another shutout and win over the Charlotte Knights.

But then in the 8th Danny Farqhuar hit a batter with his first pitch and gave up a single. He left the game with runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs. Diego Castillo came in and, without a single out being recorded, let 8 runs score. His relief, Andrew Kittridge, let one more in.

How bad was it? Well, it was bad enough to move the ERA for all the relievers on the Bulls team from 2.93 to 3.16 — in one game! This is on a season where the relievers have pitched 325 innings so far. To say nothing of Diego Castillo's ERA, which went from 2.12 to 5.29. Of course, that came from allowing 6 runs without recording an out (plus two inherited from Farquhar). Farquhar, by the way, begins his season with the Bulls with an ERA of 18.00.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Home for the 4th

The Bulls are home to celebrate the 4th with a game against the Charlotte Knights.

They come home firmly in first place in the International League South Division.

click on chart for larger image
Four Bulls were picked as All-Stars and to participate in the July 12 All-Star game between the International League and the Pacific Coast League All-Stars out in Tacoma, Washington. That's the best showing of Durham Bulls players in my memory. They are shortstop Willy Adames, third baseman Patrick Leonard, catcher Mike Marjama and relief pitcher Andrew Kittredge. Congratulations!

The road trip went pretty well, 5 wins and 3 losses: 2-2 against the Indianapolis Indians and 3-1 against the Norfolk Tides.

The Hitters

I wanted to put this up to show the impressive improvement at the plate by shortstop Willy Adames. He's breaking out.

Roster changes included:
  • Blake Snell and Adam Kolarek went up to Tampa Bay. 
  • Wilson Ramos and Brad Boxberger finished their rehab assignments.
  • Pitchers José Alvarado and Austin Pruitt were optioned down to the Bulls. Oddly, Pruitt has gone into the starting rotation.
  • Pitcher Jeff Ames went on the temporarily inactive list, but I didn't hear the reason.
  • And reliever Drew Smith came up all the way from the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
Note: WDBB favorite Dayron Varona has caught on with the York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League. He's playing alongside former Bulls (and WDBB favorites) Joel Guzman (Joel is 32 now) and Alexi Casilla. Dayron is doing pretty well with an OPS of .822 over 12 games.

Matchup: Bulls v Knights

What jumps out from these numbers is that the Knights are hitting pretty well, but their pitching and fielding (as measured by unearned runs given up) aren't helping them at all.