Friday, August 25, 2017

Bulls Win the South

Well, they did it. The Bulls won the South Division in a very odd fashion, but it was won last night about as early in the season as I can recall.

The oddity was that not one of the runs was scored on a hit. In the 8th Johnny Field drew a walk and went to 2B on a wild pitch. Kean Wong walked. Pinch-hitting Shane Peterson faced a new pitcher and grounded out, but Wong and Field moved up a base. Justin O'Conner was hit by a pitch (bases now loaded). Mallex Smith walked (Field scored), Jake Bauers walked (Wong scored). Patrick Leonard walked (O'Conner scored). And that was enough.

The Bulls celebrated on the field, and that was a grand and good departure from past practice. I can't tell you how annoyed I was the when the Bulls won a championship at home a while back and then disappeared into the dugout to celebrate in the locker room. This time we got to cheer with them and watch on TV. Thanks!

The Bulls are a good team this year. The South Division is not as strong as it has been in the past, but clearly the Bulls could have held their own in any of the IL's divisions.

How big a deal is this? Very. I contend that for Triple-A baseball it's the division win that matters. Very often by the time a team gets to the play-offs the September call-ups have occurred and very often the Governors' Cup is decided on two factors: the management/coaching crew and the quality of players the Double-A franchise. That is, the guys who play in the championships aren't necessarily the guys that got you there.

So, again, this is a big deal. Congrats to the Bulls!

Note: the Herald-Sun is reporting that Michael Roth's finger was broken on that come-backer in the 4th. Here's hoping that's not correct and he makes it back to the mound this year.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Bulls Return; Playing for September

The Bulls are back after a fine 4 win/2 loss road trip with a couple of those wins against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders. (Note to folks who name teams. Doesn't "Rail Riders" read better than the marketers version "RailRiders"?)

The Bulls come back 13½ games ahead of Gwinnett and only a few games away from clinching a South Division championship.

What's left to play for in these last seven home games against Gwinnett and Norfolk and the seven away games against Charlotte and Gwinnett? Well, there's September.

September is the month that players on the major league 40-man roster have a shot at getting called up. Only four Bulls position players are on the 40-man — Curt Casali, Willy Adames, Taylor Featherston, and the recently returned Mallex Smith. So those guys have at least have a shot at a call-up. As do the six pitchers on the 40-man. The unknown piece of the equation is what the Rays need or want. Hard to tell. Believe me, if they see a need, they can do some pretty tricky stuff with rosters. Mostly, I think they'd just like to win a game or two after their awful performance these last few weeks.

The other event closely watched by only a couple thousand Bulls fans will be the Governors Cup. We'll write a bit more about that as it happens, meanwhile here's a chart on who might be playing whom.

The first round is between the West Champion and the South Champion, and between the North Champion and the Wild Card. Just now it looks like Indianapolis in the West, but Columbus can't be counted out. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre has a lock on the North and Lehigh Valley's long slide may have taken them out of contention for the wild card, but they remain in reach of Rochester. Standings.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

RailRiders Come to Town

The first three games of this home series left a lot to be desired. Three unearned runs last night pretty much doomed the Bulls (and there was another unearned run in the first game). One out of three to the worst team in the west isn't good. On the other hand, the Bats pitching was pretty good.

But the Bulls are still cruising toward the IL South championship.

Today sees the best team in the International League visit the DBAP. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (isn't that a name?), the Triple-A team of the New York Yankees, just swept the Gwinnett Braves (thank you very much), but now the Bulls have to think to the future and the Governors' Cup. As can be seen, the RailRiders lead the Bulls in every category except defense. And the Bulls starting rotation is in a bit of turmoil for these four games.

How are the races looking? Well, Columbus obviously has a shot at winning in the West and Rochester is chasing Lehigh Valley for the wild card. August is interesting.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Marjama and Garton Gone; and More

Mike Marjama is (was), from this fan's perspective, the best catcher the Bulls have seen in a long while. His available stats are far better than either Curt Casali or Michael McKenry. So what have the Rays done? Traded him to the Mariners. What about the Bulls 4th best relief pitcher, Ryan Garton? Sigh. Traded to the Mariners. For what? or Whom? See limited discussion here and here.

Speaking of the Rays, they sent former Bull, but not a particular fan favorite, Tim Beckham to Baltimore. That means that the only former Bulls on the Rays active roster (position player) are Evan Longoria—who played in just 31 games on his way up 10 years ago and has been back for a couple of rehab stints and Daniel Robertson, who put in 118 games as a Bull last year. On the DL is Kevin Kiermaier who had brief stints with Durham in 2012, 2013, and 2014 before getting his call-up.

Odd set of games over in Norfolk. Two losses and a one-run win. One of the losses was yet another bullpen day. Perhaps with Blake Snell back for a while, we won't see so many of those.


The Cincinnati Reds AAA team, the Louisville Bats are not having any better year than their parent club. The hitting for average isn't so bad, but the pitching is not good and the fielding is awful.

The big deal comes later in the week when the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders come to town.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Thinking About September

The Bulls swept the Charlotte Knights in three well-played, well-pitched games. Meanwhile, we're thinking about the playoffs.

Here's how it works: The West plays the South and the North plays the Wild Card in the first round. Columbus jumped into the lead over Indianapolis yesterday. And the wild card will obviously go to whomever comes in 2nd place in the North.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Back from the Nawth; Home for Three Days

The Bulls start a very short, 3-game, home stand tonight after a successful 5 win, 2 loss road trip. They return solidly in first place in the South Division, 14 games ahead of the 2nd place Gwinnett Braves.

Two of the road games were "bullpen games". That is, the Bulls used only relievers in the games. That's something of a pattern for 2017. This year the Bulls have had 9 bullpen games, and won 7 of them.

On the field, the biggest change was the result of the Rays trading Casey Gillaspie to the White Sox. That's meant that Jake Bauers has been playing a lot of first base (the last five games). It also means that we might be seeing Gillaspie on the field in a Knights uniform tonight.

To fill the Gillaspie spot a young infielder, 24-year-old Grant Kay, was called up from Montgomery for his AAA debut. He's done very well, hitting .455 in 11 ABs, stolen 4 bases, and committed no errors in 3 games at 3B.

Overall, the Bulls' bats are not particularly hot since the All-Star break, but they are doing OK.


Charlotte, currently in last place, is in town for the next three games. As can be seen, their problem is pitching and fielding. Their hitting is pretty good.