Wednesday, September 25, 2019

An Exciting Wild Card Run

The Bulls' parent club, the Tampa Bay Rays, is having a terrific season. Four games left and things are all tangled up.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Durham Bulls Swept; Season Ends

The game started out well enough. On the field were a bunch of familiar faces:

  • Former Bull Blake Snell, pitching for the Bulls and having a couple of good innings.
  • Former Bull Andrew Velazquez, playing shortstop for the Columbus Clippers who went 1 for 4 and scored a run.
  • Former Bull Dioner Navarro, playing catcher for the Clippers, who went 0 for 2 with a walk.
  • Former Bull Mitch Talbot, who was the Clippers starting pitcher and went 4 2/3 innings and gave up a bunch of walks and one run, but also got out of a bases-loaded mess in the 2nd inning and left the game allowing just one run.

On the Bulls side, not so many familiar faces. In fact, only two starters were in the Bulls opening day lineup, Jake Cronenworth and Nathan Lukes. (Andrew Velazquez was on that lineup as well)

The takeaway was that Columbus was simply a better team. Better pitching—although the Bulls' Aaron Slegers did a fine job for 3 innings, he got hammered for the next two. Better hitting—the Clippers hit a ton of home runs over the three games, 3 last night and a bunch at the two games in Columbus. If not better defense, then pretty darn good.

The Bulls left 14 baserunners on base, but that's been a feature for much of the year.

Now, let's not forget that this is a team that got into the playoffs for us, the fans, and did it under very difficult circumstances.

And they provided us with a ton of fun over the year.

I'll do my usual charts in a couple of days. And I'll miss being at the DBAP. Just wish I were going tonight.

Enjoy the winter!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Getting Ready

The Durham Bulls are probably in Columbus now, getting ready for their 18:35 game tomorrow.

Huntington Park
This appears to be a very nice place to play baseball (see this and this) and they certainly have a solid fan base. They have an even better attendance record than the Bulls and almost twice as many fans at their win over Gwinnett than at the last Bulls home game.

The team has been pulled apart much like the Bulls. They do have a few more on the Cleveland 40-man than the Bulls. The Bulls only have one, the Clippers have 5, including my favorite former Bull Andrew Velazquez.  

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Durham Bulls to the Governors' Cup Finals — Again

Durham Bulls 17; Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders 2

Just a couple of weeks ago it was not likely that Bulls' players would be going anywhere but home at the end of their 139-game season. Now they are headed for the finals.

Last night was in their hands from the very first inning when they scored 4 runs. Rehabbing Blake Snell opened for the Bulls and really didn't look so good, but it's been a long time since he'd pitched. He was pulled after two outs and left the bases loaded. Aaron Slagers come in and did a magnificent job for the next 6⅓ innings. Meanwhile, the RailRiders' pitching never got on track.

Over in Columbus, Ohio, the Clippers got 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th and that was enough for them to take the series from the Gwinnett Stripers. Box

The Bulls will now trek over to Columbus for two games starting on Tuesday and then, for the first time in recent memory, perhaps ever, play in the Governors' Cup championship game(s) at the DBAP.

With whom? Well, there's only one player left on the roster who is on the Tampa Bay 40-man. The only player they can call up without roster razzle-dazzle is RHP José De León. We can hope they will leave the Bulls alone. I'll stand by my assertions regarding playoff baseball made a few days ago.

By the way, Kean Wong got his first hit and scored his first run as a major leaguer yesterday. He was among the 16 different position players the Rays used yesterday. Welcome to September.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Game Two to the Bulls

NC survived Dorian. Flag replaced at Frying Pan

The Bulls skipped a day, but all is well.

We got to see some fine baseball last night. New guy Josh Fleming pitched 8 terrific innings (and was the ONLY Bulls pitcher to go 8 innings this year). Jake Cronenworth made a couple of nifty plays at shortstop and looked like the player we grew to love this year. Was I worried about the two times the Bulls left the bases loaded? You bet. But all was well at the end.

A nice feature of playoff baseball is that the crowds may be a bit small (3,600), but they are all Bulls fans (with the notable exception of the Yankees/RailRider fan sitting behind me, but, hey, still a serious fan). That means everyone is paying attention. That meant that when Sam McWilliams was pulled after just two batters in the 8th, they gave him a hard time. But when it turned out that, due to the "3 batter rule" he had to come back in, McWilliams was then applauded for a stellar play covering first base.

Arturo Reyes got his first save in his pro career to wrap it up.

By now the Bulls are up in Scranton, or is it Wilkes-Barre, or is it Moosic, Pennsylvania getting ready to play the third game of a best-of-three series.

Meanwhile, over in Columbus, Ohio, the Clippers could not close the deal against the Strippers, losing Game 3 10-6. They are 2-1.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Kean Wong Called Up!

Kean Wong

I know that I complain about the Tampa Bay Rays from time to time ... Well, maybe more often than that.

But this time they did something right. Kean Wong has been a critical piece of the Durham Bulls for so long it's hard to remember when he wasn't with the team. In the last three years, he played in 334 games and was involved in winning two Governors' Cups and one AAA National Championship. And yet he's never been to the major leagues. Until today.

This is a very, very big deal. We Durham Bulls fans will miss you! Good luck!

Durham Bulls Win; 23-Hour Rain Delay Coming

We saw some decent baseball last night, mostly. The RailRiders' Brian Keller was awfully good through the first five innings, but things got ugly for him in the 6th and two runners he left behind came home on a Jason Coats home run. That pretty much sealed the game.

For the Bulls, José De León looked awfully good for his 5 innings. And new guy Ryan Thompson, up from Montgomery, had a spectacular AAA debut with the Bulls, striking out the first four batters he saw in the 6th and 7th innings.

Today's game is on a 23-hour rain delay (Hurricane Dorian) and will be played at 6:00 Friday.

DBAP 5 Sep 2019, 9:03 am

Friday is going to be a new day. Looks interesting.

Sure wish they could figure out some useful data to put up on the videoboard. Postseason info isn't very helpful. I know that many of these guys don't have much AAA time this year, maybe summarize all 2019 data from E.g., Dylan Cozens in 2019 was in 29 games has a BA of .183, an OPS of .795, 8 HR,  18 RBI, 6 Stolen Bases. Maybe list the number of teams he's played for (Cozens has played for 4 including 1 game with the Phillies). Or Johnny Davis who got in the game as a pinch-runner for Cozens late in the game and stayed to play center field. In 2019 he's got 54 stolen bases (!) all in the AAA Mexican League, but most recently was with Montgomery. Info like that would be helpful as the game goes along for those of us not listening on the radio.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Playoff Baseball in the International League

In my opinion, we have three factors that drive success in the playoffs.
  1. The manager/coach crew. This time of year the team rosters are chaotic. Leadership and the skill of the manager and coaching staff are crucial. 
  2. Depth of the parent club's minor league system—although that can work against the Bulls. For example, the Ray's AA team, the Montgomery Biscuits, are in the Southern League championship playoffs. And they start today, too. Two of the pitchers on Monday came all the way up from A ball.
  3. Luck. That may sound a bit silly, but I will point out that the Bulls won their first National Triple-A title on a passed ball.
How do we assess these games coming up? We can't. There's simply too much turmoil and we are left at the mercy of Brady Williams and his crew's competence.

Meanwhile, take a look at the box score of yesterday's tie-breaker game. The RailRiders beat the Mets 14 to 13. They used 7 pitchers who gave up 10 earned runs, but I'm too lazy to drill down into how young or experienced the players are. We can point out, as they did, that they were down 1–7 going into the 7th inning, and had had just one hit in the game up to that point.

For real reportage, check out the Burlington Times-News. N&O and H-S continue to ignore the Bulls.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Durham Bulls in the Governors' Cup Playoffs

That was some kind of Labor Day. Remember the win/loss options from yesterday—if the Bulls lose and Charlotte wins, they are out.

 I admit to watching from home and it was painful watching the Gwinnett Braves score 6 runs (having gone through 5 Bulls pitchers) before the Bulls scored a run in the 6th.

I fired up my laptop to follow things at Harbor Park over in Norfolk (although Kinas was doing a fine job keeping up). That did not look good either. At the end of 7 innings, the Charlotte Knights were leading the Norfolk Tides 5 – 1.

Up North, the Syracuse Mets were soaring up into a tie with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. They will play a one-game tie-breaker tonight.

By the 8th inning in Durham, the Braves led the Bulls 8 to 1, but over in Norfolk, the Tides waited until they had two outs in the bottom of the 8th to score 4 runs and go ahead of the Knights 6-5. If the Knights were to lose, the Bulls would be in.

And then the Bulls scored 4 runs in the 8th and looked to be chewing up pitchers. Not enough.

In the Knights/Tides 9th, the Knights tied the game.

The Bulls/Braves game ended, the Bulls losing 8-5. Bulls face elimination.

I'm left listening to Kinas on the radio and watching the Knights/Tides on MiLB.TV. The Tides hold off the Knights in the top of the inning. Single brings in the runner from 3rd. Tides win! Bulls are in the playoffs!

I'll repeat my lament regarding news coverage. No print coverage with  one notable exception — check out Bob Sutton of the Burlington Times-News. He did a terrific job.

Also, there was a bit of tape at WRAL.

Over at the International League site, they got the playoff situation wrong.

Note that the Bulls used 8 pitchers. Pretty sure that was a season record. Of those, Michael Plassmeyer and Cristopher Sanchez were jumped directed up from A ball for their AAA debut. They got to join the celebration.

Here's the last wild card chart. Beautiful!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Today's the Day for the Durham Bulls

Back just a few days ago I wrote that the Durham Bulls has played themselves out of the wild card spot for the International League Governors' Cup playoffs. I was wrong.

Here they are in the last game of the season and, if the season were to end now, they would be getting ready to play the IL North winner for the first round of the Cup.

By any measure, this was a remarkable week of baseball for the Durham Bulls.  Yesterday's terrific pitching performance by Aaron Slegers and Jose De Leon; a booming home run in Dylan Cozens' first game as a Durham Bull; and rock-steady work by Emilio Bonifacio were much like the rest of this week.

And this was a week with considerable turmoil in the ranks. But, from a distance, little things were clear that these guys are hanging together as a team. Last night the little thing was when Gillermo Heredia caught  a fly ball for the last out in center field, he did not toss the ball into the stands. He kept it, either for himself or perhaps for Slegers. He, and the rest of the team, knew that they had played themselves into the wild card. And then they were all out there to slap hands with the kids running the bases.

About today.

  • If the Bulls win, they are the wild card team no matter what happens in the Norfolk Tides, Charlotte Knights game.
  • If the Bulls lose and the Knights lose, the Bulls are the wild card team.
  • If the Bulls lose and the Knights win, the 2019 season is over for the Bulls.
  • Game time: 1:05


There are so many potentially fascinating stories about this week and this team that we'd love to hear. We get a few of them from Patrick Kinas' superb reporting on the radio. But it sure would be nice to hear more. I just checked the Charlotte Observer, Raleigh News & Observer, and Durham Herald-Sun web sites: Not a whisper about what's going on. Even WRAL, who's boss owns the Bulls, has only a whisper. Not a bad story in the Virginian-Pilot, of all places, though.

Up North

The Bulls/Knighs competition isn't the only story on this last day. Up in the IL North an end-of-season tie between the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and the Syracuse Mets could happen. The RailRiders are playing the Buffalo Bisons and the Mets are playing the Rochester Red Wings. All these games are afternoon games, so you can expect solid coverage from Kinas, Scott Pose, and company if you listen/watch the game.

Note: If the IL North ends in a tie, they will have a one-game playoff to determine who comes south for a playoff game.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Rays Strip Talent From Bulls; 2 Games Left in Season

We've complained a good bit about the Rays treatment of the Bulls this season, but what would 2 days have meant to the Rays own wild card chase?

Daniel Robertson, Michael Perez (hero of Friday's game), Nate Lowe, Hoby Milner, and Peter Fairbanks are off to the Bandbox by the Bay.

Thanks Tampa Bay!

Meanwhile, the Bulls have two games left and are now 1 game back from Charlotte.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Path to the Playoffs

Thanks to Chris D for this nice little table that lets us all know what the Bulls need to do to go forward. Note that in all cases the Bulls need the Knights to lose game(s). So keep an eye on what's going on down at Harbor Park in Norfolk.

Since we hold the tie-breaker, our scenarios for making it are:
* Win 4 & Charlotte loses 1
* Win 3 & Charlotte loses 2
* Win 2 & Charlotte loses 3
* Win 1 & Charlotte loses 4

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Durham Bulls Not Quite Out of Wild Card After All

  • The Bulls swept Charlotte and now have a day off.
  • They are [½] 1 game back of the Knights
  • Knights have 4 games against the Norfolk Tides
  • The Bulls have 4 games against the Gwinnett Braves, starting Friday
  • Bulls need to win most; Charlotte need to lose most
  • The Bulls are officially out of the IL South Division Race

Things still very interesting in the IL North

See Chris D's grid. & Thanks for edit.
... c

Monday, August 26, 2019

Durham Bulls Play Themselves Out of IL Wild Card

  • Lost 10 of last 12 games
  • 6 of 7 in this home stand
  • Bulls play a couple of games in Charlotte and a couple more games against Gwinnett here at DBAP. 
  • This has been a difficult month for players and fans

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Durham Bulls Season — 11 Games Left — End of the Road?

Yesterday's Games

Charlotte Knights 3, Durham Bulls 0

Gwinnett Braves 6; Norfolk Tides 2

I'm not sure I can continue with this daily update. I confess that what I had hoped, and expected, to do was chronicle the Durham Bulls' rise into the lead of the South Division. Instead, what we've seen is a continuance of the Rays' callous regard for the Bulls and a slide into near-oblivion. These four games against the Knights was their chance, but a team with the 13th worst ERA in the International League has beaten them three games in a row. IL Standings.

It seems to me that the Rays gave up on the Bulls' potential as a team around mid-July. We talked about some of that here. But it has not let up, 15 transactions in the last week.

As a last sad comment, we talked about the importance of run differentials a while ago.

Here's the trend:

By the way, interesting end-of-season race going on in the International League North.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Durham Bulls — 12 Games Left

  • Bulls lose 6 of last 7 games. 
  • Sliding out of contention for anything.
  • Opening pitcher goes to 1-5 with an ERA of 8.12. Why is he at AAA?
  • Rehabbing Rays go 0 for 8 at bat
August 20 Results

Charlotte Knights 9; Durham Bulls 3

Gwinnett Braves 1; Norfolk Tides 5

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Durham Bulls — 13 Games Left

  • Drop a full game in wild card
  • 3½ behind Gwinnett
  • 10 games to go at the DBAP
August 19 Results

Charlotte Knights 13; Durham Bulls 11 — Box

Gwinnett Stripers 5; Norfolk Tides 6

Monday, August 19, 2019

Durham Bulls — 14 Games Left in Season

  • Still tied with Charlotte for the wild card spot.
  • 3½ games behind Gwinnett. 
  • All games till end of season against either Charlotte or Gwinnett
  • 11 games at the DBAP (4 v Charlotte, 7 v Gwinnett)
  • Start with 7 home games, 4 v Charlotte, 3 v Gwinnett
  • Bulls' fate is in their hands.
August 18 Results

Durham Bulls 10; Buffalo Bisons 7 — Box

Scranton/WB 9; Gwinnett Stripers 3
Columbus Clippers 2; Charlotte Knights 2

Note that the IL North race has suddenly gotten competitive. Standings.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Durham Bulls — 15 Games Left

  • Bulls fall into tie for wild card lead. 
  • Last time they were just 12 games above .500 was on June 11, more than 2 months ago. 
  • Team has given up 6 unearned runs in the last two games. 
  • And lost 4 out of 5 on this road trip.
August 17 Results

Durham Bulls 2; Buffalo Bisons 9 — Box

Columbus Clippers 6; Charlotte Knights 7
Charlotte Knights 2; Columbus Clippers 2
Scranton/WB RailRiders 7; Gwinnett Braves 8

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Durham Bulls — 16 Games Left

August 16 Results

Durham Bulls 3; Buffalo Bisons 7

Columbus Clippers 5; Charlotte Knights 4

Scranton/WB RailRiders 2; Gwinnett Stripers 5

Gwinnett increased its lead over Bulls and Knights: Standings

Today: Durham @ Buffalo

Friday, August 16, 2019

Durham Bulls — 17 Games Left

August 15 Results

Durham Bulls 3; Syracuse Mets 5 Box

Columbus Clippers 5; Gwinnett Stripers 2 (7 innings)
Columbus Clippers 5; Gwinnett Stripers 3 (7 innings)
Scranton/WB RailRiders 5; Charlotte Knights 7

Bulls just hanging out, waiting for Knights to catch up.

Today: Durham @ Buffalo

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

End of Season Run: August 13, 2019

Going to start tracking this on a regular basis. See

1½ game spread. This morning.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Tampa Bay Rays/Durham Bulls and the Failure (Unwillingness?) to Make Memories

A guest post by WDBB friend Chris D ... I completely agree ...

Last week I got to watch the Durham Bulls throw a combined no-hitter. It was their 6th no-hitter in AAA history and no matter what happens from here this season or next, I'll be able to say I was there when it happened. Whatever the win/loss total or playoff results, I have a fun memory from the season.

Fast forward to last night when the Rays were having a fantastic outing from Ryan Yarborough versus the Mariners. As it was an away game, the best the Rays fans could do was watch or listen. As the inning went on and it became apparent that Yarborough might be able to do something a Rays' pitcher hadn't done since 2016, throw a complete game, and a shutout at that. It wasn't a no-hitter, but the sudden excitement of counting down outs was on. When he came out to start the 9th with less than 100 pitches thrown, it looked like it was going to happen.

And then, with 2 outs in the 9th and no one on base, and still not having thrown 100 pitches, the Rays lifted Yarborough for Pagan. He got the final out and the Rays won the game. Looking at some stat sites, the Rays' playoff chances (and let's be realistic it's a wild card chance) moved up from 70% to 72%. The analytical team used analytics to make "the best move". But the fans were left feeling empty.

Shortly after that game ended, I was listening to Patrick Kinas retell the story about when Mike Montgomery was bringing a no-hitter into the 9th inning of a Bulls start back in 2014. Apparently, he ignored his manager, who intended to replace him, and ran back on to the field in the 9th. He got the 1st out and then was promptly removed from the game. Brad Boxberger finished the no-hitter off, but the fans were again left wanting. Kinas continued the story, telling us how this was the "beginning of the end of Montgomery's career in the Rays' system."

As a fan, I just want to put it out there that while I understand winning is the ultimate goal, sometimes the obsession with doing everything the numbers tell you to do, no matter of circumstance, really robs the fun from the game. If the Rays miss the playoffs by 1 game this year instead of 2 or if they lose the 1-game wildcard playoff, I'll have forgotten that in 5 years. If they let Yarborough throw a rare CGS or Montgomery throw a single pitcher no-hitter, I'd remember those for much longer. Maybe it'd pay for management to remember that there are things other than winning that bring fans to the ballpark.

   Chris D

Monday, August 12, 2019

One Team Will Not Go to the Playoffs

Durham – Charlotte – Gwinnett

The Durham Bulls play 20 more games and then the regular season is over. Fourteen of those games are against the Gwinnett Strippers (7, all at the DBAP) and the Charlotte Knights (4 home, 3 away). After today, the Bulls have only one more off day (Aug 29).

Here's how they stand in the International League South. Charlotte has made one heck of a run in recent days, Gwinnett and the Bulls have been pretty static since a run by Gwinnett took them out of first place a couple of weeks ago. A lot can happen over the next three weeks, but it's safe to say that one of these teams is going to win the IL South and go to the playoffs. The South Division winner plays the winner of the West Division. The Wild Card winner plays the winner of the North Division.

The Wild Card, at the moment, is dominated by Charlotte and Durham.

How could this play out?

Obviously, any one of these three teams could make a run. All of them have had big runs this year — the Bulls have had a couple of them.

The big variable affecting each team is how their parent club will be approaching the end of their season.

The Braves (Gwinnett) have a decent lead in the NL East, but you can bet they will do anything to maintain it. Ten players on the Knight's current roster are on the Atlanta 40-man (9 pitchers, 1 catcher).

The White Sox are 12 games below .500 in the AL Central and are well back of the Indians and Twins. The Knights have 9 players on the White Sox 40-man (4 pitchers, 2 catchers (!), and 3 other position players).

The Rays are in an intense fight for an American League Wild Card spot that has a long way to go. The Bulls only have 7 players on the Tampa Bay 40-man, including a couple on rehab/IL (5 pitchers, 1 catcher, 2 position players). However, the Rays are famous for their manipulation of the 40-man. In the short term, after the chaos of the last couple of weeks, things could be quiet. But as we get near the end of the month and September call-up time approaches, expect the Rays to fiddle with the 40-man list (Anthony Banda being a poster child for that situation). The Rays have 8 players (5 pitchers) included on the 40-man in some kind of injured status. That adds to the potential for turmoil on the Bulls' roster as their status changes.

Wish I could say that anyone in the baseball world, other than Patrick Kinas, is keeping us up-to-date on this stuff. But the best we can do is tune in early prior to the game and listen to his update.

Thursday, August 8, 2019


Durham Bulls 2, Syracuse Mets 1
Box, Play-by-Play

An exciting game at the DBAP last night. Just looking at the box score does not really give you the flavor of the game. But at the top of the 9th all of us there (smallish crowd — 4,700 paid, maybe 3500 in the stands) knew what was going on pitch-by-pitch. With side-armer Toby Milner striking out the first batter, getting a pop-out to short [edited: thanks Chris], the Syracuse Mets sent in their moose, Travis Taijeron, to pinch-hit (he has 24 home runs this year, the Mets were only one run back). Milner struck him out. Fans cheer on.

But the entire game was much more of a contest that it seems in the stats. Syracuse's Corey Oswalt pitched a brilliant game. Just two pitches got away from him, to Kean Wong in the 1st inning and, a bit later in the 3rd, to Nate Lowe. The Bulls put a fair number of runners on base after that, but none of them scored.

Meanwhile, we saw one of the most unusual defensive alignments of the year. Catcher Mac James was at first, First  baseman Nate Lowe played third base. third Baseman Kevin Padlo played second base, and infielder Kean Wong was in left field. But it all worked out. No errors.

Exciting? Well, in the 5th inning Ricardo Pinto (who got the win) got the first out on a fly ball, then walked Trever Blanco. After getting a K, he then hit Ali Sanchez. Then he balked moving the runners to second and third. All was well, however, when he K'd Braxton Lee.

In the 8th inning, Pinto walked the first batter (Rymer Liriano) and hit the next batter (Ali Sanchez). A sacrifice bunt by Braxton Lee put runners on 2nd and 3rd with just one out. A ground out to short (infield was not drawn in) scored a run. So we had a runner on third and two outs. Rehabbing José Alvarado was called in to pitch to Danny Espinoza. One pitch, grounder to short, inning over. No hits recorded.

In addition to no hits, this had to be one of the most efficient games in recent memory. Starter Arturo Reyes: 3 innings, 36 pitches; Ricardo Pinto: 4⅔ innings, 62 pitches;   José Alvarado: ⅓ inning, 1 pitch (!); Hoby Milner: 1 inning, 14 pitches. Overall pitches per out: 4.18. That's very efficient.

[Note: This is very weird: I seem to be unable to respond to comments on my own blog. Working on it. Chris W]

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Banda Better

Only fair to note that Anthony Banda, mentioned in a recent post, went 4 shutout innings last night, and improved his ERA from 8.68 to 6.08. And the Bulls won!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Ugly Road Trip; Will Turmoil Ever Stop?

We had some fairly negative things to say as the Durham Bulls hit the road last week. The situation has not improved. If anything, it may have gotten worse.

On the road, the Bulls had 4 losses and just two wins, plus a rainout that cannot be made up. All games were against the other three International League South teams. The Bulls left home 1½ games back, they returned home 2½ games back.

The reasons why are pretty obvious.

First would be the sheer turmoil. Remember, this is a team traveling around — to Gwinnett, to Charlotte, and to Norfolk. In the last six days the Bulls have had 17 roster changes. And there's reason to expect more before tomorrow's game.

Then there were some pretty ugly moments. Two starting pitchers didn't make it out of the 1st inning: Rehabbing Anthony Banda gave up 4 runs on 4 hits and two walks in the first ⅔ of the 1st inning against Gwinnett on July 30th (the Bulls lost 6–7) and new guy Peter Fairbanks gave up 3 runs on 2 hits and 3 walks in ⅔ of the 1st inning against Norfolk on August 3rd (the Bulls lost 2–3).

Another newish pitcher, Sam McWilliams, he of a 7.46 ERA, made it through 6 innings, but he also gave up 5 (4 earned) runs on 8 hits and 4 walks. The Bulls lost that game (August 2) as well.

To my surprise, we did not see much of an increase in unearned runs, and the Bulls' batting average didn't change much at all. New guy Kevin Padlo is having a terrific start as a Bull. The Bulls' hole in center field, made when Andrew Velazquez got pushed off the bus, has still not been filled.

By the way, Valazquez is playing with the division-leading Columbus Clippers along with Jake Bauers and Dioner Navarro.

About the only thing good to report is that the Bulls are leading in the wild card, but just by 3½ games over Charlotte.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Tough Home Stand; Off to Georgia

The Bulls are off to Gwinnett after getting shut out by Buffalo yesterday. Mr. McWilliams is having trouble adjusting to AAA. After a decent season in Montgomery (15 games, 87 innings, 2.05 ERA, 1.255 WHIP) he has not settled into his Bulls uniform (4 games, 19 innings, 7.91 ERA, 1.810 WHIP). Put another way, he's given up almost as many runs in 4 games as a Bull (17) as he did in 15 games as a Biscuit (20). Will he get better? Sure. But yesterday capped off a home stand where the Bulls lost 4 out of 6 games.

In Georgia, the Bulls are playing the newly-established-in-first-place Strippers. The Strippers have only been up there for the last 8 games or so. It would seem the Bulls would be able to claw back up on top. Our concern is that this isn't quite the same team that we've been watching all year. Their team ERA is creeping upwards; the team batting average is creeping downwards.


Friday, July 26, 2019

What's Going on with the Bulls?

This five-game slide into second place in the IL South is ugly.

The proximate cause of the last two losses were pitchers — Austin Pruitt (just off the injured list) on Wednesday, who gave up 2 runs to lose the game,  and rehabbing  Anthony Banda yesterday, who gave up three runs after a fine start by Brendan McKay.

Still, we've got to look at all the fine baseball players from days past who simply aren't in the lineup today (although a few may come back). Of the 27 players who've come to bat this year, ranked by OPS, 9 of the top 15 are not with the Bulls.

Gone BullsGamesOPS
Nick Solak85.838Nashville (.880)
Jake Smolinski67.864NC Dinos (1.140)
Mike Brosseau68.998Tampa Bay (.884)
Nate Lowe68.938Tampa Bay (.886)
Jake Cronenworth80.972Injured
Christian Arroyo33.984Injured
Nick Ciuffo34.626??
Andrew Velazquez34.778Cleveland

Trouble in Bull City.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Durham Bulls at the All-Star Break

The Durham Bulls are 90 games into a 140-game season and are doing very well. They lead the South Division of the International League, but just by 1½ games over Gwinnett. They don't have the best record in the league, that would be Cleveland's AAA team, the Columbus Clippers. The South Division is, by far the most competitive division in the league. Gwinnett and Charlotte are 1 and 2 in the wild card standings.

So why am I worried?

What worries me are the ups and downs since mid-June. In the last 21 games the Bulls have 11 wins against 10 losses. In the last 10 games, 4 wins against 6 losses. That's worrisome.

The roster turmoil has been severe over that period. Since June 20 there have been 35 transactions. 19 were subtractions, 16 were additions. Some of that was just back and forth between the Bulls and Tampa Bay, but a few were outright losses (Nick Ciuffo, Andrew Velazquez and Jake Smolinski are just gone).

Will it settle down next week? We can hope.

The trend in run differentials over the last several games may reflect this turmoil. It shows a distinct flat or downward trend over the last several games. And is beginning to fall below the last couple of years.


The pitching crew has done just fine. The team ERA is second best (after Gwinnett) in the International League. The ERA for the starters has been high all year. However, those data are somewhat tainted by the 8 times the Bulls used an "opener" who was only in for an inning or so. They put together a combined 7-inning no-hitter last week, and they've put together 6 shutouts.

The pitching crew also excels in keeping keeping their opponents off base. The Bulls opponents have been held to a very low batting average. Even better, their "secondary average" — essentially extra-base hits and walks — is well below their batting average.


The Bulls have the third-best batting average in the league. At .278 they are just 2 points behind the league leader, Rochester. Their secondary average is terrific as well. However, note that slight downward trend in recent days.


Our homegrown measure of defensive prowess, unearned runs per 9 innings, or uERA, has wavered between excellent and awful this year. In general, it has followed the overall downward trend of the International League as a whole. But there have been a couple of games lost to poor defense

The Hitters

This table is sorted by batting average, but also shows two other measures of hitting, Secondary Average and On Base + Slugging Percentage (OPS). Another measure I've come to regard as important is the difference between batting average and secondary average. That shows, sort of, both extra-base performance, speed, and plate discipline (walks). Small samples can lead to distortions, so the numbers for McCarthy, Bemboom, Ricardo, Perez, and McKay are not very useful.

Kean Wong72289.346.253-.093.910
Jake Cronenworth75295.342.359.017.973
Mike Brosseau‡68249.317.402.085.998
Christian Arroyo‡33121.314.397.083.984
Emilio Bonifacio46146.295.240-.055.767
Nate Lowe‡68241.290.440.150.938
Andrew Velazquez34129.271.240-.031.778Traded
Jake Smolinski67248.270.379.109.864Released
Dalton Kelly2898.265.224-.041.696
Brendan McKay*1549.265.510.245.951
Nick Solak83292.264.349.085.830
Jason Coats53197.
Michael Perez*2272.236.403.167.812
Nick Ciuffo34123.228.195-.033.626Released
Nathan Lukes56166.
Joe McCarthy2385.200.353.153.703
Mac James44129.
Anthony Bemboomº1136.167.139-.028.488
Dashenko Ricardo1025.
* 40-man; ‡ w/Tampa Bay; º on rehab assignment

Overall, this is a very impressive crew. Much as we wish it were not so, we must expect continued back and forth to Tampa Bay. Remember, the Rays are masters at manipulating rosters. The fact that only a few of these players are on the 40-man (and three on this list are with the Rays as I write this) doesn't mean much. Several can expect a shot (or deserve a shot — Kean Wong especially) before the year is out.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Free Scott Pose

Durham Bulls Radio color commentator Scott Pose has had a very (very) old fine catch up with him! He's paying the fine ... but has also started a GoFundMe page

to help the Miracle League of Durham.

Read all about it at the link.

Great cause and good guy ...

... c

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Importance of Run Differentials

Before we get to today's geek stuff, let's give a shoutout to the Bulls and DBAP crew that managed to host more than 30,000 fans this weekend. Very well done. Thank you! Let's not forget just how great the Bulls looked in the first two games of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders series. Let's try to look past the 13 (count'em, 13!) baserunners stranded in the last game.

About Run Differentials

This is a very simple statistic, the number of runs scored minus the number of runs allowed. But it's right up there with won-loss in importance. There's even a variant stat based on run differentials called Pythagorean Expectation, which we won't go into today, but is a lot of fun to track.

This first chart shows the cumulative game-by-game run differentials so far this year. As of today the Bulls have scored 402 runs and have allowed 330 for a run differential of 72, down slightly from Saturday's peak 0f 76. Nevertheless, pretty darn good at game 69 (they are just one game from mid-season).

Why Do They Matter

Look at the last several years. During those years the Bulls won four Governors' Cups (2011, 2013, 2017, and 2018) and won the IL South. Take a look at the run differentials for those years. All of them were positive — for the G'cup years, they were exceptional. Note: The Bulls also won the IL South in 2008, 9, and 10 with positive run differentials, but this chart was already cluttered enough.

Which brings me back to today. The Durham Bulls at midseason are looking very, very good. Their numbers are up there with those from 2017 and 2013, great years for Bulls (and Bulls' fans).

Friday, June 14, 2019

RailRiders Come to Durham

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders come to town today. They are the New York Yankee's AAA team and the buzz is that rehabbing Yankee's stars Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge could join the team in Durham.

But for a Bulls fan, the better story is that the two best teams in the International League are meeting for a 3-game matchup to be followed by a visit to the RailRiders' home field next week.

The Bulls are on a 6-game winning streak and have won 8 of their last 10. The RailRiders had a recent streak broken, but they have won 7 of their last 10. The Bulls are 3½ games up in the South, the RailRiders are 5½ games up in the North Division.

These are very well-matched teams and, with any luck, we could be seeing some of the most interesting baseball of the year this weekend and next week (assuming you've got MiLB TV).

Monday, June 3, 2019

Ugly Home Stand, So Far

This home stand is not going well. So far the Bulls have lost 5 games and won just two. Two key players were called up (congrats to Nate Lowe and Christian Arroyo) and catcher Nick Ciuffo, who was really improving at the plate, got hurt. Otherwise, it's a bit hard to peg just one reason.

Yes, the Bulls got shut out for just the second time this season. Yes, in one game they gave up 3 unearned runs. But the team ERA is virtually unchanged as is the team batting average. About the only metric that I watch that's been a problem is the opponents' Secondary Average. And that's grown quite a bit, reflecting on the 14 (count 'em, 14!) home runs hit by Louisville and Columbus. The Bulls hit 7 in the same period. Maybe that's what's made the difference.

At any rate, the Durham Bulls are out of first place in the South, with three more home games (against Norfolk) to go.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Back to the Bats

The Bulls split their 4-game Memorial Day series over in Charlotte. But the series featured extreme lows and highs in the last two games. In the first, on Sunday, Bulls pitchers had their worst outing of the year. They gave up 12 bases on balls! And 4 home runs. They lost 12 to 4. Then yesterday the pitching crew threw a shut out, only 3 hits and 4 walks. The hitters reversed the scoring by hitting four home runs and scoring 12 runs for the good guys.

Today is the big day for super-prospect Brendan McKay. So go to the game or watch his start on TV.


The Bulls swept the Louisville Bats at their home field last month, and they still match up well against them. The Bats are in third place in the IL West. They come in on a two-game win streak.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Remember — Memorial Day — 2019

Bald eagle on veteran's grave, Fort Snelling National Cemetery. Photo by Frank Gilk, Minneapolis Star Tribune. Stories by Jon Tevlin June 25 and August 10, 2011.
Memorial Day 2019

The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak

     Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses: who has not heard them? 

     They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts. 

     They say, We were young. We have died. Remember us. 

     They say, We have done what we could but until it is finished it is not done. 

     They say, We have given our lives but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave. 

     They say, Our deaths are not ours: they are yours: they will mean what you make them. 

     They say, Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say, it is you who must say this. 

     They say, We leave you our deaths: Give them their meaning: give them an end to the war and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning.
     We were young, they say. We have died; Remember us. 

— Archibald MacLeish

Matchup: Durham at Charlotte

The Durham Bulls took three games from the Norfolk Tides then drove past the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on the way to Charlotte.

The White Sox franchise is in third place, but banging the heck out of the new baseballs. They've hit 68 home runs this year, but their pitching record is the worst in the league.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Matchup: Durham vs Nofolk

The Durham Bulls are off to Norfolk for a 3-game series. Then they drive by Durham to a 4-game set with Charlotte. Then they return for a 9-game homestand. Meanwhile all those metal bat PINGS! will be sounding inside the DBAP as the ACC tournament sees its last days in Durham. Note: Why not use the old DAP for the ACC tournament? That would be a bit crowded, but fun.

The South Division is very competitive this year. Tides are only one game below .500 and they match up well against the Bulls. Plus the Bulls don't do all that well at Harbor Park. They lost 3 out of 4 at the beginning of the season. Plus the lost 2 out of 3 at home. That is, they are 2-5 against the Orioles farm club this year.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Durham Bulls Pitching at Game 41

As a team, Durham Bulls pitching is doing OK. The team ERA of 4.80 is slightly below the International League average of 4.88. But they rank 9th of 14 in the IL, almost a full run behind the leading Syracuse Mets (note the name change from "Chiefs" to "Mets").

The starters, however, are not distinguishing themselves. Over their 156 innings they are at a pretty crummy 5.96, while the Bulls' relievers in their 199 innings are at a stellar (for 2019) ERA of 3.89. Safe to say that it's the relief crew that is keeping the Bulls in the running.

Another way of measuring pitching performance is to look at your opposition's hitting. Here is where the Bulls are doing exceptionally well in some categories. This next chart shows their opponent's batting average and their "secondary average". What this implies is that (with the notable exception of yesterday's game against Rochester, see that tick upwards in the secondary average) Bulls's pitching (and catching) is very stingy when it comes to awarding extra base hits, walks, and stolen bases. They have given up the least amount of walks in the league, are in the middle of the pack on home runs, data on doubles and triples aren't available, and appear to be the best in the league in preventing stolen bases. Hence the tremendous difference in the league secondary average and the secondary average when those teams are playing the Bulls.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Durham Bulls Hitting (and Pitching?) at Game 36

I've become fascinated with a statistic called "Secondary Average" this year and have started tracking it for individual Durham Bulls and for the team. Batting average is pretty simple. The player hits a fair ball and gets on base. But it leaves out a lot of other stuff. Others stats that are out there such as On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage make up for that, but, for me, the numbers don't connect all that well.

I'm not alone. What got me started on secondary average was a Victor Mather article last April in the New York Times. It's pretty simple. Count up the total bases, back out the singles, add in the stolen bases, back out the caught stealing and divide by the at-bats. Then compare the batting average to the "secondary average".

Let's take a look at the Bulls as a team. This chart shows team  averages on the season. Just the last 15 games are shown. As of today, the Bulls batting average is .269, a few points over the International League average (and ranking 6th in the league). The Bulls secondary average is .307, indicating plenty of extra-base hits, walks, and stolen bases. They are essentially in the middle of the pack on all measures.

An interesting puzzle for all the league is the proliferation of home runs (Gwinnett has hit 59 in over their 37 games!). My guess is that using major league baseballs has a lot to do with it.

This table takes a look at Durham hitters and is sorted by batting average. I was surprised by Kean Wong's numbers and they may be an indication why he has not gained the attention of the Rays after all this successful time with the Bulls. If you want to worry, then worry about the Bulls' catchers. But, wait for the next chart to think about that.

Kean Wong
Jake Cronenworth
Mike Brosseau
Andrew Velazquez*
Nick Solak
Nate Lowe*
Emilio Bonifacio
Christian Arroyo*
Jason Coats
Jake Smolinski
Mac James
Nathan Lukes
Nick Ciuffo*
* On 40-man

I got to wondering if this stat could tell us something about Bulls pitching. Measured by ERA the Bulls have certainly not had stellar pitching this year, but as a team, they are at the league average.

However, if you start plotting the Opponent's batting average and secondary average, something pretty interesting jumps out. The opponent's secondary averages are well below their batting averages. What does that mean? It means that they are not getting very many extra-base hits, walks, stolen bases (and often getting caught stealing when they try). That fits with what we know about Rays' pitching philosophy — avoid walks, let the fielders do their jobs (and maybe all that shifting?).