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?).

Friday, May 10, 2019

Durham Bulls in First Place; On to Rochester

I have to say that I did not expect the Bulls to do so well against the IronPigs, but they did. They swept the team with the best International League record in their home park. We can expect the IronPigs to try to return the favor when Lehigh Valley visits the DBAP next week.

In the meantime, the Bulls rode their 5-game winning streak into first place in the South.

And are off to Rochester to play a three-game set with the Minnesota Twins (note: the Twins are now being managed by former Bull Rocco Baldelli — 2002, 2006, 2007, 2010).

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Mixed Home Stand; Off to Pennsylvania

The Bulls had an erratic home stand. After winning six games on the road, they went 4-4 at home. They ended up tied for second place in a very tight South Division.

They are on the road to face the Phillies franchise, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, who are unquestionably the best team in the International League this year ... so far. So these next three games are certainly their biggest challenge for the Bulls in this young season.

The IronPigs are also blessed with a blogger who, much like me, isn't as  busy this year as in previous years. Still, he might jump in while the Bulls are in town. Take a look.