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.



Pitching

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.

Hitting

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.


Defense

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.



NameGamesABBASADiffOPSNotes
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
Team903019.278.323.045.832
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 Coats53197.259.294.035.792
Michael Perez*2272.236.403.167.812
Nick Ciuffo34123.228.195-.033.626Released
Nathan Lukes56166.217.265.048.630
Joe McCarthy2385.200.353.153.703
Mac James44129.194.240.046.601
Anthony Bemboom┬║1136.167.139-.028.488
Dashenko Ricardo1025.160.240.080.534
* 40-man; ‡ w/Tampa Bay; ┬║ 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.

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