Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Week 11: Decent Home Series Against the Bats


 The Durham won 4 games and lost 2 against the Louisville Bats last week. They kept their spot in 5th place in the 10-team IL East. Overall, however, the standings are much tighter among the top five teams. Decent crowds, especially Sunday, at the DBAP.

Team hitting and pitching continue to improve. Team OPS edged up from .774 to .781 (a bunch of home runs helped). The team ERA crept down from 4.52 to 4.34. The Bulls team WHIP, which has been worrisome all year, was down from 1.41 to 1.38, but they are 10th in the 20-team IL. A very low WHIP has been a hallmark of previous Bulls teams. 

This week did see a disturbing trend emerge in one of our home-grown stats:  unEarned Run Average — unearned runs per 9 innings. Over the six games, the Bulls' mistakes led to 8 unearned runs and drove the uERA up quite a bit.


The Bulls are off to Jacksonville, Florida to play the Jumbo Shrimp. Jacksonville is a game ahead of the Bulls in the standings, but the teams are very close to a statistical wash. They have already played each other 12 times this year and they are 6 and 6.

Note that they are on MiLB TV and Kinas is actually traveling with the team for the first time since pre-Covid days. He is at last broadcasting the games from the press box.


Monday, June 13, 2022

Week 10: Bulls Win 2, Lose 4 in Memphis

It seemed to be mostly a quiet time in Memphis last week. The Bulls lost 4 of the 6 games in front of sparse attendance (Memphis has only had 100,000 fans show up at the ballpark this year). 

At the end of the week, the Bulls were still in 5th place in the International League East, just behind Jacksonville (who has a little streak going for them). Up at the top of the league, Rochester has an ugly, 6-game losing streak in progress. At that three-team cluster at the bottom--not much change.
 
The pitching highlight of the week was Josh Fleming's masterful 8 innings on June 10. It was the best outing by any Bulls pitcher this year. Overall, the team ERA worsened slightly from 4.45 to 4.52. Similarly, the team batting showed a slight falling off from an OPS of .779 to .774. Most worrisome is the trend among relievers. That does not look good.


Matchup Bulls vs Bats

In years gone by the Durham Bulls/Louisville Bats matchup was a lot of fun. As Triple-A eases back into life, maybe we'll see that again. However, the Cincinnati Reds franchise is not having a good year. 


Notes:

Nice article in the New York Times on my all-time favorite Durham Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo.


Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Weeks 8 & 9: Durham Bulls Have a Great Home Stand

 

Click for larger image

The Durham Bulls went 5-1 against the Charlotte Knights and 4-2 against the Nashville Sounds (a much better team). During the home stand they went from a game below .500 to 4 games above .500, and from a tie for 5th place up to 4th place in the International League East.

We have interesting clusters developing the IL East. The Rochester Red Wings (the Nationals affiliate) have been having a terrific year. Unfortunately for the illusion of competitiveness, the 6-game series approach to scheduling has meant that the Bulls will not play Rochester this year. Nearby is a six-team cluster of Buffalo, Lehigh Valley, Jacksonville, Worcester, Norfolk, and Durham. The Bulls play all of those teams although there won't be a rematch with  Buffalo (the Bulls went 4-2 against them in early May). Lastly is a cluster of three teams, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Charlotte, and Syracuse, who appear to be slipping away. 

This home stand was characterized by much-improved hitting. The Team OPS went from .741 to .779, up to 3rd place in the IL East. The team ERA of 4.45 is nothing to shout about, but improved from earlier in the year. They rank 3rd in the IL East.

The Bulls go up against the Memphis Redbirds (St Louis) tonight in Memphis. They are on an even better run than the Bulls, 8-2 over their last 10 games. Overall, it looks like a decent matchup. 




Thursday, May 26, 2022

Durham Bulls Reach .500!

 


The Durham Bulls got their record up to 22-22 (standings) with a win over the Charlotte Knights last night. This is the first time they've been at .500 since the 4th game of the season, April 8th. That's a big deal. 

What changed? How did they manage to crawl out of that hole they were in back on  May 11th? A baseball truism holds—it was the pitching. A look at the box score for April 8 and the box score for last night shows that the position players were almost exactly the same. The exceptions were Ruben Cardenas who played April 8th was on the bench last night and Ford Proctor, on the bench back in April, was at 3rd base. Pitchers? That was different. But, to be honest, I was surprised that there were any similarities at all. Both games saw 6 pitchers and two of them, Phoenix Sanders and Joel Peguero, pitched in relief in both games. 

Maybe it's just learning to play together. This is a very young team with not a lot of experience at Triple-A.

Here's hoping they can keep it up.


Monday, May 23, 2022

Week 7: Mo' Betta

click for a larger image

The Durham Bulls had another winning series down in Jacksonville, although they did not move up out of 5th place. Nevertheless, their overall play is much better and they took 4 out of 6 games from a good team in that team's home park.

Another nice trend is getting more innings out of the starting pitchers and improvement in their ERAs. 



The Charlotte Knights are coming to town and they are not having a good year, so far. The White Sox franchise is in 8th place and they have some obvious pitching problems.


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Week 6: More Light

 

The Durham Bulls moved up into 5th place in the International League East. They won their last four games here at home, the first at-home winning series of the year. Rochester (the Nationals franchise), however, is on a terrific run and is well ahead of everyone in the league, including the Bulls next opponent, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

Stats

Not much change from last week. The most significant uptick was in team OPS which went from .722 to .742, from 14th to 9th in the overall International League. 

A trend that started the prior week, but continued this last week, was getting more innings out of starting pitchers. 

A trend that has not improved was roster turmoil. In the last week (since May 10th) the Bulls have seen 15 roster changes. 

Overall, it was fun watching the Bulls this week, the most fun we've had this year. Here's hoping they keep it up.


Monday, May 9, 2022

Week 5: A Glimmer of Light?

 


The Durham Bulls went 4-2 while on the road in Buffalo against the Bisons, their first winning series of this season. They are coming home in a 7th place tie with Charlotte in the International League East. 

On the week, modest improvements across the board. The team OPS was up a tiny fraction to .722 from .700. The team ERA improved by -.34, down to 4.86.

I don't know if this is a trend, but two of the Bulls' starting pitchers went 5 innings and one pitcher went 4⅔. The other three went just 2 innings each. I think it's the first time this season that any starting pitchers have gone for 5 innings. Will have to track that for a while.

The Bulls are back in town for a 6-game stand against the Gwinnett Strippers. They are, for some odd reason, in the International League West and in 5th place (tied with the Memphis Redbirds who beat up the Bulls the week before last).

Monday, May 2, 2022

Week 4: Not Getting Better, In Fact ...

 

The Durham Bulls only won one game in this last 6-game homestand. That was last Thursday. Ryan Boldt hit three home runs in that game. 

The Bulls are dead last in their division and are tied with the Louisville Bats for the worst record in the International League. This year is the ugliest start since I've been writing about the Bulls, and possibly the worst start in Durham Bulls history. I don't know how to find the numbers for season starts, but the Bulls have only finished below .500 in 4 seasons in their history. At their worst, they never finished at their current .333.

Why? Hard to say just yet. We can point out that they don't seem to have any legitimate starting pitchers and they only have a couple of position players on the Rays' 40-man.

They are off the Buffalo to play the Bisons, the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Will a change of scenery help? We can only hope.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Week 3: 50-50

 

The Durham Bulls went 3-3 over in Norfolk last week. They ended the week at 7-11 and tied for 8th place in the 10-team International League East Division. That's a tick upwards from last week.

Key stat changes are dismal but slightly better.

Batting: OPS - .720, 12th in 20 team IL, + .046 from last week.

Pitching: ERA - 5.16, 14th in IL, -0.27 from last week

Pitching: WHIP - 1.534, 16th in IL, -.034 from last week

Pitching: OBA (Opponents Batting Average) - .262, 18th, -.007 from last week

This week begins with an oddity, an 11:00 am day game — Education Day. Busloads of school kids at the park. If you haven't been, try it. Sort of fun listening/watching young folks. 

The Bulls are playing the Memphis Redbirds, the St Louis Cardinals Triple-A team,  They are 9-9 on the year. 

Lastly, Tyler Zambro, the Bulls pitcher who took a line drive to his head last year, is back with the team. Nice to see him on the field.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Two Weeks Into Season — Not Looking Good

The first two weeks

The Durham Bulls' season comes in 6-game chunks, Tuesday thru Sunday. We are two weeks into the season and the Bulls have faced two teams: the Nashville Sounds and the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. They have played just 12 games. How are they doing? Not good at all.

This is not the sort of team that we are used to seeing here in Durham. 

How grim is it?

The Bulls are in 9th place in the 10-team East Division.

Batting: The team OPS is .674, 14th in the 20-team International League

Pitching: The team ERA is 5.43, 17th; the WHIP is 1.534, also 17th, and the OBA (opponents batting average) is .269, the worst in the entire IL. 

So this team has a long way to go. We can only speculate about the causes. Certainly, the pitching could be much, much better. They have 18 pitchers on the roster, most of them quite young. Plus there has been a lot of roster turmoil in the first two weeks of the season, something like 30+ transactions, many involving pitchers.

Nevertheless, in two short weeks the Bulls have dug themselves a hole that will take some time to get out of. They are off to Norfolk for a six-game stand with the Baltimore franchise, the Norfolk Tides, then come back to town for six games against the Memphis Redbirds. We'll see.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Durham Bulls Basics — Part I

The Bulls are 9 games into the season and doing OK (3-4). More about that in another post. But first: 

The Durham Bulls are the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. 

What is Triple-A?

Every major league baseball team (there are 30) has 4 "affiliates" arranged in levels ranging from Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, and Single-A.

During the pandemic year Major League Baseball blew up the minor leagues, and the outcome was 120 teams scattered all around the country (10 of them in North Carolina, by the way). Triple-A accounts for 30 of those teams.

Triple-A baseball is organized into two leagues: 20 teams in the International League and 10 in the Pacific Coast League. There used to be a more even division of teams between the Pacific Coast League and the International League, but that's another (and not very interesting) story.

The Durham Bulls are in the International League's East Division and play most, but not all, of their games against the 10 teams in that division. In general, the teams play 6 games, take a day off for rest or travel, and play 6 games. 

Teams in the East division the Bulls will play this year are:

Jacksonville (Fla) Jumbo Shrimp (Miami Marlins): 12 Home, 12 Away 

Charlotte (NC) Knights (Chicago White Sox): 6 Home, 15 Away

Worcester (Mass) Red Sox (Boston Red Sox): 6 Away

Buffalo (New York) Bisons (Toronto Blue Jays): 6 Away

Norfolk (Virginia) Tides (Baltimore Orioles): 9 Home, 12 Away

Lehigh Valley (Penn) Iron Pigs (Philadelphia Phillies): 6

Rochester (New York) Red Wings (Washington Nationals): 0

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Penn) RailRiders (New York Yankees): 6 Home

Syracuse (New York) Mets (New York Mets): 0


Teams played outside the division are:

Memphis (Tenn) Redbirds (St Louis Cardinals): 12 Home, 6 Away

Louisville (Kentucky) Bats (Cincinnati Reds): 6 home

Nashville (Tenn) Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers): 12 Home, 6 Away

Gwinnett (Georgia) Stripers (Atlanta Braves): 6 Home, 12 Away


Season

75 home games, 75 away games

Nothing has been announced yet about the post-season, assuming that there will be one. No surprise since the International League website doesn't even have the updated division breakout.

How do the Bulls stack up?

Triple-A is the peak of minor league baseball and their players are all in the second tier of their team's rosters. That means that the quality of baseball at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park is superb. Every player on the field wants to play his next game in the major leagues.

The Durham Bulls are the most successful team in recent International League history. Since 2002, the Bulls have won the championship 7 times and came in 2nd place 5 times. The only other team in the league to even come close are the Columbus Clippers (Cleveland Guardians) with 4 wins. 

4/15/22 10:58: edits to schedule — 6 games added since I did the numbers. 


Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Baseball at Last!

 Durham Bulls (Rays) 4; Nashville Sounds (Brewers) 5

Box

Baseball at last! Even if it's in Tennessee! Caught up with Patrick Kinas on 99.3, MiLB-TV was working. All is right with the world.

From the Bulls office:

SOUNDS WALK OFF WITH 5-4 WIN OVER BULLS IN SEASON OPENER

Proctor & Aranda club two hits each in Triple-A debuts with Durham


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Bulls designated hitter Jim Haley, first baseman Jonathan Aranda, and catcher Ford Proctor all clubbed two hits, however Sounds first baseman Jon Singleton homered while center fielder Corey Ray’s game-winning infield single gave the Sounds a 5-4 victory over Durham on Tuesday evening at First Horizon Park.

 

Singleton smashed a solo shot in the second, while Turang two innings later crushed an RBI triple to right prior to scoring on a wild pitch to make it a 3-0 game. The Bulls would cut the deficit to one with two tallies in the fifth, as Haley came plateward on 2B Miles Mastrobuoni’s RBI single to right before 3B Vidal Brujan scored on a wild pitch. Nashville, however, would increase the advantage to two courtesy of C Mario Feliciano’s RBI single in the seventh.

 

The Bulls would erase the deficit, though, with a pair of tallies in the ninth, courtesy of Proctor’s RBI single to right, followed by SS Tristan Gray’s sacrifice fly. Nashville, however, loaded the bases with one out in the last of the ninth to bring up Ray, who smashed an infield single to score 2B Jamie Westbrook and end the contest.

 

Haley, (2-4, R, BB), Aranda (2-4, R, BB) and Proctor (2-5, RBI) each collected two knocks for the Bulls, while Westbrook (2-3, 2 R) was the lone Sounds hitter to record a multi-hit effort. Nashville reliever Luke Barker (1.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, BB) earned the win, in addition to receiving a blown save, while Durham righty Seth Blair (0.1 IP, 2 H, R, ER, 2 BB, K) suffered the loss.

 

The Bulls are set to continue their six-game set in Nashville on Wednesday evening, with first pitch scheduled for 7:35pm ET. Durham’s starter has not yet been determined, while the Sounds are anticipated to give the nod to RHP Caleb Boushley.

 

Following their six-game road series, the Bulls return to Durham Bulls Athletic Park for a six-game series versus the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp on Tuesday, April 12. First pitch for Opening Night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on April 12 is scheduled for 6:35pm.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Durham Bulls Baseball! Soon

DBAP March 29. Probably Trinity College players on field

Next Tuesday, April 5th, is THE DAY the Durham Bulls start playing baseball—in Nashville against the Sounds. They'll get to Durham on the 12th. I'm guessing that radio and TV (MiLB.TV) will be live, so if you want to listen/watch you'll be able to do so via the website. Radio broadcast was at 99.9 last year. This year? Don't know. Last year all the home games were on one of the extra WRAL channels (1250 if you use Spectrum). 

What about the team? I'm working on a "Durham Bulls Basics" post. Watch this space.

In the meantime, it was so rewarding to witness a bunch of billionaires arguing with a bunch of millionaires and finally deciding to let us have baseball this season. Wasn't that nice of them? The BIG DECISION? Designated hitter in the National League. How about that? About the rest of the deal? Have to say that I could not have cared less.

I wonder what would happen if the fans went on strike.