Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Week 21: Out of and Back into First Place

The Durham Bulls did not do all that well against the team with the best record in the IL, the Nashville Sounds (Milwaukee). They only took 2 games out of the 6. But they did seem to get past the defensive woes that had been troubling them down in Norfolk and at the beginning of the week. Too bad the pitchers didn't get the memo, especially the starters. But Nashville's a good team and they showed it.

Meanwhile, the LeHigh Valley IronPigs have put together a decent run, enough to more than catch up with the Bulls.

The season is wrapping up. The Bulls have only two more home stands and just 27 games (against just 4 teams) left in the season.


The Bulls are off to Charlotte this week. The Knights (White Sox) have had a really tough year. I do have to wonder, though, if those pitching numbers have something to do with them being the guinea pig for baseball's robo-ump experiment. I didn't watch any of the games the last time they were in Charlotte. I'm going to try to do so this week. 

Union for Minor Leaguers?

ESPN and the New York Times have stories about a new effort to break into MLB's control over minor league players. 

Thursday, August 25, 2022


Ugly, ugly baseball at the DBAP.  Errors, wild pitches, unearned runs, and 2-9, 7-10 losses. What's going on?

Recently I mentioned a concern of mine that has been amplified over these days: the Durham Bulls are playing lousy baseball. This is a fairly recent trend, most obvious in the last seven games (the last two nights have been especially awful, though). Take this locally-invented metric, the "UnEarned  Run Average," unearned runs per 9 innings. That's the ugly child of the Earned Run Average. This chart shows the last 7 games and the uERA's growth from .526 to .576. 

Underneath that metric is the 11 errors, 7 wild pitches, 3 hit batsmen, and 10 unearned runs. The pain has been well-distributed among 5 players, but catcher René Pinto with 4 of the 11 errors, and infielder Jim Haley with 3, lead the error-committing group. Nor does the box score capture mistakes such as the pitcher not covering 1st base. 

I had hoped that by digging into the box scores I'd discover some modest redemption in the infield, but only 4 double plays in those 7 games. Then I looked at the players and there are some modest hints there. You see a fair amount of variety at each base. Over the 7 games: 3 different players at 3B, 3 at SS, 2 at 2B, and 3 at 1B. But that's not to say that there wasn't a "regular" at positions: Mostly Aranda at 1B (5 of 7), Mastrobuoni at 2B (5 of 7), and Bruján at SS (5 of 7). Who's on 3rd? Haley, Gray, or Edwards. 

I'm leaving out a more proximate factor. Maybe Nashville has got the Bulls rattled. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Week 20: Durham Bulls Keep First Place

The Durham Bulls won four out of six games in Norfolk last week, but there were a couple of missteps that could be concerning. The hitters are doing just fine. The Bulls scored 42 runs to Norfolk's 31. But here's the worry, six of those runs were unearned. Plus, both of the Bulls' losses were by just one run. 

On balance, though, a good week. We could have wished the starters lasted longer, but the Bulls don't have a lot of control over that. It would have been nice to know that rehabbing Wander Franco saw some playing time, but he did not. Sounds like he just is not healing the way the Rays hoped.

At the end of the week, the Bulls are 2 games up in the International League East and start a 6-game series against Nashville, the leader in the International League West. Standings.


In a major oddity to a very odd schedule, the Durham Bulls play the Nashville Sounds 18 times this year. The Bulls opened the season in Nashville, losing 4 out of six games back in early April. Then the Sounds came to Durham in late May-early June and the Bulls took 4 out of 6. So, 6 & 6 on the season. 

The Milwaukee Brewers franchise has, by far, the best record in the twenty-team International League. For that matter, the best record in Triple-A baseball (only ten teams in the Pacific Coast league). 

What can we expect? Well, certainly the big numbers show the teams to be very closely matched. Durham has a slight edge in power, but there's a big difference in run differentials. Nashville appears to have a slight edge in pitching. The Sounds are 7-5 in their last 12 games (Gwinnett and Jacksonville). The Bulls are 9-3 over their last 12 games (Jacksonville and Norfolk). Overall, it looks to me like the IL West is a slightly less competitive branch of the IL, inflating the difference. But other factors, such as the fact that both parent clubs are looking to play in the post-season, may make a larger difference.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Week 19: A Good Week at the DBAP

The Durham Bulls took 5 of 6 games from Jacksonville, now the second-best team in the IL, East last week. They ended up in first place with 39 games to go in the season. I don't see how a better outcome could have been obtained. Among several notable features, the Bulls were playing with at least four rehabbing major leaguers. That circumstance often comes with problems, but did not this week. Jacksonville is a very good team. Four of the six games were decided by just one run and there were no shutouts by either team.

However, being in first place doesn't mean the season's over. Six teams are within easy reach of each other. Notice the streak that Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (the Yankee AAA team), has had in recent weeks.

Speaking of season's end, the Bulls are at home only three more times this year.  That's it. Six games against Nashville (best team in the West) the last week of August, six against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, and the last six of the season against Norfolk, 18 games and we're done for the year.


Unlike their parent club, the Baltimore Orioles, the Norfolk Tides have had a tough year so far. The Bulls appear to have an advantage in every category. We will have to see about the Rays rehabbers who stick with the team, plus it's being reported that Wander Franco is coming for a visit on his way back to Tampa's roster.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Week 18: Bulls Split with Red Sox, slip to 3rd Place

This was a very odd week up in Worcester, Massachusetts. The Bulls scored 16 runs in the first game and 5 in the second. Then they gave up 17 runs as they lost the next three games (including being no-hit 0-12 in one of them). They wrapped it up with a 9-3 day game yesterday. For the week, the Bulls scored 30 runs and the Red Sox scored 30 runs, which doesn't say much for either team's pitching.

Speaking of pitching, the Bulls had some ugly moments during the week. Young, but well-traveled, Luis Patiño, only made it through ⅔ of the 1st inning on Saturday as he gave up 3 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs and then tried to wave off manager Brian Williams as he came out to take the ball away from him. A few outs later rehabbing JT Chargois gave up 3 hits, 1 BB, and 2 runs in just ⅓ of an inning (going back-to-back yesterday, he faced two batters in the 4th inning, got two outs, and looked a good bit better). A day earlier, rising star Taj Bradley did make it through 5 innings, but also gave up 4 runs on 6 hits and a walk. Overall, a messy week.

The Red Sox's new home in Worcester looks very nice and they've got a superb camera crew and broadcast team. I only watched a few innings over the week, but it looks like a nice place to watch a ball game. 

The Bulls started the week in a tie for first place in the IL East. Meanwhile, Jacksonville went 5-1 against Memphis. That was enough to take them into 1st place. Lehigh Valley went 4-2 against Syracuse and rose to 2nd place, one game ahead of Durham, now in 3rd place. Standings


As mentioned, Jacksonville, Miami's AAA team, had a good week against Memphis and is coming to town in first place in the IL East. As the chart shows, the Jumbo Shrimp and Bulls have been close to each other much of the year, but today is the largest spread between the two teams in recent weeks. This will be the last time they play this year The series could be decisive for the Bulls in the IL East.

The Jumbo Shrimp have a slight edge in every category, which is worrisome. However, as hard as it must be to believe, they have had even more roster turmoil than the Bulls. Miami has inflicted a total of 23 transactions on Jacksonville in the first week of August. Tampa Bay has "only" run 8 transactions through. And there is the sheer size of the team's pitching rosters. Durham has a huge advantage with their 19 active pitchers, plus 2 rehabbers. Jacksonville only has 14 plus 1 rehabber. And they only have 3 lefties, who have been giving the Bulls fits in recent weeks.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Week 17: Still Tied for First

The Bulls had a shot at breaking out last week. Instead, they went 3-3 with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (the Phillies franchise) and they are now in a three-way tie with the Jumbo Shrimp and the IronPigs. Standings. That's sort of the tale of this part of the season. Six teams are very much in the running, with Worcester, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Buffalo only a couple of games back.

No obvious trends are coming out of the larger measures: Team OPS, ERA, and WHIP  barely moved. Individual moments have counted, such as rehabbing Jon Chargois' blow-up in relief on Sunday —  0 outs, 2 hits, 1 BB, 4 runs. Or phenom Taj Bradley's ugly start in Saturday's loss — 2 innings, 6 hits, 2 BB, 3 earned runs. More than that, Tampa Bay has announced 8 transactions in the last two days and there are likely more coming. Many of them will probably have an effect on the Bulls. The team that comes back to town next week could look very different from the team that is playing in Massachusetts tonight.


The Worcester Red Sox are the re-incarnation of the Pawtucket Red Sox, a frequent and well-liked opponent of the Durham Bulls over the years. They are the AAA franchise of the Boston Red Sox. The WooSox are drawing plenty of fans—362,495 this year—to their new home. 

Meanwhile, we don't see any significant gaps in the overall matchup between the teams. This week is the only time the two teams will meet in 2022.