Monday, April 20, 2009

Where's The Offense In Durham?

The Durham Bulls have played 10 games now, and have won 8 of them(10 games is, of course, a small sample size. That's your warning for this entire post). However, the offense is scoring just 3.2 runs per game, and even that's helped from 5 runs scored during extra innings of two games. The pitching staff has responded to the lack of run support, though, allowing just 1.8 runs per game. If that seems absurdly low, it's because it is.

First, let's compare the Bulls to the other Rays affiliates so far(all four have played 10 games through Sunday):
Team            RS    RA  Total
Durham 3.2 1.8 5.0
Montgomery 4.5 6.3 10.7
Charlotte 4.4 5.6 10.0
Bowling Green 4.1 4.3 8.3
Okay, that's a little weird. Montgomery and Charlotte are averaging a run scored more per game and 5 more total per game, while Bowling Green has almost a run more scored and 3 more total. Meanwhile, Durham is allowing 4.5 runs less than Montgomery, about 4 less than Charlotte, and 2.5 less than Bowling Green per game. First, let's examine the runs scored totals.

How's this for a kooky stat: Durham has the highest team OPS of the four affiliates. Durham is at .708, Montgomery at .682, Charlotte at .643, and Bowling Green .662. Durham also leads in total bases. Weird, right?

Okay, now the pitching. Durham has a 1.50 ERA. Bowling Green is next best at 3.62, Charlotte at 4.42, and Montgomery at 6.00.

Of course, looking at just the four affiliates isn't necessarily useful because they all play in different leagues. So, is it a Durham thing or an International League thing?

Durham has played three series so far: Against Norfolk, Gwinnett, and Charlotte. Against Norfolk, the Bulls scored 12 runs. Against Gwinnett, they scored 9 runs. And against Charlotte, 11 runs. So let's take a look at how many runs these teams have allowed in their games that weren't against Durham.

Helpfully, the teams have all played each other once. So here's a grid of how many total runs, on average, were scored during a game between the teams.

Team        Durham  Norfolk  Gwinnett  Charlotte
Durham ---- 4.00 2.25 3.67
Norfolk 4.00 ---- 9.33 6.50
Gwinnett 2.25 9.33 ---- 11.75
Charlotte 3.67 6.50 11.75 ----
And yet another chart, this one is the same as the affiliate chart, only now we're comparing Durham to the rest of the IL Southern Division:
Team          RS     RA  Total
Durham 3.20 1.80 5.00
Norfolk 4.50 2.70 7.20
Gwinnett 4.63 3.54 8.18
Charlotte 2.09 6.09 8.18
So we're talking over 2 runs more for one team, and over 3 runs more for the other two teams. Note that the IL South teams average 7.14 total runs per game as a division.

Again, though, the stats are a little weird here. Durham is 6th in the International League in OPS at .708. Norfolk is 4th at .722, Gwinnett is right behind Durham at .702, and Charlotte is 14th(last) at .559.

In terms of pitching, Durham has by far the lowest ERA in the International League at 1.50. Norfolk in 2nd, more than a full run worse at 2.60. Gwinnett is 6th at 3.33, and Charlotte is last at 5.67.

So is the IL Southern Division any different than the other two divisions? Basically, ___. The IL Northern Division teams average 8.87 total runs per game, while the IL West teams average 8.305 total per. Remember, the IL South average is 7.14(meaning for the entire IL so far, 8.105 runs are scored total per game) and Durham's is 5. Unfortunately, it's beyond my scope right now to figure out the average for each league.

However, I think it's safe to say Durham is a huge outlier at this point. It's due in part to the small sample and random variation and luck, but I think there is something to take away from all this. One, the Bulls have an extremely talented pitching staff. doesn't keep specific standed runners percentage or team splits for RISP or BABIP, so it's tough to say how lucky the pitching staff has been so far. But clearly they have been very good even controlling for any other factors. They won't continue with a 1.50 ERA of course, but they should be among the leaders in fewest runs allowed all season.

Second, the offense shouldn't be this bad. Yes, a lot of batting averages from individuals are poor, but check this: The Bulls OPS(.708) is above league-average(.698). They have 133 total bases, league average is 138. The only big discrepancy is hits(Durham has 76, league average is 89), and hit rates can vary pretty wildly. So maybe Durham doesn't have a great offense, but the numbers indicate they should be scoring more runs.

So, in conclusion, here's the stuff I probably could have told you without doing all this: The pitching staff is good(but won't stay this good). The offense isn't as bad as their run output indicates, as they're pretty close to league average in a lot of categories. And the fact that they haven't played a game with more than 12 total runs scored is something of a fluke, and will probably happen tonight now that I've posted all of this.


  1. Terrific analysis. To add to the puzzle the Bulls' pitchers OBA is .313 and their opponents' OPS is .616. Which is also pretty good. I've been wondering if one of the effects of "Montoyo's Merry-Go-Round that I discussed at
    might account for the low batting averages. Hard to tell. Really is early in the season.
    Gwinnett's lost three at home and the Bulls are there tonight. Have to say that Gwinnett is due for a good game. But the Bulls are also due to break out.

  2. Well, the Rays(Joe Maddon for sure) seems to love guys who can play multiple positions, so it's not surprising that's the way they're doing in Durham. It's interesting that one guy who hasn't been shuffled around is Brignac. He's the guy I'd have figured could benefit most from some playing time at 2B.

  3. Hard to see the offense off to a bad start since the Rays have many of their prospects and players closest to Major League time at Durham. But I agree that it is too early and the sample size is really small. Just hope Brignac starts hitting soon so we can see him this year in the Majors with his first of many base hits in his career.