The 2016 Durham Bulls finished the season 64-80, just the fourth losing season in the franchise's 19-year International League history. The International League South Division was a tight race again this season as the Bulls held both first and fourth in the division, reaching a high of three games above .500 on 4/15 and 4/21, with a low of 20 games under .500 on 8/26. The Bulls missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season, the third time in five seasons, and just the sixth time since joining the International League in 1998.
To view 2016 Final Game Notes click here.
Late Push At The Plate
The Bulls averaged 9.3 hits per game over their final 10 games, improving their team batting average from .235 to .238, which was eight points behind New Orleans' PCL-worst .246, and tied with Syracuse's IL-worst .238 (Durham had a slight edge, .23759 to .23756).
Durham had the second-fewest hits of any IL team with 1,149, but had the second-most doubles (264) and third-most extra-base hits (402) in the league in 2016. After his Triple-A debut on 5/31, OF Johnny Field tied for sixth-most doubles in the IL with 23, and tied for ninth-most extra-base hits during that span with 32. OF Dayron Varona had the sixth-most doubles in the league this season with 32. 46.5% of Varona's hits went for extra-base hits this season (47-of-101 hits).
OF Dayron Varona led the Bulls with three walk-off at-bats this season. He had Durham's final walk-off, clubbing a grand slam in the ninth on 8/31 against Columbus. The Bulls won nine times in walk-off fashion this season after having just four walk-off wins in 2015. C Carlos Corporan had a pair of walk-off at-bats, INF Daniel Robertson had two walk-off plate appearances (one was a bases-loaded walk), and UTL Taylor Motter and C Curt Casali each had one walk-off hit this year.
Tale of Two Halves
Utility man Taylor Motter hit .253-8-32 (46-182) after the All-Star break, but hit .202-5-14 (34-168) prior to the break. C J.P. Arencibia hit .284-10-32 (44-155) after the All-Star break, but hit .221-5-15 (34-154) with Durham before that. The pair each had 32 RBIs after the All-Star break, tied for third-most in the IL during that time.
Dedicated Durham Fans
The Bulls welcomed 547,156 fans into the DBAP for the 2016 season, their second-largest single-season paid attendance total in franchise history. It was just 7,632 fewer than the record of 554,788 set in 2015, but 14,123 more than the previous franchise record of 533,033 set in 2014.
Kings Of The K
For the third straight season, Durham batters and Durham pitchers both led the league in strikeouts. The batters had 1,218 strikeouts, their most in the past three years. The pitchers punched out 1,287 batters, shattering the IL record of 1,246 strikeouts they set in 2013. In all of Minor League Baseball, only Class-A Wisconsin had more strikeouts than the Bulls this season with 1,294 strikeouts.
ThanKs For The Ks
RHP Jaime Schultz finished third in Minor League Baseball with 163 strikeouts in 27 starts, and RHP Jake Faria was eighth with 157 in 27 starts between Durham and Double-A Montgomery. Schultz led the International League in strikeouts, and RHP Austin Pruitt finished second in the league with 141 strikeouts. Faria and LHP Blake Snell each eclipsed 500 MiLB career strikeouts this season with the Bulls, and LHP Justin Marks surpassed 700 strikeouts in MiLB.
A Late Run
The Bulls went 7-3 over their final 10 games to make a late push for the playoffs and finish 1.5 games back in third. Durham entered August in first place with a 0.5-game lead, and had swept consecutive three-game series to end July. The Bulls then went 6-19 over the first 25 games of the August to fall to fourth place at 4.5 games back going into the final 10 games.
The Bulls hit .409 (18-44) with runners in scoring position over their final four games, improving their team average with RISP from .235 to .241. Their .235 average with RISP would have been the lowest in the league, but they moved to second-to-last with the final push to .241. C Carlos Corporan led the team with a .438 (7-16) average with RISP, C Curt Casali hit .400 (8-20), and OF Johnny Field hit .311 (14-45).
Pencil Them In
INF/OF Richie Shaffer played in a team-high 118 games and INF Daniel Robertson played in 117 games this season. Last season only Taylor Motter (127 games) appeared in more games for Durham.
Month Of Streaks
The Bulls started off June with a six-game winning streak, during which they hit .270 with 20 extra-base hits, 36 runs and had three shutout wins. June was the second month the Bulls started 6-0 in their Triple-A history (April 2009). They also had a five-game losing streak (their longest of the year at the time), a four-game winning streak, and a four-game losing streak in the month.
No-Go vs. Gamboa
RHP Eddie Gamboa was the only Triple-A pitcher (min. 50 IP) who did not allow a home run this season. In 2015, only nine Triple-A pitchers with a minimum of 50.0 IP did not allow a home run. Gamboa last allowed a home run on 9/2/2015 vs. Gwinnett (while playing for Norfolk). Prior to 2016, his lowest home run total for a single season was five in 2009 (three levels, 83.2 IP).
The Bulls had 159 stolen bases attempted against them, the most in the IL. They were 44-of-159 in caught stealing attempts (27.7 percent). C Hank Conger caught 8-of-27 (29.6 percent) of stolen base attempts after catching just 1-of-44 for Houston in 2015. C J.P. Arencibia was 7-for-45 (15.6 percent), the lowest mark of his career.
The Bulls went 13-10 in extra-innings games, playing in 10 more extra-innings games than they did in 2015. Their .565 winning percentage in extra frames was the fourth-best mark in the league. No other minor league team played more than 21 extra-innings games.
A Clean Sweep
The Bulls swept the International League Player and Pitcher of the Week honors from 7/11-7/17, as LHP Justin Marks took home the pitcher award and C J.P. Arencibia won the player honor. Marks pitched the first 9-inning no-hitter by a single pitcher in Durham's Triple-A history, striking out seven with two walks in a 2-0 win over Syracuse. Arencibia hit .471 (8-17) with 3 runs, a double, 3 home runs, 6 RBIs, a stolen base, and just one strikeout. This was the first time the Bulls swept the awards, and first time a team did it since Norfolk had Nate McLouth and Brian Matusz sweep the honors from 7/2-7/8/2012.
Give The Man A Bat
The Bulls lost their DH when Richie Shaffer had to take over at third base on 7/30, forcing the pitchers into the batting order. RHP Eddie Gamboa had his first hit in the first at-bat of his professional career, and scored a run. The last time a pitcher had a plate appearance for the Bulls was 8/28/10, when relief pitcher Bobby Livingston pinch hit for fellow pitcher Joe Bateman. Livingston walked in his plate appearance. The last time a Bulls pitcher had a hit was 7/23/1999 when RHP Brendan Donnelly had a hit in his at bat. It was the only hit of Donnelly's career.
Choice A Bulls
Durham had 12 former first-round draft picks on its roster this season, plus two former first-round picks on rehab. C Hank Conger, INF Casey Gillaspie, RHP Ryne Stanek, LHP Blake Snell, C J.P. Arencibia, INF Tim Beckham, INF Nick Franklin, INF Jake Hager, INF Daniel Robertson, INF/OF Richie Shaffer, OF Jaff Decker and OF Mikie Mahtook, plus the rehabbing INF Logan Forsythe and RHP Brad Boxberger.
1B Casey Gillaspie hit .250-1-3 (12-48) in July, his first month at the Triple-A level, but hit .328-6-20 (43-131) in August and September. Gillaspie reached base in 41-of-47 games for the Bulls. His longest on-base streak at the Triple-A level was 14 games from 8/4-8/20. He had a Player of the Week caliber stretch from 8/22-8/28, hitting .345-3-8 (10-29) with eight runs, two doubles, a triple, three walks, just three strikeouts and a 1.199 OPS, but the award was given to Rochester's Byron Buxton.
10 Is The Magic Number
The Bulls surpassed 10 runs in a game seven times this season. Durham scored 10 runs in four of its 10 wins in August. The Bulls did not score in double digits until 6/12 (Game 65), and were one of the last three full-season Minor League Baseball teams to reach the double-digit threshold. Their season-high for runs in a single game came in a 14-0 win on 9/2, at Gwinnett.
LHP Dana Eveland allowed just one earned run (two runs) in Triple-A this season (29.2 IP). He finished the season on a team-high 17.2-innings scoreless streak with 11 strikeouts, nine hits, one hit batter and two walks since he last allowed an unearned run on 7/30. In 25.0 IP with Tampa Bay he had 19 ER, prior to his September call-up. Eveland's streak bettered RHP Eddie Gamboa's 16.0-innings scoreless streak from 6/28-7/14, when he had eight hits, two walks and 11 strikeouts. Gamboa did most of his work as a starter, with three starts and two relief appearances, while Eveland had one start and 10 relief appearances during his streak.
The Bulls had three pitchers who spent the majority of their career in the minor leagues receive late call-ups. RHP Eddie Gamboa, 31 years old, became the second-oldest player to make his MLB debut with Tampa Bay (behind Jim Morris, 35, made famous in the movie The Rookie). Seven-year minor league veteran LHP Justin Marks made his debut with Tampa Bay in September, previously only pitching 2.0 innings for Kansas City on 4/20/2014. RHP Tyler Sturdevant, another seven-year minor-league veteran, also made his MLB debut with the Rays earlier in the season.
The Bulls had 152 transactions in 2016, down from the franchise-record 213 they had in 2015. The Rays recalled 18 different players a total of 31 times during the Bulls' season, also down from the 22 players recalled a total of 44 times in 2015. Five players received their first career MLB call-up during Durham's 2016 season after playing for the Bulls: LHP Blake Snell, UTL Taylor Motter, RHP Tyler Sturdevant, RHP Ryan Garton and RHP Dylan Floro.