The Durham Bulls opened the season 6-0 and now sit atop the standings with a 10-3 record, so it's not shocking that the Bulls offensive woes have gone unnoticed. However, the truth is that some excellent Bulls pitching has been hiding slumbering bats.
Using the four basic hitting metrics (Avg, OBP, SLG, OPS) the Bulls' hitting woes can be analyzed more thoroughly.
First, a primer for those new to baseball stats: batting average (Avg.) is the most commonly known, simply being hits per at bat; on-base percentage (OBP) takes walks into account, calculating the number of times a player reaches base, via hit or walk, per plate appearance; slugging percentage (SLG) takes into account total bases, so the statistic reflects a batters' extra base hits such as doubles and home runs; on-base plus slugging (OPS) combines on-base percentage and slugging percentage into an overall number representing both the ability to get on base and hit for power.
Back to the Bulls' offensive issues. Early in the season the Bulls are worse off in all four categories than they were in 2008. Across the board the Bulls aren't as offensively potent. They are both getting on base less and hitting for less power. Even when taking into account roster turnover, the "returnees" (players on both the 2008 and 2009 Durham Bulls) aren't hitting as well.
Not to point fingers, but two Bulls have started the season in a hitting slump. Justin Ruggiano and Chris Richard are averaging .161 and .133 worse than last season, respectively. They're also finding themselves unable to hit for power, with their slugging percentage dropping .281 and .306 respectively. On the other end of the spectrum, Reid Brignac and John Jaso have begun the season hitting above their 2008 averages on all four metrics. However, their positive improvement hasn't outweighed the slumps of Ruggiano and Richard.
Overall, some fine pitching has the Bulls leading their division. Presently, the Bulls staff as a whole has a 1.93 ERA, a number any pitching ace would be happy posting. The Bulls also have a 1.15 WHIP (walks & hits per inning pitched), meaning they're allowing just over one baserunner per inning. Both of these numbers have the Bulls off to an excellent start despite some relatively poor offensive output.
Tonight, the Bulls open a four-game stand in Norfolk, Va. against the Tides. First pitch is at 7:15.
Player statistics are here.