It's been a week since Jeff Sullivan wrote a piece titled "The Worst Position on a Contending Team", and I'm just now able to write about it. I was so mad, it was hard to type or keep my thoughts straight. I know for a fact that Sullivan is biased -- deeply biased -- against the Giants. Most of the FanGraphs people are. Most of the sabermetrics crowd is biased, too. The SI writers, the ESPN guys, Peter Gammons, Obama ... look, I have a pyramid chart in my garage with different colored strings that connect pictures of the biased people to examples of their blind hatred. I'll share it sometime.
Anywho, the crux of the piece is that of all the teams projected to be contenders (the Giants made it!), there are a few teams that have obvious, gaping holes according to Steamer projections. One of those teams is the Giants, and the obvious hole for them is the bullpen.
The only bullpen in baseball projected to be below replacement level ... Santiago Casilla‘s coming off some bad peripherals. Jeremy Affeldt‘s coming off some bad peripherals. Javier Lopez is a specialist. Romo’s quite good, but he’s trending poorly, and he doesn’t contribute a particularly heavy workload.
I'm of two minds, here. First, if baseball is one giant coyote trickster when it comes to messing with our expectations, bullpens are the most erratic, impossible-to-predict piles of nonsense in the sport. Projections are fun, but I trust them less for relievers than I do with any other position in the sport.
Second, yeah, that stinks, and I wish the Giants had the best Steamer projection because that would probably be a little more encouraging.
Third, I made this from the comments of that article:
It was satisfying to make. Thanks, Dave D.!
When I think about Romo/Casilla/Lopez/Affeldt, I don't start punching walls. When Affeldt's right, getting grounders and annoying righties and lefties alike, he's just about my favorite reliever on the team -- durable, effective, and practical. I'm a little worried about Casilla's strikeout dip last year, but I'm okay thinking it's a sample issue, considering his velocity after his injury was about the same as it was in 2011 and 2012. Lopez is Lopez, Romo is Romo, and I trust them both.
But I'm a fanboy. I can, and do, make best-case arguments for all four. What the cold, unblinking eye of Steamer sees, though, is a bullpen with red flags. Romo and Lopez are the rocks, but they don't combine for that many innings. Casilla's strikeout dip and wildness spike are worrisome, and Affeldt was kind of lousy last year.
That's before you get to the back end, where Jean Machi, Yusmeiro Petit, and Other will probably be. Heath Hembree impressed last year, George Kontos did not, and Derek Law probably will soon. Still, if you're looking for all three slots to be filled by quality relievers, you're probably more optimistic than I am.
Long post short: Sullivan's post depressed me because I wasn't really that scared of the Giants' bullpen. Now I am. Of all the bullpens in all the gin joints in all the world, there's a projection system that hates the Giants' bullpen most of all.
There's an open 40-man spot, you know. And there are prospects to trade. Jonathan Papelbon is on the market.
Sorry. Was just trying to worry you more on purpose. While I don't think the Giants are done tinkering with their bullpen, the leading roles have been cast. And it's looking sketchy. At least it's 2011 and the Giants are filled with reliable starting pitchers.