Praising the Giants' bullpen

The Giants' relievers weren't supposed to be good, but they just enjoyed a mostly fantastic April.

Bullpens are unsupervised toddlers in a petting zoo. Maybe they're beautiful, adorable glimpses of perfection, or maybe they're rolling around in the goat doots. You'll never know what you're going to have until you just drop them in and run away.

Wait, that's terrible. No, bullpens are like boxes of chocolate, you never know … wait, no, bullpens are like …

The point is that bullpens are weird and unpredictable. Coming into this season, I fully expected the Giants' bullpen to be a toddler eating goat fur. But they've been fairly spectacular. The raw stats:

Rk W L ERA IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP
6 Sergio Romo 2 0 2.45 11.0 6 3 2 2 10 132 4.48
7 Santiago Casilla 0 0 1.17 15.1 12 2 1 5 7 273 4.03
8 Jean Machi 4 0 0.66 13.2 9 1 0 3 10 488 2.31
9 J.C. Gutierrez 1 1 2.92 12.1 9 4 2 2 13 111 3.60
10 Javier Lopez* 0 0 1.50 6.0 4 1 0 2 2 224 3.45
11 Yusmeiro Petit 2 1 2.61 20.2 18 6 1 4 20 122 2.39
12 Jeremy Affeldt* 0 0 0.00 7.1 2 0 0 2 7 2.03
13 David Huff* 1 0 3.86 7.0 5 3 1 2 4 86 4.69
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/30/2014.

And the fancy stats:


Win probability added Shutdowns Meltdowns Inherited runners Inherited runners scored Inherited runners %
Sergio Romo 1.18 10 0 0 0 YOU CAN'T DIVIDE BY ZERO
Jeremy Affeldt 0.51 3 0 3 0 0%
Jean Machi 0.4 3 2 5 2 40%
Santiago Casilla 0.31 4 2 5 1 20%
David Huff 0.25 2 0 5 1 20%
Juan Gutierrez 0.03 2 1 7 0 0%
Javier Lopez 0.03 2 3 7 2 29%
Yusmeiro Petit -0.24 2 2 1 0 0%


Mostly positive. Petit gets dinged a lot for his extra-inning loss to Arizona, but he's cool. Even David Huff has been mostly fine, and Bochy is using him in low-leverage situations correctly.

The question of the day, then: Will the bullpen remain a strength of the 2014 team? I'm -- like everything else with this team -- cautiously optimistic. Three things that changed my mind since April:

Apparently Jeremy Affeldt isn't broken?

Oh, March. You horrible, seductive succubus. Every year, I tell myself I will not listen to your lies. Every year, I listen to your lies. You are the subtraction stew of months, making me hungrier and more ill as I eat more and more. I hate you. Next year, I will need you. I hate you.

Affeldt was done. He was broken even before he forgot to wear his knee brace and hurt himself. He looked like the most hittable pitcher in the Cactus League, but only when he wasn't walking everyone. He was a mistake and a liability. Then he comes back from the disabled list, and he's the old Affeldt. He bugs righties and lefties equally, keeps the ball on the ground, and features a ridiculous curve. I love watching good Affeldt so much. Maybe he'll pick up another MVP vote this year.

Juan Gutierrez isn't Generic Rightie 4B

I figured Gutierrez was Clay Hensley or Guillermo Mota -- 90 on a good day, with enough dookie pitches to fool Triple-A hitters. Instead, he throws really, really hard. Hitters have been struggling to catch up with him all year.

Did he always throw this hard? Dunno about "always", but he threw this hard when he pitched his way into an NRI last year, and he's been reliably in the upper 90s since coming into the league. The biggest difference since his failed stint as the Diamondbacks' closer is that he ditched his slider entirely; he's a fastball/curve guy now, with a rare change. Back in 2010, he threw more sliders than any other pitch, which is usually something only the Romos and Gregersons of the world do.

Maybe that's the difference.

Maybe I'm overreacting to a small sample.

I'm almost certainly overreacting to a small sample.

He sure looks the part, though.

Jean Machi is probably this good

Well, not 4-0, 0.66 good. But good. Machi has allowed just two homers over his last 65 innings, and his career walk rate is a solid two batters for every nine innings -- half of what it was in the minors. It's a cliché to say, "If he could just learn how to command his pitches better, he'd be pretty good," because you can say that about 80 percent of current pitchers and 99 percent of the pitchers in the minors. Sometimes, though, it actually happens.

Not only does he have the newfound control and command, but he has the new-pitch cliché working for him, too. The Giants taught him a nasty, stinky splitter, and look at the big feller go.

I was already confident in Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo, and you can read about the confusing Santiago Casilla here. Huff and Petit were supposed to be capable long relievers, little more. But those three guys up there are tipping me into the cautiously optimistic camp.

Apologies for making the bullpen blow the lead in tonight's game, but I was out of ideas.

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