The Giants and the temporary 13-man pitching staff

Thearon W. Henderson

Who will go when (if) the Giants want the roster to go back to normal?

Good morning. The Giants still have 13 pitchers. This is not a drill.

Let's get some disclaimers out of the way, first: Things are going well for the Giants right now. Really well. Complaining about the distribution of relievers and reserves is like complaining about Otis Redding's outfit at Monterey Pop. It misses the point, at best. Clearly, the large bullpen and short bench isn't impeding the Giants' stated goal of winning baseball games.

Not yet, anyway. And the 13-man staff is a little misleading, as Tim Hudson is one of those pitchers, but he isn't actually pitching. He's on that special kind of disabled-not-disabled list that the Giants write down in invisible ink in a book that doesn't exist. The unwritten transactions of baseball. The Giants are really, really good at those.

On a team that a) is in the National League and b) likes to use its backup catcher as a pinch-hitter, 13 pitchers is nonsense. People used to think 12 pitchers was nonsense just a few years ago, but it somehow became the norm. I'm guessing that when Hudson is ready to go again, someone will go down.

The question now: who? Everyone's doing their job, more or less. If you assume that Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, and Jean Machi aren't going anywhere, that leaves three candidates for demotion/reassignment/reeducation/pinch-hitting duties. A quick look:

Juan Gutierrez

Why he should go
Gutierrez has the highest ERA of any of the late-inning relievers, as the 3.66 ERA is good for just a 92 ERA+. Of course, ERA is kind of a lousy way to evaluate relievers, but he's average at best with some of the advanced metrics like situational wins and adjusted pitching runs.

Why he should stay 
Dude throws hard. He looks the part, especially if he's not walking anyone (three BB in 19⅔ innings). Also worth noting: he's inherited 10 runners, and none of them have scored. Seems like of janky demote or shuffle Gutierrez around when he's already paid off more than anticipated.

Yusmeiro Petit

Why he should go
He has the highest ERA on the staff, though he also has one of the better strikeout-to-walk ratios on the team, too. That's Yusmeiro Petit, alright, forever an ill-timed double and dinger away from being Greg Maddux for a new generation.

Why he should stay
Even if he weren't out of options, which he is, he's the designated spot starter. When someone, say, cuts their finger while making a sandwich like a nincompoop, it's nice to have a Petit. Gutierrez could throw a couple of innings in a pinch, and David Huff has experience as a starter, but Petit is certainly the most preferable option. He's perfectly placed at the corner of "decent enough" and "not expected to develop beyond what he already is."

David Huff

Why he should go
It's not that he isn't perfectly capable at what he does, but that he's redundant. He's a lefty who doesn't fool left-handed hitters, and he's the third lefty on the staff. He's a spot-starter/long-relief type who's behind Petit on the depth chart.

Why he should stay
I kind of like the idea of two longish relievers in the bullpen, but that's because I'm always wondering about the worst-case scenarios. Having both Huff and Petit on a roster makes it easier to weather the storm in a 18-inning game. But those don't happen nearly enough to plan for them, so I should probably drop that idea. I'd totally be the manager who carried four catchers, just in case.

It kind of has to be Huff, right? He has the option and his defined roles are mostly done better by other players. I don't remember a Giants bullpen like this, without a notable kerosene spill in the bunch. It would be easier if there were one obvious blem.

As is, though, the Giants should get back down to 12 pitchers as soon as Hudson is ready to make a start. I'm all for an Adam Duvall call-up, at least when compared to the idea of an eight-reliever bullpen. The starters have been too good to entertain thoughts of keeping this monstrosity around. 

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