For all of the valid criticisms of Brian Sabean, I've always been a fan of how he stocks his AAA bullpens.
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The Fresno bullpen is usually some melange of interesting arms on tough times. Pitchers coming back from injuries. Soft throwers with a track record of success. Hard throwers with great stuff and a diagnosis of Tomkosis that every pitching coach wants to try and fix. Sometimes that great stuff becomes great results. Sometimes the soft throwers find a niche.
Problem is, this philosophy hasn't really worked in past years. The last success story was Tyler Walker, who showed some nice pitches before he was traded and broken, though those last two might not be in the right order. If Tyler Walker is the success story, what are the unsuccess stories? Brandon Villafuerte, Brandon Puffer, Manny Aybar -- we're a long way from John Johnstone.
This comes up now because the Giants signed two minor league free agents over the last offseason who absolutely tore up the Pacific Coast League this season, Scott Atchsion and Dan Giese. They struck out a batter per inning, walked hardly anyone, and kept the ball in the park. It's nice to have two pitchers like this in September and the roster space with which to accommodate them.
But they've been slapped around in the majors. Hard. They alternate between "she's my sister" and "she's my daughter" after they throw every pitch. Atchison has looked especially unimpressive, with a blah fastball and a decent breaking ball. Giese's breaking ball is very nice, but when he misses with his 88 MPH fastball, it might be the most hittable pitch we've seen since the final days of Kirk Rueter. Giese has given up more homers in seven MLB innings than he did in 73 AAA innings. Atchison has walked as many hitters in 26 MLB innings as he did in 54 AAA innings. He's given up five homers with the Giants; he only gave up one for the Grizzlies.
So, is it:
a. The collect-minor-league-pitchers-theory works; it just works infrequently. There are going to be dry spells that last several seasons.
b. The collect-minor-league-pitchers-theory has always been overrated.
c. I'm just being impatient. My man (Atchison/Giese) will turn it around with a bigger sample size.
I was kind of counting on Giese for next season, and I hope this doesn't end his chance to make the team out of Scottsdale before spring training even starts. But, man, it's hard to see how either of these guys dominated AAA.