Last night, Madison Bumgarner didn't have a good game. It was, dare I say, a bad game. When he picked red, the wheel came up black. When he chose evens, the wheel came up odds. And when he chose double-zero, the wheel came up with a bunch of tarantulas to throw down his pants. It was impressive.
When Bumgarner was mercifully pulled, Guillermo Mota came in. There was one out in the top of the first. Seven hundred runs had already scored. The Giants needed innings.
Mota gave them the innings. He threw 61 pitches over 4-2/3 innings without allowing a run. It's not like gave the Giants a chance to win -- the team hadn't scored eight runs over their previous 36 innings, so it wasn't likely that they'd score nine runs to win the freaking game. But he came in and did as well as Guillermo Mota can do without being someone else.
It reminded me of one of my favorite long-relief performances ever: a Joe Roa masterpiece in which he cleaned up after a William Van Landingmess. Of course, the Giants won that game, so it's an imperfect comparison. Still, Mota's performance was admirable. And it made me think, man, I've taken that guy for granted. Not because he was so good, but because he wasn't that awful.
Last season, Mota was a -0.2 win pitcher according to Baseball Reference. Completely replacement level, which has kind of been his modus operandi since 2004. He's just there, not being especially terrible. That doesn't have a ton of value -- it's called replacement level because the idea is that you can find an equally capable pitcher by trolling the waiver wire -- but after 81 games as a Giant, I realized that I've never thanked Mota for not being Wayne Franklin, Waldis Joaquin, Merkin Valdez, or Osiris Matos. He's not Vinnie Chulk, Erick Threets, or Randy Messenger. He's not Billy Sadler, nor Brandon Medders. He's not even Al Levine.
He's just Guillermo Mota. Which is to say, just a reliever. He comes in a yellow box with "RELIEVER" written in black lettering on the front. He's not bad. He's not good. He just is. By definition, that doesn't have a lot of value -- but he could be a punchline, an anecdote, a pitcher you tell your kids about so they'll go to sleep quicker. I'm glad he's not.