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How confident are you in the Giants' bullpen?

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The Giants' bullpen has been good this year, for the most part. So let's talk about that tingly feeling in the back of our throat whenever a reliever enters the game ...

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants made the postseason because of their bullpen, at least in part. FanGraphs and fielding independent statistics hate them -- they had the second-worst fWAR in the National League, just ahead of the Mets -- but they prevented runs. FanGraphs also has them as one of the best bullpens in terms of Win Probability Added.

But give me a number between one and 10 that relates to how comfortable you are with the bullpen. You're not at a 10. Or a nine. If you're at a seven, well, you're the optimistic sort, and I like that. The Giants just got through a series with one of the best teams in baseball, primarily because the bullpen pitched so well. There was an 18-inning game in which allowing a single, lousy run would have ruined everything. The bullpen was stupendous. Yet you're probably at a five or so. I know I am.

Why?

To answer that, let's go through the members of the bullpen and examine their perceived strengths and weaknesses. We're going to look at perception, not necessarily reality.

Hunter Strickland

Strengths
Throws hard! Really hard.

Weaknesses
About that throwing-hard business ...

In Strickland's brief September trial, he looked like a pitcher with an artisanal fastball, with the craft and fine touch to nip corners and make hitters look much worse than the typical 97-mph fastball. In October, he's been chucking. Maybe it's adrenaline, maybe it's nerves, or maybe the September pitcher was more of a mirage than we hoped.

I don't think it's a matchup thing, necessarily. Strickland didn't allow a homer to lefties in the regular season at any level. He's just run into three hitters who can hit a straight 97-mph fastball when it's up. That's not a small club, either, which is a problem. The solution is to rediscover those corners. The hope is that he was the kind of pitcher who could hit the corners in the first place.

Confidence level
Low

Yusmeiro Petit

Strengths
Can pitch multiple innings. Throws a smidgen harder in relief, which makes all of his pitches more effective.

Weaknesses
Dinger-prone. Because he can pitch multiple innings, Bruce Bochy doesn't want to waste him for an inning in middle relief.

Confidence level
High, but he's not going to be used for the seventh, eighth, or ninth innings. Maybe he should be. If only there were another long reliever on the roster ...

Jean Machi

Strengths
Has a bizarre, unhittable, tumbly knuckle-splitter-thing that is incredibly effective when he can command it.

Weaknesses
Has a bizarre, hittable, tumbly knuckle-splitter-thing that is incredibly ineffective when he can't command it.

Machi's ERA jumped a run in September because of three nightmare outings in which he couldn't command anything. He's the most erratic pitcher on the staff, careening between shutdown and meltdown with little in-between. The stats (and game logs) suggest he's more shutdown. But a team in the postseason can't afford any meltdowns, really.

Confidence level
Low.

Sergio Romo

Strengths
Still nasty against right-handed relievers who aren't Hanley Ramirez. Still very, very nasty against right-handers.

Weaknesses
He's an eighth-inning guy now, and he doesn't get to face right-handers exclusively. He used to be aces against lefties, too. Lefties hit worse off him than righties in both 2009 and 2012, and at no point before 2013 did they ever hit him well at all. Something changed. You've changed, man. You've changed.

Eno Sarris points out that Romo's arm slot is radically different this year. His pitch selection isn't that much different -- fewer sliders, more changeups to lefties -- but you can tell the difference in his approach against lefties. He's scared of them, probably because they're hitting the snot out of the ball against him.

I want the old Romo back.

Confidence level
High (right-handers), low (left-handers)

Javier Lopez

Strengths
Can make left-handed hitters look like they're in the depths of an ether binge.

Weaknesses
He should not face right-handed hitters. He should not make eye contact with right-handed hitters. He should not shake hands with right-handed pitchers.

More than that, though, his command appears to be deserting him. He walked more batters per nine innings than he ever has as a Giant, and his strikeouts tumbled, too. Small sample (37⅔ innings), of course, but it feels like his preternatural talent for putting the ball where he wants to put it is slipping away. He walked eight out of the last 65 batters he faced in the regular season, not exactly a Jonathan Sanchez clip, so maybe this is all in my head.

Confidence level
Medium-high (left-handers), lol (right-handers)

Jeremy Affeldt

Strengths
Keeps the ball on the ground. No serious platoon splits. Can pitch multiple innings.

Weaknesses
His own control and command. You generally know within four pitches what kind of Affeldt you're getting, and it's usually the good kind. Every so often, he'll get erratic, but right now he's one of the Giants' best relievers.

Confidence level
High

Santiago Casilla

Strengths
I have no idea. Seriously. He's fantastic at preventing runs. He's beat his fielding-independent numbers for the fifth-straight season. He doesn't just beat them, he annihilates them by about a run-and-a-half every year. He's doing something right, and I'm not sure exactly what. The fastball is good, but it isn't overpowering anymore. The breaking balls and offspeed stuff are solid, but they're not classic closer wipeout pitches.

Weaknesses
I have no idea. What a baffling talent. It's not like he's Rafael Betancourt, consistently pounding the same spot in the strike zone, over and over and over. He moves around. He's just hard to pick up, apparently.

(Unless the nerd stats are right, in which case we're all doomed.)

Confidence level
High

Tim Lincecum

Strengths
Could possibly inspire Don Draper to make a Carousel-like ad pitch. Lincecum is not a spaceship. He's a time machine. He goes backwards and forwards, and takes us to a place where we ache to go again.

Weaknesses
Pitching.

Confidence level
As low as the confidence level for any reliever I've ever seen on a team's postseason roster.

Tally it up: There are exactly two relievers most of us feel comfortable with for a full inning now. That's a rough way to experience the postseason. That doesn't mean the Giants don't have good relievers. It doesn't mean the bullpen is a weakness. It just means that when it comes to perception alone, the Giants bullpen scares the absolute hell out of me. I think that's what bugs me so much about the people who complain loudly about Strickland. If not him, then whom? Machi makes me itchy. Romo makes me itchy if there are left-handers around. Unless Affeldt is still available, there just aren't a lot of options to bridge the middle innings.

The bullpen still might lead the Giants to places we didn't think they'd get this year, so don't take this as a post filled with cynicism. This is about the feeling in your throat when the inning starts and Machi or Strickland is on the mound. There's nothing the Giants can do about it now. You just have to sit there and take it.

And you get to think about the bullpen for an entire day of fretful misery. Enjoy.