If you use FanGraphs’ team WAR, the Giants have the fifth-worst bullpen in baseball. They’re 15th in raw ERA, but that doesn't account for the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, which means they’re effectively below average there, too. And because you shouldn’t be using WAR and ERA to evaluate relievers at all, you might want to check in with stats like K%, where the Giants have the worst bullpen in the National League and second-worst in baseball.
It’s possible, just possible, that the Giants need help in the bullpen.
It seems pretty obvious they’ll trade for a reliever, then. You know it. I know it. They know it. But they shouldn't just trade for any ol’ arm with a history of effectiveness. Allow me to argue that they need a very specific kind of reliever.
For example, here's someone who might be available:
#DBacks GM Dave Stewart: Teams calling on potential FA relievers Ziegler, Hudson. AZ will consider extensions for both before deadline.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 15, 2016
Good ol’ Brad Ziegler, funky baseball pitcher. He’s avoided a blown save longer than almost any other reliever in history, which is a good thing, right? Trade all of the prospects for Ziegler, and the bullpen problems are over.
Except, we’re scouting the grass on the other side of the fence. Ziegler has held opponents scoreless in 20 of his 26 outings. Santiago Casilla has done the same in 22 of his 29 outings. Ziegler has allowed just a single run in four of those outings, with Casilla doing it six times, but Ziegler has allowed three runs or more in two outings. Casilla hasn’t done that yet.
Ziegler has a consecutive-save streak going because he’s timing his runs well. You might think that’s a skill, that he’s pitching to the score. I respectfully disagree. If you trade for a pitcher like him — a groundball pitcher with below-average walk and strikeout rates — you’re trading for heartburn. He’s a better pitcher than, say, George Kontos, but not so much better that the Giants should want to ditch Christian Arroyo and Phil Bickford.
There are several relievers like this, who are effective without being exactly what the Giants need. No, the job description should be much clearer than that.
JOB OPENING - RELIEVER, SAN FRANCISCO
- Must strike dudes out
- No platoon splits
- Closing experience helpful, but not required
- No Tomkos
The point isn't just to get a random pitcher having a fine season, like Ziegler, Jeanmar Gomez, or Fernando Abad. The point is to get a pitcher who can put out a bases loaded fire against a switch-hitter like Ben Zobrist in the eighth inning of the NLCS. Or, at the very least, a pitcher who can get Adrian Gonzalez out when he isn’t bunting in the seventh inning of a tight Giants/Dodgers game in September. Andrew Miller would be the perfect fella, really.
Column: If the Cubs target Andrew Miller, he's going to be very expensive. https://t.co/e36MWbvX3n As in, Kyle Schwarber.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 14, 2016
But, as you can see, that’s not going to happen. The Giants can’t trade prospect punches with the Cubs or Red Sox or anyone else when it comes to the super relievers. They’re not getting Miller. They’re not getting Dellin Betances. I would hope they aren't interested in Aroldis Chapman as a person, but they couldn't afford him as a player. Sean Doolittle is one of my favorite non-Giants, but he’s under a team-friendly contract that the A’s would demand chunks of flesh for.
Let’s update the job posting, then:
- Must strike dudes out
- No platoon splits
- Oh, and can’t be too good, or else everyone will want him
It’s a tricky combination to search for, especially if you’re limited to teams that are likely to sell at the deadline. Those pitchers do exist, though. Here are a couple that might work:
Tyler Thornburg, Brewers
He was just in town, and you didn’t notice him because he pitched a sleepy, effective inning. His strikeout rate has jumped this season, and he’s youngish and inexpensive, so he won’t be easy to acquire. But he’s a hard thrower who won't cost a half-dozen prospects.
You're starting to lose interest, I can tell.
Alex Colome, Rays
The Rays aren't dummies. They know that teams are desperate for bullpen arms, and they aren’t going to deal Colome for anything less than a huge return. He isn’t eligible for arbitration until another season after this one.
But he’s not going to cost as much as Miller, the name brand, or Doolittle, on a tier below him. So he’s on the short list.
Justin Wilson, Tigers
The Tigers would have to fall out of the AL Central race, and even then, they've had such problems finding reliable relievers that they wouldn’t be keen on dealing one away. Still, Wilson is a little underrated, and he’s missing bats and throwing strikes at a much higher rate than he ever has.
You get the idea. The trick isn’t to find a better George Kontos; it's to find a Hunter Strickland who can get lefties out, and it’s to find him before the rest of the league misses out on the pitchers like Miller and Arodys Vizcaino.
Or, the tl;dr version would be that I’m hoping there’s someone in the Giants’ front office with lowered expectations and a lot of creativity:
Anyway, as I was lying in the puddle, I think I may have found a way for us to get Brandon Guyer and Alex Colome, and we wouldn't have to give up that much.
I’m fully anticipating another random arm. Fernando Abad seems like a very, very Giants kind of acquisition, for example. But I'm hoping for something just a little more creative than that. A pitcher who can strike lefties and righties out with aplomb would fill the most obvious gap in the Giants’ bullpen.
They're out there. You just have to dig a little and lower your expectations. Don't expect someone you're keenly aware of already, and you'll probably be fine.
In conclusion, aw, screw it, just trade everything for Andrew Miller, please.