Before we get too deep into this, I’d like to point you toward an article that suggests Bruce Bochy has been an excellent manager of bullpens.
Wait, get back h
Okay, well, fine, the rest of you get to read the article, then. It comes from Rob Arthur and Rian Watt at FiveThirtyEight.com, and they’re using a) the value of the reliever and b) the situations he was used in to see if c) the manager was being a dingus or not. Bochy grades out very well.
I’ve been asked several times if I think Bochy should be fired for what the Giants have done in the second half. It’s hard not to stare at these people like they have a kite tied to their nose hair. No, I’m pretty sure that as frustrating as Bochy can be with his platoon fetish — and as eager as I’ve been for Derek Law to be used as if he’s the best reliever on the team, which he clearly is — this season is mostly an outlier. Bochy is usually pretty solid with the bullpen.
It’s as if none of y’all remember the manager he replaced.
The biggest problem? The pitchers who have to actually throw the baseballs. That, and bad luck/sequencing/what have you. Mostly the pitchers, though. They can’t get lefties out, for one, and that trickles down to mid-inning swap after mid-inning swap, which messes up rhythms and roles. Bochy admitted as much. saying he was overthinking how he approached the bullpen and the closer’s role.
Still, when the postmortem of the 2016 season is written, it’s the relievers who will get the bulk of the blame. Pitch better, pitchers. Or, alternatively, get better pitchers, Giants.
They almost did. Jon Heyman took a look at what the Giants tried to do at the deadline, and he reports that they were interested in Andrew Miller!
This time, the Yankees, not especially enamored by the Giants’ prospects, asked for Joe Panik.
Uh, thanks, Yankees, but we’re gonna go in a different direction. Would the Giants have lost five games in the ninth with Miller as the closer, though? And doesn’t that make him worth 5 WAC (wins above Casilla)? Food for thought.
More realistically, though, Heyman also reports the Giants thought they had a shot at Mark Melancon:
The Giants figured their offer was in the range of what the Pittsburgh Pirates accepted for Melancon from the Nats
The Nationals traded Taylor Hearn, a right-handed pitching prospect, and Felipe Rivero, a 25-year-old reliever with major league experience, a live fastball, and several years of team control left. Hearn spent most of the season on the DL before the trade, and he didn’t rank in the top 10 of Baseball America’s midseason assessment of the Nationals’ system, though the Nationals have a stronger farm system than the Giants do. An equivalent package might have been Hunter Strickland and Sam Coonrod.
The Pirates preferred the Nats’ package, so the implication is that the Giants should have offered more. Considering that they’re totally going to sign Melancon for $70 million this offseason anyway, that’s some fine second-guessing. They probably should have. And I would have complained that a closer just isn’t worth that much, that it’s hard for one reliever to have such an effect on wins and losses.
I was young, okay! Young and foolish, and I had no idea what I was doing! This second half has changed me, and now I’m a bullpen zealot. This bullpen has been life-changing. And while we don’t know if Melancon really would have helped the Giants win five more games (he could have thrown the pitch that became the pop-up that made Brandon Crawford and Panik collide, you know), it’s a safe bet that with a normal closer, the Giants would have at least three more wins. With an exceptional closer?
Yeah, they’d probably still be in the NL West race. This one will sting for a while.
Still, you know what they say: Hindsight is always 20/20, and so is this bottle of Mad Dog that I’m using to forget about all my hindsight. And I really do expect the Giants to spend whatever money they save on Jake Peavy, Angel Pagan, Santiago Casilla, and other departing free agents (not much, after raises to other players, of course) on a closer.
The news that they were that close to having one stings, though. In a post-Scutaro world, we probably can’t regret anything that ever happens at the deadline again. But the Giants were a prospect away from Mark Melancon, and that’s going to bug us all winter.