Derek Law was supposed to be one of the unquestionably helpful pitchers in the Giants’ bullpen this season. The team signed Mark Melancon at great cost, but he wasn’t supposed to be alone. A tried and true Law was an essential component to a functioning Giants bullpen. And, like everything else on the team except for Buster Posey and Ty Blach, it was a complete mess.
Law was just about the only good part of the 2016 installment, remember. He struck out 50 in 55 innings, while walking just nine. He allowed just three home runs. His ERA was 2.13, but more importantly, he allowed just five inherited runners out of 28 to score. He was outstanding, his curveball was a treat, and the Giants were going to use him in the late innings for the next six years.
And then 2017 happened. Law allowed more walks, home runs, and earned runs in half as many games, and then he was sent to Triple-A to work out the kinks. There were a helluva lot of kinks.
It’s time to check back with him and see if he’s doing well enough to return in September.
Yes. Yes, he is, even if he isn’t dominating like I had hoped, though.
The high WHIP is a concern, especially when you consider that Law has already walked more batters in two months of Triple-A than he did all of last season in the majors. But a lot of those stats came from a meltdown appearance in two-thirds of an inning right after he was sent down. He walked four and gave up two runs in that appearance. Since then, those stats have looked a little better:
He’s allowed a .348 BABIP, which has given him a weird line of .281/.316/.404. The first number is batting average, and it informs the rest of the slash line. The high average is why the OBP isn’t ideal. It’s why the slugging percentage isn’t ideal. And I’m willing to call shenanigans and small-sample size.
But what was wrong with Law wasn’t something for the statisticians to figure out. It was something for the scouts. He was hanging his curveball, and he was doing it often. It turned from a dynamite pitch and ultimate weapon into a liability, and his fastball command wasn’t good enough to overcome it. Law was the Giants’ best reliever last year. Law without a curveball isn’t a pitcher who should be in the majors. So it’s important to figure out which version will be coming back up in September.
The stats are still somewhat encouraging, and I certainly do miss the productive version. He was a curiosity when he came up, and then he was a revelation. Then he was 2017’d. A month of confidence building — for him, the Giants, and us — would go a long way.