The San Francisco Giants are trying. They tried last year, too, but they’re trying this year, and they’re really trying not to try and screw up the result of the trying! They would like to win more baseball games than last year. I applaud their decision to try.
It has come to my attention that the only bullpen addition this offseason was Will Smith, and that’s a technicality, considering he’s only an addition because he’s coming back from Tommy John surgery. That’s not exciting. It’s possible that this bullpen will be as bad as the last bullpen, which was only a little better than the bullpen before that.
However, it is I, incredibly biased Giants partisan, and I’m here to explain why this year’s bullpen shouldn’t be that awful. Yes, I realize you’re all going to tweet this article at me and laugh. “Ha ha ha, look at this idiot,” you’ll tweet in September. My defense is that I’m already drunk at noon, so legally this is inadmissible in court, so there. What’s the worst that could happen, that the Giants bullpen is awful ag
Anyway, here’s why I haven’t been focusing on the bullpen that much this offseason:
No, seriously, Mark Melancon is good
Mark Melancon, 2013-2016
290 IP, 1.80 ERA, 2.25 FIP, 5.96 K/BB
Mark Melancon, 2017
30 IP, 4.50 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 4.83 K/BB
He’ll be 33. He doesn’t have to be good again. But, dang it, it’s not like he was some closer-in-name-only goof who couldn’t get outs. He was great. For four years, he was absolutely outstanding at getting hitters out. Last year he wasn’t.
Consider this, though. It was a small sample, he was hurt, and the peripheral numbers suggest he was much better. The only red flag is his age. Shouldn’t he be better? I’m not saying he’s going to make the Giants glad they signed him to his current contract. But he was a replacement-level player last year. It shouldn’t be like that this year.
Will Smith is back
More like Men in Orange and Black, ha ha, just a little joke before we proceed, anyway, Will Smith is probably pretty good. He has troubles with his command, but he can miss bats and frustrate lefties and righties alike. I’m still mad that he was pulled after one batter in Game 4 of the 2016 NLDS, but, really, who’s still thinking about that EXCEPT ME EVERY DAY, ha ha, just a little joke before we proceed, anyway
But Smith doesn’t have to be peak Jeremy Affeldt to be an improvement next year. He just has to be better than Josh Osich (6.23 ERA) and Steven Okert (5.67 ERA). Other than some cameos from Ty Blach and one from Matt Moore, those are the only lefties who appeared in relief for the Giants last year.
It ... it should be better.
Behind Smith should be either Ty Blach or Andrew Suarez, and they’ll both be better than Osich and Okert, if only because it’s impossible to be as bad as they were last year.
Also, do you know who should be better in 2018? Josh Osich and Steven Okert, who are probably much better than whatever that was. As Option A and Option B out of the bullpen? That’s scary. As players on the depth chart who are worth remembering? Yep, you should probably remember that they throw in the mid-90s with good breaking balls. Seems like one of them should just snap into place next year.
And, friends, let me slide this glossy brochure about D.J. Snelten across the table like Al Pacino in Glengarry Glen Ross ...
Kyle Crick has outstanding stuff
Sorry. But there are still young relievers who have outstanding stuff on the 40-man roster
This is true! For years, I refused to include relievers in my MLB previews because every year, some reliable reliever would melt down, and some rando would melt opposing batters. Trying to predict bullpens is extremely annoying.
This year, the Giants have Roberto Gomez and Reyes Moronta on the 40-man, just waiting to contribute. They have Julian Fernandez, thrower of 102, trying to make the roster, and they have Pierce Johnson, who spent last year striking out Triple-A. This is before we get to Joan Gregorio, who is now better about hiding the things that make him stronger, and Derek Law, who should be good again, dammit.
Out of all of those names, one of them should be good this year. That’s not greedy. That’s not unrealistic. One more arm. Give the Giants the pitchers who were effective last year (Hunter Strickland and Cory Gearrin) and Will Smith and Mark Melancon and ONE OF THESE ARMS. Just one.
But at least one.
If the Giants aren’t as dreadful offensively next year, we won’t notice the bullpen quite as much
This is a big one. When the Indians’ bullpen gave up a run in the eighth inning last year, for example, it was less likely to matter. This is because it was likelier that they were leading by two or three runs.
The Giants would often score two or three runs in a week. So when they had a lead, it was usually a tiny lead, and it felt like a delicate little flower petal that absolutely needed to be protected. And then ARGH, DANG IT, NOOOOOOO, there was a blown save.
The idea with this team is that Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria are better than Jarrett Parker and Pablo Sandoval, respectively, so they should help the Giants score more runs. With more runs, there should be more 5-3 leads in the eighth inning that can absorb a solo dinger.
The bullpen was bad last year. Hitters hit .279/.340/.425 in the eighth inning, which is extremely disappointing. No amount of offense would have made that okay. But if Will Smith is back, and Mark Melancon isn’t a dud, and there’s a better balance between the platoon splits ... look, I don’t know, I would have liked Kenley Jansen in a trade for Gorkys Hernandez, too.
But I’m not hyper-worried about the Giants’ bullpen for 2018. I’m only moderately worried. I’ll retreat into my usual bubble of “Bullpens are nearly impossible to predict” and point at all the things that could do right. As of now, it looks like this:
7th inning: Law
7th inning: Gearrin
Other lefty: Blach
WILD CARD: Gomez, Moronta, Fernandez, Gregorio, Johnson, Snelten
One of those wild cards will be an inextricable part of the 2019 bullpen at this time next year, just you watch. Until then, it’s not ideal, but it’s not my biggest worry on the roster. It’s only one of several.