43 2/3 IP, 37 G, 5.56 ERA, 4.51 FIP, 7.42 K/9, 4.53 BB/P
Every bullpen needs a guy to go to when the game is on the line. Some unhittable demigod who throws not baseballs, but powerful magicks drawn from the ether. Every bullpen also needs a guy pitch innings when the game is out of hand. Someone who can throw a baseball better than 99.9 percent of people on the planet, but not as well as the seven other guys in the bullpen. For the Giants, Pierce Johnson was that guy. The latter guy. The guy who pitches because baseball games are required to be at least nine innings, and Tony Watson and Will Smith can’t throw all of them.
In his first full season, Johnson sure did pitch some innings. They weren’t especially good innings. The 5.56 ERA makes his season seem worse than it was. Note that it was a full run higher than his FIP, but his peripherals weren’t great either. His walk rate was lower than Reyes Moronta’s, but he lacked the ability to strike batters out that he possessed in the minors.
At one point, Johnson was considered one of the Cubs top prospects. In his 2017 minor league season, struck out over 12 batters per nine. In 17 minor league appearances this year, he struck out 11.91. It’d be unrealistic to expect the same kind of strikeouts in the majors, but striking batters out at Suárezian levels is a bit disappointing.
Role on the 2018 Team
Johnson oscillated between the majors and minors, and he was primarily used in low-leverage situations. Out of his 37 appearances, he entered just seven medium-leverage innings. He was there to save the other arms in the bullpen, and he was sometimes asked to go multiple innings though he’s not quite a longman.
Role on the 2019 Team
He’s still under team control, so there’s no reason to jettison him unless the new head of baseball ops needs his roster spot. His upside and low cost indicate that he wouldn’t clear waivers, so if the Giants took him off the 40-man another team would certainly pick him up.
It might even work out that the relievers above him exit. Just about everyone above him aside from Moronta is a trade/non-tender candidate. The Giants could need him for depth.
If he remains with the team, he would likely be the seventh or eighth arm in the bullpen like he was this year.
If he had missed a few more bats, he could have wound up with a B. He didn’t pitch so terribly that he pitched himself out of a job, but he didn’t pitch well enough to lock him into 2019.