About once a month in 2016, I would rank each member of the bullpen by how much I trusted them, as a general view of how well they were pitching at that moment. The thing is, those articles had this tendency to kinda accidentally curse whoever I ranked first, which is why last year I abandoned the bit. But now we’re into the Bryan Murphy Era here at MCC, baby, and since cursing the team has become exceptionally on brand, the bit is back.
So off we go, starting with the most trusted reliever:
1. Tony Watson
Like I said, in a statement so astute that it got the coveted Andrew Baggarly Quote Tweet:
I would like to thank Every Cheapskate Owner In Baseball for allowing the Giants to sign Tony Watson— Doug (@moonwalkmcfly) April 8, 2018
It really is absurd that the Giants were able to get him so late in the offseason and stay under the luxury tax, even if the credit for that second part goes to whoever figured out the accounting to still pay Watson while deferring the calculation for luxury tax purposes. Still, he has been fantastic for the Giants this year, giving them everything they could have hoped for. The most surprising thing about him is that so far this year, Watson’s got reverse platoon splits. He’s fine against lefties, but he’s absolutely shut down right handed batters. That probably won’t last, but it sure is tempting to think that finally, the Giants have that Next Jeremy Affeldt that they’ve been unable to develop through their farm system.
2. Reyes Moronta
Moronta has been spectacular in the early going, and it’s impossible to imagine where this bullpen would be without him. You can throw all the caveats out about how it’s early and FIP is skeptical and he’s bound to come back down to Earth at least somewhat, and that’s all true, but Moronta is exciting to watch and easy to trust. He has an electric fastball and a good slider, and in the early going, he’s been using them to shut down opposing hitters in a debut as impressive as any we’ve seen since ... (looks up how Derek Law’s done this year) ... uh, Hunter Strickland.
3. Hunter Strickland
Hunter Strickland has not been a perfect closer, but he has been an effective one, and it’s been important for him to have success in that role while Mark Melancon is out with (and this is a medical term here) an arm that will never heal. “Well, I don’t much like Hunter Strickland,” you might be saying, and that’s fine, but would you rather have him in the game, or anyone below him on this list? It’s not a tough decision.
4. Pierce Johnson
For a guy who only made the Opening Day roster as an absolute last minute add, Johnson has acquitted himself really well. He hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been perfectly adequate as a mop-up guy and long reliever. He’s generally been good at the things he’s been asked to do, and while he hasn’t been getting super high leverage assignments, showing up and consistently not being a walking disaster is enough to separate him from the back half of this list.
5. Sam Dyson
I have absolutely no idea what to make of Sam Dyson. Sometimes he looks good, and other times he looks very bad. He has been a fantastic closer, and also he has been jettisoned for being the worst closer in the majors. Of all the relievers on the roster, he is the most 2018 Giants, because he has the talent to be a star, but it just doesn’t really work. But it could! But it doesn’t.
6. Cory Gearrin
There is a totally legitimate statistical case to be made in Cory Gearrin’s favor. Here it is: by K% and BB%, he’s actually better than he was last year, but his unsustainably high BABIP and two home runs given up on just six fly balls are clear signs of poor luck, and he will get better and be a perfectly serviceable reliever again, even if it’s silly to expect a sub-2 ERA like he had last year. Here’s the counterargument: have you watched him? Sometimes the stats don’t tell the whole story, and you know that from watching a guy pitch. We saw it in Tim Lincecum’s decline years and we’re seeing it here too. Something’s wrong that you can’t see from a Fangraphs page, and it’s ugly to watch.
7. Roberto Gomez
Gomez has stuff that very well could play in the majors, but it has this unfortunate tendency to get hit. He gave up three unearned runs in the eighth inning on Wednesday, and while you can make excuses for him (Brandon Belt’s error did lead to all three runs, after all), it seems like you’re always making excuses for him. He’s not the guy to come in and shut things down. He’s the guy to come in, seemingly throw well, but still give up a run or two. That’s not what you want.
8. Josh Osich