Sure, the save is not a great stat from a predictive standpoint, but it does help us understand the story of a given game. Twice this season the Giants have had two blown saves in a game. They lead the majors in blown saves with 25 (the next team has 21). What does that information tell us about the nature of Giants games in 2018?
In the AT&T Park era, they’ve led the league in blown saves only two other times: 2016 (30) and 2005 (28). What’s interesting about that is the Giants have only one more save than blown saves right now, and in those other seasons, they had a decent separation between save and blown save (43 saves in 2016 and 46 saves in 2005).
After the bullpen meltdowns of 2016 led to an historic second-half collapse and abrupt exit from the playoffs, the Giants gave Mark Melancon a 4-year, $62 million deal. After Steve Finley ended the Giants’ playoff hopes in 2004 (another season with 28 blown saves, although that didn’t lead the league), Brian Sabean gave Armando Benitez a 3-year, $21 million contract to make the pitching staff whole. Neither move... went as planned.
Still, it’s pretty easy to see how the Giants have improved their bullpen since 2016. By fWAR alone, 2018’s 4.5 is a huge improvement over 2017’s 1.5 and 2016’s 2.2. It’s tough to think about how this much better bullpen has coughed it up so many times, including April 7th and June 13th where they had two blown saves in each game simply because virtually every arm in the ‘pen feels solid and you when you watch them pitch you see the skill and talent that makes them quality relievers.
And when you take a look at how all the blown saves shook out, a couple of other things stand out beyond the superbad 25 blown save total:
Hunter Strickland -- 4 Blown Saves (Giants 3-1)
5-4 vs. AZ 4/10
4-3 vs. AZ 4/18
6-3 @ MIA 6/14
4-5 vs. MIA 6/18
Reyes Moronta -- 4 Blown Saves (Giants 3-1)
6-5 vs. SD 4/30
2-3 @ COL 7/2
4-3 @ SEA 7/24
3-2 @ SD 7/31
Sam Dyson -- 4 Blown Saves (Giants 2-2)
7-5 vs. LAD 4/7
9-5 vs. COL 5/20
5-7 @ MIA 6/11
8-9 @ COL 6/28
Mark Melancon -- 4 Blown Saves (Giants 2-2)
4-5 @ MIA 6/13
3-2 vs COL 6/26
5-6 @ OAK 7/22
5-3 @ SDP 7/30
Tony Watson -- 3 Blown Saves (Giants 1-2)
5-6 @ COL 5/28
5-4 vs CHC 7/11
3-4 vs OAK 7/14
Will Smith -- 2 Blown Saves (Giants 0-2)
4-5 @ MIA 6/13
1-3 vs HOU 8/6
Cory Gearrin -- 2 Blown Saves (Giants 1-1)
7-5 vs LAD 4/7
4-5 @ SDP 4/14
Josh Osich -- 1 Blown Save (Giants 1-0)
5-4 vs AZ 4/10
Ray Black -- 1 Blown Save (Giants 0-1)
1-2 vs HOU 8/7
The Giants have won more than half the games in which a reliever has blown a save, and most of these blown saves have not come in the ninth inning. Some have come in the sixth and seventh and under extremely high leverage situations. They’ve averaged 3.83 runs in the blown saves that became losses and 5.31 runs in blown saves that became wins. For the season, win or lose, blown save or straight save, they’re averaging 3.99 runs per game after the two-game series against the Astros.
In the previous seasons where the Giants led the league in blown saves — again, 2016 and 2005 — the Giants averaged 4.41 and 4.00 runs per game — respectively — which were 19th and 29th in MLB — again, respectively. This season, their 3.99/game is good for 23rd.
What does it all mean?
First... to Will Smith and the Giants’ bullpen I say
Second, the data strongly suggests that the Giants’ bullpen woes in the 21st century are the result of a bad offense. Some might say it’s because Barry Bonds left. Others might say it’s because of the ballpark. Others might say it’s because the Giants will never be able to woo power-hitting free agent hitters. And still others might say the Giants have been extraordinarily unsuccessful at scouting, drafting, and developing powerful, high-offense hitters over the past 20 years. All of that might be true.
What is true is that over the past decade of Giants baseball, which has included peak performances and accomplishments as well as the absolute worst baseball they could muster, the Giants generated the following numbers on offense:
.309 wOBA (28th in MLB, ahead of Mariners and Padres — Padres, .299!)
94 wRC+ (20th in MLB, tied with White Sox)
218.4 fWAR (11th in MLB)
1,341 HR (last in MLB; Royals 29th with 1,428)
7,085 runs scored (28th in MLB, ahead of Mariners and Padres)
The Giants figured out how to pitch and play defense in AT&T Park and now some consideration should be given to figuring out how to hit there.