If you went back in time to May 31, 2019 and told a Giants fan that Drew Pomeranz would throw two perfect innings in the Wild Card game (let alone that his teammates Tyler Austin and Ray Black would be in the dugout cheering him on), they would get pretty excited, but they would also have a lot of questions. The first would be “Wait, you mean Madison Bumgarner didn’t throw a complete game shutout?” The second would be, “We’re talking about the same Drew Pomeranz aren’t we?”
Yes, the same Drew Pomeranz who as a starter for the Giants pitched to a 6.10 ERA through 72 1/3 innings threw two perfect innings in his team’s biggest game of the year. He only struck out two which is low for him now. In retrospect, he should have been left in for a third inning. The Brewers might have earned the privilege to lose to the Dodgers in the NLDS if that were the case.
The Brewers instead went with Josh Hader, who in this weird, twisted parallel dimension we find ourselves trapped within is a less reliable reliever than the guy who gave up eight runs in 1 1/3 innings to the Orioles. Because of this lapse in judgement by the National League’s longest tenured manager, Craig Counsell(!), Pomeranz’s season is over. We’ve been denied the opportunity to see Pomeranz cut through the best lineups in the world like carving a cake.
Since making the switch to the bullpen, Pomeranz was one of baseball’s most dominant relievers. In 31 2/3 innings, Pomeranz struck out 53 batters. That’s a K/9 of 15.1. He struck out nearly half the batters he faced (45.7 percent). Among all relievers with at least 10 innings pitched, Pomeranz had the second-highest strikeout percentage in 2019, and 10 innings is a low, low threshold that someone could fluke their way into.
When the Mauricio Dubón for Pomeranz and Black trade was announced, my first thought was “Brewers, what are you doooooing?” Pomeranz had looked better in those four relief appearances with the Giants, but I didn’t think that meant anything. Clearly, someone with the Brewers saw something in Pomeranz that convinced them this turnaround was for real. The quality of pitch by pitch data has increased so much since the early days of pitch tracking that even in four outings, the Brewers were able to pinpoint an adjustment and believe in it. A jump in velocity is to be expected when someone moves to the bullpen, but there had to be something else that Pomeranz was doing that we can’t see with publicly available information. Or maybe Ray Black was the major selling point and they just lucked out with Pomeranz.
Pomeranz’s season is over which is a shame, but his time in the bullpen ensured that he’ll get more than a one-year, $2 million contract with heavy incentives. At the end of May, I was wondering how much longer the Giants would give Pomeranz. Now, I’m kind of hoping they bring him back.