Next up on the San Francisco Giants season reviews is right-handed reliever Sam Coonrod. I’m sure this will go smoothly.
18 games, 14.2 innings, 17 hits, 7 walks, 2 hit by pitch, 2 home runs, 15 strikeouts, 1.636 WHIP
9.82 ERA, 4.76 FIP, -0.7 rWAR, -0.1 fWAR
Status throughout the season
Coonrod made the Opening Day roster, but was placed on the Injured List a week into the season with a lat injury. He was activated in late August, and stayed on the roster until the penultimate day of the season, when he returned to the Injured List with shoulder soreness.
Fair or not, Giants fans will remember Coonrod’s season for two things, and for two things only.
On Opening Day, during a pregame ceremony stating that Black lives matter and supporting the fight against racial injustice, every member of the Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers knelt during a moment of silence. Except Coonrod.
On the final Friday of the regular season, in the second game of a doubleheader, the Giants carried a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the seventh (in a seven-inning game) against the San Diego Padres. They were clinging to postseason position and, in hindsight, needed only one victory in their final three games to make the playoffs. Coonrod took the mound for the save, and gave up a single, a walk, and a walk-off home run.
That’s how his season will be remembered. What happened in between really didn’t matter; his season would be defined by those bookmarks regardless.
With that said ... what happened in between wasn’t good either. Coonrod displayed a fastball that had a NOS button and an OK amount of movement, but, like so many relievers before him, quickly found out that MLB hitters aren’t quite as impressed by 100-mph heaters as Minor Leaguers are. And, like so many relievers before him, he didn’t really have a backup plan, so he kept pounding away with triple-digit heat.
And it kept getting hit. The entire Coonrod experience was remarkably reminiscent of Hunter Strickland, though I’m now obligated to point out that Strickland was pretty darn good in his first few years.
One thing that plagued him was an inability to limit damage. Most of the time Coonrod either had it, or he didn’t.
Case in point: In 10 of his 18 appearances, Coonrod didn’t allow a run. And in eight of those 10, he didn’t even allow a baserunner. He only gave up one hit in all of his scoreless appearances combined.
But in the eight games where he allowed runs, he gave up multiple runs a whopping six times.
When things didn’t go perfectly, the wheels came off. Perhaps this is a sign of Coonrod just not having it with alarming regularity. Or perhaps it’s a sign of trying to do too much once things got dicey. It’s likely both, though I did feel like the latter was firmly on display — and again, quite reminiscent of Strickland.
All in all, he struggled, and didn’t even have the high strikeout numbers that you would expect out of a reliever throwing in the triple figures. The 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings is a decent number, but inflated a bit due to his poor WHIP. He had a strikeout every 4.7 batters he faced, which is a number that needs to improve.
Role in 2021
Relievers who hit 100 don’t grow on trees, and Coonrod has many, many more years of team control. The Giants are likely still decently high on him, even if he’s already 28. If some team wants to bet on that velocity and give the Giants a decent trade package in return, they’ll surely jump on it, but barring that he’ll be in the mix during Spring Training. He’ll likely spend a lot of time on the MLB roster, and also a fair amount of time in Sacramento.
Coonrod’s ERA was not a wholly accurate representation of how he pitched, but ... you don’t have an ERA that starts with a “9” if you pitched well. Add in the untimeliness of his final outing, and the Opening Day situation, and I give him a ...
How would you grade Sam Coonrod’s season?
This poll is closed