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Player Review: Ross Stripling

More like Ross StripLOLing, right? No, but seriously...

Texas Rangers v San Francisco Giants Photo by Andy Kuno/San Francisco Giants/Getty Images

2023 stats: 0-5, 89 IP, 5.36 ERA/5.21 FIP, 1.35 WHIP, 70-16 K-BB, 20 HR (2.0 HR/9), -0.3 fWAR

I’m not sure how many of us were looking forward to reviewing this particular player’s season because it went one way unambiguously: wrong. At first I planned to get cute with it and come up with five positive things to say about Ross Stripling’s first season with the San Francisco Giants, but I couldn’t come up with anything, so here we are.

I liked the signing at the time, writing:

In last month’s writeup, I did note that — at a glance — there’s not a whole lot of separation between Stripling and Jakob Junis when it comes to Statcast. And from a strictly stuff perspective (fastball velocity, slider spin), Junis actually came out ahead in last year’s Statcast measurements. But Stripling’s effectiveness is hard to match. With the right sequencing, his command will make him basically the best version of Jakob Junis, right down to the swingman capability.

It’s hard not to like this move. It only requires that you ignore the Rodón in the room. Which is tough to do! Anyway, with this deal, the Giants’ 2023 Opening Day payroll is now projected to be greater than last year’s, which means the Giants were true to their word and they spent to get the players they wanted.

Maybe Junis was reading that and took it personally, because Jakob Junis was the best version of Jakob Junis in 2023 and Ross Stripling swiftly dropped back to the version of himself that compelled the Dodgers to trade him and the Blue Jays treat him as a fifth starter and swingman for his two seasons in Toronto. I even did the hyperbolic podcaster thing and declared that this was the perfect Giants signing, given what we know about the team’s internal processes.


So... I’m wrong a lot.

Stripling’s issue has always been the longball, and his 0.8 HR/9 in the Aaron Judge home run chase season of 2022 suggested that he and the Jays might’ve figured something out from a mechanical or sequencing standpoint. Instead, he went right back to that 2.0 HR/9 he had with them in 2021 for the Giants, and it wound up being the fifth-worst HR/9 in the NL. Pitching at Oracle Park offered him no refuge.

He gave up 12 home runs in 39 IP in San Francisco and 8 in 50 IP on the road. Perhaps a bit of a concern if the team is looking at, say, Shōta Imanaga, who has a bit of a reputation for giving up the longball. It’s the same process that identified Stripling as a useful piece for the team’s roster that will be making a lot of similar choices this offseason and that’s where there’s a bit of a quandry.

Could Stripling just need an adjustment period? All of the busts of the Zaidi era (and that list could grow exponentially this coming season) seem like solid signings at the time that just haven’t worked out, and we can see all the obvious red flags but choose to ignore them because of our faith in the coaching staff and analytics department. That could mean that Stripling, Haniger, and Conforto, who were all signed with a wisdom that hasn’t suddenly changed, could be what they were projected to be last season this coming season...

But it sure does seem like a longshot with Stripling. I don’t know if it’s my COVID fog or advancing years talking, but since baseball players are now measured by lollipop charts — the stat frontier has come up with their own batting average and it’s a colorful picture! — let’s take a look at Stripling’s sweet and sour over these past three seasons:

Ross Stripling’s “lollipop graphs” from Statcast for seasons 2021 to 2023.

I don’t know. Looks to me like a guy who had a great platform year (not a career year, as he was an All-Star in 2018) and was able to parlay that into a hefty deal from a team that had money to spend. It’s more logical to conclude that Stripling probably doesn’t provide much value to the team heading into 2024, because he certainly didn’t in 2023.

Remember, the Giants were willing to risk having a grievance filed against them because of injured list chicanery. He made public comments about being in limbo and on the “phantom IL” which should be a cause for concern. Former Mets GM Billy Eppler is currently under investigation for similar reasons. The Giants are going to have to continue to rely on the last gasps of veteran savvy as they struggle back to respectability and between Stripling and A.J. Pollock it was a tough year on that marketing front as the Last Chance Saloon. The Giants do seem like they’re unwilling to just cut players and maybe that’s something that’ll change with Bob Melvin on staff, but Stripling, while being a reflection of the Giants’ process, highlighted its weaknesses, too.

Remarkably, with Jakob Junis in free agency and setup to make a nice little sum of money, it falls on Stripling to be Junis (86 IP, 92 ERA- or, more simplistically, a 3.74 FIP). I suspect Stripling will be a quick cut a la Tommy La Stella if he arrives at Spring Training still smelling of last season, but the Giants are in a position where his experience and swingman ability could be of great use as Alex Cobb works his way back to the rotation midseason.