I don’t think any of us expected the San Francisco Giants to be in the position of having the best bullpen in Baseball at any point in the season, and yet here we are. Since May 15 (and I’ll give my reason for that date in just a second), they’ve amassed 2.7 wins above replacement in value, according to FanGraphs, nearly twice as good as the next best arm barn: the Miami Marlins (1.5).
Looking at the Cardinals for their series, I saw what we all saw in that they had started rough before sort of improving elsewhere over the last few weeks. Taking that same thinking into writing up the Dodgers series preview, I just decided that since today is June 15th that it made sense to look at how they’d performed since May 15th, especially their bullpen, as they’d had several injuries to their rotation. That’s when I noticed this really fun surprise.
In a recent podcast, I talked about how the Giants’ bullpen is a solid group from top to bottom — that they really had a great month of May. In previewing the team for a Cardinals podcast, I was asked about which relievers stood out and I named them all. From Ryan Walker’s tricky delivery and funky stuff to Luke Jackson’s John Brebbia 2.0-ness to hitters not being able to square up Tyler Rogers to Jakob Junis simply being sharper, there’s a good helping of depth. Camilo Doval, Taylor Rogers, and John Brebbia provide the power stuff at the top of the heap, and then there’s Sean Manaea.
Is he a starter? Is he a reliever? Is he a combination starter-reliever? By any other name, he’s been the third best reliever in Baseball since May 15th (0.7 fWAR), behind Arizona’s Scott McGough and Baltimore’s Felix Bautista. That’s with pitching the most innings (19.2) out of all relievers captured by the data mining systems, too. I think the innings for both Manaea and the bullpen in general is a really important facet of this: they’ve been the best while having the most exposure. The Rockies’ Peter Lambert checks in 2nd with 18.2 IP (-0.4 fWAR) and Jakob Junis is 3rd with 17.1 IP (0.1 fWAR).
Now, I get not wanting to only look at wins above replacement and then calling it a day (though it’s also fun to do because both Ryan Walker’s 0.4 fWAR and Tyler Rogers’ 0.3 are in MLB’s top 30 over this span), but the number serves as a great summation of the bullpen’s success. Still, let’s dig a little deeper, because it’s fun. The Giants’ bullpen has:
- allowed the fewest runs (27) and earned runs (21)
- struck out the most batters (150)
- the most saves (14)
- tied for the fewest blown saves (1, sharing with Cincinnati)
- the best ERA in MLB (1.46)
- pitched the most innings in the NL (129.1)
- the best WHIP (0.87)
- the best walk rate (6.3%)
- the best strikeout rate (29.6%)
- the best batting average against (.173)
- the 2nd-best HR/9 in MLB, though best in the NL (0.56)
- the best left on base rate (85.9%)
- the best Win Probability Added (4.01)
It also has the best record in MLB, at 13-3. That, of course, has helped the Giants to an overall record of 19-9.
That’s the best record in Baseball since May 15.
The Giants’ rotation is just 18th in MLB according to FanGraphs, with 1.5 wins above replacement (just 6-6 record, too). The top rotation in Baseball over the past month? The St. Louis Cardinals (3.5 fWAR). The Boston Red Sox are 5th-best with 2.7 fWAR. The Giants’ bullpen has been as good as the 5th-best rotation in Baseball over the past month.
I just think that’s neat.
And we’ve seen how this group has helped the team. As recently as yesterday. Anthony DeSclafani struggled and the bullpen came into the game and stabilized the situation long enough for the Giants’ lineup to mount a comeback and, eventually, reclaim the lead; but also, last week in Colorado, and throughout the past month and a half with the bullpen games.
They’re relievers, so they’re going to break our hearts at some point; but for now, this is as good as it gets, so let’s enjoy it as the Giants use their deep and effective and intriguing bullpen to ride their way back into the Wild Card conversation.