The Giants Don’t Need an Overhaul, But an Upgrade

The Giants started off their 2016 campaign with a 57-33 record before the All-star break, before finishing 87-75. There were plenty of downfalls in the second half of the season, but ultimately the bullpen led the Giants to their fate.

In the first half of the season the combined ERA of the bullpen was 2.27, with 26 saves and a K/9 of 9.7. This being said, they had 42 save opportunities, which means they blew a save 38% of the time. In the second half of the season they combined for a 2.85 ERA, with 17 saves and a K/9 of 8.4. They blew 13 saves in 30 opportunities during the second half, which means they blew a save 43% of the time.

The bullpen was heavily criticized in the second half of the season due to the team’s inability to replicate the same win rate they saw in the first half. However, the bullpen was only slightly better in the first half then it was in the second half.

To me, the Giants were in dire need of acquiring a threat in the bullpen before the trade deadline approached. They went after Will Smith, who came in to the Giants’ pen with a 2.12 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and three blown save opportunities. With the Giants he had an ERA of 2.94, a 12.8 K/9 and a blown save. He was not able to convert a save all season, and although he proved to be a nice piece in the bullpen in hold situations, he was not a guy who could come into the 9th inning and dominate the game.

In the postseason the Giants were 0/2 in save situations and, in their final game against the Cubs, their bullpen collapse was maybe the worst the league has ever seen in the playoffs. However, their rookie Ty Blach came in for 3.2 innings of relief during the postseason and did not allow an earned run. He looked promising at the end of the regular season and pitched well in high-pressure situations during October baseball. It was surprising to see him and Santiago Casilla sit out their final game, as they watched their bullpen drop four runs in the 9th. Furthermore, we saw Clayton Kershaw close the Dodgers’ final game against the Nationals to move on to the NLCS. It would have been interesting to see what kind of performance Madison Bumgarner could have shown the Cubs’ batters in that final inning.

Finally, with the veteran relievers of Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Casilla needing new contracts for the 2017 campaign, and the Giants in need of finding someone who can come into a 9th inning and pose a legitimate threat, it will be interesting to see what the team does in the offseason to improve their bullpen. Here are my top five predictions for the Giants’ next closer.

 

#1:  Kenley Jansen:

It is unlikely that Aroldis Chapman will be looking for a new home this offseason, as he looks comfortable in Chicago and will have a hard time finding a team with that amount of talent. Jansen, however, may flee from the aging Dodgers, especially if someone is willing to pay. The Giants will have a bit of salary space to work with and would benefit greatly from this signing.

#2: Mark Melancon:

Although Melancon is a few steps below the elite Jansen and Chapman, he showed he can work a 9th inning as well as anyone this season. He may be a bit more team-friendly as far as salary space, and that may be intriguing to the Giants who will be looking to add a heavy-hitting left fielder.

#3: Jonathan Papelbon:

Papelbon was replaced by Melancon for the Nationals’ closing position in the second half of the 2016 season. He had a great first half, and showed he is capable of being a dominant closer in the MLB. However, his fight with Bryce Harper in 2015 and his rough second half of the season may make him a risky candidate. This may lower his cost and if the Giants are unable to sign Jansen or Melancon, they would be smart to see what Papelbon could do for their bullpen.

#4: Derek Law:

Derek Law debuted in 2016 and had a pretty good campaign. With a 2.13 ERA in 55 innings of relief, he may have a shot at being the Giants’ closer. However, it would be unlikely for him to start the 2017 season off as the Giants’ closer, unless they are unable to sign someone to fill that duty this offseason. He is an unlikely candidate, but if he can improve from his 2016 season, there is no reason he would not be able to become a legitimate MLB closer.

#5 Aroldis Chapman:

Chapman will likely return to the Cubs, especially if they make it to the World Series this October. However, he has been on three teams in the past two years, and if the Giants are able to show him more money than the Cubs, they might be able to acquire the hard-throwing lefty. If they do, they might lose the power they need to fill left field but they would come into the 2017 season looking stronger than they did a season ago.



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Captain Tenneal
Member

It’s a bit unfair to say Will Smith could not convert a save opportunity all season; he didn’t have any real save opportunities! If you blow a hold, you get a blown save, even though everyone knows there was no chance of you closing out the game and actually getting the save. Save% is a terrible way to look at middle relievers because they only generally only have the opportunity to blow a save, and not to earn one.

johnforthegiants
Member
johnforthegiants

Agree with CT’s comments. Smith was fantastic after August 18 but Bochy refused to take him seriously as a closer. If you actually think that Smith didn’t show the ability to dominate a game after coming to the Giants, you must have simply not looked at many games this year–in the last 6 weeks of the season, Smith’s stats were better than any of the relievers you mentioned here or even Andrew Miller (seriously, just look at his stats). Considering how much trouble the rest of the bullpen was having getting saves, Bochy’s refusal to try using Smith in a closer role can only be attributed to blindness on Bochy’s part, possibly resulting from a conflict with management about the advisability of getting Smith in the first place. For that matter, Cory Gearrin was also excellent in June and September (he was injured in July and recovering in August) and Bochy also didn’t take him seriously. Unfortunately although the Giants have promising internal candidates to be closer, Bochy showed himself last year to be unable or unwilling to exploit this situation, so that the only choices left to management are to either fire Bochy or bring him the elite closer he wants and put other teams needs in the background. Papelbon and Chapman are poison in the clubhouse, Papelpon was ineffective last year, and Chapman refuses to pitch more than one inning at a time and has been very shaky in the playoffs this year. Jansen and Melancon are the only real candidates here.

booj11
Member
booj11

I’m surprised to hear others think Chapman is a near-lock to stay with the Cubs.

I viewed him as a pure rental. They seemed to be treating his arm that way, too, throughout the first two rounds of the postseason. (Although I suppose, every strong pitcher gets rode hard in October). Nevertheless, I would be deeply surprised if the Cubs make him an offer around market value.

carmot
Member

I agree, there are other options that mean it’s no lock for Chapman to stay in Chicago. Could just as easily have had an indirect conversation with Cashman before departing NY: “If you don’t have a $100M+ offer, you come talk with us.” Stacking up prospects from the trade AND getting him back?

Who knows? Maybe LAD will want him AND pick up a QO pick from Jansen. I don’t know that Boston wants him with his baggage, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ll be shopping for an elite closer to pair with Kimbrel. What’s WAS going to do? Some other teams, too.