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.