Checking in on the Giants Bullpen

The Giants bullpen last year was a flaming dumpster fire, how might it look in the 2017 season?

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The San Francisco Giants had a rough 2016. They started the first half of the season strong quickly became one of the best teams in the MLB. Then the second half came and it seemed like nothing could slow the Giants down. Their bullpen had other plans.

Giants Bullpen – “Hold my beer, (cracks knuckles) we got this.”

The second half of the season was an unmitigated disaster. The MLB leaders in blown saves, the Giants were in such serious trouble that its a shock they made it to the postseason. The Giants bullpen was the Achilles heal of the 2016 season. Without improvement the sins of yesterseason could spill over to 2017. Luckily the organization see’s this issue and they look to be shoring up the troubled spots.

Mark Melancon

The biggest piece of the Giants bullpen puzzle was acquiring a competent closer. For years the Giants had relied heavily on Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo to some pretty good success. They were integral parts of the World Series runs, however in 2016 things were not the same for the longtime closer’s. Casilla ended the season with a league leader 9 blown. Romo had put in the late inning spot a few seasons prior and had few opportunities to close since. Both players eventually lost full-time closing duties in favor of closer by committee. At this point the bullpen looked like this.

Cue the front office’s willingness to dump a huge truckload of money on to the first cute closer that looked their way. With the signing of big time closer Mark Melancon the 2017 bullpen could look like this.

Mark Melancon will likely be a wonderful fit with the Giants. He is one of the premier closer’s in the game and for good reason. According to Fangraph’s Mark Melancon ranks in the top 5 closer’s in the years from 2013 to the 2016 season. Pitchers with him at the top include Arodlis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Andrew Miller in terms of relievers in the last 4 seasons.

# Name Team W L SV G GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% GB% HR/FB ERA FIP xFIP WAR
1 Aroldis Chapman – – – 12 13 143 246 0 242.0 15.77 3.87 0.48 .293 83.9 % 39.6 % 8.3 % 1.93 1.72 1.95 9.7
2 Kenley Jansen Dodgers 11 9 155 268 0 263.0 13.55 1.92 0.72 .282 83.1 % 34.6 % 8.6 % 2.19 1.86 2.16 9.4
3 Dellin Betances Yankees 14 10 22 223 0 252.0 14.36 3.36 0.57 .289 80.1 % 48.8 % 10.7 % 2.11 1.98 2.00 8.5
4 Mark Melancon – – – 11 11 147 297 0 290.0 8.32 1.40 0.31 .266 79.1 % 57.4 % 5.9 % 1.80 2.25 2.65 7.9
5 Andrew Miller – – – 19 10 49 240 0 229.0 14.70 2.48 0.75 .266 83.4 % 51.0 % 14.6 % 1.93 1.95 1.70 7.6

With Melancon’s signing, the Giants have likely solved one of their problems. However Melancon only fixes one aspect of the bullpen. One of the biggest issues last year were the relatively newer faces in the Giants bullpen.

Out with the old in with the new?

With Casilla and Romo both gone this year and long time reliever Javier Lopez retiring, the Giants bullpen is poised to get a lot younger. Last year saw players like Josh Osich, Cory Gearrin and Derek Law step into fill roles that had started to shift around. The Giants bullpen had always been a pretty good balance of young and veteran players holding down the later innings. The oldest people in the bullpen now are represented by Melancon and George Kontos, both 31.

Casilla, Romo and Jeremy Affledt were all in their low to mid 30’s and Lopez tops out a 39 years. That’s an experienced bullpen that’s giving way to guys who are now a majority in their 20’s. It could likely prove to be a another season before these young guys prove their stuff on the field.

The experiment started last season with a bumpy start. Osich was named to the opening day roster last year. Midway through the season he landed on the Dl. Osich had an enlarged ERA of 4.71 at the end of the season. Derek Law ended up being a key part of the young bullpen in 2016. He pitched with a low 2.16 ERA in 61 appearances in 55 innings. Law is a great example of these young guys stepping up and providing for a team that was faltering in the bullpen sector.

Even if the bullpen is young luckily there are some veterans to help anchor it down. Melancon should be able to bring a strong presence to the bullpen with his length of MLB experience. Kontos has been in Giants bullpen since 2012, so his time with the Giants could provide good insight to the young guys on how the bullpen works in San Francisco.

What does it all mean?

With the Giants in the midst of spring training a lot of the bullpens questions will be address. Mark Melancon is gonna be Mark Melancon, barring any serious injuries. He is already settling into his role as starting closer. One of the main concerns will still be how this young bullpen will handle this next season. With the older veterans gone the Giants effectively cleaned house even if they don’t agree with that term. The organization is not in the mindset of a full overhaul of the bullpen.

The young guys are the future of this bullpen for better or worse. The organization will likely be putting lots of pressure on them to succeed this season where the bullpen of last year fell short. Hopefully spring training will continue to sort out the problems or last year. Who knows? Maybe they’re already gone and the Giants bullpen continues to move forward from here. Time will tell.

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