Even though the San Francisco Giants had a disappointing 2013 season the one thing on their team that stayed consistent was their bullpen. The Giants bullpen ranked 9th in all of baseball with a 3.30 ERA last season. However, it could have been even better if not for some setbacks in the bullpen.
The most important issue with the bullpen last season were injuries to two of the Giants top four bullpen arms, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla. The injuries to those two forced young and unproven pitchers like Sandy Rosario, Jean Machi and Jake Dunning, in particular, to pitch significant innings. Also another thing that was significant was that the Giants had to use former left-hander Jose Mijares a lot more against righties. That didn’t work out to well as he was hit pretty hard. Having to use Mijares against righties wasn’t what the Giants had planned when he was brought in 2012.
Seeing that happen really showed that the Giants missed Affeldt significantly. Even if he is inconsistent, his ability to get both righties and lefties out is why he’s so valuable. He was very instrumental in the Giants two World Series Championships and is a strong veteran presence in the clubhouse. Casilla was an absolute bull for the Giants during the 2012 season. He pitched in the late innings, and even saved quite a few games for the Giants. He and Affeldt were a big why the bullpen was as good as it was.
Next, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo both had great seasons in 2013. They were the Giants two best bullpen members of 2013. They provided the Giants with quality innings and didn’t seem to be phased by the constant injuries and turnover in the bullpen.
Lopez is the best LOOGIE in baseball or a lefty one out guy for those who don’t know. He had his best full season with the Giants. He finished with an ERA of 1.83 and a whip of 1.07 in 39.1 innings.
Romo really did a fine job emerging as the Giants closer. Even though he’s unorthodox as a closer, because he lacks the big fastball that most closers possess, he was very solid in that role 38/43 in save opportunities mostly relying on his deadly no dot slider. That comes out to 88 percent, which is in the elite department. He also had a 2.54 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. Those are both solid numbers for closers even though they were higher than his career stats, but he was pitching a lot more innings.
Another pitcher who emerged onto the scene late in the year was Heath Hembree. He’s been a top prospect in the Giants farm since he was drafted in 2010 by the team. Hembree, who could still end up being the clubs long term closer, looked really dominate in his innings toward the end of the year. In 7.2 innings he didn’t give up an earned run, struck out 12 and only walked 2.
The two walks were very intriguing because one of the things that he was struggling with in the Minor Leagues was his command. His velocity wasn’t as fast as it was in the minors, but his movement and control was a lot better, which is more important than speed. If Hembree pitches the way he pitched at the end of the season, he will most certainly be in the Giants bullpen in 2014.
Going into 2014 the Giants bullpen should yet again be a strength of the team. If the bullpen can stay healthy, they could very well be one of the top units in baseball. That would be a positive considering the question marks surrounding the starting rotation this season. With Lopez, Affeldt, Casilla, Romo and most likely Hembree, the Giants have a strong 5 man bullpen unit which will be deadly in the later innings.
The only issue might be the middle inning relief. There’s questions over who will take over that role. If the Giants can sure that up than they will be able to shorten a lot of games, with how deadly the back end of their bullpen is. Last season the middle inning relief, innings 5 and 6, weren’t always as good as Bruce Bochy, Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner would like it.
The Giants obviously have some young arms in their farm that will get some big league experience during Spring Training. Bruce Bochy’s son Brett as well as Derek Law and Josh Osich are intriguing names to follow moving forward as they have the potential to be mainstays in the Giants bullpen in the future.
In order for the Giants to get back into the playoffs the bullpen will need to continue to pitch at a high level. They also need to stay healthy and shore up the middle innings. If those things happen the Giants will have a successful season.