Many of general manager Brian Sabean’s offseason acquisitions were deemed questionable. The aging Tim Hudson and the oft-injured Michael Morse were brought in and greeted with much uncertainty from fans. However, their resurgence this season along with the bounce back seasons of players such as Angel Pagan and Jeremy Affeldt has allowed for a spirited debate over who has been the biggest surprise in 2014. Yet despite the relatively unexpected success of the aforementioned players, it’s hard to argue against Jean Machi as the biggest surprise of the season thus far.
Machi has been a reliable workhorse out of the bullpen for the San Francisco Giants, who currently have the best bullpen in baseball. His 32 appearances lead the team. Manager Bruce Bochy seems to be growing more and more confident handing the ball to Machi in critical situations.
After making eight appearances in 2012 and allowing five earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched, Machi put together a largely successful 2013 campaign. He finished the season 3-1 with a 2.38 ERA in 53 innings pitched. He has built on that success and actually improved on his numbers across the board as we approach the midway point in the season.
Currently enjoying a 5-0 record with a 0.29 ERA, Machi should deservedly receive some All-Star recognition. While his name presently holds little significance amongst fans around the league, it’s beginning to gain more traction and hold more weight in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.
Machi’s impressive season goes beyond his record and ERA, though. His 0.74 WHIP is best on the team and is good for the third in MLB among players with more than 30 innings pitched. He has only allowed 17 hits in 31 innings and opponents are hitting a paltry .170 against him. He has only allowed one earned run all season and it came in a victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Machi has 23 strikeouts to only six walks and, for some icing on the cake, he is 2 for 2 in save opportunities.
One of the characteristics that has made Machi great this year is his aggression. He attacks the zone and works quick, evident by his 13.26 pitches per inning, which is the lowest on the Giants. Part of the reason Machi can afford to be so aggressive is his nasty split-finger fastball. Clearly his favorite pitch (for good reason), Machi throws the split 53% of the time. Despite the frequency of the pitch, the sharp downward bite on it makes it equally devastating for both lefties and righties.
While Machi showed signs of his ability in 2013, anyone who says they predicted this kind of season from him in 2014 is just flat out lying. He’s had the best season of any Giants reliever in a notable bullpen that includes prominent names like Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, and Javier Lopez. It will be difficult for Machi to maintain this success for an entire season. He will undoubtedly receive some blemishes on his record as the year progresses. But Machi’s surprising year has placed him as a key cog in the Giants’ championship run and even a few blemishes won’t change that.