San Francisco Giants: Time to Stop Worrying About the Bullpen

Apr 24, 2017; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Mark Melancon (41) reacts after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers at AT&T Park. The Giants won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 24, 2017; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Mark Melancon (41) reacts after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers at AT&T Park. The Giants won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports /

Coming into this season, plenty of people were “worried” about the San Francisco Giants bullpen, and rightfully so. The Giants bullpen blew a total of 32 save opportunities in 2016, and essentially cost them the division, and a comeback bid against the eventual World Series Champs.

Flash forward to Opening Day. The Giants were leading, MadBum was mashing home-runs, and everything was fine until, the bullpen stepped in. They blew two save opportunities in that game. TWO! And even worse, one of them came from their $62 Million dollar addition to essentially nip that problem in the butt.

The melt-down even prompted articles on Fangraphs about how the Oakland A’s bullpen, was built better than the Giants.

After. Three. Games.

Alright. Now, we’re 22 games into the season. We have a decent good sample size of what this Giants pen just might look like going forward. The team as whole is still a question, but since that opening day, there has been one (good) constant, and it has been the ‘pen.

Frankly, I get what the article is saying. Middle Relief is important. But the Giants had just gotten through their third game of the year and we’re already saying their bullpen was bad?

Also, I’m not trying to say that the bullpen is even elite. It’s not. It’s still young, relatively inexperienced, but has a whole lot of potential present. But let’s just look at what they’ve done over the course of all 22 games.

They’ve only pitched 61 innings. Only five teams have bullpens that have pitched in fewer innings. In terms of ERA, the Giants bullpen is 11th in baseball right now. The Giants rank in bullpen ERA in their three championship years:

  • 2010: 2nd
  • 2012: 15th (!!!)
  • 2014: 8th

That 2010 bullpen was elite, and easily the best unit of them all. But the Giants bullpen was literally middle of the pack in 2012, yet we rave about that being one of the best of the three championship teams (it still was overall, but yeah). ERA is still one of the greatest ways to tell the whole story about a unit, and the fact that they’re eleventh, is darn good.

The Giants bullpen has given up the least amount of homers for a unit in baseball (1). They’re 9th in terms of total earned runs surrendered, they’re ninth in walks. Another fun stat, they’ve only blown one save opportunity since opening day! Granted, they haven’t had many, but that’s a good thing.

Again, not elite. Go ahead and jump on Fangraphs and see what elite looks like (Yankees, Indians, Rockies). But, the Giants bullpen is still good enough to get the job done a majority of the time. While we can look at the collective stats, sometimes individuals can carry that stat line, so let’s look at where some of the key cogs in the bullpen are at this season.

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What’s crazy to me here is that Ramirez can have a 9.72 ERA, but the lowest FIP in the bullpen, lower than someone with an ERA of 0 can have. FIP is different though. It measures how good a pitcher is doing at their jobs. FIP, in it’s calculation penalizes you for allowing home-runs, and walking or hitting batters, and rewards you for strikeouts. Ramirez has 15k’s in 8.1 innings of work, which makes his FIP so low, especially since nobody has hit a home run off of him.

Ramirez has been good all season long, but had a really bad outing in Colorado where he gave up six earned runs in one inning. Individual ERA’s in the bullpen are hard to judge sometimes, especially when there is so little sample size on an individual level.

But what really matters here in the bullpen? The collective. Are they getting guys out? Are they not surrendering runs, and are they limiting the home-runs, especially when that was such a big issue. Derek Law is the only pitcher that’s not a starter to allow a home-run this year, and the guy golfed it out of the park on a pitch below his knees. Crazy.

What should you take away from this all? The Giants bullpen is better this year, and because of how young they are, they will continue to get better. Not mentioned in the graph is Corey Gearrin, who has not allowed a run in seven innings of work so far.

Next: Are the Giants in a Race for Braun?

Frankly, there are other things to worry about with the Giants. The lineup, the starters giving up the fourth most homers in baseball (three are tied for most and it’s only one more than the Giants) and the most hits in baseball for a starting unit. Those are actual issues that need to be paid attention too. Will the bullpen stress you out? Of course. That’s what happens for teams who play tight games, like the Giants do. But, I guarantee you the pen is better, and will continue to be much better than what it was last season.