After closing the door on the Los Angeles Dodgers on Opening Day, Hunter Strickland is showing why he has the stuff to be the San Francisco Giants closer.
I’ll be the first to admit that I wanted the Giants to move Strickland this past offseason. I’m not a fan of him and his shenanigans.
But, sometimes in sports you have to ‘deal’ with a person you may not like because they are good (see Yasiel Puig).
Despite how you feel about Strickland, the fact is he’s become a great relief pitcher, and possibly the best the Giants have. He’s thrown at least 51.1 innings the last three years with an ERA of 3.10 or better.
After developing a devastating slider this past offseason with help from John Smoltz, he now has a two plus pitches making him a prime candidate to be a full-time closer.
In spring training he pitched 7.1 scoreless innings, while striking out eight batters. Strickland’s K/9 has always been around 8.5, but this year I think he could end up over nine.
I know the Giants gave Mark Melancon a lot of money to be their closer, but I believe his injury situation is bigger than he’s letting on. When he was on the field last year he was posting his highest ERA since 2012.
There is a very good chance we are paying a lot of money for the declining years of the 33-year-old Melancon.
Even if he comes back healthy, I think Strickland has certainly made a case to be the team’s primary closer going forward.
Yes, it’s just one game, but I was certain the Giants bullpen would find a way to blow the game on Thursday. Strickland entered the ninth and allowed the leadoff hitter to reach base. But then the closer calmly retired the next three batters for the save.
It won’t be an easy decision for Bruce Bochy, but I think it’s the correct one to make. Melancon has a history of being a great set-up man, and I think he would stabilize the bullpen in that role.
But if I’m looking for the one arm in that bullpen right now that looks like a closer’s arm, I’m taking Hunter Strickland.