The San Francisco Giants will use an opener for the first time on Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays. Could that be the solution to their first-inning woes?
The San Francisco Giants have been staring down early deficits for most of the season.
That’s because the starting rotation has allowed a staggering 42 runs in the first inning of games for a 9.00 ERA in the opening frame. Much of that early damage has been done via the long ball, with 16 home runs allowed in the first.
For a team with limited offensive firepower, consistently playing from behind is a death sentence, and it has been a total team effort.
Here’s a look at each starter’s first-inning stats:
- Madison Bumgarner: 9 GS, 8.00 ERA, 12 H, 1 HR
- Dereck Rodriguez: 8 GS, 6.75 ERA, 7 H, 2 HR
- Jeff Samardzija: 8 GS, 12.38 ERA, 11 H, 6 HR
- Derek Holland: 7 GS, 6.43 ERA, 9 H, 3 HR
- Drew Pomeranz: 7 GS, 9.00 ERA, 9 H, 3 HR
- Tyler Beede: 1 GS, 27.00 ERA, 3 H, 1 HR
With Derek Holland demoted to the bullpen, Dereck Rodriguez demoted to Triple-A and Drew Pomeranz currently on the injured list, the Giants are finally going to experiment with using an opener in place of a traditional starter on Tuesday night.
The Tampa Bay Rays brought the approach to the forefront last season when they blocked off two regular spots in their rotation for an opener.
The idea behind it is simple. By using a reliever to start the game and following him with a long reliever who would traditionally be a starter, it allows that starter to ease himself into the game against the bottom half of the opposing teams lineup, while also limiting his exposure to a team’s best hitters so he’s not facing them three and four times.
The San Francisco Giants potentially using an opener made headlines when new team president Farhan Zaidi commented on the possibility of the team utilizing one in December, and the story gained traction when ace Madison Bumgarner’s thoughts on the idea went public.
“If you’re using an opener in my game, I’m walking right out of the ballpark,” Bumgarner told manager Bruce Bochy, who revealed his ace’s aversion to the philosophy during FanFest, via Maria Guardado of MLB.com.
While it’s extremely unlikely the team would use an opener ahead Bumgarner, fellow veteran Jeff Samardzija looks like a prime candidate given his struggles when facing the opposing lineup for the third time and his unsightly 12.38 ERA in the first inning this season.
However, he too has voiced his disapproval of the philosophy.
Not to be overly blunt, but who cares what Jeff Samardzija thinks?
A pitcher who has consistently underperformed since signing a massive five-year, $90 million contracts in free agency should want to do whatever he can to help the team win. Serving up six home runs with a 12.38 ERA in the first inning of games is not helping this team win. Maybe pitching behind an opener is the best way for him to earn his bloated $19.8 million salary.
For now, it falls to reliever Nick Vincent to prove the opener approach is a good idea.
The 32-year-old has a 2.25 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 9.4 K/9 in 14 appearances this season. He has never started a game at the MLB level.
If he goes out and gets shelled in the first inning on Tuesday, it’s an easy “told ya so” moment for Bumgarner and Samardzija.
But if he goes out and pitches two scoreless innings and Tyler Beede looks sharp as the bulk guy behind him, are those veterans really going to complain if the team starts to further embrace the philosophy?
We shall see, but it all starts with Vincent’s performance tonight.