San Francisco Giants: Farhan Zaidi has a type when it comes to relievers
By Jeff Young
San Francisco Giants team president Farhan Zaidi has been aggressive in building bullpen depth throughout the organization this season.
Whether the San Francisco Giants acquire a reliever through a trade or on the waiver wire, a theme is emerging with the relievers that Farhan Zaidi targets.
He’s has made a wide range of additions since he took over in November 2018. Oftentimes, he has used the last spot on the 40-man roster to put a claim in on someone with the hopes of passing them through waivers shortly thereafter and keeping them in the organization.
This has been his not-so-subtle way to make incremental improvements throughout the organization. That’s been especially true when it comes to bullpen depth.
After taking control of the front office, Zaidi quickly jettisoned several relievers from the 40-man roster who had made appearances with the team in recent years. Those names include Josh Osich, Steven Okert, Derek Law, and Ty Blach.
In their place, he’s made a number of bullpen additions. including Jake Barrett, Trevor Gott, Williams Jerez, Dan Winkler, Burch Smith, Ricardo Pinto and Kyle Barraclough.
Remember when Jake Barrett was on the 40-man roster? Probably not.
The San Francisco Giants team president has made more moves than the ones listed above, but those relievers carry a higher profile since they all have major league experience.
All of them had enough of a track record with their previous teams for them to make an informed evaluation. That evaluation typically ended in the player being designated for assignment.
Winkler and Jerez were acquired through trades, whereas the remaining five were picked up through waiver claims. To that point, Winkler would have likely been placed on waivers when the Atlanta Braves traded for Mark Melancon in July.
In the above list, a couple of trends are taking place: 1.) Zaidi targets relievers capable of throwing high-velocity fastballs. 2.) These relievers have no problem striking out hitters, but struggle with command.
The table below shows the fastball velocities of the relievers listed above:
The data for Barrett, Gott, and Jerez are from 2018 since they were acquired prior to the start of the 2019 season. For them, the 2018 data represents the most recent readings on their fastball prior to being acquired.
There is a trend here. In today’s game, bullpens are expected to boast high-velocity arms, and Zaidi is beginning to craft a bullpen to match today’s standards.
Smith and Winkler sort of let the entire case study down with their 92.7 mph fastballs. What separates them from the rest of the group is their pitch mix. Winkler boasts a four-pitch mix, whereas Smith has three offerings.
This is an important distinction because while their fastball velocity is lower relative to the rest of the group, they can mix in more than one offspeed pitch to keep hitters off-balance.
Pinto was just claimed off of waivers, and the bottom-line results are not great. However, Zaidi’s theme can be seen through these acquisitions. The 25-year-old has an ugly 8.44 ERA across 32 major league innings, but he boasts a mid-90s fastball.
In addition to this, Zaidi seems to target relievers who generate strikeouts at a high rate while battling command issues. The table below shows the walk and strikeout rates for the group:
Clearly, this group has no problem generating strikeouts. Gott and Pinto look like the only exceptions. Gott has 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings rate since joining the Giants in the offseason, so past results do not necessarily predict future outcomes.
These are not pitch-to-contact relievers by any means.
Rather, they have the stuff and fastball velocity to produce strikeouts at a high rate. With hitters trying to lift and separate on every swing, it is probably not a bad idea to avoid contact altogether. That is what these relievers bring to the table.
However, this group also struggles with control. Gott and Winkler look like they have the best control of the bunch, but even walking 3.5 batters per nine innings in the case of Winkler is still a high rate.
This entire group has intriguing qualities that led them to the San Francisco Giants. Zaidi hired Matt Daniels from Driveline this past offseason and one of the goals in hiring him was coaching pitchers to have more consistent mechanics to limit free passes.
Zaidi, along with Daniels, likely see Kyle Barraclough and Dan Winkler as being only one or two adjustments away from becoming a quality major league reliever. If they can figure it out, the Giants will profit. They will have a low-cost, controllable bullpen arm, which gives them the flexibility to pursue upgrades in other areas of the roster.
It is too early in Zaidi’s tenure to determine if these moves will pay off, but the concept is intriguing. After all, Trevor Gott had a nice season prior to sustaining an elbow injury.
Either way, in his short time as the San Francisco Giants team president, Farhan Zaidi seems to have a type when it comes to bullpen construction and that point becomes more concrete with each new reliever acquired.