SF Giants: Can Jake McGee be a trustworthy postseason closer?
If one remembers back to the first month or two of the 2021 campaign, the bullpen looked like a glaring hole. They were blowing winnable games and looked to be in disarray.
After a process that involved a lot of shuffling and sending certain relievers down or releasing them, the Giants transformed their bullpen from a weakness into a strength. For the last few months, they have been able to rely on a pretty standard formula of Dominic Leone in the seventh, Tyler Rogers in the eighth, and McGee in the ninth.
That formula has produced a good number of wins, but only in the past week or so have we begun to see some struggles in the ninth inning from McGee. the veteran southpaw went from June 4th to August 7th without allowing a single earned run and was a perfect 12/12 in save opportunities during that stretch.
His last two outings have been a different story. He has given up two earned runs in each of his last two outings, blowing a save against the Diamondbacks and nearly blowing a game against the Rockies.
Is it fair to McGee that fans hit the panic button so shortly after he won National League Reliever of the Month for July? Absolutely not. But when you are a reliever, especially a closer, it is all about what you have done for a team lately.
Some Giants fans may recall the struggles Santiago Casilla had as closer for the Giants during their second-half collapse back in 2016. Late in that season, Casilla proved to be so unreliable that the Giants had to opt for a closer-by-committee strategy that blew up in their face during the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs.
Is McGee headed towards a similar fate? It is far too early to tell. Perhaps some struggles are to be expected from the 35-year-old McGee. He has been relied on heavily recently and that could have been a factor in his last two appearances.
His issues could be mechanical though as he has struggled to consistently locate his fastball above the strike zone in his last two outings, a pitch that has been so effective for him all year. If he can work out whatever mechanical error he is dealing with, then we should see a Jake McGee closer to the one we saw in the month of July.
But in the worst-case scenario where McGee struggles for the rest of the year, the Giants are well-positioned to manage. Rogers could slide into the closer role fairly seamlessly and Tony Watson and Leone could take over the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, if McGee proves he cannot even be relied on as a late-inning arm.
Such a fall from grace seems unlikely though. For now, we can chalk McGee’s recent struggles up to just a few bad outings likely caused by a mechanical error. If the struggles persist, then it may well be time for a shake up in the closer role.