The SF Giants have had one of the worst bullpens in baseball with a 4.32 ERA this year and they are trying to improve it on the fly. One recent addition, Alex Young, has made a solid first impression after making noticeable changes to his pitch mix.
SF Giants reliever Alex Young has made some noticeable changes in pitch mix since joining the organization
The Giants added Young in a trade with the Cleveland Guardians in exchange for future considerations. San Francisco has added a lot of pitchers on waivers claims this year with the hopes that one or two might stick.
That is likely an approach that the Giants will continue to follow when it comes to upgrading the bullpen. It is move that does not pay off often, but when it does, it could result in a reliable left-handed reliever like Jarlín García.
Speaking of García, the addition of Young gives San Francisco another left-handed option out of the bullpen. They typically like to have a handful of relievers who throw from the left side, but the depth has taken a hit as Jake McGee was released last month while José Álvarez has spent the bulk of the season on the injured list.
When the Giants claimed Young off of waivers from the Guardians, he was coming off of a couple of disappointing seasons. However, when he debuted with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019, he showed a lot of promise as he registered a 3.56 ERA, 4.81 FIP, 1.18 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, and a 2.63 SO/W ratio in 17 appearances including 15 starts.
He followed that up with a 6.08 ERA in 55 appearances in the two years following his strong rookie season. The 28-year-old southpaw tallied 0.1 innings of work with the Guardians in 2022 as well before being designated for assignment.
Since coming over to the Giants, Young's pitch mix has noticeably changed. This is something that San Francisco has had success with in recent seasons whether it involves simplifying a repertoire or recalibrating it so that it optimizes the better pitches. Jakob Junis is a recent example of a pitcher who has benefitted from this as he has leaned more heavily on his slider than in the past.
Young has traditionally flashed a sinker, four-seam fastball, cut fastball, curveball, and a changeup. The curveball has been his best pitch as opposing hitters have registered a .157 batting average against it in his career. That trend has continued in 2022 as he has yielded just a .214 batting average with it.
On the other hand, the changeup has generated a .258 batting average against it in four seasons. It is not nearly as effective as the curveball, but it has induced a lot of weak contact. Opposing hitters have not averaged a launch angle above eight degrees against it and 2022 is no different as hitters have a negative-five-degree launch angle against it.
The sinker and cut fastball have proven to be easier pitches to hit and he does not consistently rely on the four-seam fastball.
In 2022, Young's pitch mix has shifted to flashing a changeup 38 percent of the time compared to 35.8 percent of the time with his curveball. These are his two best pitches, so it makes sense why the Giants would make these changes.
He has never thrown either offering over 30 percent of the time in his career, but the early returns look promising. The lefty has yielded just one earned run on seven hits, six strikeouts, and three walks across 8 frames with the Giants. This includes a 46.2 percent groundball rate.
It is too early to determine if these changes will translate to sustainable improvements in performance but the Giants have to like what they are seeing so far. The bullpen is an obvious area that needs improvement and finding good value additions goes a long way. Could Young be the next solid find by the front office? That remains to be seen.