The Bullpen Saves the Day

by

Dr Lefty

Yesterday’s game seemed an awful lot like Friday night’s game:  The starter gave a lackluster performance (Hall of Shame: Samardzija giving up another home run to Hector “Babe” Sanchez; Moore giving up a two-run, two-out triple to the pitcher to put the Giants in a 4-1 hole). The offense rallied enough to take the starter off the hook but repeatedly wasted late-inning opportunities to win the game in regulation and early in extras.  But this time the Giants won. Why was that?  One word:  The bullpen.  Oops, that was two. But you get the drift.

 

After a rough night by Strickland and Kontos on Friday ultimately doomed the Giants (though I’m still pointing the finger mainly at Samardzija for not holding two four-run leads), the bullpen yesterday was stellar, throwing six shutout one-hit innings. The return of Albert Suarez (two perfect innings) gets the featured image this time, but an equal case could be made for Josh Osich (well, except for that guy he hit; what is it about Osich and hitting people–didn’t he make the Snakes mad last year by hitting Peralta two nights in a row or something?). Anyway, Osich gave them 1.2 innings with three strikeouts and no hits–really important as the game kept going, they’d already used the new long man (Suarez), and I assume both Kontos and Crick were off limits after heavy usage in previous days.  Osich earned a much-deserved win when Nick Hundley (more about him in a minute) finally came through with the big hit the Giants had been seeking for hours.  Strickland, after a shaky start, pulled it together, and Dyson, who seems to be regularly channeling his inner Brian Wilson (at least as to the torture, not the big black Beard), got through his inning.

 

Last year the rotation was overall pretty good (fourth in the NL in ERA), and we thought it could only get better with a full year of MyGuy™ Matt Moore. (Yeah, about that: Did I mention the two-run triple given up to the Padres pitcher?  I did? Well, did I mention the two-out RBI hit given up to the #8 hitter?)  The 2016 bullpen, with its 32(!!!) blown saves, took most of the heat for the Giants’ second-half and playoff collapse. So Bobby Evans went out and spent All The Money on Mark Melancon (who’s having fun giving stuff away on Twitter to Giants fans but not doing much else), and we still don’t have a left fielder and Sam Dyson’s now the closer, like we all predicted back in March.  But this year, the script has at least somewhat flipped. The rotation is wretched (13th in the NL), and the bullpen is, believe it or not, kind of OK (7th in the NL). They have a lot fewer blown saves (but of course, there are a lot fewer save opportunities with a bad rotation and a bad offense).

 

In my opinion, Osich and Hundley are two of the precious few bright spots for the Giants this season. Osich is extremely talented. He may have the nastiest stuff on the entire pitching staff. He had an eye-opening 2015, followed by a cover-your-eyes 2016, but 2017 is going much better.  His ERA+ is a respectable 112, up from last year’s 86. His strikeouts are up and his home runs are down. The main blemish on his stat line (other than a 3.77 ERA, which is OK, but I don’t pay much attention to reliever ERAs, anyway) is that his walk rate is sharply up.  But even that’s improved dramatically over the last month if you look at his splits for the year.  Osich is still just 28 years old, not even arbitration-eligible until after 2018, and under team control through the 2021 season.  Health permitting, I see him as a mainstay in this bullpen for a long time, and he may be finally fulfilling the “next Jeremy Affeldt” label he got slapped with when he first arrived.  1.2 hitless innings in crunch time is not the line of a LOOGY.  His splits vs righties and lefties are pretty similar, too–ironically, his two home runs allowed have both been to lefty batters.

 

I was happy when I heard the Giants had signed Nick Hundley–was it Crawfish Joe that scooped that for us?  (Who is Crawfish Joe, anyway? He talks all folksy, but he knows stuff. I think he works in the front office and he’s a leaker. Keep up the good work, Joe!) Anyway, Hundley’s been exactly the veteran presence the Giants needed as a backup for Posey after years of youngsters filling that role (Hector, Susac, Brown, with a few weeks of Guillermo Quiroz in 2013–remember him?  Well, one time he did this.  Walk off the Dodgers and we’ll never forget you. That was back when the Dodgers’ front office was making Don Mattingly use overpaid Brandon League as the closer instead of homegrown stud Kenley Jansen and almost got Mattingly fired. Good times.). I think Hundley’s done a fine job this year, and he’s helped with the bat several times, too.  Wouldn’t be surprised to see him be trade bait, and that would be a shame, but Tim Federowicz continues to have a very nice year in Sacramento and has assumed the primary everyday catcher duties from Trevor Brown. He could finish out the year just fine as Posey’s backup, and Hundley might not mind being shipped to a contender.

 

Speaking of guys I’ll miss after the trade deadline: Eduardo Nunez.  That guy can hit, and he brings good energy and hustle. He seems to have a knack for the big moment, as with this two-out two-run single that tied the game after Matt Moore…well, I think I mentioned what Matt Moore did already.

The Prodigal Panda

OK, I know this isn’t a popular topic, but the return of Pablo Sandoval is news, and this is a Giants blog, so…Pablo made his appearance at AT & T, passed his physical, met with reporters, hung out with Bruce Bochy and Marty Lurie, and then toddled down to San Jose, where he had a hit and an RBI while wearing Christmas jammies.  That is quite a lot to pack into one day!  It must be a weird feeling for him being back in San Jose after nearly 10 years–remember how he had a host family there that housed him, fed(!) him, taught him English, and he called them “Mom” and “Dad”? I also was wondering if someone in his circumstances buys the clubhouse spread like rehabbing players (e.g., Zito, Sandoval himself, Crawford) traditionally do. He’s not exactly a “rehabbing player.”  Since today’s Sunday, he rather evokes the Prodigal Son parable, so I wonder if they broke out some fatted calf? Or at least some In-N-Out? (Seriously, were they trolling him with this?)

The Movie Review

We saw “Dunkirk” yesterday, and I thought it was amazing. Not your typical WWII movie. Tightly scripted, spare on dialogue, very intense. It let the story tell the story. I’m always happy to see MyGuy™ Mark Rylance in a movie (he was great, as usual), and it was nice to see Kenneth Branagh again–I’ve been a fan for a long time, both of him as a director and as an actor.  Well done. I expect some love for this movie come Oscar time.  Here’s a fantastic article about the historical context of the movie, shared by Paul in P.V. Thanks, Paul!

At least Get a Split, Please!

Tyson (don’t call me Tyler–lookin’ at YOU, Amy G!) Blach on the bump today trying to make the home crowd happy.  Let’s beat the &^%@# Padres again. Lefty out.