It’s pretty obvious that if the San Francisco Giants are going to win the World Series in 2017 they have to do a better job of holding leads.
In 2016 the San Francisco Giants had the most blown saves as a team in all of baseball with 30, and they had the fifth worst save percentage at 58.9 percent.
The bullpen was not horrible for the Giants last year as they finished 15th in the league with an ERA of 3.65 in 478 innings. That was the fifth fewest innings thrown by a bullpen last year, which means our starters often went deep into games.
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They also were ranked 12th in the league in batting average against at .240, which makes it even more perplexing that they weren’t able to hold leads late in games.
If you look even deeper, Giants relief pitchers had the fewest strikeouts in major league baseball last year. If you’re going to have a lockdown bullpen, you need guys that are able to get a strikeout when you need one.
I think the Giants realized this last season, which is why they traded for a guy like Will Smith who has a K/9 over 10 through 292.1 big league innings.
On the other hand, that makes the loss of Santiago Casilla even more difficult to understand as he was third on the team last year with a K/9 of 10.09. I don’t think he belongs in the closer role, but we all know how good he can be as a setup guy.
Sergio Romo is now with the Los Angeles Dodgers after finishing fifth in K/9 for the San Francisco Giants last year.
So is the Giants bullpen more equipped to hold leads this year?
Mark Melancon was the big offseason acquisition for the San Francisco Giants signing for 4 years and $62 million. However, he has a career K/9 of 8.2 and has only had seasons of nine or better twice in eight years.
He has certainly proven that he has the mentality to be a closer shutting the door on 98 games in the past two seasons. I think he’ll do brilliantly in that role for the Giants – although I’m not thrilled about paying him $19 million during his age 34 and 35 seasons – but who is going to hold onto that lead before the ninth?
Hunter Strickland’s K/9 has been below nine the past two seasons after showing flashes of being a dominant strikeout pitcher his last few years in the minor leagues.
Derek Law has a career K/9 of 11.5 during six minor league seasons and struck out 50 batters in 55 innings last year. You’d like to see that K/9 go above nine this year.
To look at a comparison, the Chicago Cubs had seven relievers with a K/9 over nine last year of pitchers that pitched at least 20 innings. Five of those pitchers had a K/9 better than 10.23.
Their relievers also had the lowest batting average against at .210, and the eighth best ERA in the league. They also had the fourth fewest blown saves.
Are you seeing a trend yet?
If the San Francisco Giants are going to do a better job of holding onto leads this year, they need more guys at the back of the bullpen that can get strikeouts.
Certainly a lot of the blame can be put on the offense for not building on leads to give the bullpen some wiggle room. A lot of times the bullpen had to hold onto one or two run leads, but still, the San Francisco Giants need to win those games.
I’m not sure enough was done this offseason to make sure we have those guys in the bullpen to get a big strikeout. However, it’s very early and those relievers are often found during the season.
The Giants cannot afford to blow 30 save opportunities again and expect to compete for the National League West. Hopefully a few guys will emerge as big strikeout pitchers this season for the San Francisco Giants.