Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Perhaps Why Sabean Pointed Out Improving the Bullpen

There was an interesting article on Beyond the Box Score on "New Way to Allocate Runs Allowed".  What I want to point out is the main table with all qualified starters listed with a calculation of assignment of earned runs using the bases for the runners that they left on when the reliever came in.  In ERA, they get a full credit for the run if the reliever lets the runner score.  In this method, he would only get partial credit for this, for example, half run credit if he left a runner on second and that runner scores via relief, two bases responsibility each.
ogc thoughts

What I found interesting is that Giants starters figure prominently among the pitchers who had a significant number of runs scoring on them, which ties in Sabean's statement that improving the bullpen is one of the key things heading into 2014.  

The only three Giants starters to qualify ended up high on this list, showing how badly the bullpen performed in 2013.  Bumgarner was 4th with 0.39 run reduction, from his 3.04 ERA to 2.65 with the adjustment.  Lincecum was 10th, and he was actually named in a post-season conference as one who was greatly affected by poor relievers, with 0.33 run reduction, dropping his 4.64 ERA to 4.31.  Cain was right behind him but basically tied for 9th with Timmy and Lackey, also with 0.33 (7th place tie at 0.34).  So the Giants had spots in three of the top eleven spots of this list.  No other team even repeats among those eleven that I could see on the list, though two had split seasons with multiple teams that were not listed.  

Of course, one could argue that the Giants didn't do much to improve the bullpen so far, and I've seen such rumblings.  Basically, they simply resigned Javier Lopez and let go of Mijares, Gaudin, Moscoso, Rosario and Surkamp, though recently resigning Rosario back to a minor league contract (and Heston for that matter).   Plus they picked up Erik Cordier, Jose De Paula, Andrew Carignan, and Dontrelle "D-Train" Willis to provide additional competition for bullpen spots.  

Frankly, the minor leaguers probably don't have the greatest chance to win a spot, they are probably here to provide depth in the minors in case of injuries, but the Giants will reward good performance when warranted, as guys have won a spot on the 25-man roster for opening day when they were not expected to.   Still, pretty long shot unless the guy can pitch in spring training like Law did in the minors in 2013, walking few while striking out a lot.

And with contracts, Romo, Affledt, Lopez, and Casilla aren't going anywhere, and Petit is slotted for long relief, that leaves only two spots.  And with Hembree practically written in for one spot, as long as he performs well enough, that really only leaves one spot, with Machi and Kontos in the lead for that spot, and Law will probably get a long look as well, though probably ending up in AAA.  So roughly 5 of the 7 are players we already had in the bullpen last year, with Hembree and Petit getting late season play.  

Yet, I do feel that the bullpen most probably is improved.  Romo, Casilla, and Lopez should still be good, though of course age could strike at any moment for these guys.  Losing Lopez would have definitely made the bullpen's expected performance take a hit for 2014, so it was important to retain him.  

Health affected Affeldt in particular, but it sounds like Kontos partied too much in the off-season after the 2012 Championship and wasn't ready when Opening Day arrived.  Both should be better in 2014, and Machi was better in 2013 than Kontos was in 2012, so that should be an interesting battle in spring.  Petit couldn't improve on what Gaudin (just signed by Phillies) did, but he at least look capable of matching.  

Then comes the probable improvement in the bullpen, if Hembree takes the job by the horns in spring.   For all of last season, we carried Mijares and his 4.22 ERA, and hopefully Hembree is an improvement over that.  Particularly since Heath pitched so well for us in limited appearances in 2013 in the majors.  

And how much improvement do we need?  Anyone arguing that the Giants didn't do much, should realize that the Giants didn't need a whole lot of improvement.  Romo had a 2.54 ERA, Casilla 2.16, Lopez 1.83, and Petit had a 3.56 ERA as mostly a starter (most relievers end up with lower ERAs than they had as a starter because they can air it out more as a reliever, gaining velocity and performance).  Affeldt, even in a down year, had a 3.74 ERA, and still has a 2.86 ERA as a pitcher for the Giants, who he has been with for most of his career game appearances.  Machi had a 2.38 ERA and a blazing fastball, which the bullpen has been missing relative to other teams, and Kontos had a 4.39 ERA in a down year, but had a sterling 2.47 ERA in 2012, with a 9.1 K/9 and 3.67 K/BB, though Machi was equally strong, if not better, with a 8.7 K/9 and 4.25 K/BB.   And Hembree looks ready for his closeup, but if not, then both Machi and Kontos could win the last two spots.  

The bullpen looks like it will be pretty good in 2014, overall, with chances for great performances from Hembree and Petit, and perhaps Law sometime during the season.  And same-old, same-old, from the guys who are the heart of the bullpen, Romo, Affeldt, Casilla, and Lopez.  So while there has not been a lot of change, most of the poorer performers are not expected to win a spot in the bullpen, and the guys who are expected to stick look like they should be pretty good in 2014, barring final career decline.  

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