I was wondering before about what happens when Affeldt returns, and one of my scenarios revolved around carrying one less bench player (Perez) in order to carry an extra reliever, since Perez still has options and none of the pitchers do. This article by Baggerly (and reported by the other beat writers), notes that the Giants are considering that option.
That's because when Affeldt returns, and probably soon, someone gets voted off the 25-man roster, and all the relievers are doing well among those who might be dropped: Machi, Petit, Huff, Gutierrez.
- Machi has been relied on heavily and has delivered, again: 6 appearances, tied for most on the staff, 0.00 ERA, 5.2 IP, 6 hits and only 1 walk (IBB too) with 6 K's and no runs at all. Machi did allow 1 of 2 inherited runners to score, but he was around average last season for the team, he allowed 12 of 35 to score or 34% and the team average was 29%.
- Petit has a high ERA, but after his first bad appearance has been pretty good, 4 appearances, 5.0 IP, 4 hits, 1 R/ER, 0 walks and 6 strikeouts. And he might be suffering some bad luck, .308 BABIP in those 4 games (excluding that bad first relief appearance). He didn't have any inherited runners to handle.
- Huff has 5 appearances too, 3.60 ERA, 5.0 IP, 4 hits, 2 walks, 4 K's, and one homer. That's probably the worse of the bunch so far this season. And out of 3 inherited runners, only 1 scored.
- Gutierrez has 6 appearances, tie for most, 2.70 ERA, 6.2 IP, 5 hits, 1 walk (IBB) and 7 K's. He has kept both inherited runners from scoring.
So this could make sense in the short term (as Baggerly detailed). For one, the rotation has not been going deep into games, outside of Bumgarner and Hudson. Also, there are 15 games in 16 days, a very odd occurrence at the beginning of the season, there are usually plenty of open dates in the start of the season, that is why August tends to have so little, maybe two off days in the whole month, and that stretches normally into the end of July as well as the start of September, making it a very long stretch of days without many days of rest.
Plus, I would note that the Giants will be headed to Colorado soon, that could lead to short starts and long relief games. Particularly with Vogelsong currently slated for the first start in Colorado, the bullpen should be depleted in the first game. Vogie has a 5.18 ERA there, and while he had a good start there in 2011, he had two bad starts there in 2012.
In addition, Bochy has been able to keep playing Morse deeper into games, since his bat has been hot plus his defense has been OK so far. That would enable Bochy to not need the extra outfielder while they hold onto the relievers until they need to make a decision on who will get waived. In addition, Adrianza would play LF in a pinch. Belt too, but Bochy has shown a reluctance to move around his starters position, if he can avoid it. Still, Bochy could move Hanchez/Posey to 1B and Belt to LF, as a viable option to take.
Sometimes, as Bochy notes, the situation resolves itself, as a pitcher either gets injured or starts to throw poorly. Still, as the saying goes, all the relievers are making it hard on the Giants to drop any of them.
But sometimes it comes to push and shove, then the Giants will need to waive someone. If I had to bet earlier, I would have bet on Gutierrez, but every time he comes in, he's throw mid-90's fastballs and getting guys out. The team needs guys with heaters like that, how did AZ ever let him go? Machi, all the news I heard from the broadcasters is that Bochy loves him, and he has mid-90's heat too. Petit did too well last two seasons in the majors, plus did well in the minors, for the team to drop him over one bad appearance out of five (something a lot of fans did not get, many thought his poor spring cost him his job).
So that leaves Huff as the odd-man out eventually, by this reckoning. He throws in the low 90's, and his best pitches appears to be the cutter and changeup, since he uses both a lot. He does seem to have anything extraordinary that makes him more valuable than other relievers, other than that he could pitch long relief. With Petit around, that is not as necessary. I also wondered if he being around was a case of risk mitigation, that is, in case Vogelsong does not figure things out, Petit would become the starter most probably, but then who would be long relief? That would be a good reason to keep Huff around, not only for probability of short starts early in the season, but to take Petit's spot later, if needed.
If he proves to be the odd man out, Affeldt injury essentially cost him his MLB job, because by most accounts, the beats said that he was going to make the team because the expectation was that there will be many short starts, with Lincecum and Vogelsong in the rotation. Had Affeldt not stupidly not pitched without his brace - he admitted that it was a dumb move and he had no good reason for why he did it - Huff would have stayed on the roster as long as he as producing. It was Gutierrez who got Affeldt's spot when he went on the DL, and he has made the most of his opportunity so far.
In addition, I know that a lot of people, particularly sabers, hated the signing, noting his inability to field his position well while he has been an inconsistent hitter. Essentially, his poor defense would counter whatever offensive value he might put up. I would offer up an alternative scenario: he gives Bochy a great offensive weapon when he needs one, but he has great defensive weapons in Blanco and Perez, should he need them instead.
Whenever an NL team gets into the playoffs, they are generally at a disadvantage because they never had a great hitter on the bench waiting to become the DH when playing in the AL park, giving the AL teams an advantage when playing in their park.
Enter Morse, who is the titular starter, but as Bochy has shown in prior playoffs (Sandoval, Zito, Lincecum, etc.), he has no problem sitting down one guy if he thinks that maximizes the team's chances of winning, vs. handling players differently during the season because the goal there is to make it through the season with a playoff spot, so sometimes you don't make the optimal move that maximizes your chances of winning, particularly early in the season when you are still close, because you sometimes need to involve a bench player or rest a position player, or strategic things like those that a manager has to make as a compromise in order to make it through a long season.
So Morse might find himself getting all the DH duties should the Giants be fortunate enough to make the World Series, while sitting out other games where the starter might be a flyball pitcher (like Cain) that sends balls his way, and starting in games where the starter might be a groundball pitcher, and his lack of range is not as important. Or maybe the other starter is not that good, so Bochy might rather go with Blanco's defense, expecting the rest of the lineup to hit the starter. He can configure the lineup to account for the opposing pitcher strength/weaknesses as well as our own starter's strength/weaknesses. Bochy is not beholden to keep Morse out there if he feels another OF would give the Giants a better chance of winning.