San Francisco Giants Have Fixed Rotation, and Helped Bullpen


The San Francisco Giants have been busy this offseason, and have fixed their starting rotation while simultaneously lessening the burden on the bullpen.

On Monday, the San Francisco Giants further solidified their rotation by signing free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto, accomplishing their main goal of fixing a starting rotation that stumbled and sputtered last year, looking nothing like the rotations that helped win World Series for the orange and black. On many occasions, the Giants’ starting pitcher failed to go deep enough into a game, pressing the bullpen into service far earlier than manager Bruce Bochy would have liked.

As Giants’ starters stumbled time and time again, the bullpen suffered more and more, becoming overworked as the dog days of summer wore on. San Francisco starters pitched less than five innings 34 times, tied for the seventh-highest number in baseball. They went seven or more innings just 43 times, good for 19th out of the 30 teams. As a result, relief pitchers worked at rates at which they had never worked before.

In 2015, the Giants’ bullpen threw a combined 505 innings, the most for the team since 1998. The 557 combined reliever appearances became a franchise record. Nine Giant relievers appeared in 30 or more games, tied for the highest total in the league last season, along with the Detroit Tigers, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Colorado Rockies. Among those nine relievers were Josh Osich, who didn’t make his debut until July 3rd, and Jean Machi, who missed three weeks in June with an injury and was designated for assignment in July.

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Left-hander Javier Lopez, at 38 years old, matched his career-high by appearing in 77 games. George Kontos made 73 appearances and threw 73.1 innings, surpassing his previous career-high by 21 games and 18 innings, respectively. Sergio Romo toppled his previous high by pitching in 70 games. Yusmeiro Petit‘s 41 games and 70 innings out of the bullpen were both the highest of his career. The team also worked rookie relievers for 122 appearances and 108.2 innings.

As a unit, the Giants’ bullpen posted a 3.33 ERA, the second-highest total for the team since the 2010 season. The 0.89 home runs they allowed per nine innings was the highest in the same span.

The innings and appearances aren’t the only things that take their toll on the relief pitchers. They also use up bullets simply by getting warmed up, and can sometimes take two or three humps before getting called into the game, if they get called at all.

With the new additions in the rotation, the bullpen gets a boost simply by association. The two new starting pitchers, Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, are two guys who can go deep into games and eat innings, and do so effectively. Combine those two with the Giants’ resident workhorse who rides a horse, Madison Bumgarner, and the bullpen could, and should, remain well-rested for a good portion of the season.

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Last season, Bumgarner pitched at least seven innings 19 times in his 32 starts. The rest of the members of the Giants’ rotation combined to go that deep just 24 times in the other 130 games of the season. The new guys, Cueto and Samardzija, went seven or more innings 37 times in their 64 cumulative starts in 2015.

The Giants’ projected rotation in 2016 (Bumgarner, Cueto, Samardzija, Jake Peavy, and Matt Cain) consists of pitchers who have surpassed 200 innings a whopping 15 times in the past five seasons. Bumgarner has done it each of the past five seasons, Cueto did it in 2012, 2014, and 2015, Samardzija has done it in each of the past three seasons, Peavy did it in 2012 and 2014, and Cain did it in 2011 and 2012. Though Peavy and Cain, the two back-end guys, are no longer those 200+ inning pitchers, they should be serviceable enough in 2016 to hold water and contribute to the cause of resting the bullpen.

Next: Giants Complete Rotation by Signing Cueto

The Giants have made their moves and gotten better where they need to get better. By doing so, they are also getting better in other areas. As the 2016 season slowly creeps closer, there’s certainly a lot of reasons for optimism around the Giants.