Friday, June 5, 2009

New Giants Bullpen Coming Up Big

Let's not talk about the offense. Bengie Molina is their leading home run hitter. That says it all.

It's the pitching is responsible for them going from a winning percentage of .444 last year to .528 this year. Their team ERA has improved from 4.38 to a 3.80. Tim Lincecum is being Tim Lincecum, and dominating hitters again. Matt Cain has made a big step forward, lowering his ERA from a respectable 3.76 to a dominating 2.27. Barry Zito is being Barry Zito (the Giants version anyway). Randy Johnson has provided a little bit of a spark, but he's 45 and he is above 5.00.

The biggest area of improvement is in their revamped middle relief corps, where they have 3 new pitchers with at least 20 appearances under 2.70: Justin Miller from the Marlins, Brian Medders from the Diamondbacks and Jeremy Affeldt from Cincinnati.

Jeremy Affeldt, once the future ace of the K.C. Royals has re-emerged as a great middle reliever. His ERA is 1.88, he is tied for fifth in the league in appearances and leading the league in holds. He was supposed to be the future ace of the Royals when when he was brought up in 2002, but struggled through injuries. He was eventually turned into a closer, but only ended up with 13 saves and continued to struggle. In 2006, the Royals finally traded him midseason to the Rockies, and he finished the season over 6.00 in 54 games. In 2007, he finally found his niche and went 3.51 over 75 games for the Rockies and even dominated for them in the playoffs. He followed it up with a nice 2008 with the Reds and signed with the Giants for this year. At 30, which is turns today, he is one of the premier middle relievers in the game.

Can the Giants keep in up or even compete for the playoffs? They have no margin for error, with their anemic offense. Matt Cain is good, but unlikely to continue his torrid pace all year. Barry Zito has shown no indication of being able to put up the numbers he put up in Oakland, although for nearly 20m (Sorry Giants fans), he should be much better than 1-6. The Dodgers are clearly better and possibly the Padres and Diamondbacks as well. If the Giants do finish over .500, you can thank the revamped bullpen.

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