A Stopper is the guy you bring in with runners on base to get out of trouble, to try and keep e runners they inherit away from home plate. Every team should have at least one gritty guy who isn't intimidated by anything, who can get out of just about any jam. Now, no one could be perfect, but one might hope for a good bullpen to allow less than 1 of every 4 Inherited Runners to score.
The Giants, however, fail that benchmark.
So far this season, Giants relievers have inherited 97 runners, and have allowed 39 of them to score. That is a solid 40% of inherited runners who have been allowed to score. That is way, way too many. What is more disturbing is that the blame is shared around the bullpen, though one man does stand prominently over the others.
Runners Inherited and Allowed to Score:
Joe Nathan: 18 of 30; 60%
Tim Worrell: 5 of 10; 50%
Jim Brower: 5 of 12: 42%
Felix Rodriguez: 4 of 15; 27%
Christiansen: 1 of 4; 25%
Scott Eyre: 4 of 19; 21%
Chad Zerbe: 1 of 5; 20%
Manny Aybar: 1 of 1; 100%
Aside from Aybar's 1 for 1, Nathan leads the team in allowing Inherited Runners to score. He was hurt by a particularly nasty stretch in the middle of May, where he was brought in with the bases loaded four times in two weeks, and allowed 11 of the 12 to come around and score. Ugh. Until recently, Eyre had been the best imitation of a stopper the Giants had, but he allowed two runners to come in this past week to raise his percentage back up over 20%.
The worst part of Inherited Runners is that in most stat lines, they aren't represented as knocks against the relievers who allowed them, but they count against the pitchers who were depending on the relievers to bail them out. More often than not, this is the starting pitchers. Of the 39 Inherited Runners scored, 24 have been credited to our six regular starters over this season (Jensen didn't have any credited against him, but he never left any to any relievers. Of course, as a reliever, he hasn't inherited any, so it's all even) Especially with five of those six starters being candidates to tire as the game goes on, having a bullpen that can save them is important, but the bullpen has failed them.
Take into account what the ERA's of the starters would be if only half of the IR's were kept from scoring.
Also keep in mind that two losses have been credited because of inherited runners scoring, one against Ainsworth and one against Moss. Those ERA shifts aren't minor, and that's just if you cut the Inherited Runners to the decent 20% rather than 40%. Imagine if the bullpen was extraordinary at keeping those runners from scoring.
Now, there's the very valid argument that starters that leave runners on base deserve to have those runs counted against him. And it's true, but I also believe that it's up to the relievers to not let them score. That's what a team is: you bail your teammate out.
And that's the bottom line: our bullpen isn't bailing the team out. Between the 9 losses the bullpen has been charged with and the 2 the bullpen allowed, that's 11 of our team's 30 losses that are attributable to the bullpen. That's an incredible 37% of our losses; that's way too much. That's a lot higher than the league average of 30%. Only the Red Sox, Royals, Mets and Padres have a higher percentage of their losses attributable to their bullpens, and the Mets and Padres are by a slim 1%.
When it comes to the problems the Giants have, most people rightfully point to the pitching staff. But from there, opinions differ on whether or not the help needed should go to the rotation or the bullpen. What we know right now, thanks to Peter Gammons of ESPN, is that Magowan has authorized a midseason budget adjustment: Sabean has free reign to go out and get a player to help. But whom?
There is concern about the young starters in our rotation. In particular, that their arms will fall off one way or another. Ainsworth's recent injury is particularly troubling in that end. However, for now, our young pitchers are throwing well; very well. Even with Foppert's meltdown on Sunday, all of our regular starters (including the injured Ainsworth and replacement Williams) have sub-5.00 ERA's. That's without the Inherited Runner adjustment. Only four other teams (Philly, Oakland, Seattle and Florida) can brag to having a full rotation with that, and none are lucky to have six starters (I'm not taking bets on Oakland's upcoming rookie, yet). Right now, our rotation is doing quite alright. However, our bullpen is currently having major problems right now. The way I figure it, when it comes to midseason trades, you should fix what's broken now rather than make preparations to fix what may or may not break in the future.
Of course, that's a situation that could change with Moss and Foppert's next starts, and with Ainsworth's recovery from injury. Until then, though, we've got guys who can start games. Let's worry about getting someone who can stop them.
On another topic, if you haven't been watching the College World Series, you've been missing some entertaining and evenly matched baseball, with many of these kids putting out gutsy amazing performances. Outfielders with bad knees running into the wall and diving to make game saving catches, another with an elbow that needs Tommy John surgery, yet he's gone out there and saved his team in right field again and again, and yesterday's most amazing performance: A 131 pitch start by Stanford's John Hudgins to starve off elimination, only three days after another similar start where he threw 135 pitches. In all, over just ten days, he threw 350 pitches, getting wins in all three starts.
The kids play with some real heart out there. Tonight's deciding game between Rice University and Stanford is at 4 PM eastern time on ESPN, or on the radio at 90.1 FM. Catch it if you can.
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