I am going to piggyback on Chris’ – and Crazy Crabbers’ – earlier post on Bochy’s confounding bullpen usage. (For now, I’ll leave his perplexingly slow hook during Tim Lincecum’s Monday start alone.) Instead of making Chris’ graph more complex, I’ll make it even simpler.
I’m going to focus on four pitchers: Sergio Romo, Dan Runzler, Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez. My reasoning is this: Ramon Ramirez has been good, if a bit lucky, and I have no issue with his usage thus far. Santiago Casilla has only pitched an inning, so he’s hardly worth mentioning – the same goes for Ryan Vogelsong, who’s now taking his turn every five days. Mop-up duty or not, Guillermo Mota has been good when on the mound. I’m fine with how he’s been utilized. And though Brian Wilson hasn’t been especially dominating this season, he has looked much better as of late, and his two-seam fastball is downright filthy. His usage has been perfectly fine. But the first four I mentioned, well, I don’t quite get Bochy’s strategy with them.
The other thing I’m going to do is use batters faced rather than innings pitched. I have my reason for this, also. When we use innings pitched, we’re only capturing the outs made for each pitcher. The batters faced is going to give us, well, the exact number of batters that Bruce Bochy has allowed these guys to throw to.
As you can see, Romo hasn’t faced near the number of batters these three lefties have. It’s really not close. Between the four of them, he’s faced just 14 percent of the batters, or 11 percent less than if the batters were split evenly between the four pitchers. Lopez is getting his fair share at 25 percent, Affeldt has faced 30 percent and Runzler 31 percent.
When you consider their ERAs (and FIPs), that’s pretty silly. Lopez leads the bunch with a stellar 0.59 ERA (2.67 FIP). Romo cruises in at second with a nearly-equally-impressive 0.93 ERA (and better 1.48 FIP). The bottom feeders are what I now “affectionately” call the Meltdown Twins; Affeldt has a 5.28 ERA (5.08 FIP) and Runzler a 7.00 ERA (and 2.76 FIP – perhaps he’s been somewhat unlucky, but deltas like this give you a shade of why many look at FanGraphs‘ — even as indispensable as the site is — pitching WAR with a raised eyebrow).
For the most part, I’m fine with how Lopez has been used. Except, there is just one thing. I sometimes wonder why he’s been allowed to face so many right-handed hitters when he’s just a LOOGY (lefty one out guy.) Looking at his splits reveals what I believe I’ve observed; he’s faced 61 batters and 27 of them have been right handed. That’s too many, because they eat him alive – that’s why he’s a LOOGY, not Billy Wagner. So, it isn’t very surprising, then, that his strikeout to walk ratio (K/BB) versus righties is just 1.00, his WHIP 1.94, his average on balls in play (BABiP) .381 and his FIP 3.46 versus the 2.21 he’s posting versus lefties.
In terms of shutdowns and meltdowns, Lopez has been superb with eight shutdowns to just one meltdown. Simply put, he’s not the problem.
On the other hand, the Meltdown Twins have been pretty unremarkable this season, and that’s probably going easy on them. Affeldt – who was given a very regrettable extension after his fluky 2009 season – has faced 72 batters and walked nine of them; that’s a free pass 12.5 percent of the time. If he was whiffing batters Carlos Marmol-style, that’d be workable. He’s not, though, so it’s unworkable, as is evidenced by his 1.44 K/BB ratio. He’s also already given up two long balls.
Runzler more or less exhibits the same problem; he doesn’t throw enough strikes – 77 batters, nine walks. His K/BB ratio is just 1.67. And exacerbating his problems – and exasperating me each time he’s handed the ball – is Runzler’s Rube Baker syndrome. He can’t make routine throws during a game. He can’t throw to a base on a bunt or throw to a base on a pickoff play. His innings feel like a series of disasters.
Between the Meltdown Twins – Affeldt and Runzler – they have seven meltdowns and seven shutdowns (4:4 for Affeldt and 3:3 for Runzler). It seems, their shot at being successful is literally a coin flip. Those aren’t terribly good odds. If you can’t tell, I’m about as fond of them right now as any of the Parks and Recreation characters are of Jerry… or Michael Scott of Toby on The Office, if you’re more familiar with that.
Finally, we have Romo. On April 24, he hung a slider to Dan Uggla that went a long way. The result was a -.269 win probability added (WPA) and a blown save. Ironically, Affeldt gave up three runs earlier in that game, including a long ball, good for a substantially worse -.398 WPA. Since then, a span of 20 games, Romo has pitched only five times, to seven batters, retiring six of them, four on strikeouts. Interesting stuff, I say.
That’s right. Romo gave up a home run to one of the better power hitters in the league on April 24. For his one mistake, he was buried to the extent that he’s faced seven hitters in three weeks. Runzler’s faced 34 during that period and finished with a negative WPA in half of those six appearances. Affeldt’s faced 31 hitters since that April 24 game in which his hanging curveball was put into the seats by Jason Heyward; a third of those nine appearances have come with a negative WPA, the worst of them being the four earnies he yielded against the Cubs on May 13.
For the season, Romo has five shutdowns to just two meltdowns. And, I’d argue, he hasn’t been given many opportunities to accumulate shutdowns given his outings have been both short and seldom.
The Giants have a bullpen with some pretty good pitchers. For the most part, I don’t have a problem with how Bochy hands out the innings. As Chris noted, it’s nice that he’s not afraid to use his closer in the eighth, when necessary; the alternative – I’m looking at you, Ron Washington – is not pretty. But his neglect of Romo and overuse of Lopez and the Meltdown Twins has got to stop. The Giants have three lefties in their ‘pen – and most would assume that’d be some kind of luxury – but not one of them is a shutdown left-handed pitcher. It’s time they replace one of them with a capable righty, whenever the opportunity presents itself, or at the very least cease sending them to the bump with unreasonable regularity.
I may be wrong, but I believe I read some talk of Bochy feeling Romo is his “secret weapon.” Well, there isn’t really a such thing as a secret weapon in a bullpen. There’s guys that get outs and guys that don’t. A prudent manager ought to use the former of them most often. The Giants’ bullpen remains one of their strengths, and I’d argue that if used more optimally, it can be even more of one.
If that’s depressing, this awesome GIF of Zack Wheeler’s sweet, tailing fastball might help some (h/t Project Prospect).