The San Francisco Giants had previously developed a reputation for having stout starting pitching and a shutdown bullpen, but greatly struggled to show any resemblance to the brand of team they used to be in 2013. Giants starters posted a 4.37 ERA last season, their worst since registering a 4.58 mark in 2006. San Francisco’s bullpen was equally troublesome, often allowing inherited runners to score while failing to efficiently get out of late-inning jams.
The Giants allowed 691 runs in 2013, allowing roughly 4.3 runs per game. That figure needs to dip below 4.0 runs per contest if they’re going to compete for the NL West title this season. San Francisco’s potential success is almost entirely subject to whether its pitching staff can reassert itself as a dominant force.
Spring Training will reveal the Giants’ pitching depth, which was a big-time issue for the two-time World Champs in 2013. Manager Bruce Bochy recently indicated the Giants will carry five outfielders on their 25-man roster, potentially decreasing the number of relievers they decide to keep active. Assuming all pitchers are able to stay healthy throughout camp, this could create a logjam competition for the final bullpen spot.
The Giants’ bullpen will definitely feature left-handed specialist Javier Lopez, left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt, setup man Santiago Casilla and closer Sergio Romo. It’s also highly likely for either Yusmeiro Petit or newcomer David Huff to make the Giants’ Opening Day roster as a long reliever.
The Giants will risk losing either Huff or Petit at the conclusion of camp, barring an unforeseen injury. The acquisition of Huff was essentially an unofficial insurance policy, granting the Giants some flexibility if probable no. 5 starter Ryan Vogelsong unexpectedly struggles — or worse. Depth was a problem for the Giants across the chart in 2013. Adding players like Huff over the offseason served the purpose of mitigating that issue to some degree.
The battle for the final bullpen spot will feature a band of players who boast minimal big league experience. The most intriguing name on that list is strong-armed reliever Heath Hembree, who struck out 12 hitters in 7.2 innings of work without allowing a run last season. Other probable candidates are Eric Cordier, George Kontos and Jean Machi.
The Giants should have a few dependable arms to rely upon in the minor league ranks if desperation strikes. At least four pitchers will compete for one roster spot, which means three of the aforementioned players will likely start the season with the Giants’ triple-A affiliate in Fresno.
If the Giants decide to keep a meager total of six relievers on their active roster, it’s important to ensure that each bullpen role is defined and all gaps are filled. Failing to assemble the deepest staff possible could prove to be detrimental to the Giants’ ability to contend.