San Francisco Giants: Jeremy Affeldt Should Be Full-Time Closer
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Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area reported last night that Giants manager Bruce Bochy has decided to use the closer-by-committee option in the ninth inning between relievers Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Jeremy Affeldt.
Instead of using a different closer depending on matchups, Bochy should just turn the ninth inning over to Affeldt. While Romo is the Giants' best overall reliever, the eighth inning is no less important and Romo should remain where he has been successful.
Also, Romo throws a ton of sliders, and he is undersized, making durability a big question mark with him.
When evaluating a starting pitcher or a non-situational reliever, there are four things I look for: the ability to command the ball and throw strikes, to miss bats, to keep the ball on the ground and in the park and to get opposite-handed hitters out.
Affeldt checks off all of the above boxes. He misses bats (21.3 percent strikeout rate), avoids walks (6.9 percent walk rate), keeps the ball in the park (only one home run allowed in 45.2 innings, 59.1 percent ground ball rate) and gets righties out (.250/.317/.375 slash line allowed versus righties).
Affeldt is third amongst Giants relievers in ERA at 2.56, behind Romo and George Kontos. However, he leads all Giants relievers in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), an ERA-based metric that predicts ERA based on a pitcher's strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed.
Bochy should use Kontos in the sixth inning, Santiago Casilla against righties and the newly acquired Jose Mijares against lefties in the seventh inning, and Romo against righties and Lopez against lefties in the eighth.
Under no circumstances should he use Brad Penny or Clay Hensley in high-leverage situations.
Penny throws hard, but he can't miss bats anymore. In 16.2 innings, he's only whiffed five hitters, which is an unacceptably low strikeout rate.
Hensley throws about 10 miles per hour slower than Penny, but somehow is able to miss a decent number of bats. Hensley's problem is that he can't throw strikes consistently. In 40.1 innings, he's walked 26 hitters, which is an unacceptable walk ratio.
With Kontos, Casilla, Mijares, Romo and Lopez handling the middle innings, the Giants have plenty of options to get righties and lefties out to set up the final inning for Affeldt. When Guillermo Mota returns later this month from suspension, that Giants will get another upgrade in the long relief role.
Closer by committee is not the answer. Relievers prefer set roles and flourish when they have a good idea of when and how they will be used.
Affeldt can miss bats, avoid the walk, keep the ball in the park and on the ground and keep opposite-handed hitters from doing too much damage. He's also the Giants' most experienced reliever, so he is a good bet to bounce back from a blown save.
Romo is the Giants' most lethal relief weapon, but Affeldt is a close second. Affeldt's durability, veteran presence and ability to keep the ball in the park give him the slight edge over Romo in the closer role.
Closer by committee won't remedy the Giants' late-inning woes. A post-deadline trade for a closer won't do the trick,either. Instead, the solution is already on the team.
During this election season, vote Jeremy Affeldt for closer.
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