Jeremy Affeldt was nothing short of amazing for the San Francisco Giants in his first season with the club in 2009. Affeldt went 2-2 with a 1.73 ERA and had 33 holds that year. His WHIP was 1.17 and he allowed just 42 hits in 62.1 innings pitched.
The following season, however, was rough on San Francisco's middle reliever, as Affeldt finished with a 4.14 ERA and just seven holds in an injury-shortened 2010.
Affeldt has had a difficult time getting back on track, fighting through some early struggles in 2011 as well, but if his performance in his last two outings is any indication, Jeremy Affeldt may have gotten his groove back.
Affeldt struck out five of the six batters he faced before a national audience on Sunday night against the Cleveland Indians and picked up a save in San Francisco's 3-1 victory to finish off a three-game sweep of the Tribe over the weekend.
Affeldt's feat of striking out five batters and recording the save makes him the first pitcher to do that in 2011 (only two did so in 2010: teammate Brian Wilson and Carlos Marmol of the Chicago Cubs).
Affeldt then threw a perfect 1.1 innings in relief against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in the first game of a doubleheader on Tuesday.
Predicting the 'pen's ERA in 2011: What do you think the bullpen's ERA will be at season's end?
In the month of June Affeldt has been superb, posting a 0.68 ERA and 17 strikeouts compared to just three walks in 13.1 innings pitched.
And that's a great sign for an already stellar bullpen. Despite the Giants' offensive woes (Tuesday's hitting parade excluded), the defending champions have maintained their status as leaders of the National League West on the backs of their starting rotation and a stingy relief corps.
If Affeldt, who is a key and core component of that bullpen, continues his return to dominance, San Francisco's 'pen could be even better—if that's possible.
If there's anything that keeps National League hitters up at night, it's the Giants pitching staff. The defending world champions are struggling at the plate again in 2011, but an ever-improving bullpen that is already the best in the league could make two or three runs a night stand up.
For Giants manager Bruce Bochy, that's a welcome relief in the form of relief pitching.