Tag: Sergio Romo

5 Bold Predictions for the San Francisco Giants in 2014

With Opening Day just around the corner, the San Francisco Giants are looking to redeem themselves after a 76-86 record in 2013.

The Giants have won two out of the last four World Series, but there are some serious question marks about their 2014 club.

Can their starting pitching return to old form? Will Pablo Sandoval have a productive season? Can their defense improve?

Here are five bold predictions for the Giants in 2014. 

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San Francisco Giants’ Investment in the Bullpen Paying off Early in 2013

In the top of the sixth inning Monday night, the Colorado Rockies knocked out San Francisco Giants‘ starter Madison Bumgarner. They coaxed five walks out of him on the night and cut the Giants’ 3-0 lead to 3-2 against him.

The Giants bullpen would let the Rockies get no further. Santiago Casilla stranded the tying run at second base with a strikeout of Yorvit Torrealba to end the sixth before throwing a perfect seventh.

Jeremy Affeldt followed with a scoreless eighth inning. Sergio Romo allowed a leadoff double in the ninth, but then struck out the next three hitters to end the game for his fourth save of the season.

The Giants bullpen combined to throw 3.1 innings of scoreless baseball Monday night. They struck out six of the 11 hitters they faced while only allowing one baserunner. It was a dominant performance that helped vindicate general manger Brian Sabean‘s decision to invest heavily in the bullpen this offseason.

One of Sabean‘s first moves of the winter was to re-sign Affeldt to a three-year, $18 million contract. He also gave Casilla a three-year, $15 million extension with a club option for a fourth year. He then finished by buying out Romo’s two remaining seasons of arbitration for $9 million.

According to research by Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles, the Giants now have the second most expensive bullpen in the game after Sabean‘s winter shopping spree. They are eighth in percentage of payroll allocated to the bullpen.

It’s sabermetric dogma that it isn’t good business to invest heavily in the pen. Relievers can be created out of thin air on the cheap, which saves resources for the rest of the roster.

Romo—a 28th-round draft pick—and Casilla—whom the Giants signed as a minor league free agent—are good examples of why teams shouldn’t overpay for relief pitching on the free agent market.

However, Sabean decided that he had to spend some money to keep his three horses off the market. Since Casilla came aboard in 2010, he’s put up a 2.25 ERA for the Giants—good for eighth best in baseball among relievers. Romo has the third best ERA at 1.81 during that period. Affeldt‘s 3.03 ERA since 2010 is pretty good, too.

A large part of their success is due to their ability to pitch effectively against opposite-handed hitters. Over the last three years prior to 2013, Romo has held lefties to a weak .590 OPS, Affeldt has held righties to a .734 OPS and Casilla has held lefties to a .687 OPS (the league average OPS has hovered between .719 and .728 from 2010-12).

The Giants are more dependent on the bullpen than most teams because they play so many tight, low-scoring games in their spacious home ballpark. They absolutely need to win close games in order to make the playoffs because they don’t have an explosive offense that can consistently blow the opposition out.

So far this season, Romo and the bullpen have saved leads of 3-0, 5-3, 1-0 and 4-2. Last year, the Giants tied the Reds for the best winning percentage in one-run games by going 30-20. They were 33-22 in one-run games the year before and 28-24 in one-run games on their run to the first World Series title in 2010.

The relief trio of Affeldt, Casilla and Romo has helped the Giants hold on to a lot of close leads on the path to winning two out of the last three World Series titles. Sabean invested heavily to retain them this winter and reward them for a job well done. On Monday night, he looked wise for having done so.

Early in 2013, the Giants’ formula for winning looks a lot like it did over the last three years. That means the bullpen is going to be counted on to save a lot of tight games.

So far, Sabean‘s veterans appear up to the task once more.

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Sergio Romo: Will He Last as the San Francisco Giants’ Full-Time Closer?

When Brian Wilson went down in the first week of the 2012 season, many Giants fans panicked. Some lost hope for the whole year. 

After all, the Giants didn’t have any proven ninth inning options, and the last several World Series champions, including the 2010 Giants, had proven closers. 

Bruce Bochy didn’t make many fans feel better when installing Santiago Casilla as the closer, and after a very good start as closer, Casilla folded and cost the Giants some games. So then, the Giants went to a closer-by-committee format. 

Why? Because they didn’t fully trust Sergio Romo’s durability at closer.

Eventually, Bochy started giving most of the opportunities for saves to Romo, and he made Bochy‘s trust pay off in the regular season and in the playoffs. Romo went 1-0 with an 0.84 ERA and four saves with nine games finished in the playoffs, closing out the World Series with three perfect innings (total) in the World Series.

However, there are still some concerns about the little ball of energy that is the San Francisco closer.

Romo’s elbow has always been a concern, and his small frame is as well. While I’m not worried about his size, as he has pitched three days in a row before and is much heavier than Tim Lincecum, his elbow, which acts up at times, is a concern.

Even when Romo was clearly the best in the bullpen, his durability concerns prompted Bochy to give the job to Casilla. However, after seeing Casilla thrive in low-pressure situations or in the eighth inning, it’s hard to give him the job. The Giants pursued other relievers in the offseason, but they didn’t want to use Brandon Lyon as the closer.


Romo has the talent to close games, and he showed he has the mentality to be a closer. It was on display even more when Romo allowed three consecutive hits and a run against the Reds in Game 5 of the NLDS. One home run would have ended the Giant’s season, but he recovered to battle Jay Bruce and win in 12 pitches, before striking out Scott Rolen to finish off the game.

That’s the moment when everyone realized that Romo had the guts to close. It would have taken a lot for Bochy to insert Romo into another bullpen role, and the closer-by-committee won’t work for a whole season. It worked during the stretch run, but Romo is a better option, and Bochy knows how much easier it is for relievers to operate in a settled role.

As Andrew Baggarly of csnbayarea.com notes here, Bochy will have Romo start out as closer and save almost all of the games. He may give occasional save opportunities to Jeremy Affeldt or Casilla, but Romo will be the closer.   

Casilla has struggled in high-pressure situations and probably can’t operate in that situation for a whole season, and Bochy probably agrees. Javier Lopez cannot pitch to righties at all, and lefties, who are supposed to do well against Romo, hit under .200 against him last year.

So if the Giants do need to replace him, they won’t have many options from within the team. To get another closer, they will have to trade some good players. The Giants don’t operate on trades or signings of big-name players, so doing that unless Romo goes down with an injury seems unlikely.

Bochy is a manager who runs on trust, and if Romo has a couple of bad games he won’t yank him from his role. Romo is consistent, and he took a heavier workload in 2012. There are breaks in the baseball season, and it’s not like Romo will be pitching every day. The Giants have a very strong bullpen that can eat up innings and five guys in the rotation that can go the distance on any day, so it’s not like Romo will be pitching every day.

Professional athletes are strong and can handle a lot, and Romo can definitely handle the closer’s workload. In the playoffs, he showed he has the late-season stuff and the guts to close out games and succeed on a big stage, and he’s ready to attack in 2013.

Setup man is no easy role, and that’s the role Romo dominated in for most of the 2012 season and all of 2011. Romo has proven to be durable, and he has proven that he can carve up any hitter at any time. Just ask Miguel Cabrera.

Last year, Romo converted 18 of his 19 save opportunities (including the postseason), and the only one he didn’t convert was when Casilla was closing and Romo blew an eighth inning lead. Romo’s ERA was 1.79 last year, and there’s not much more the Giants can ask for him to do. He’s proven to be the best reliever on the the team, and he’s proven that he can handle closing.

Which is why he’s going to be the Giants closer for a long time.  

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Buying or Selling the Latest San Francisco Giants Rumors

After keeping the core of their championship team together by re-signing free agents Jeremy Affeldt, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro, the latest rumors pertaining to the San Francisco Giants mostly surround the periphery of the roster.

For example, the Giants were rumored to be interested in backup outfielder Endy Chavez before he agreed to a minor league deal elsewhere on Monday.

Before missing out on Chavez, the Giants were busy building the depth of their roster by signing free agent outfielder Andres Torres to a major league deal, claiming reliever Sandy Rosario off of waivers and agreeing to minor league contracts with catcher Guillermo Quiroz, infielder Wilson Valdez and reliever Chad Gaudin.

With the big transactions of the winter already taken care of, the Giants will spend the rest of the offseason continuing to build up the bench and bullpen.

The biggest questions that remain are whether the club will re-sign Brian Wilson, trade Tim Lincecum and extend the contracts of Buster Posey and Sergio Romo.

The latest news on Wilson courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Henry Schulman is that the team was not close to a deal with the bearded closer. Wilson was reportedly unhappy with the team’s decision to not tender him a contract last month.

Had the Giants tendered Wilson, he likely would have made close to the $8.5 million salary that he earned last season when he made just two appearances before going under the knife for a second Tommy John procedure on his elbow.

Given Wilson’s unhappiness with the club’s decision to non-tender him, I would sell on the rumors of him coming back to the Giants. The Giants want him back but are near their budget ceiling at this point in the winter. Most free agents go to the highest bidder, and it’s hard to envision the Giants outbidding other suitors for Wilson—particularly given his public frustration with the organization. 

Nick Carardo of the Boston Globe wrote that Lincecum was available in a trade earlier this winter, but general manager Brian Sabean put that speculation to rest almost as soon as it began.

While it’s possible that Sabean would still entertain trade offers for Lincecum even after telling the media he had no intention of making a deal, he likely would have been more active in finding a replacement this winter.

With free agents Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez, Ryan Dempster, Brandon McCarthy and Edwin Jackson off the market, the Giants would have a hard time replacing Lincecum if they dealt him, unless they got a big-league ready arm in return for him. 

With Sabean shooting down rumors of a Lincecum deal earlier this winter and the Giants not active in the free agent pitching market, I would bet the farm on him being in the Giants rotation in 2013. Even with Lincecum in the fold, the Giants remain short on starting pitching depth outside of the five returning starters in the big league rotation. 

This late in the winter, not many teams have the money available to acquire a pitcher making $22 million—especially one coming off the worst season of his career. The better question isn’t whether or not Lincecum will be in the Giants rotation, but which version of Lincecum will show up in 2013?

John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Giants were open to the idea of a contract extension for Buster Posey. Posey is in a similar situation to the one Lincecum was in after the 2009 season.

Lincecum was eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, and normally the advantage is with the team in arbitration hearings. However, because Lincecum had two Cy Young awards on his resume, he had the leverage. The Giants ultimately agreed to buy out two years of arbitration with a $23 million contract extension.

Posey has a batting title, MVP award, Rookie of the Year award and two World Series titles on his resume. The Giants will control him through arbitration for the next four years regardless, but a contract extension to provide cost certainty and buy out some free agent years would make a lot of sense.

I would buy the rumors of a contract extension for Posey, and I would also expect the team to extend Sergio Romo—who is also eligible for salary arbitration. The three-year contract extension the Giants recently gave to Santiago Casilla would be a reasonable deal for Romo.

The Giants are done making big splashes this winter, which means Lincecum will almost certainly be in the rotation when spring training rolls around. The Giants might want Wilson back in the bullpen, but my guess is that he will stick to his word and move on.

The smart money is on multi-year contract extensions for Posey and Romo, the two most critical members of the team eligible for salary arbitration.

The theme of the offseason has been stability, and I would bet on that continuing with contract extensions for two integral members of the 2010 and 2012 championship teams.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Could the San Francisco Giants Trade for a Closer?

When Brian Wilson got hurt in April, Bruce Bochy had a big decision to make.

Would he choose Sergio Romo, the star reliever whom righties can’t hit? Would he choose Javier Lopez, the left-handed submariner whom lefties can’t hit? Or would he choose Santiago Casilla, the hard-throwing righty who can be very erratic.

Surprisingly, Bochy chose Casilla. It seemed to be the right move, as Casilla converted 20 of his first 21 save opportunities.

Then, the wheels came off.

In just eight short appearances, Casilla blew five saves, as his ERA went from 1.32 to 3.34. In four of those eight outings, Casilla allowed two or more runs, and he cost the Giants a win in two of those games. Bochy even said recently that the Giants will rethink the closer situation (h/t Will Brinson of NBCBayArea.com).

However, San Francisco doesn’t have that many other options. Romo has balky knees and elbow problems, and he can’t close on a day-to-day basis. Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt are usually used to face lefties in the seventh or eighth inning, although both could close if needed.

George Kontos and Brad Penny have done a nice job in San Francisco, and both should see some save opportunities coming soon. However, Penny has allowed some home runs and struggled recently, and Kontos is young and inexperienced.

So, what could the Giants do about it?

Trade for a closer.

Huston Street, Jonathan Broxton, Brett Myers and Francisco Rodriguez are all available, and, according to a report from SBNation, the Giants are interested in Broxton. The Royals closer is 22-for-26 on save opportunities, has a 2.34 ERA this year and hasn’t allowed a home run in his last 20.2 IP.

However, Broxton is inconsistent. He strikes out tons of batters, but he also gives up a lot of hits. Last year, Broxton had a 5.68 ERA, and the year before he had a 4.01 ERA.

Broxton could end up being just like Casilla in the second half, and that’s a chance the Giants don’t want to take.

According to Andy Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com, the Giants scouted the Cubs and Royals farm systems. The Giants don’t want to give away top-notch prospects, since they already parted with star pitching prospect Zach Wheeler last year.

However, if the price is right, they could go after Street.

Street is 15-for-15 on save opportunities with a 1.03 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 26.1 innings. Just like Broxton, he has the ability to miss bats. However, Street has also been lights-out this year, and if the Giants traded for him, they would have arguably the best closer and the best setup man in baseball.

They would have to part with some prospects, but one solution is trading a catcher. The Padres have a young catching prospect in Yasmani Grandal, and he is hitting .288 with five home runs (in the majors). However, they could use Giants catcher Tommy Joseph in a trade if the Giants were willing to trade him.

If the Padres won’t take Joseph, San Francisco could find some other prospects. They have a lot of outfielders, and they have Gary Brown. Even though San Francisco probably won’t trade him, he could be used as bait.

No matter whom the Giants trade, they will have to get a closer. Casilla can’t pitch in high-pressure situations, Romo can’t close every day, and no one else seems to be ready to take over at closer yet.

It’s very hard to win in the playoffs without a closer who can handle the pressure, and Street can handle it.

Street can close when the pressure is on, and he has pitched in the playoffs. Broxton has pitched in the playoffs, too, but he has a 4.40 career ERA in the postseason.

And, even though it seems that the Giants have a good bullpen, closing out games is different. No one on the team (except for Romo) has what it takes to close.

Broxton and Street do, and they could really help the Giants.

Or they could hurt the Giants on other teams.

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MLB All-Star Rosters 2012: Setup Men, the Overlooked Key Component

Ah, midsummer.

All-Star season is officially in full bloom, and with rosters having been announced, and new substitutions seemingly every day, a baseball fan can scarcely avoid the ubiquitous discussions of which players are deserving and which ones have no business being anywhere near Kansas City next week.

Especially since this time, it counts.

In 2003, in order to the provide additional incentive for victory, it was agreed that the winner of the All-Star Game would be awarded home-field advantage in the subsequent World Series. The idea was that this would stop managers from simply parading players out on the field; with nothing on the line, the only duty of a manager was to ensure that fans from every city would get to see their representative get some playing time.

Since then, managers have been making a more concerted effort to bring the title home for their respective league. Or have they?

Baseball is never about one single player winning the game for his team. Any manager will tell you that games are rather won by a collaboration of all 25 guys. You need the big boppers, the base stealers, the benchwarmer who can lay down that perfect bunt, the long relievers, the lefty one-out guys and the closers.

The All-Star Game should be no different, but it’s those smaller pieces that get often overlooked. Rosters get stocked with big jumbotron-smashing bats and pitchers who can light up radar guns, but it’s the other, vital smaller pieces that can really win you a close game in the later innings.

One of the most prominent omissions from All-Star Game rosters are setup men. The pitchers whose job it is to maintain a lead in the eighth inning and hand the ball to the closer. Often able to pitch comparably well to the closer, the setup man’s job can be a lot more matchup-based, and therefore arguably tougher. They have to be versatile, able to get the strikeout when called on with the bases loaded and nobody out or able to shut down that dangerous pinch-hitter that the opposing team has been saving for a big spot.

All-Star managers perennially overlook these guys, and instead load their rosters up with closers.

Here are five setup men who were snubbed this year, all deserving of a spot to represent their team.

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MLB Predictions 2011: 15 Setup Men Eyeing the Closer Role

Look at what fantasy baseball has done to us.  We pore over pre-season rankings, stalk the Internet for live game box scores, pray for injuries just major enough to open up opportunities for sleepers.  All in the hope of compiling enough saves to win the category.

Of course, roto leagues aren’t the only reason for the baseball-loving public’s collective love affair with closers, but they sure do bring out the fanatic in all of us.

Prior to 1969, saves weren’t even and official statistic.  Prior to 1960, they didn’t exist at all.  For roughly 70 years, the sport got along just fine without having a specific way of quantifying close-game, ninth-inning success, but in the decades since its inception, the save has come to dominate the way managers deploy pitching staffs.

As relievers became more popular in the latter half of the last century, the best arms were used more and more in high-pressure situations. Ultimately, that led to the modern “closer”, usually a bullpen’s most reliable arm that could come in and preserve ties or leads at the end of games.

With teams depending so heavily on closers, it’s not enough to have just one established guy.  Each club also needs a closer-in-waiting or two, setup men that, if needed, can step in and get the job done.

So who has staked their claim to the closer-in-waiting spot in 2011?  It’s time to review (in no particular order) the 15 best relievers who aren’t closing now, but could be in line for saves before the season is out.

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Game 3 Report Card: San Francisco Giants

The Giants have been torturing the San Francisco faithful all year and this game was no different. This game had two blown saves, two lead changes, and a crucial error all within one inning.

Bottom line is, they won 3-2 and have a 2-1 series lead going into Monday’s Game 4.

Pablo didn’t play. Jonathan Sanchez’s stellar performance. How does Brooks Conrad fit in?

Starting pitching, bullpen, offense, and managerial decisions. All to be analyzed.

Let’s see how the Giants fared after Game 3 of their series with the Atlanta Braves.

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San Francisco Giants: Game 2 Report Card From Loss to Atlanta Braves

It seemed all but over. The Giants were leading 4-1 with two innings to go.

San Francisco has one of the best bullpens in baseball, but there came the Atlanta Braves, and in the blink of an eye, the game was tied.

It marked the second time that night a team came back from a 4-0 deficit to win the game, as the Braves eventually won 5-4 in 11 innings thanks to a home run by Rick Ankiel.

Now the series moves back to Georgia tied at one.

The Braves are one of the best teams at home in baseball, and the Giants will need at least one win there in order to bring the DivisionSseries right back to San Fran for a Game 5 showdown.

Here are the grades for the San Francisco Giants. 

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San Francisco Giants’ Barry Zito and Bruce Bochy Keep Confidence High in 2010

The San Francisco Giants sure aren’t making it easy on a guy thus far in 2010.

With Ultimate Fighting Championship 113 erupting this weekend in Montreal, I’ve been meaning to take a look at what is sure to be an epic rematch between Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.

In addition, there’s a crackerjack bout between Paul “Semtex” Daley and Josh “Kos” Koscheck with the winner rumored to get a shot at UFC Welterweight Champion Georges “Rush” St. Pierre. GSP is arguably the best pound-for-pound mixed martial artist in the world.

Suffice it to say there’s sure to be quite a bit of seismic MMA coming out of the Bell Centre. That means there’s a ton to discuss and I really want to oblige.

The problem is that my beloved Giants keep winning. Not only that, they keep doing so in impressive fashion that demands comment.

We could use Tuesday’s gem from Tim Lincecum, subsequent arson by Sergio Romo, and resilient effort from the offense to finally secure the win as an example. It would make a good one, especially because it included a two-out, game-tying bomb from Aaron Rowand in the top of the ninth.

However, Wednesday’s twinkler from Barry Zito and a second straight defeat of the young Florida Marlins makes for a better offering.

At this point, Baked Zito’s brilliance is almost yawn worthy. Almost.

Although he’s been exceptional in the early going, the crafty southpaw’s turn in the Sunshine State pushed him over the hump in my mind. I’m no longer waiting for the wheels to fall off when this little run ends.

It will certainly end and Barry will get shelled like every other pitcher in Major League Baseball eventually does.

But no way he regresses back to the whisper of a Cy Young winner he was until the middle of 2009. The elder statesman of the rotation has strung together too many confidence-enhancing trips to the bump for the mirage to dissolve completely.

Any eventual hiccup will be simply that, a hiccup.

As proof, take a look at his Wednesday work.

Zito had all of his pitches working and turned the ferocious Fish into the flailing variety just as Lincecum had the previous night. Granted, he only registered a fraction of the Freak’s whiffs (four vs. 13), but he effectively removed the sting from the lumber and thusly only surrendered a fraction of the runs as well (one vs. three).

If not for a couple nickle-and-dimers in the eighth inning, he wouldn’t have suffered a blemish in the run department.

The confidence Zito’s been showing of late—in his demeanor, his pitch selection, and pitch execution—was on full display in Sun Life Stadium. It doesn’t come easily and, happily, it’s not lost easily either.

Barry obviously missed it for a few years, there, but he’s got it back. I bet he holds onto it for dear life now that he’s seen rock bottom and emerged from the valley.

Of course, the good news doesn’t stop there.

After the Baseball Gods put Zito’s goodies in the eighth inning ringer, the pseudo-goat from Tuesday entered a bases-loaded nightmare with nobody out and Hanley Ramirez gliding to the plate. The tying run jittered off second base and Romo had to record all three outs, beginning with arguably the Bigs’ hottest hitter.

I’m sure all the Giant “fans” who love to hate Bruce Bochy had their pitchforks out and were whetting the second-guessing tips as Romo took his warm-ups.

Sadly for that courageous group, Sergio broke off three wicked sliders and retired Hanley on three pitches. Three swings, actually, that weren’t even close. For good measure, the righty set-up ace used another three pitches to induce an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

Ahem, that’s the No. 3 and No. 4 hitters dispatched using a mere six-shooter despite the sacks drunk with Marlins and essentially no room for error.

Crisis averted, reliever redeemed, weapon in place, and we have Boch to thank for it.

Must’ve just been luck.

I guess I could spell out the finer points of Bochy’s managerial acumen, but why bother? Romo did an infinitely better job with emotion than I could ever do with words when asked by Duane Kuiper how he felt about his manager’s willingness to run him right back out into a zero-margin situation:

“Huge, HUGE, [chuckle], thank you, Bochy [another chuckle]…that’s all I could ask for, an opportunity to prove myself once again.”

Baseball is a game of faith above all else—if you believe you can perform as necessary, you will and vice versa.

Bruce Bochy knows this and he also knows a well-timed, external vote of confidence can inspire exponentially more of the internal kind.

If you don’t believe me, go ask Sergio Romo.

Or Hanley Ramirez…




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