SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Coming off a franchise-record 107 wins and a division crown, the San Francisco Giants will open the season with a bullpen stocked with experienced, proven relievers but without a designated closer.
Just the way manager Gabe Kapler prefers it.
“These things have a way of shaking themselves out,” Kapler said. “We have a handful of guys who from a stuff perspective have plenty of stuff to handle that (ninth) inning. We’ve always said that when players taken control of roles, whether that be position players or relievers, we are not standing in anybody’s way."
“Players identify themselves," he said.
The identification process worked well in 2021, when the bullpen led by Jake McGee, Tyler Rogers, Dominic Leone and later Camilo Doval was among the best in baseball.
The Giants had 56 saves, tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the major league high, and led the majors with a 2.99 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. Their 189 walks were the fewest from any bullpen despite the fact it finished in the top 10 in innings.
The comfort level is hard to overestimate “when you know that you can shrink a game … when you are leading after five, six or seven innings to know that the guys coming into those situations are pretty much lock-down,” Giants first baseman/outfielder Darren Ruf said.
Most of the principals return. Left-hander McGee had a career-high 31 saves, sixth in the NL, right-hander Rogers added 13 and righty Doval had three in the regular-season and one more in the NL Division Series against the Dodgers.
Saves are not the measure that factors in. Rogers had 29 holds, third in the majors, Leone had 15 to go with two saves, McGee had eight holds and Doval six. Holds are calculated the same way as saves for relievers who do not finish the game.
“Overall, we all came together as a group and knew our roles,” McGee said. “To know we were going to be put into good situations helped everyone. It’s going to be the same thing.”
McGee relies on a 95 mph fastball that he threw about 90% of the time last year. Doval combines a fastball/slider mix and regularly hit 100 mph after returning from the minors late in the season.
Doval was “unhittable,” Ruf said, after returning to the Giants on Sept. 5.
Rogers, who throws submarine-style, uses his sinker/slider combination from such a low angle that some of his pitches seem to rise as they near the strike zone. He tops out at about 83 mph.
“I think deception is as important a factor and a feature for a pitcher as any of those others — fastball velocity, breaking ball movement profiles, things like that,” Kapler said.
“Deception is highly, highly underrated. It’s why some guys with lower octane stuff seem to be so effective," he said.
Giants relievers also were effective at keeping base runners at bay. McGee gave up one stolen base in his 62 appearances last season and Rogers allowed four. The Giants are working with Doval to shorten his delivery time with runners on base.
“One of the responsibilities with pitching big innings late in games is you want to be able to control the running game,” Kapler said, “especially given how critical that one-run situation can be. We don’t want a single to turn into a double or a triple. Camilo is committed to that.”
The group has performed well the spring, Kapler said.
“Jake’s stuff looks good,” Kapler said. “He continues to throw a lot of strikes. He’s is right where he needs to be from a stuff perspective. He’s a veteran pitcher who builds up in a way that gives him a good chance to be successful once the bell rings..
“Tyler Rogers looks exactly like Tyler Rogers right now. He gets weak contact," he said. "He’s having a very Tyler Rogers-like camp, and a good one in that.”
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