What Went Wrong in the San Francisco Giants’ Bullpen in 2016?

What happened to the Giants bullpen in 2016? Why did it fall apart? originally appeared on Quorathe knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Court Showerman, played football through high school, on Quora:

What happened to the Giants bullpen in 2016? Why did it fall apart?

This reminds me of one of the baseball axioms, “Line drives are contagious.” This is generally meant to be a rally cry for hitters, but if line drives really are contagious then the pitchers are subject to the outbreak as well.

Here is the crazy thing about the Giants’ bullpen: their final ERA puts them as 15th out of 30 teams.[1] Exactly in the middle of the pack. Even more surprisingly, the first half of the season’s ERA was 3.94 and the second half’s was 3.33.


Here is an individual look at the most used relievers:[2]


The Wins Above Replacement stat is ~1. By all accounts, their performance was somewhere between average and good. Except for one tiny little stat, the Giants lead MLB with 32 blown saves[3] including another league leading 9 in the 9th inning.

So what happened? Well, as with most things in life, the answer is not simply one thing but instead a combination of things.

  1. The offense: the Giants did not have a good offense and were a remarkable 0-55 when trailing after 8 innings. Also, they had a 60-6 record when leading after 8 innings, which is the 3rd worst mark since the team moved to San Francisco. Here is a McCovey Chronicles article, which is fantastic. Of course, it wasn’t all due to the offense.
  2. The 9th inning: Casilla lead MLB with 9 blown saves, and as described above, the Giants blew 9 games leading in the 9th inning. It seemed the bullpen was actually good until the 9th inning and then fell apart. I know statistics has “proved” that there is no such thing as clutch hitters, but the Giants’ bullpen struggled in clutch situations. So you can either say the Giants needed a proven late-inning reliever or just say it was bad luck.
  3. Over-managing: Bruce Bochy was a master of the bullpen in 2012 and 2014, but 2016 was a whole different story. For the first time, the Giants’ relievers were grumbling that Bochy was over-managing by relying solely on R/R or L/L matchups and nobody knew their roles. Did Bochy over-manage because the relievers weren’t performing, or were the relievers not performing because Bochy was over-managing?

Noah Syndergaard summed it up perfectly when the Giants beat the Mets.



[1] Major League Team Stats: 2016 Relievers Dashboard

[2] San Francisco Giants Leaderboards 2016 Relievers Dashboard

[3] Rewind: Bullpen's 32nd and final implosion ends Giants' 2016 season

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