SF Giants have become a target for reclamation pitchers

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – As if the results didn’t already speak for themselves, the work of pitching coach Andrew Bailey, director of pitching Brian Bannister and their staff was validated with a few words spoken by newly signed pitcher Jakob Junis.

“I wanted to join a team that was definitely up to date when it came to pitching,” Junis said. “And this is definitely a team that’s on that path.”

Junis is one of five weapons the Giants have added since last season, and nearly all have echoed his sentiment. They watched Kevin Gausman turn a two-year deal into $110 million. Drew Smyly hadn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2016, when he signed with Texas in 2019. After seven appearances in San Francisco, the Atlanta Braves gave him $11 million last season.

San Francisco has become a destination for reclamation project pitchers. The island of mismatched toys would be an apt metaphor if only they turned those scraps from Santa’s workshop back into premium gifts.

Numerous other arms have resurrected their careers in San Francisco over the past two seasons, including two current rotation members. Alex Wood joined the Giants last year and has had his best season since his first stint with the Dodgers. Anthony DeSclafani signed the longest contract Farhan Zaidi has ever awarded a pitcher this offseason after arriving in San Francisco last year and failing to rediscover his top-of-the-rotation form since suffering an ulnar collateral ligament in 2016 had snapped in his elbow.

“They’re very good with pitchers here,” noted Carlos Rodón, the frail left-hander who the Giants believe could become their next star student after signing a two-year, $44 million deal (with an option to payment after one year). if he goes 110 innings).

“You saw the year Gausman had. … Lots of high expectations and kind of underperforming (early in his career), and he came to the right place (in San Francisco),” Rodón said. “I noticed.”

How do you do that? There’s no one-size-fits-all formula, but the principles remain the same: data—lots of it—and communication. The Giants employ not one, not two, but three pitching coaches on their major league staff — Bailey, Bannister and assistant JP Martinez — and this offseason invested millions in a biomechanics lab that’s expanding into their minor-league roster facility down here to provide a form of home to the technology that the Giants refined under Zaidi’s regime.

Motion capture creates millions of data points for each pitcher, from every step of their delivery to the shape of their pitches.

For DeSclafani, that meant relying on his career-high wipeout slider — 35.7% of his pitches, according to Statcast data — and working with the pitching team to refine his movement. This data can be passed even as fast as the same game.

“If you give them complete freedom to give you (feedback) whenever something’s wrong in the game, they’ll do it about within the next inning,” DeSclafani said. “I came in here last year and I kind of gave up, like, hey, let me know what you got. I am listening. … I think it’s great that you’re always being watched by several pairs of eyes.”

Rodón, like Gausman, possessed a repertoire worthy of a first-round selection out of college and rose quickly through the minor leagues but struggled to gain a foothold at the top of a big-league rotation. Eventually, under the stewardship of Bailey junior Ethan Katz, he put together a Cy Young-worthy campaign last season, but his shoulder gave way to exhaustion at the end of the year after throwing three times the innings he had in the two previous seasons was recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Like DeSclafani in 2021, who made just seven starts the year before, the Giants will carefully manage Rodón’s workload. But that doesn’t come in the form of a strict innings limit set by top decision-makers. Starting at the start of spring training, it meets with each player and sets goals for the season and a plan to achieve them. In other words: communication.

“Part of our process that I want to reiterate is listening to the pitcher,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We want to stay away from anything that compliments ourselves, but I feel like we have a coaching staff, a pitching department that does a good job of helping a guy like Carlos. … We’re not resting on our laurels or trying to repeat the exact same process with these pitchers, but we’re very confident that we can help Carlos be good.

Meet the hopefuls

Matthew Boyd, LHP

Age: 31

Last team: Detroit

Earned: 1 year free agent contract worth $5.2M (with $2.3M in incentives)

Giant’s latest pitching acquisition, which is said to have agreed to his contract on Thursday. Will start the season with a 60-day injury list and won’t be ready until June after undergoing surgery in October to repair his flexor tendon. Before he was shut down last June, he had his best MLB season with a 3.44 ERA in 13 starts.

Alex Cobb, RHP

Age: 34

Last team: Los Angeles Angels

Earned: 2-year, $20 million free agent contract

If there’s one pitcher the Giants have acquired this offseason that they’ll be perfectly content to repeat his past results, it’s Cobb. He posted a 3.76 ERA in 18 starts last season but has not pitched 100 innings since 2018. There are signs that there could be something more: Cobb went 35-23 in his first four MLB seasons in Tampa with a 3.21 ERA.

Jakob Junis, RHP

Age: 29

Last team: Kansas City

Purchased: 1-year, $1.75M contract

Went 18-15 in his first two MLB seasons with a 4.35 ERA but hasn’t equaled those numbers in three years. Posted a career-best 3.41 xFIP or expected to field independently for an advanced ERA-like stat that caught Kapler’s eye.

Carlos Martinez, RHP

Age: 31

Last team: St. Louis

Earned: $2.5M MiLB contract if he creates an MLB roster, with an additional $1.5M in incentives

Two-time All-Star with the Cardinals as a starter before moving to a bullpen role where he also thrived. But between shoulder problems and a torn thumb ligament, he’s only started 21 games over the past two seasons with a 6.95 ERA.

Carlos Rodon, LHP

Age: 29

Last team: Chicago White Sox

A power pitcher with a dominant fastball who was fickle early in his career but discovered himself last season, earning his first All-Star nod and finishing fifth on the AL Cy Young vote. However, he has only pitched 100 innings twice in the last five seasons.

https://www.thereporter.com/2022/03/18/analysis-sf-giants-have-turned-into-destination-for-reclamation-pitchers/ SF Giants have become a target for reclamation pitchers

Dais Johnston

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