Highlighting the Top Arms in the 2023 Giants Bullpen
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The San Francisco Giants did a lot of work on their bullpen in the offseason. However, their two most consistent arms out of the ‘pen have been on the team for the past couple of seasons. Those pitchers are Camillo Doval and Tyler Rogers. These pitchers have been nothing short of elite and are locked in as the anchors of this strong bullpen.
Camillo Doval has been absolute, must-see TV in the 2023 MLB season. This Giants reliever has been tasked with the role of pitching as the closer. Manager Gabe Kapler has made it clear that Doval is the pitcher he trusts most, as he has appeared in 23 of the 50 games played by the Giants. Doval is establishing himself as one of the nastiest and most reliable closers in the game. How is Doval accomplishing this success early in the season? His numbers tell a story of an outlier-type pitcher who has the ability to lead the MLB in saves by season’s end.
On the surface, Doval’s numbers are not difficult to interpret. He is boasting a 1.99 ERA with 13 saves in 22.2 innings. Doval had just 68 games played in 2022, so his 23 games played this early are another sign of Kapler’s increased trust in him. Digging a bit deeper into his numbers shows elite strikeout numbers with devastating spin on his primary pitches. He has a 36.6% strikeout percentage, good for a K/9 of 13.50. His spin rate percentiles paired with other elite rankings are just as impressive. He ranks in the 98th percentile for fastball velocity, 93rd for fastball spin, 94th in Whiff %, and 95th in expected batting average against. Doval has come out of the gates red hot. He has only missed one save opportunity thus far and is pitching with more and more confidence every time he takes the mound. His three-pitch mix has been extremely effective at collecting outs in his appearances. Doval uses all of his pitches at pretty much the same rate, with his sinker, slider, and cutter being thrown 36.9%, 35%, and 28.1% of the time respectively. His most impressive pitch this year has been his slider. This pitch has generated a -5 run value, according to Baseball Savant, and is well on its way to matching or even breaking the -17 run value of the slider from Doval’s 2022 season.
There are a few downsides to Doval’s performance so far, however. His baseball savant rankings have him in the 1st percentile for HardHit % and the 6th for average exit velocity. Some other below-average ranks are his 24th percentile in walk percentage and 18th in Chase Rate. The way the game of baseball is played these days is all about capitalizing on the aspects that make a player elite. Doval clearly has elite talent, but this success is coming at the expense of the lackluster percentile rankings listed above. Doval will continue to have success in 2023. His numbers will normalize and he will not remain in the 1st percentile for HardHit% for very long. Expect to see this 25-year-old fireballer throwing in the All-Star Game.
Camilo Doval Statcast, Visuals & Advanced Metrics | MLB.com | baseballsavant.com
The other key piece of the Giants bullpen has been the polar opposite of Camillo Doval. That man is Tyler Rogers, one of baseball’s funkiest pitchers. He throws from an extreme submarine arm slot and features a slider that appears to rise up and away to a right-handed hitter. Rogers possesses the quality that the Giants coaching staff values the most: He does not give up home runs. In 75.2 innings in the 2022 season, he posted a 0.36 home runs per 9 innings. He is replicating that success in 2023, as he has a 0.69 HR/9 in 26 innings pitched. Rogers is used primarily as a leverage reliever with the ability to induce soft contact for the defense to make outs. His soft-contact approach is reflected in his below-average strikeout numbers and his high ground ball percentage. Rogers has a 7.27 K/9 and a 51.4 ground ball percentage this far in the 2023 season.
Just like Doval, Rogers is able to capitalize on the aspects of his game that can turn him into an elite reliever. His Savant page features extremely impressive percentiles, with the most notable being a 99th percentile in barrel percentage, 97th in expected slugging, 97th in expected ERA, and 90th in HardHit %. Again, like Doval, Rogers sacrifices some aspects of his game to be able to find the results the Giants are looking for. Because of his unorthodox delivery, Rogers lands in the first percentile for fastball velocity (83 MPH on average) and fastball spin rate. Rogers also accepts the fact that he will not strike out hitters at high rates, made clear by his 34th percentile in strikeout percentage, 33rd in Whiff %, and 32nd in Chase Rate.
Rogers’ success in 2023 is no accident. His surface stats of a 2.08 ERA in 22 games with a FIP of 3.70 are very impressive. His expected ERA only differs by 27 points from his actual ERA (2.35 xERA and 2.08 standard). Rogers is doing a lot for the Giants in leverage situations. His FanGraphs page shows he is leaving runners on base 81.9% of the time. This statistic pairs nicely with his above-average walk percentage of 8.8%. Like his teammate above, Rogers has a solid chance of appearing in the All-Star Game if his numbers continue to shine like they have. His funky throwing motion would certainly draw attention on that stage, and maybe he would start to gain the respect he deserves.
The Giants’ bullpen has been among the best since the start of the month of May. In fact, ever since Sean Manaea transitioned into a bullpen role, it seems like all of their guys have found their groove out there. Gabe Kapler is able to trust the entire ‘pen as opposed to just the two players listed above. However, Doval and Rogers’ success can not be overlooked, as they have been the bright spots the Giants desperately needed. The Giants were very confident in the moves they made in the offseason to bolster their bullpen strength. With Luke Jackson making rehab appearances in the minors and the success of the major-league guys, the Giants have a good chance at having one of the best bullpens in baseball by the end of 2023.