© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
A lead in baseball is only as good as a team’s ability to maintain it. In 2007, the Texas Rangers scored 30 runs against the Baltimore Orioles, but their unprecedented downpour would have been for nothing if their pitching staff gave up 31 runs.
After scoring the second fewest runs in the major leagues in 2017, the San Francisco Giants improved their lead-taking ability by adding Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. However, Duane Kuiper agreed with Murph & Mac on Wednesday morning that it was just as important for the Giants to better their lead-maintaining ability with the acquisition of reliever Tony Watson.
“He’s a really solid guy,” Kuiper said. “He’s put up some great numbers. He was a closer at one point. It’s a fantastic addition. You’re right, it can be just as important as Longoria or McCutchen.”
During his seven years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Watson wore multiple hats in the bullpen. Although most of his time was spent in the eighth inning, Watson served as Pittsburgh’s closer from 2016-2017 after former closer Mark Melancon signed with the Giants.
Even after being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers last July, Watson’s success continued and he added to an already impressive postseason resume all the way through the World Series. Watson has now appeared in 16 playoff games, where he’s pitched 12 innings and boasts a 2.25 ERA with two wins in last year’s World Series.
Watson’s addition not only strengthens the Giants’ bullpen, but also buys time for Will Smith to ease back into the major leagues after undergoing Tommy John surgery last spring.
“If you don’t know for sure what you’re going to get out of Will Smith, and there’s every indication that he’s going to be fine, but whatever that small percentage that he’s not, or that it’s not going to be May 1, well then you need a veteran that is going to help bridge that gap and that’s who you got,” Kuiper said.
While the crack of Longoria or McCutchen’s bats are reasons for Giants fans to be excited, the hope that San Francisco’s bullpen woes are in the rearview mirror is just as exciting.
“We’ve sat through games where your right fielder and third baseman have come up with really big hits, only to see a reliever give it up and lose the game,” Kuiper said. “So, this is huge. It’s just a building block to where they’re trying to get, which is close to 90 wins and that’s going to be hard to do, but they can do it.”
To listen to the full interview check out the podcast below, and skip to 6:43 for Kuiper on Watson.