Ever since the days of the “Core Four” of relievers, consisting of the dominant quartet of Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, and Sergio Romo, the Giants success seems to always be tethered to relief pitching. In every championship year of 2010, 2012, and 2014, the Giants had one or more arms out of the bullpen that could shutdown any offense. In the losing years, the Giants lacked that for the most part. Most notably, the 2017 debacle included one of the worst bullpens, consisting of barely replacement players and did not have many bright spots. The 2018 team actually shows some prowess out of the pen, with Will Smith having a career year and the continued excellence from new additionTony Watson and the emergence of Reyes Moronta. However, a newcomer might be the most dominant reliever on the staff and potentially one of the top relievers in baseball, Ray Black.
Many Giants fans heard about Ray Black through the Arizona Fall League, in which he was hitting over 100 MPH consistently, topping out at 104, and a wipeout slider. Then, arm problems and control issues plagued Black for years, having him fall off the prospect radar and forgotten by most Giants fans. Then, this season, Black finally put it all together. His walk rate plummeted dramatically and kept his strikeouts up in Double-A and when the Giants needed a shakeup, he came in to replace Cory Gearrin after his trade to the Rangers. Expectations were high, but nobody expected him to be this good.
Yesterday against the Diamondbacks, he completed a reliever no-hitter (no hits in his last 9 innings pitched) and struck out Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollack, two of the best hitters in the National League. Not only was he throwing hard, sitting at 98-99 consistently, his slider and curveball were downright unhittable and the location of his pitches were almost perfect. Since his first outing in the big leagues, where Matt Carpenter gave him a rude 3-run homer, he has not allowed a single hit and has only walked three batters and struck out 13.
The Giants were looking all year last year for somebody that could shore up the late innings. This year, even with injuries to many arms on the staff, it seems like with Will Smith at the back and Reyes Moronta and Ray Black pitching before him that the games the Giants play could be shortened dramatically. Will Smith is also under contract for the next two years and Black and Moronta for six more, so the Giants bullpen could be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.