Creating a Balance: Giants Sign Jeff Suppan

Ever get tired of hearing about how the Giants have all that outstanding starting and bullpen pitching? If you’re like me, and the low WHIPs and high strikeouts to innings pitched are getting tedious, there’s good news: San Francisco has signed starter Jeff Suppan to a minor league contract. And if the apocalypse strikes earth, or the Mayan calendar ends a year earlier, or if Richard Nixon finally rises from his grave to deal with the rest of the names on his enemies’ list, Jeff Suppan will join the 40 man roster and make $1 million.

jeffsuppan-2How poorly has Jeff Suppan pitched, both recently and throughout his career? That’s a tough one. Apparently a company called Sabermetrics International is working on a radically new mathematical formula to fully comprehend how badly Suppan has performed. You know, dozens of guys in plaid short sleeve shirts, drinking cans of Bladder Stomp Power Soda, and fussing over logarithmic spirals and  EAN-13 encoding. Best of luck to them, but until their work breaks this important new ground we’ll have to try and understand Suppan old school.

Signed to a $40 million four year contract by the Brewers in 2007, Jeff Suppan managed to go 32-49 before they simply released him in 2010, whereupon he caught on with the St. Louis Cardinals. Don’t ask me why. Suppan finished 2010 3-8 with a 5.06 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP. In his 16 year career, Suppan has a 4.69 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. On the good side, he has started 411 career games, so the Giants figured he pretty much knows how to walk out to the mound and do that.

The concept of a “sixth starter” is hardly new. In some cases it’s an older veteran pitcher who is not doing so well and is inexpensively picked up and stashed in triple A. If one of the big team’s five starters gets injured, there’s an arm immediately available to bring up. But a large number of teams use that scenario to give an up and coming young pitcher in their system the chance to show off his stuff. Cause you never know.

That the Giants signed Suppan for this role says a lot about how far away the Giants believe the young pitchers in their system are from ready. 

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