The Giants’ New Relief Ace

By: Ben Leonard

The Giants’ bullpen has been downright awful this season. Jeremy Affeldt was one of the main culprits until he went down with a shoulder injury, the severity of which can be debated. So when he was sidelined, fellow lefty Josh Osich was forced to step up.

The former sixth-round pick out of Oregon State looks like the real deal so far, only allowing two baserunners in six games.

He has quickly gained manager Bruce Bochy’s trust, coming in for high-leverage situations like he has been with the team for all three championship runs. Mostly because the rest of the crowded, mediocre bullpen can’t stay off the phantom DL, but still.

Not to go on a tangent, but this is my second straight article on middle relievers. Someone’s got to give them the love they deserve. Josh Osich is the only one in the Giants ‘pen who deserves anything remotely near love at this point.

His mix of a high 90’s fastball and a decent cutter have been enough to flummox the eighteen hitters he has faced this season, so much so that he has hardly ever had to throw his changeup, which he has thrown just eleven times. Osich’s very short big league highlight reel will not jump out at you because he does not have an exciting breaking ball or offspeed pitch, and will probably bore you. But that does not mean he cannot be very effective with low fastballs.

Danny Espinosa striking out? Never seen that before.

I’m not calling him the next Mariano Rivera, but he could very well become the next Jeremy Affeldt for the Giants. I make that comparison not because Affeldt and Osich pitch similarly, but because they get similar results as lefty relievers. Affeldt relies on hitting his spots with his big looping curve and a much slower fastball while Osich will dare innocent hitters to hit his fastball.

Let’s be clear, we’re talking about vintage Affeldt. Comparing Osich to the 2015 version of Affeldt would be downright insulting.

Osich’s big league sample size has been way too small and dominant to analyze right/left splits properly, so we’ll look at his minor league numbers. Affeldt had always been very effective getting both right-handed and left-handed hitters alike out, and throughout his minor league career, so has Osich:

YearAVG (Right)AVG (Left)


This trait makes Osich incredibly valuable, much more so than if he were just another Javier Lopez-esque lefty specialist. It leaves Bochy with more flexibility in his bullpen and allows him to keep Osich in for more than just one or two batters (Yeah, I’m talking to you, Javi).

In his prime, Affeldt, now 36, was great for that very same reason. But he had more effective secondary pitches, something Osich will have to hone if he doesn’t want to go down the Hunter Strickland path from last postseason. Hitters will eventually adjust to time up his fastball and cutter, and Osich will pay dearly for his lack of offspeed pitches.

He might be the next to fall victim to the perpetual soap opera that is the Giants’ crowded roster situation when Tim Hudson or Tim Lincecum comes back. However, if he keeps putting up zeroes, the Giants will be forced to keep him up.

Jean Machi would likely be the first to be designated for assignment when Hudson returns for his start after the All-Star Break, and Osich could go back down when Affeldt and/or Lincecum inevitably return from the disabled list. Affeldt’s return would be a net minus for the Giants, because it would likely send Osich, the Giants’ future relief ace, back down to Triple-A Fresno Sacramento.

Enjoy this sneak preview of Osich while you can.

PS: He also totally looks like Barry Zito. Let’s hope the similarities end at a superficial level.

San Francisco Giants pitcher Josh Osich throws against the New York Mets during a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
San Francisco Giants pitcher Josh Osich throws against the New York Mets during a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)






Cover Image: San Francisco Giants pitcher Josh Osich (61) throws against the Philadelphia Phillies during the sixth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Saturday, July 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

This article has 3 Comments

  1. Yes, Osich has looked good. But 6 innings?? For you to not mention Kontos and his great season. He has inherited 26 base runners when he has entered games this year. And NONE, ZERO, ZIP, NADA have scored. He has only 5 innings pitched past the 8th so I’m pretty sure that would make him a middle reliever or at least a setup pitcher. Except for a blip or two, Lopez has done exceptionally well and so has Strickland. Casilla is not as durable as he has been in the past (age?) but it wasn’t that long ago, this year, that he struck out the side in the 9th on 9 pitches.

    So don’t use exaggerations like “downright awful” if you want credibility, Ben. Let’s go with average for now.

    So if I may add to your story. Osich has been used carefully, BUT, has had a few entries into games at critical moments. He has inherited 6 base runners and none have scored. He has allowed one hit in 22 plate appearances against him. It would be easy to state that Osich, along with Kontos, Lopez and Strickland (one runner scored out of 10 inherited) have been the saviors of this years downright AVERAGE bullpen. And don’t be so sure Osich goes to Sacramento when Affeldt comes back. 3 lefties in the pen can be potent. Don’t forget that Lopez often faces one or two batters, usually lefties but this year righties have only 5 hits out of 35 plate appearances. AND he has allowed no home runs.

    So I believe that Machi and Petit are likely to be demoted. And let’s take this one step further. Knowing how the Giants coaching staff has always pushed the right buttons, the bullpen by the end of the year will be as it always is in September/October, downright excellent.

    1. PS The Giants bullpen has allowed only 15% of inherited runners to score. Only the Pirates have been better. As you can tell, this is my favorite relief pitcher category–it’s hard to argue its value. I like how things shape up for the stretch run.

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