Curious About George: Why Kontos Could Help the Giants’ Bullpen

George Kontos sitting in the bullpen, May 25th, 2012. (Photo: Mac)

The Giants traded Chris Stewart to the New York Yankees for right handed pitcher George Kontos this past off-season. It was a trade that involved a backup catcher and someone that appeared to be stuck in AAA for a long time — not necessarily something that would make the big hot stove headlines.

However, Kontos has been solid in his time with the Fresno Grizzlies, putting up an ERA and FIP of 1.95/2.51. He has a K/9 rate of 7.16 and a BB/9 rate of 1.30. His K/BB rate is at 5.50 and his 0.98 WHIP.

It’s easy to ignore Kontos’ stats, considering he will be 27 in about two weeks, and was the Padres’ Rule 5 pick following the 2010 season (he didn’t make the team, thus returned to the Yankees organization). But maybe there’s a bit more to him than organizational filler.

Kontos isn’t a guy who will save the bullpen, nor is he the guy who will go out there and instantly become Mariano Rivera. He is what he is: a guy who didn’t really stand out in the Yankees organization, but can probably be solid enough to throw an inning every other night to keep the team in the game. And that’s all the Giants need him to do — get three outs, keep them in the game, don’t give up a lot of runs.

As said in last night’s recap, the bullpen is thin. There really aren’t many options available unless the Giants trade for a reliever ASAP, but that isn’t likely. Kontos is already on the 40-man roster and has options available. Steve Edlefsen also has options available, so it wouldn’t be a problem to swap either one on the roster just to see how things go.

The Pacific Coast League is notorious for being a hitter’s league — especially Fresno’s Chukchansi Park. The temperature is higher in that area of California and the ball cuts through the air faster. Think of it like a Coors Field — balls just keep being hit out.

Baseball Prospectus 2012 describes Kontos as having “shown good strikeout rates with his fastball-slider combination, but 13 home runs allowed in 95 1/3 innings split between the majors and minors is troubling.”

In 27 2/3 innings, he has only allowed one home run. In a league where Todd Linden has a .190 ISO and a .336 BABIP, that is not bad for Kontos at all. Plus, Kontos would have the advantage of pitching at AT&T Park, where they will still not move the fences in.

There’s also something in Baseball Prospectus 2012 that Bruce Bochy might appreciate: “He held same-side hitters to .185/.243/.328, so perhaps there is something to be exploited here, albeit with care.” That could appeal to Bochy’s love for matchups.

There’s always the risk that Kontos’ numbers don’t translate to the major leagues, but there’s always a risk in any move made in baseball. That’s the intangible side of the sport. However, he can’t possibly be worse than Edlefsen, who let three of his last eight inherited runners score. And while the MLB numbers don’t seem to show Edlefsen as a terrible pitcher, he’s not exactly the greatest either — he put up three years of 4+ BB/9 rates in AAA. Yikes.

If all else fails, they could send Kontos back down to Fresno and bring back Edlefsen. It’s not something that’s difficult to do and it gives the Giants a different and possibly average option in the bullpen.

Or, they’ve got the Brad Penny.

Your call, Giants.

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