George Kontos Needs to Pick It Up
The Giants lost 10-6 to the Blue Jays with eight of the runs scored off of Barry Zito and the last two off second-year pitcher George Kontos. Kontos now has a 4.71 ERA, which is just not good enough for a reliever pitching his home games at AT&T Park on one of the best, if not the best, top-to-bottom staffs in major league baseball.
In fairness to Kontos, he has pitched better than his ERA, at least until today, when he gave up two runs on five hits and a walk in 1.1 innings pitched. Kontos has struck out 20 batters in 21 IP while allowing only seven walks and three fewer hits than innings pitched.
I like Kontos. The Giants got him from the Yankees for back-up catcher Chris Stewart, which in my mind (and given the Giants’ current strength at catcher) was little more than a box of cracker jack. In fairness to the Yankees, they’ve gotten 77 games and counting out of Stewart, and fangraphs values his contribution to the Bombers to date at $3.8 million, a lot more than Stewart is likely being paid (fangraphs likes Stewart’s defense). Suffice it to say the trade was one that was good for both ballclubs.
Kontos has a good arm and finally broke out in a relief role, after starting his professional career as a starter, at AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre at age 26 two seasons ago. He was terrific out of the bullpen for both the AAA Fresno Grizzlies and the Giants last year. I was hoping he’d be a solid middle reliever for the Giants at least through age 31.
That might have been too much to hope for. Kontos was 27 last year, the age at which the largest number of major leaguers have their peak season. Kontos is 28 this year, and he may already be on the decline.
Meanwhile, Heath Hembree, who is three and a half years younger than Kontos, is blowing them away pitching for AAA Fresno. He currently has a 1.89 ERA with 20 Ks in 19 IP and a WHIP just below 1.00.
If Kontos doesn’t pick it up and Hembree keeps pitching the way he’s been pitching at Fresno, expect the two players to trade places well before the All-Star Break.