April 15, 2012

Can the Giants Still Contend Without Star Closer Brian Wilson?

By - Kris Fletcher

For the second time in as many years, the San Francisco Giants have lost a major team leader and clubhouse fixture early on in the season.

Last year, it was talented young catcher Buster Posey. This time around, it's eccentric star closing pitcher Brian Wilson.

Photo by: Getty Images
On Sunday afternoon, the team announced that Wilson will probably have to have Tommy John surgery, ending his season after only 56 pitches, two appearances and 1 save.

Rehab time for such an injury is typically anywhere from a year to 18 months.

"My spirits aren't down," Wilson said in a statement. "I know a lot of people are sad. I know Giants fans are probably going to look at this as like a huge loss. But we have the best bullpen in the league. I've been honored to play with those guys, teach them some things, and they've taught me some things. They're going to fill in my role as best they can. I don't think they're going to falter. I think we're going to win the division no matter what."

Regardless of what Wilson says, it's obvious that his absence leaves a pretty big hole in San Francisco's bullpen. The three-time All-Star led the majors with 48 saves in 2010, and chalked up 36 saves in 57 appearances last season.

So who will the Giants use to fill the void left by their bearded relief ace? At least for the time being, it appears that manager Bruce Bochy will go with the closer by committee approach.

"It's always nice to have one closer, but a committee can work as well," Bochy said before Saturday night's game. "We'll probably have to make some slight adjustments as we go, but we've got some experienced guys who are comfortable pitching late in a game. While this is certainly a tough loss for us, the guys we have can soften the blow."

In all likelihood, ninth-inning opportunities will be given to Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla, as well as lefties Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt. All of whom helped fill in when Wilson missed a month last year with elbow issues.

Still, there's a big difference in having guys fill in for a few weeks as opposed to filling in for an entire season.

In football, if you have two quarterbacks, you really don't have any. To me, the same type of general rule applies in baseball as far as closing pitchers go.

Closer by committee may work in San Francisco for a while, but I would expect Bochy to eventually pick just one guy to consistently hand the ball over to in the ninth inning with a lead. Knowing you have that one constant to turn to in the late innings is essential for most contending teams, which the Giants believe they are.

In the end, I expect Romo to win the job, with Casilla being used as the primary setup man. And while that tandem may not be equivalent to Wilson, the two, along with San Francisco's solid starting rotation, should be enough to keep the Giants in contention for the National League West crown.

No comments:

Post a Comment