San Francisco Giants: Santiago Casilla's Problem Is Fixable, But...

Bruce FriedmanCorrespondent IIJuly 19, 2012

Athletics Fans Celebrate as Santiago Casilla Blows Another Save
Athletics Fans Celebrate as Santiago Casilla Blows Another SaveThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Last night, the San Francisco Giants won a bizarre game, beating the Atlanta Braves 9-4.

What made it bizarre, besides scoring 9 runs for the second straight game, was surviving yet another Santiago Casilla meltdown and still coming out on top.

The two three run homers in the 11th inning were pretty shocking as well.

But let's talk about Casilla.

With last night's debacle, he has now blown five of his last eight save attempts. In the world of Major League Baseball, that is completely unacceptable. Bruce Bochy even acknowledged that a change may be coming (via CSN Bay Area). 

Translated, Casilla has lost the closer job for now.

But one of his problems can be fixed. And they have to be. Even if Casilla isn't closing, he is an important part of the Giants bullpen going forward.

In many of his blown saves, Casilla starts out well enough. Quite often he gets the first two outs.

Last night he got two easy outs and had an 0-2 count on Freddie Freeman, before Freeman got on with a double.

Then Brian McCann came up and promptly tied the game with a two run blast.

Casilla seems to suffer from a couple of issues and one is certainly fixable. He loses concentration when he has the other team down and his foot on their throats. He tends to take his foot off their throats and then all hell breaks loose.

That's the fixable issue.

The issue that may not be fixable is how affected he gets by failure. A closer needs to forget the last game, the last inning, even the last pitch and come out firing. Casilla doesn't seem able to do that.

There was a shot of Casilla in the dugout after the dreadful top of the 11th and he had his head hung. After the homer, he hung his head and did so again as he walked off the mound. When the opposing team sees this, they smell blood.

Think about the most successful closers in history—Goose Gossage, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera. When they came into the game, for all intents and purposes, it was over. Remember when the Los Angeles Dodgers used to flash "Game Over" when Eric Gagne came into the game? Well, it was the truth. And that's pretty much how the other team felt as well.

I doubt very much if there's one man in the opposing dugout right now who feels that way about Casilla, based on how he carries himself.

Yes, he has 23 saves this year and converted 20 of his first 21. It was a great run. I also think he can get back there again. But it will take some work between the ears. The Giants don't have time to wait.

For now, Brad Penny is the best option. He's big, looks mean and throws hard.

Oh, and he has a beard.

The Giants were warming him when they took the lead in the bottom of the 11th when it was still a save situation, before the game got out of hand. I think Penny is the likely guy to try next.

And like I said in a previous article, he could potentially be the next Dennis Eckersley, a career starter who became a closer in his 30's. Hopefully for the Giants sake, this move will work out that well.

Sergio Romo has the stuff, but he isn't durable enough to handle the rigors of the job. He may be used for an occasional close, like Bochy has already used him at times. But that's as far as it's going to go with him.

After that the Giants options are few. Clay Hensley has closed, but I wouldn't trust him with the job. He's not dominant enough. George Kontos has potential to grow into that kind of role, but he's not ready yet.

Penny should be the guy.


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