San Francisco Giants: The Case Against Brian Wilson
IP: 201 2/3 H: 180 ER: 81 HR: 12 BB: 88 K: 210 ERA: 3.61 WHIP: 1.33 BAA: .239
SV/OPP: 93/109 SV %: 85.3
Prior to Saturday's Giants/Astros matchup, those were Giants closer Brian Wilson's career numbers.
And while some say the 2008 All Star is an underrated closer, the reality is that the 28-year-old reliever receives more credit than he deserves.
Thanks in large part to the ridiculously stat-driven league that is Major League Baseball, the majority of hardball fans think Wilson is an ideal closer.
And by all means, he is a great pickup for your fantasy team.
But in real life? Not so much.
Despite picking up 86 saves since 2008, Wilson will never be THE pitcher a fan base wants on the mound with the game on the line.
Why is this the case?
Because unless Wilson puts more faith in his slider or picks up a new secondary pitch, every single hitter in baseball knows what is coming in a 3-2 count with the bases loaded: a fastball.
And unfortunately, since Wilson's slider (his only secondary pitch) is tremendously inconsistent, most save opportunities see the Giants closer throw over 90 percent fastballs.
Therefore, not only can opposing hitters sit on the fastball during crucial pitches, but they can essentially sit on the fastball in any count.
While Wilson's fastball does run anywhere from 96-99, his lack of faith in another pitch kills him.
After all, as the ever popular Giants color analyst Mike Krukow states time and time again, "every big league hitter can hit a fastball; they wouldn't be here if they couldn't."
Now if Wilson had pinpoint accuracy to every corner of the plate, then throwing 96+ on every pitch would make him nearly unbeatable.
But when you consider that Wilson averages nearly four walks per nine innings, it is obvious that he belongs in the middle of the pack of MLB closers.
Throwing in the high 90s is a plus, but in order to be a great closer, pitchers have to be much better at "upsetting the timing of the hitter."
Krukow says it all the time, "What is hitting? Hitting is timing. What is pitching? Pitching is upsetting the timing of the hitter."
And by throwing major gas time and time again, Wilson rarely upsets the timing of opposing hitters.
San Fran's closer may end up converting most of his saves, but more often than not it takes him a lot longer to get out of an inning than it does for the rest of his peers.
A perfect example of this type of save would be Saturday's 2-1 win over the Astros.
Despite converting the one-run save, Wilson ended up having to throw 39 pitches before he got the job done.
His slider was once again failing to entice the hitters. Pedro Feliz took two of them that weren't even close to the strike zone in route to a lead-off walk.
After the sliders had failed, Wilson tried to retire Feliz with fastball after fastball but each time Wilson got his heater in the strike zone, Pedro was able to foul it off rather easily.
Two batters later, Wilson had only one out left to secure the victory but didn't have any faith to throw his slider. Subsequently, pinch hitter Corey Sullivan was able to get enough of a fastball to put it in play and beat out an infield hit.
Michael Bourn then followed up Sullivan's single by drawing the second walk of the inning, loading the bases for Kaz Matsui.
Now in all honesty, Matsui is clearly the hitter opponents would rather face as he was hitting just .164 coming into the game and was 0-4 coming into the at-bat.
But by walking Bourn, Wilson would have no room for error in protecting the one-run lead as another walk would lose the lead and victory for Lincecum.
And in spite of his recent struggles, Matsui would battle the entire at-bat, following off 10 pitches in a 15-pitch duel against Wilson.
Of the 15 pitches, only one of them wasn't a fastball. While the count was 2-2, Wilson hung a slider belt high that Matsui barely foul tipped at the plate (nine times out of 10, Giants catcher Bengie Molina holds on for the win).
But the war between Matsui and Wilson would continue.
And not until another handful of pitches later would Matsui end up flying out to left field to end the game.
Now most fans would say: mission accomplished. The Giants got the win, everything is fine and dandy.
However, these are the appearances from Wilson that make knowledgeable Giants fans cringe.
Wilson simply cannot continue to survive on just his fastball. When the season is on the line, and or the playoffs are on the line, good teams will beat the Wilson that took the field today against Houston.
The Giants' closer can at times get away with the stuff he had (albeit, barely) against a team like the Astros, but when facing the Philadelphia Phillies in the playoffs, he must have a much better repertoire.
One pitch is just not going to get it done.
Now some fans out there will beg to differ by referencing Yankees' closer Mariano Rivera, who is successful with just one pitch.
But Rivera throws arguably the nastiest pitch in baseball, a 92-94 mph cut-fastball and he has impeccable accuracy with it.
That indeed is enough of a repertoire to win championships and Rivera's World Series rings are a testament to that.
But as for Wilson, his one pitch isn't nearly enough. His fastball doesn't have Rivera's movement nor his accuracy.
And if Wilson wants to join Rivera as an elite closer, he will have to learn a couple of new tricks to put up his sleeve.
Whether that is perfecting his slider and becoming more accurate, or improving the slider while adding a change-up, at least two improvements are critical moving forward.
If Wilson and the Giants don't realize that, then San Francisco is just setting up their fans for a major disappointment.
Because at this rate, even if the Giants make the postseason, Wilson is bound to blow that crucial save which either puts them in a major hole or ends their season completely.
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