Brian Wilson Has Chance to Set Single-Season Saves Record

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Brian Wilson Has Chance to Set Single-Season Saves Record
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Brian Wilson could break the all-time single-season saves mark of 62

As he jogs down to the bullpen mound the crowd is elated, knowing that there is a very good chance that they will get to see the spectacle, that is Brian Wilson in his element.

With the ever-growing, bushy jet-black beard emanating from his Giants cap, Wilson prompts a fan reaction reminiscent of the fictional euphoria over the entrance of Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn in the baseball classic Major League.

But this is no Hollywood creation, as much as we wonder sometimes as to the reality of it all. 

This is actually happening. 

The bearded man warming up down the left field line at AT&T Park is the closer of the defending world champion San Francisco Giants, and he may just make more history in 2011.

Coming into tonight's series opener against the Florida Marlins, Brian Wilson has 13 saves on the season in 15 chances.

Only one closer in major league history has ever saved more than 60 games in a single season. 

That feat was accomplished by Francisco Rodriguez when he saved 62 for the Angels in 2008.

Rodriguez's record may be in jeopardy this season, because with the San Francisco Giants brand of baseball, filled with razor-thin victories living up to the club's unofficial theme of "torture", the chief torturer—Brian Wilson, has a very good chance to become the new single-season saves leader.

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Francisco Rodriguez, also known as "K-Rod", saved a major-league record 62 games for the Angels in 2008

Let's do some math

The Giants have won 27 games so far in 2011, and out of those 27 victories, an astonishing 24 of them have been in games decided by three runs or less. In order to record an official save, a pitcher must close-out a game after entering with his team leading by three runs or fewer.

The only reason Brian Wilson's save total is 13 and not more like 18 right now is because seven of those 24 victories of three-run margins or less have been walk-off wins in which no save could be recorded.

The Giants have won an unusually high number of walk-off games, holding down their closer's save opportunities.

While Brian Wilson is surely happy to watch his teammates thrill the crowd with walk-off after walk-off, chances are that the furious pace at which San Francisco is racking up these types of wins will slow down (at this time last year the Giants had only one walk-off victory).

But getting less walk-off wins will by no means change the way the Giants play the game.  They will still likely play an unprecedented number of games that are decided by three runs or less, meaning that Wilson will have more opportunities than perhaps any other closer in baseball to nail down a save.

Let's take the numbers so far this season as an example.  Even with 25 percent of Giants home victories ending in walk-off fashion so far this year, Wilson is still on pace for 45 saves (he had 48 last year).

How many saves do you think Brian Wilson will end up with in 2011?

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As an experiment, let's assume that instead of seven walk-offs, the Giants had only three so far. Adding four more save opportunities for Wilson, bumping his total to 17 out of 27 overall Giants victories, is a save-to-victory ratio of 63 percent.

Since the Giants winning percentage so far this season is .587, let's assume they finish the season at that clip. That would translate into a 95-win year. 

If the Giants win 95 games, and Brian Wilson continues to have about a 63 percent chance of getting a save in those victories, he would end up with 60 saves on the season.

That's pretty darn close to the all-time single season saves record of 62.

Torture could mean a historic season for the Giants closer

When Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper coined the phrase, "Giants Baseball - Torture!", little did he know how far-reaching the results of this style of baseball would be for the club and its stars.

Taking Brian Wilson as our model in this case, the fact that the Giants play in so many close ballgames, and frankly, win so many of them (they are 14-2 in one-run games this season), means that Wilson will have possibly the most save opportunities of any closer in history.

There have been many great closers over the years, but most played on teams that would win by more than three runs more of the time than the current Giants squad, which thrives in taut ballgames that keep their fans on the edge of their seats.

If the Giants continue playing those tight contests, Brian Wilson has a legitimate shot at becoming the new single-season saves king in 2011.

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