San Francisco Giants: Is It Time to Replace Santiago Casilla as Closer?

Bruce FriedmanCorrespondent IIJuly 6, 2012

Derek Norris' walk-off started Santiago Casilla's problems.
Derek Norris' walk-off started Santiago Casilla's problems.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Closer is one of the most demanding jobs in all of sports.

Yes, you only have to get three outs most of the time and often it's uneventful.

But it's a job where you are scrutinized every single day.

If you get the save, but it doesn't go smoothly, people are up in arms. It's not acceptable for closers to give up runs. Hits and walks are frowned upon. Let's face it, baseball fans don't like stress.

While starting pitchers are praised for perfection, closers are chastised if they aren't perfect. Unlike every other job in baseball, closers aren't allowed to have slumps. Failures by closers turn into losses.

Not an easy gig.

Santiago Casilla had a hard act to follow.

Much like Forty-Niner fans remembered Joe Montana for winning every game and never throwing an interception, many San Francisco Giants fans have quickly forgotten Brian Wilson's many indiscretions.

They mainly remembered two pitches: the ones that ended the 2010 NLCS and World Series.

A couple of weeks ago when Casilla started his slump by being pulled from one game, allowing a homer in the next game and then giving up a walk-off homer to the Oakland Athletics, I told one of our writers to calm down when he called for Casilla's head.

Now I tend to agree.

In Casilla's last six outings he's looked like a pitching machine.

He has allowed 11 hits and three walks. He's blown three saves. His ERA has gone from 1.32 to 3.13!

This Giants team, which is built on starting pitching and short on offense and power, can't afford for this to go on much longer.

At first it looked like Casilla could handle the job. I'm not so sure he can anymore. Tonight when he blew his latest save to the Washington Nationals, costing Matt Cain a win, he looked far from confident.

There are potential solutions, but they are far from perfect.

One is closer by committee, playing matchups.

I'm not a fan of that. It almost never works.

Another is moving Sergio Romo into that role. But there are serious questions about Romo's durability. Bruce Bochy has often stayed away from using Romo on back-to-back days, despite how dominant Romo is. He must know something.

Romo has had some elbow issues. This could be the reason.

Otherwise there isn't much to choose from.

Heath Hembree, the anointed "closer of the future," has been struggling with the Giants' Triple-A team in Fresno. He's clearly not ready.

Brad Penny has the makeup to be a closer and is throwing well since joining the Giants. He even looks like a closer. But Penny has limited experience out of the pen. 

Should the Giants give Tim Lincecum a shot at the job? Maybe it could help turn him around.

Well, he certainly has experience with runners on base, that's for sure.

But that could be a disaster in more ways than one for the Giants. It could result in more losses and a further erosion of Timmy's confidence.

Javier Lopez is another option, but he isn't particularly good against right-handed batters.

So help may have to come from outside the organization.

Giants nemesis Francisco Rodriguez is rumored to be available. But Rodriguez isn't having a particularly good year and has been a problem child in the past.

Maybe a return to a winning atmosphere could help turn him around.

Remember all of those years AN, after Nen?

Robb Nen was one of the great closers in the game and set the standard for closers in San Francisco. 

When Wilson came along we had another franchise closer. But the years in between were painful. Need I bring up Armando Benitez? Sorry for that.

Well now the Giants are facing another closer crisis unless they either make a change or Casilla turns things around quickly.

The very subject is no doubt keeping Bochy and Brian Sabean awake as we speak.


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