Now that Brian Wilson's season is over -- we know as much because the Beard told us himself -- who will close for the Giants in 2012?
It's an interesting question, and it doesn't feel like it's the first time we've answered it either. But the candidates remain the same: Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez are most likely to see end-of-game action.
Let's break down the potential candidates:
Since joining the Giants in 2010, Casilla's been, frankly, lights out. He's appeared in 104 games, pitched 109.2 innings, struck out 103 batters, given up just three home runs, owns an ERA of 1.81 and an ERA+ of 209.
He's also recorded eight saves in that time. The biggest concern with Casilla is that he's not afraid to walk batters: he has 53 walks in those 109 innings (4.3 BB/9), which is terrifying for a closer. By comparison, Brian Wilson in that same time frame (albeit with 131 innings pitched) owns a 4.0 BB/9, and that includes this year's one incredibly poor performance and a 5.1 BB/9 in 2011.
Control isn't critical for a closer, but it sure is nice. Per FanGraphs, Casilla's been turning up the heat this season, averaging 95.5 MPH on his fastball, although he's only thrown 2.2 innings so it's early. He only used his fastball 68.2 percent of the time in 2011, so he's someone who needs the breaking stuff to work in order to get guys out.
For the past two years, I've drafted Romo in just about every fantasy baseball league I'm in, expecting some sort of injury to the overworked Wilson and the possibility that Romo would become an elite closer. But no, Bochy hates him. Or something.
Either way, Romo's been great for my teams, because he posts microscopic numbers. In the past three years, Romo appeared in 135 games, pitched in 112 innings, struck out 141 batters (!), posted an ERA of 1.85 and an ERA+ of 205. His WHIP of 0.86 is silly. Well, almost as silly as his 1.6 BB/9 anyway (he's walked 20 batters since the start of 2010; that's a bad week for Barry Zito).
Romo has one of the filthiest sliders in the game, he's effective against both right- and left-handed batters, and handing him the closer's role would be a heady move by Bochy.
But that's probably why Casilla's the best bet: expect Santiago to get the bulk of the save opps, and if he struggles (and he could, even though he has the stuff) for Romo to step in, while Lopez handles any predominantly left-handed lineups.
By default, Lopez is the worst candidate to close. He's simply not as good as Casilla or Romo.
Lopez also joined the Giants in 2010 and in that time span, he's appeared in 101 games, pitching in 73.2 innings, posting an ERA of 2.32 and an ERA+ of 160. He's also struck out 58 batters.
But here's why Bochy should only consider him in certain situations: he's left-handed. There's a reason that teams like to stock up on left-handed middle relievers: they're fantastic in certain situations. Naming Lopez the closer would eliminate some of the Giants bullpen versatility, not to mention simply making a mistake in naming the closer.
If there's a closer-by-committee situation (and that seems highly likely), Lopez will get run against primarily left-handed, late-inning lineups.
If an actual closer was named, though, that would be the most shocking thing of all.