Who Replaces Brian Wilson at Closer?

Brian Wilson said on Monday that's he optimistic he can return for Opening Day.

Still, considering the injury that he's dealing with -- a strained oblique -- that's probably being a bit optimistic. So there's a good chance that the Giants have to turn to someone else to close out games. The question, then, is "who?"

Let's break it down:

Jeremy Affeldt
2010 stats: 4.14 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 50 IP, 44 K, 1.83 SO/BB, 4 S

Affeldt was darn near "average" when it came to ERA (his ERA+ checked in at 99) last year, and nothing about his statistical performance in 2010 screams "closer," even if two shutout relief innings against the Phillies to clinch the NL pennant are probably worth more than stats.

He actually seemed to welcome the role, while speaking Monday, per Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News. Or at least the part about dying his facial hair anyway.

"I may have to darken something," Affeldt, who sports a lengthy vertical soul patch, said. "Yeah, I could do that. Dye the ol' stinger, rat tail, whatever you want to call it. Maybe I'll dye it orange with black stripes."

Ew. Whatever, he's probably still one of the top options to step in if Wilson can't start the season.

Santiago Casilla
2010 stats: 1.95 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 55 IP, 56 K, 2.15 SO/BB, 2 S

Nothing about Casilla's pre-2010 past suggests that he could close for Bruce Bochy's club, but then again, nothing about his past suggested that 2010 could even happen in the first place. He got a little lucky (opposing hitters batted .277 on balls in play and only hit two homers against him last year), but it was also somewhat evident that he picked up a little extra cheddar on his stuff too -- his strikeouts jumped up over one per inning for the first time since 2007.

If he can maintain his increased velocity from 2010, it's possible he could take over the role from Wilson as he offers more traditional "closer stuff," though moving him would significantly weaken the front end of the bullpen.

Sergio Romo
2010 stats: 2.18 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 62 IP, 70 K, 5.00 SO/BB, 0 S

Romo's a good bet to actually increase his success this year after a "breakout" 2010 season. (Insomuch as one can actually "break out" as a setup man anyway.) He posted 21 holds on the season, continued to maintain a 10+ K/9 rate after establishing it in 2009 and has reportedly been adding new pitches to his repertoire.

It's clear he's got the skills to polish off the ninth: the only issue then becomes whether or not he has the mental makeup to handle stepping on the mound to close out games.

Barry Zito
2010 stats: 4.15 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 199.1 IP, 150 K, 1.79 SO/BB, 0 S

Hahaha, no. That's a joke. And speaking of which, I wanted an excuse to post Zito's 2010 stat line.
My money's on Romo -- he played the setup role in 2010, and while he didn't record any saves last year, he did post 21 holds. Additionally, his splits show a pitcher who really stepped up his game down the stretch, as Romo boosted his SO/BB and K/9 rates while only allowing six earned runs after the break.

Also, he has an excellent beard. And there's certainly something that can be said for continuity in that area.

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