San Francisco Giants 4, Philadelphia Phillies 2: Santiago Casilla vs. Brian Wilson

BOX SCORE

Most people around baseball are talking about how devastating it is for the Giants to lose closer Brian Wilson for the season.

But for those Giants fans who have watched Wilson over the past two seasons, we’ve seen something different.

In 2008, when the Giants turned over the closer job to a 26-year-old Wilson, he recorded 41 saves, and casual observers were impressed. But other numbers were less impressive: 4.62 ERA, 4.0 walks per 9 innings, 9.7 Ks per 9 and 1.44 WHIP.

Over the next two years, the numbers got better:

2009: 38 saves, 2.74 ERA, 3.4 BB per 9 IP, 10.3 K per 9 IP, 1.20 WHIP

2010: 48 saves, 1.81 ERA, 3.1 BB per 9 IP, 11.2 K per 9 IP, 1.18 WHIP

That’s what people remember, the 2010 Wilson who led the Giants in the NL West division title, NL championship and World Series title.

But then came the 2011 Brian Wilson:

3.11 ERA, 5.1 BB per 9 IP, 8.8 K per 9 IP, 1.47 WHIP.

One stat the was probably most discouraging: Between 2008-10, Wilson allowed between 13-18 percent of inherited runners to score.

In 2011, he allowed 46 percent.

Giants fans knew something wasn’t right with Wilson. The Giants knew that too. That’s why in the offseason they made moves to keep both Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt when conventional wisdom had it that they would keep one.

Then the Giants held Wilson back early in spring training, then later kept him out of major-league spring training games. Could it be they did that to hide him while he worked on adjustments and changed his pitching approach?

So, after watching those first two regular-season outings in Colorado, it was hardly a stunner to Giants fans that Wilson would be done for the year.

But moving forward, when the Giants look for a replacement to close games, what they need is someone who can replace the 2011 Wilson, not the 2010 Wilson.

The 2010 Wilson was long gone. The best the Giants could have hoped for Wilson in 2012 is a repeat of 2011.

Now that they turn to Santiago Casilla to close, they can hope for more.

Here are Casilla’s numbers since joining the Giants in 2010:

2010: 1.95 ERA, 4.2 BB per 9 IP, 9.1 K per 9 IP, 1.193 WHIP

2011: 1.74 ERA, 4.4 BB per 9 IP, 7.8 K per 9 IP, 1.123 WHIP

He converted 8 of 10 save opportunites in 2010-11, the bulk of which came late last season when Wilson went on the DL. He allowed 13 and 20 percent of inherited runners to score in the past two seasons.

Casilla’s numbers don’t measure up to Wilson’s in 2010. But they are MUCH better than Wilson in 2011.

So, the Giants will be just fine with Casilla as closer. Frankly, I feel better with Casilla going out there in the ninth than being forced to watch Wilson try to gut out three outs.

Now, I know there are some who will say pitching in the ninth is much different than pitching in seventh or eighth.

But I don’t agree. This is the Giants we’re talking about. Given their offensive struggles, they play in a high number of close games. And with their offensive problems, a run surrendered in the seventh or eighth is just as likely to cost the team a win as one given up in the ninth.

Giants relievers are well-versed in pitching under pressure.

On Tuesday, Casilla earned his first save of 2012, giving up just one hit — a bloop single by Juan Pierre — and no walks in his inning of work.

UP NEXT

It’s Matt Cain vs. Cliff Lee in the series finale between the Giants and Phillies at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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