People who throw things for a living (quarterbacks, pitchers, RussellÂ Crowe) don’t check under their beds for the boogeyman- they look forÂ Dr. James Andrews, whose very mention conjures images of torn ligaments and career-ending injuries. Giants closer Brian Wilson has crossed paths withÂ The Good Doctor twice- once for Tommy John surgery at LSU and onceÂ last August for elbow inflammation. Though the prognosis wasn’tÂ serious and no surgery was required, The Bearded One faced just fiveÂ batters in the remaining six weeks of the season. The ChronicleÂ reportedÂ last month that Wilson’s rehab will have him ready for most of springÂ training, but questions remain about how effective and healthy theÂ three-time All-Star will be. The answer to these questions, in myÂ mind, is one of dismissal: the Giants don’t need Brian Wilson.
With all the offseason nonsense of Carlos Beltran this, Ryan TheriotÂ that, and Buster Fever in full effect, it is easy to forget thatÂ Wilson struggled with both injury and control in 2011. By everyÂ metric, Wilson failed to deliver the type of performance that GiantsÂ fans became accustomed to in 2009 and 2010. Let’s break down threeÂ stats. The first number will be his combined 2009/2010 numbers and theÂ second will be from the 2011 season. Strikeouts per nine innings: 10.8Â to 8.8. Walks per nine innings: 3.2 to 5.1. And finally, hits per nineÂ innings: 7.5 to 8.2. The 2011 numbers collate to a 1.473 WHIP,Â Wilson’s worst mark since his rookie season. The uptick in hits isÂ just as disturbing, as Wilson relies on missing bats more than anyÂ Giants player other than Sergio Romo, who might as well be throwingÂ pebbles at batters holding wet noodles. Call it regression, call itÂ elbow tenderness, call it Taco Bell-itis, call it whatever puts you toÂ sleep at night. My sinking feeling is that Brian Wilson will never beÂ the same again. But here are three reasons I’m not all that worried.
-The Giants starting pitchers are innings eaters. Lincecum, Cain, andÂ Bumgarner all threw over 200 innings and Vogelsong would have sniffedÂ 200 had he started the season in the rotation. The fifth spot isÂ dicier with a likely Zito/Surkamp carousel, but fifth starters areÂ expected to eat innings like supermodels eat cheesecake- sparingly. As a result,Â the bullpen was fresh for all of 2011, even with Rip Van Romo sleepingÂ through half of it.
-The bullpen is deep. Let’s just start with the right-handers. TheÂ LEAST reliable arms are Guillermo Mota and Clay Hensley, who are moreÂ than capable of putting up league average numbers. Santiago Casilla,Â who closed when Wilson went down, had a 206 ERA+. TheÂ lefties are where things get interesting. The Giants picked up JeremyÂ Affeldt’s $5 million option and Javier Lopez signed a 2/$8.5 deal. TheÂ blogosphere nearly rioted with OMGGGGGIANTS andÂ NOBELTRANTHEVIEWFROMTHISLEDGEISQUITENICE. Even Grantland’s Jonah Keri evenÂ came on the show andÂ condemned the move.Â But I’mÂ starting to see that maintaining bullpen depth was essentially theÂ Giants buying Brian Wilson insurance. Brought to you by Geico orÂ something.
-Heath Hembree. He’s still a thousand long bus rides away from aÂ closing gig in the majors, but with Wilson becoming a free agent inÂ 2014 look for Hembree to give the Giants a reason to let Wilson walk.Â But Hembree walks too ma—-LOOK AT THOSE K RATES!!! And PodcastÂ Survivor Kevin Goldstein says he has closer makeup. And that oneÂ should believe in such things. So there.
Now that I have all of you really angry at me, let me say I love BrianÂ Wilson. I root for Brian Wilson. I even like his antics. The Beard.Â The Bell. The Finger Pointy thing. He just plays a very volatileÂ position and canÂ derail at any moment.
I’m just glad we don’t need him as much as we think we do.