This season has been anything but pretty for San Francisco Giants relievers. It seems almost a guarantee that if the starter doesn’t throw a complete game, or the offense doesn’t break out for 10 runs, it’s a loss. After watching Santiago Casilla blow his National League leading 7th save on Sunday, and then watching the trio of Casilla, Josh Osich, and Joe Nathan fail to record 3 outs before giving up 3 runs on Wednesday, Bruce Bochy announced today he’ll be going to a closer by committee. Here are a few options for him to consider.
Santiago Casilla – I’ve said for years I don’t like his pitching. He’s always shaky and has proven it once again this year, with this seeming to be his worst season as a Giant. Any Giants fan gets very nervous when Casilla is brought into a game and it has seeped into the clubhouse. In his most recent post game interview Johnny Cueto let his frustrations slip, saying it was a shame their closer couldn’t handle business. It is beyond time for Casilla to get the boot as the everyday closer.
Hunter Strickland – It seems that Hunter Strickland would be the obvious replacement for Casilla and future closer for the Giants. At the beginning of the season I was all for this, but after watching him pitch, he’s unreliable. Strickland has the stuff to get guys out, but his dependency on throwing hard has gotten him into trouble more often than not. Hitters at the big league level can hit a straight fastball no matter how hard you throw it, and Strickland needs to figure that out fast. If he ever does and starts mixing in speeds, he has the stuff to be a good closer in this league, but until then, he’s a stay away.
Josh Osich – Osich came in last season and dazzled everyone. This year he came back to down to Earth, then plummeted through the ground. Like Strickland, everyone that has seen Osich pitch can recognize he has good stuff. His problem is control. Bochy has used Josh Osich in the Jeremy Affeldt role of a lefty that can face both sides of the plate and that didn’t work. Lately he’s transitioned Osich into another lefty specialist, and in his latest failure, Osich drilled the only guy he faced on Wednesday. Until he can learn to control where his pitches go, you can’t bring him into high leverage situations.
Javier Lopez – A veteran of both the league and the Giants bullpen, it may have been worth a shot to see if Lopez could close. Bochy has shown more willingness to leave Lopez in against righties this season, but Lopez has returned the favor by being unreliable. It could be because he’s getting old, or Bochy’s constant use of him for years, but Lopez looks tired this year.
Sergio Romo – Romo has had his ups and downs in a Giants’ uniform. He will forever be remembered as a hero when he struck out Miguel Cabrera on a fastball down the middle in Detroit to give the Giants their second World Series title in 3 years. He faltered following the 2012 season however, and was supplanted by Santiago Casilla. He’s been serviceable this season and with Casilla failing, it may be time to reverse the switch.
Joe Nathan – Joe Nathan was one of the game’s best closers for a long time in Minnesota. His last save for the Giants came in 1999, and it may be worth giving him another look to close out the season here in 2016. The downside is he will not be eligible for the post season if the Giants can somehow hang on and make it that far. That being said, Nathan may be the key in the Giants having to make that decision.
Derek Law – Derek Law has far and away been the Giants’ best reliever this season. Bochy knows this and has used him in nearly every game he’s available. Law is currently on the DL, but may be worth a shot when he returns. I think Law has better stuff than to limit him to one inning per game, but the Giants are desperate right now and he may be the Band-Aid they need.
Matt Cain – KNBR hosts Larry Kruger and Bob Fitzgerald both suggested Matt Cain get a shot as the 9th inning go to guy. Although it sounds crazy, it may just be what Cain needs to redefine himself. Ever since his injury in 2014, “The Horse” hasn’t been the same. He’s been a serviceable fifth starter masquerading as 2 or 3 and it’s hurt the Giants. With Peavy being lights out from the ‘pen and being the long relief guy, it may be worth a shot to look at Cain in the 9th. He wouldn’t have to worry about saving his arm and could throw hard.
The unfortunate truth is, the Giants let go of the perfect guy for this situation: Tim Lincecum. Lincecum has been awful as a starting pitcher for years now (except against the minor league San Diego Padres). However, he has been one of the best relievers in the game every time he’s been used from the ‘pen. If Lincecum was more willing to cede his starting duties to players with more talent and focus on getting three guys out a night, I believe he could be one of the game’s best closers. Unfortunately, his determination to be a starter has most likely cost him his big league career as he’s currently in the Angels minor league system.
It may be too late for the 2016 Giants already. Teams that falter as bad as they have rarely, if ever, rebound to make a deep run into the playoffs. That being said, it’s never too late to adjust.
If the Giants think they are out of it, then it’s time to take a look at Derek Law or Matt Cain as the future closer (if the latter is willing). If they still think they have a shot, it’s time to give it to the veterans with experience in Nathan or Romo. I’d give Romo the shot to reclaim what was his in the 2012 World Series. No matter who the Giants choose, the important thing is: Santiago Casilla’s time as closer for the San Francisco Giants is over.