Bruce, it’s over. Not the season, at least not yet anyway, but the relationship you have with Santiago Casilla as your closer.
Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to tell you that a relationship is over. One more time, you think to yourself. If we can just get over this hump, smooth sailing ahead you rationalize. It’s over and it’s been over for awhile. Giants manager Bruce Bochy is almost beyond reproach. Almost. He’s hailed as the Yoda of the bullpen for good reason. But just because he’s a three-time World Series winner and a sure Hall of Famer doesn’t mean he can’t make a mistake in judgment for a game, for a series or, in this case, for a season.
Santiago Casilla has a stench. It’s nothing personal. I’m sure physically he smells wonderfully; I’m talking about the aroma he brings to the mound, to fans and to his teammates each time he enters a game. Eyes roll, shoulders slump, fingers cross and Tums are washed down with whiskey.
The numbers aren’t that bad, the naive say. Casilla is 10 of 13 in save opportunities during the Giants’ 17-32 second half dumpster fire. If he converts all his saves, team turmoil is only three games better, still in an ugly spot. In this case numbers lie. Shove all your analytics in this increasingly calculator-driven game, take off your horned rimmed glasses and look at the middle of the diamond. Watch the pitches sail high and deliciously down the middle before they are launched through the ozone layer. Feel the increasing negative energy from the players to the fans. Blown saves are demoralizing, they rip teams apart, especially teams with the shaky mind set Team Tank is playing with right now.
When the Giants win, a rare occurrence lately, it’s usually by the slimmest of margins. Of their 17 second half wins, ten have been won by two or fewer runs, six by a single tally. The guys in orange and black are the only team without a three-game wining streak in the second half of the season. Check it. Twins, A’s, Braves. All have at least one three-game winning streak to their credit after the All-Star game.
That’s why Wednesday night hurt so badly. Win the last two in Colorado and Madison Bumgarner has a chance in Arizona Friday night to put the Giants on a three game….streak. Yes, during this second half nightmare, three games is a streak. Instead, reach over and slam the reset button again.
To be fair, it wasn’t all Casilla’s fault Wednesday night. He entered up 5-3, gives up a moon shot to Nolan Arenado. It’s 5-4 Giants. He gives up a single to center. Josh Osich enters and hits Charlie Blackmon. Two on, Joe Nathan enters. Yep, 41 year-old Joe Nathan, already released once this season by the Cubs, clearly a desperate move for a desperate team. Bloop single to left, on a ball that froze Angel Pagan into a terrible jump. Bases loaded, double to right, Giants lose 6-5. Is Casilla all to blame? No, but It’s the stench.
When he enters, things stink. The fans know it, the players know and now Bruce Bochy has no choice but to clear the air. Joe Nathan, Hunter Strickland, Sergio Romo, anyone have Brian Wilson’s number? I know it’s too simple to solely blame Casilla for the Giants’ second half cliff dive. Almost every key Giants player is worse than he was in the first half, but life and baseball aren’t fair. The court of public opinion has spoken and Casilla is the easy scapegoat. Bochy is loyal, he likes to hang on to his guys who have done it before, but it’s time to let go. My ulcered stomach thanks you in advance.
During this historic plunge, you could pick your statistical poison:
Offense: 28th in runs, 29th in home runs in second half
First half ERA 3.55 | Second half ERA 4.03
Buster Posey: Zero home runs last 42 games
Madison Bumgarner: First half ERA 1.94 | Second half ERA 3.66
Brandon Belt: .209 second half batting average
Brandon Crawford: 61 first half RBI | 16 second half RBI
Johnny Cueto: 13-1, 2.47 ERA in first half | 1-4, 3.90 ERA in second half
Eduardo Nunez: .228 hitter since joining Giants | .296 with Twins