If, since the start of last season, one of the three best relievers in baseball pitched for your favourite team, what role would you want for him? If your team featured an elite arm, the pitcher with the best ERA in baseball by ERA since the start of 2011, owner of the second-best strikeout-to-walk ratio and second best FIP, SIERA, and xFIP among all relievers with 60 or more innings pitched, how would you want him deployed?
One would think that any team with such an arm in their stable is not in the market for a new closer. One can only assume that such a pitcher, given the slavish devotion to the save statistic, that such a valuable pitcher would be the man in line to lock up victories for his employers. You would be wrong.
Despite incumbent closer Brian Wilson sitting out the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April, Sergio Romo is not the closer for the San Francisco Giants. Romo has five saves this year but the job of Capital-C closer went to Santiago Casilla at the beginning of the season.
Casilla acquitted himself well as the closer for most of the season before falling on hard times in July. The boo birds recently greeted Casilla’s introduction into a tight game, a rarity at AT&T Park, home to 81 official Giants love-ins a year.
A lack of belief in the Giants closer opened the floor to columnists suggesting the Giants may pursue a closer on the trade market, with Padres tradebait Huston Street emerging as the fan’s choice of potential target.
Do the Giants need a new closer? IF Casilla isn’t able to do it, why not Romo? The Giants seem concerned with Romo’s ability to retire left-handed batters, preferring to use the slider specialist in the 8th inning against righties almost exclusively.
Romo himself seems more than comfortable to provide high-leverage relief whenever he is needed, rather than chasing the glory of the save. From CSN Bay Area:
“Closer – I don’t want that title,” he said. “I don’t need that title. I just want the opportunity to pitch. Casilla has done a great job all year. He hit a rough patch but who cares? He was our closer. He is our closer. So … yeah.”
So…yeah, he says. Pairing Romo the ROOGY with Javier Lopez the LOOGY makes the Giants pretty unbeatable in the 8th inning, not to mention the team’s cautious approach with Romo’s elbow, often a source of pain for the diminutive right-hander.
If anything, the ongoing success of Romo shows just how well the Giants manage their bullpen. But your pitchers in the best position to succeed and maximize the workload of your relievers for the long haul. The Giants are not running a fantasy baseball team, much to everyone’s surprise. Their use of Romo and ability to build a very, very effective bullpen propelled them to glory in 2010 and has them leading the division here in 2012.
In a vacuum, any pitcher putting up Romo-style numbers is the default closer or best reliever on any team – in reality his numbers are a reflection of his usage and a collective brain trust getting the most out of their assets.