San Francisco Giants Morning Minute: A Deep Look at the Casilla Problem

May 22, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Santiago Casilla (46) delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs in the ninth inning at AT&T Park. The Giants defeated the Cubs 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
May 22, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Santiago Casilla (46) delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs in the ninth inning at AT&T Park. The Giants defeated the Cubs 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

On this edition of the San Francisco Giants Morning Minute, we take a deep look at the recurring issues Casilla has in the ninth inning.

More from Golden Gate Sports

Good morning, San Francisco Giants’ fans, and welcome to another edition of the Giants Morning Minute. On Wednesday, the Atlanta Braves took the third game of a four-game set, jumping out to a 2-1 series lead. It took 11 innings, but Freddie Freeman‘s walk-off solo home run gave the Braves the 5-4 victory. Chris Withrow was the winner, while Derek Law took his first career loss.

The Giants are still 33-22 on the year, a very nice .600 winning percentage. The Los Angeles Dodgers also lost on Wednesday, keeping with their tradition of matching the Giants’ result over the past 10 days. As a result, the division lead remains 4.5 games.

1 – A Deep Look at the Santiago Casilla Problem

Santiago Casilla, for better or worse in your eyes, is the Giants’ closer. He has been quite good this season, but there has been an issue with save chances. In 16 save opportunities, Casilla has converted 12 and blown four. A 75 percent conversion rate is not pretty, not matter how you slice it. But how bad has he truly been compared to some of the games top closers this year?

To compare the Giants’ closer to some of his peers, I went looking at four closers who have been great in the early going of the season: Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers; Wade Davis of the Kansas City Royals; Jeurys Familia of the New York Mets; and A.J. Ramos of the Miami Marlins.

The first thing that stuck out is the amount of one-run ballgames in which Casilla has been inserted. Of his 16 save chances, nine of them, or 56 percent, were one-run games when Casilla first toed the rubber. He’s blown four of those chances, but has not given up more than one hit or one run in any of those five games.

More from San Francisco Giants

Think about that for a second. In Casilla’s four-blown save opportunities, he’s given up four hits and four runs. That’s how razor-thin the margin for error is in when the deficit is one run. One walk, followed by one bloop hit that falls into the Bermuda Triangle equals a blown save.

Jansen has had 17 save chances so far, only five of which he entered with a one-run margin (29 percent). He’s blown two of those chances. Familia, who has been perfect in 17 save chances, has also only had five one-run games. Davis has six one-run margins in 16 opportunities (38 percent). Of the four, Ramos is the only one close to Casilla, with eight one-run games in 17 tries (47 percent).

Casilla’s numbers overall are comparable to the “elite” closers, and far better than the “perfect” Familia.

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 02.45.40
Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 02.45.40 /

Over the past month-plus, the Giants’ offense has settled somewhere between mediocre and bad on most nights. The other guys in the bullpen, the “non-closer labeled relievers”, if you will, have settled in the same range. That creates a lot of extremely close games, during which Casilla is the one relied upon in the tightest of situtations. He is put into these closed quarters, and he has to do his best Houdini act to escape. Most of the time, Casilla can escape unscathed from the dirt-covered coffin as Houdini did. Other times, he can’t escape and has to have help. Even the greatest magicians aren’t perfect.

And as much as we chastise Casilla, there’s no one else in the bullpen giving him a strong push for his job. It’s not like with third base in 2015, when Matt Duffy pushed Casey McGehee out of a job by completely outperforming him. Casilla has been the best in the bullpen this year.

Casilla is not the game’s best closer, and he isn’t in that upper echelon of pitchers who patrol the ninth inning. I’m not trying to pull the wool over your eyes and tell you that he is. But considering the situations he’s constantly thrust into, he’s held his own quite well.

Maybe Casilla ends the season as the Giants’ closer. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe the Giants’ front office goes out near the trade deadline and works a deal for one of those upper echelon guys. No one knows how the future will play out. But up to this point, Casilla has done a nice job.

Next: Giants Morning Minute: Birthday Boy Peavy Turns Back Clock

And that will do it for another edition of the Giants Morning Minute. Up next, the Giants and Braves conclude their four-game series with a very, very early morning game. Madison Bumgarner toes the rubber for the Giants, opposed by highly-touted Braves’ rookie Aaron Blair.