Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Brian Wilson Serves Crow

Perhaps this past season's unsung hero was the bullpen. While most viewers raved about the starting pitching and defense, and rightly so, it was the dramatic improvement in the Giant bullpen that also factored into the charge to 87 wins. It was a bullpen shrewdly constructed from bits of surprisingly effective cast-offs like Brandon Medders and Justin Miller and low-risk free agent signings like Jeremy Affeldt. For all the crap that Brian Sabean took for the Edgar Renteria signing, you've got to give the man credit for piecing this bullpen together from basically nothing.

Of course, anchoring the group was Brian Wilson, who I had voiced skepticism over before the season. In 2008, Wilson saved 41 games, which looks sexy to the unenlightened folk, but he just wasn't a very good pitcher, and I predicted he'd lose his closer job to Sergio Romo by June. Let's face it, I just didn't like him. He had that ridiculous mohawk, the obligatory flame tattoo, and he'd stalk in from the bullpen to loud heavy metal, which only works when you're Trevor Hoffman or somebody good. I figured he wasn't long for the major league world. Silly me.

Wilson, of course, had a terrific year, lowering his ERA by almost two full runs, upping his strikeout rate, and pitching ten more innings than he did the year before, many of them in higher-leverage situations. Wilson had eight saves that required him to get more than three outs, and he was utilized more often in non-save, extra inning situations, in which he performed very well (1.85 ERA in 24 innings...stay away sample-size nazis!). In 2008, he had only pitched 14 non-save innings and was atrocious.

Bruce Bochy has been criticized from all sides for a plethora of reasons, and much of the criticism is merited, but at least give him credit for using Wilson, who by now has that glittery "Closer" tag patched onto his chest, in a more creative way than your typical three-out reliever. It stands to reason that you'd want your best reliever pitching as many innings as possible (though you could argue that Jeremy Affeldt was the Giants' best out of the pen), and Bochy utilized Wilson in a role that better maximized his value.

Of course, we will probably most remember Wilson's high-profile flameouts, like the gopher ball he surrendered to Jeff Baker (one of just four homers Baker would hit all year...groan) or his blowup in Arizona the day after he was supposedly tweeting about jock douchebags in a club at one in the morning. However, his improvement across the board as a pitcher was pretty impressive, and despite his drop in save totals he was simply a more valuable pitcher. So due to all the crap I talked about his seeming impending washout and his obnoxious mohawk, this is my sad little apologia.

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