The Giants' Santiago Casilla is the owner of a shiny 2.82 earned run average and has succeeded in 15 of 18 save opportunities.
But as solid as those numbers seem to be, they don't tell the story for Casilla or the closer role right now.
In 8¹⁄³ innings, left-handed batters have battered Casilla to the tune of a .382 batting average. On Sunday, when the Atlanta Braves tagged the right-hander for four runs (three earned) in the ninth inning, lefties accounted for all three hits, including a home run and a three-run triple.
Bochy didn't have to deal with the dilemma in a 4-3 loss against the Pittsburgh Pirates at AT&T Park on Tuesday night. The setback involved an unusual play in the eighth inning, when Buster Posey was called out on interference after a fan, decked out in Pirates gear, collided with Gregory Polanco as the right fielder attempted to catch a fly ball.
“You're not going to get that call once a fan reaches into fair territory,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “So, I wasn't surprised [the umpires] overturned it.”
After that ninth-inning blowup of the previous day, Bochy explained that he never considered lifting Casilla for lefty specialist Javier Lopez.
“No. No, I got my closer out there and he got the ground ball,” Bochy said. “It's nothing he can do. He made a great pitch and got the ground ball.”
As Bochy noted, things would have worked out entirely differently had the usually sure-handed Brandon Crawford not committed an error on a potential double-play ball that would have been the final outs. The error paved the wave for four runs in the inning.
“I got my closer out there,” Bochy reiterated. “I like to show that confidence in him.”
Confidence is everything for a reliever, and right now, Casilla doesn't have enough of it.
“I think all relievers need confidence from their manager,” teammate Jeremy Affeldt said. “Any time that your manager shows faith in you to get the job done, you're always going to have confidence to keep going out there and doing it.”
It's difficult to argue with Affeldt, who knows about thriving in the pressure-packed environment that relievers pitch in every night. Yet with Casilla demonstrating that he simply can't get lefties out, showing full confidence in the closer can be a dangerous game.
For instance, what exactly is Bochy supposed to do the next time a left-handed masher such as Adrian Gonzalez steps to the plate for the Los Angeles Dodgers with the game on the line?
Before the game on Tuesday, Bochy explained that he had just spoken with executive vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean about reducing the relief crew from eight to seven in number. The move could come after the Pirates leave town.
Soon enough, Bochy may have to speak with Sabean about the possibility of acquiring a stopper who can shut down left-handers and right-handers alike.