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Brian Wilson: Instrument of Torture?

Jason Turbow on Brian Wilson

    On the mound, Wilson, 28, frequently does just enough to preserve a Giants win, allowing hits, walks and base runners along the way to the point that the opposition appears to have him on the ropes.

    His team’s motto this season has been “Giants baseball: Torture,” and nobody exemplifies that notion quite the way Wilson does. The latest example came in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, against Philadelphia, a game in which he walked the tying run into scoring position and the winning run on base before freezing the Phillies’ Ryan Howard with a series-ending 3-2 slider.

    Over all, his 48 saves this season led the major leagues, and his 1.81 earned run average and 93 strikeouts over 74 2/3 innings were better than those of any San Francisco closer since Robb Nen in 1998. A 24th-round draft pick in 2003, Wilson took over the closer’s job in 2008, and his numbers have increasingly improved. Beyond the madness, obviously, is a method.

Most of Turbow's piece is about Wilson's personality, and if you're into that sort of thing you should read the whole thing (I am, and did).

I do want to mention something else, though ... This "torture" meme strikes me as slightly overblown. Yes, it's sometimes been hard for Giants fans to watch. But that's because of the hitting, not the pitching. The Giants' bullpen has been fantastic. Even a fantastic bullpen is going to have a lot of close calls, if it's tasked with protecting small leads.

Even so, the Giants have not played a particularly large number of close games. They did play 52 one-run games during the season, but four of the seven other playoff teams played more. They did win 28 one-run games ... but so did the White Sox, the Padres and the Rockies (granted, the Rockies also lost 30 one-run games).

Maybe you'll find something different if you dig deeper, but I think the whole "torture" thing was just someone's clever invention -- Mike Krukow, perhaps -- and everyone else ran with it.

As for Brian Wilson, he's one of 13 pitchers with at least 60 saves over the past two seasons. In that span, his WHIP -- walks and hits per inning -- ranks seventh, exactly in the middle (Mariano Rivera is No. 1, of course; Matt Capps is No. 13). What sets Wilson apart are two things: He's pitched more innings than anyone else, and at the same time given up fewer home runs than anyone else.