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For One Night, Brian Wilson Is Better With The Bat Than On The Mound

BRIAN WILSON SMASH!

It hasn’t been a very smooth season for the Giants’ Brian Wilson thus far.

He’s looked less like the automatic lock that he was in 2010 and more like the edge-of-your-seat closer he was earlier in his career. The strikeouts are down. The walks and the earned runs are way up. He has converted 24 of 27 save opportunities, but I’m sure the Giants would like to see some cleaner innings from The Bearded One.

They didn’t get one tonight in Detroit.

Wilson entered in the bottom of the eighth with the Giants holding a precarious 1-0 lead as the Tigers had runners on first and third. But with two outs, all Wilson needed to do was retire Magglio Ordonez to extinguish the rally. Granted that Ordonez has been hitting better in the past week, he’s hovering around .200 at the plate. He’s not much of a power threat any more. This shouldn’t be too diffi–

And Ordonez singles.

OK, tie game. I guess it’s now 24 out of 28 in save chances.

But hey, things looked bright as the game reached the bottom of the ninth. The Giants scored three runs in the top half, so Wilson should pick up an easy win.

Bottom nine, Wilson back on the mound:

Single

Single

Force out

Walk to reload the bases

RBI single. It’s 4-2. Bases still loaded with just one out. Wilson gets the hook. And he didn’t try to hide his frustration.

The shot of him at 0:12 looks like a one-man cavalry charge, and it makes me laugh every time.

The good news is that Wilson ended up with the win. Jeremy Affeldt replaced him and after some awful hesitation contributed to a run-scoring error by second baseman Emmanuel Burriss, Brennan Boesch hit a soft line drive to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who was able to double Brandon Inge off of second base to end the game. Brian Wilson gets saved.

I’m sure the Giants don’t like it when Wilson uses his right hand to punch a Gatorade cooler in releasing all of that rage. That’s his money-making hand. But it sounds like Wilson is fine, and it could have been worse; he could have taken his anger out on a clubhouse wall. In September.

Also … that was pretty awesome. And that’s how you’re treated in such a case when you have a zero in the column of baseball life marked “crazy, anger-fueled dugout thrashings.” We would certainly be talking about anger management and potential club distractions if this was Carlos Zambrano. But since this kind of bat-to-the-wall, in-game outrage seems to be rare for Wilson — at least other episodes haven’t been caught on camera that I can recall — it just makes you want to pump your fists in excitement.

The bigger issue for the Giants is Wilson’s command. Not that he’s in any danger of losing his role, but the numbers haven’t been great. After tonight’s outing, here is what he’s statistically done so far compared to his entire 2010 campaign.

2010: 74.2 innings pitched; 62 hits, 15 earned runs, 26 walks, 93 strikeouts, 1.81 ERA, 1.18 WHIP

2011: 38.2 innings pitched, 33 hits, 13 earned runs, 22 walks, 36 strikeouts, 3.03 ERA, 1.42 WHIP

If you take out Wilson’s first two appearances this season — both of them wretched — his ERA actually falls back to less than 2.00. You could attribute those performances to some lingering pain since he missed the first week of the season due to an oblique injury.

But the walks are troubling. He’s already close to his career-high for one season (28). This Brian Wilson reminds me of an earlier version, such as the one back in 2008 that saved 41 games despite a 4.62 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. And it’s not like he’s been the recipient of some bad luck. Opponents’ contact rate has risen four percent from last year, but Wilson’s BABIP is down from .314 to .275.

It may be nothing to worry about in the long run. You just have to wonder if Wilson, despite his durability, is a little worn out after pitching in nearly 46 percent of San Francisco’s games since the beginning last year.

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