Post-Game Thread: Zito Awesome Again, Brian Wilson News Tempers Excitement

The good news is the Giants won. The still-good-but-tempering news is that it came against the Pirates. The look-don't-ruin-this-a-win-is-a-win news is that it took an error against the Pirates to win. The good news is the Giants won.

The bad news is that Brian Wilson is probably out for the year. And that makes the good news up there just a little duller than it otherwise would be.

Yeah, I'm an adherent to the new-school pragmatism when it comes to closers, which is to say that they're probably overvalued. Brian Wilson and Pablo Sandoval each missed about six weeks last season. I remember what it was like to watch the lineup flail after the pandectomy. Mike Fontenot hit third, y'all.

But I legitimately don't remember if Santiago Casilla blew a save in Wilson's absence or not. Which is kind of the point. If you line up the eight starting position players, the five starting pitchers, and the closer on just about any team, the latter is the one I pick to throw into the volcano if the volcano god demands it.

That's in the abstract, though. The Giants' closer was Brian Wilson. He's about as valuable as the typical closer from a game-to-game perspective, but that doesn't mean that he's completely fungible or replaceable. The black awps and the overexposure will drive you nuts, but he's very much a Giant. Reminder: He replaced Armando Benitez. And Wilson was on the mound for some important games in Giants history.

I offer this newly made page as a tribute.

From a pragmatic standpoint, how much will this hurt the Giants? Not that much, most likely. FanGraphs has Wilson tied with Nick Masset and Wilton Lopez in WAR, and I'm pretty sure those are computer-generated players. I'm not sure I want to go that far when it comes to assigning (or not assigning) value to closers, so I'll guess that the truth is somewhere between the closers-are-essential mindset and the WARcentric mindset. And that still means that this probably won't cost the Giants that many wins, especially if the status quo was Brian Wilson throwing 88 mph.

It'll be weird, uncomfortable, and unpleasant not to have Wilson in there, though. He's a part of the new Giants lore, right along with Posey, Sandoval, Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner. He ranks highly in LORE+, trust me. And it's discouraging to know that we won't see him for a year, most likely. He was something of a security blanket, in which "security" was often replaced with "abject terror", but still a familiar face for whom to root, and root hard.

Not so high in LORE+: Barry Zito. The Giants telecast kept cutting away to Alex Smith during the second inning, and while that's something of a facile comparison, it still fits in a lot of ways. I have a sneaking suspicion that if Smith's brother read this blog, and that if he read that I was comparing him to Zito, he'd punch me in the throat. Just a guess.

But there are similarities. Big, big differences, too -- unless you want to make some sort of analogy between the offensive line of the '07 Niners and the gremlins inside Zito's shoulder, chewing away at his velocity -- but there are similarities. There were big hopes, and then there were … the opposite of big hopes. Smith came back and good on some of those hopes. All that stuff up there about Wilson being one of the gang? That never applied to Zito. But I don't think I'm alone in saying that I'd love for him to have a renaissance, and not just from a YAY-GIANTS! perspective. It'd just be a good story.

He had three pitches working tonight: a curve (which I remember), a change (which I kind of remember), and a slider/cutter/whatever (which I don't really remember at all, other than as a throwaway pitch in the past). He obviously wasn't as sharp as he was in Colorado, but he was pretty danged sharp. Some defensive shenanigans and some hits that found holes cost him a couple of runs, but he was fantastic overall. It took some concentration on his part

Watching the Pirates play should come with a Surgeon General's Warning, of course, and they have a 2011 Giants vibe about them right now, so it's not as off there's anything definitive to take away from these two starts. But danged if it isn't really, really encouraging. I'm not expecting him to be Cliff Lee all of a sudden, but if he could be, oh, 2001 Kirk Rueter, that'd do just fine.

If he could be more than that, it'd be welcome but ridiculous. Completely ridiculous. That's why the good comparison isn't Alex Smith; it's Ryan Vogelsong. Zito doing anything more than what we expected from Mark Gardner at the end of his career would be ridiculous. All it takes is two good starts, though, and you start to get goofy ...


Star-divide
The reason this is so late getting up is that I was watching the San Jose Giants tonight. I got to check out Joe Panik for the first time, and I wrote a scouting report on him:

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥on a 20-to-80 scale of ♥, he's all, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

He was 3-for-5 with two doubles. One of the outs was a loud one. Pretty sure he's going to be hitting cleanup by June, right between Sandoval and Posey.

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