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When has Bruce Bochy demoted his closer in the past?

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Thanks to Trevor Hoffman, Bruce Bochy hasn't needed to demote his closer often, but there are still some case studies to inspect.

Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Bruce Bochy managed Trevor Hoffman for 12 seasons, and that was a pretty easy gig. Even when Hoffman blew a save, it’s not like the manager’s decision was going to be scrutinized. There was no guess work. If he just called on Hoffman for every single save situation, Bochy knew everything would probably work out just fine.

That’s, uh, not the case this season.

Santiago Casilla had perhaps his second-worst blown save of his Giants career on Sunday, turning a two-run lead into a one-run deficit with one miserable hanging curveball. There were two outs, and it was one of the more impressive instances of him snatching defeat from the jaws of victory this season. I’m just sitting here, slow-clapping in an empty living room, because I’m still very, very impressed.

The worst blown save, of course, would be the balk-off in San Diego, in which he didn’t record a single out after the Giants took the lead in extra innings. Boy, that was a stinker. Makes me livid just thinking about it. And now I have to take a break and pace around the neighborhood.

So you can see the problem, here. Casilla’s two worst games happened in the last month for a team that’s more than capable of losing without any plot twists. Naturally, this means he’s under more than a little scrutiny, and it’s worth talking about if his job is in jeopardy.

The question before us today is this: What did it take in previous seasons for Bruce Bochy to remove a reliever from the closer’s role?

As far as I can tell, Bochy has made an in-season switch with his closer three times. Here’s a look at those transitions to give us an idea of just how much trouble Casilla is in.

Closer switch #1: Armando Benitez to bullpen by committee

This is cheating, in a way, because it wasn’t Bochy who took Benitez out of the closer’s role. Brian Sabean did it officially, trading him away by the end of May. At the same time, you know Bochy had a lot of input into what happened to Benitez, so we’ll let it count as a closer switch.

What it took
Four bad outings out of nine May appearances. After a scoreless inning on May 4, Benitez’s ERA for the season was down to 1.80, and he’d been unscored upon in 10 of his 11 appearances. That’s not a closer in danger of losing his job.

His next eight outings went like this:

  • Two ER allowed, loss
  • Clean third of an inning
  • One ER, blown save
  • Clean save
  • Clean inning
  • Clean save
  • Two ER allowed, loss
  • Two ER, miserable blown save

The last one was the famous balk game, so there are some historical parallels, too. The difference is that Benitez’s stuff was clearly lacking, whereas Casilla’s stuff has been looking okay for the most part. That probably made the transition easier.

Closer switch #2: Brad Hennessey to Brian Wilson

Hennessey was just a stopgap to begin with, so I’m not sure how relevant this is either. Still, he was the closer for a month or two, and he was pretty okay at it. For a while.

What it took
A closer of the future coming up from the minors, among other things. Brian Wilson was clearly the heir apparent, and that probably made the decision easier when Hennessey did start blowing saves. It was his last six outings as closer that did him in:

  • One ER, blown save
  • Clean save
  • One ER, blown save
  • Clean save
  • Three ER, blown save
  • Two ER, hold

Wilson took over after that and remained the closer for the next four years.

Closer switch #3: Sergio Romo to Santiago Casilla

Romo became the closer after Brian Wilson blew his arm out in Colorado but he pitched so well, he stuck as the closer through 2013. In June, 2014, though, he lost his job to Casilla after a ghastly stretch.

What it took
Two bad weeks, give or take. Before the Rockies came into town on June 13, the Giants had lost just one game because of a Romo blown save all year, and that came at Coors Field. He was 20-for-22 in save chances, but his next five outings weren’t as impressive:

  • Five ER, blown save
  • Two ER, blown save
  • Clean save
  • Clean save
  • Two ER, blown save

Romo out, Casilla in, and here we are.

So what does history tell us? That an embattled closer needs about three nightmare outings in a six-game stretch. Casilla has already gone through that stretch this season, though, starting June with a blown save and two losses in his first four appearances. The entire bullpen was shaky then, though, and there wasn’t really an obvious replacement. Since then, he’s been mostly fine. Mostly.

Sunday’s game was Casilla’s first blown save since the balk-off so if you’re looking for a switch right now, you’re not going to get it. You need concentrated incompetence, whereas Casilla has been pretty good at crop-dusting the incompetence around and distributing it evenly all year. Another couple blown saves in the next two weeks, and I’ll guess that Bochy makes a move. Until then, meet the new closer, same as the old closer. Because he is the old closer.

If history is any guide, it will take a little more than this for Bochy to change the bullpen pecking order around. If you’re eager to see the Giants make a move, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. But the silver lining for the anti-Casillites is that it doesn’t have to take months for Bochy to make a switch, either. If Casilla struggles in in two or three of his next few outings, I’ll guess that he’s gone.

Until then, keep crossing your fingers and toes when Casilla enters a game. It takes years off your life, but I don’t think there’s going to be a change just yet.