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Revisiting the strange history of Santiago Casilla as a hitter

The good, the bad, and the weird.

San Francisco Giants v Colorado Rockies Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

In Exhibit #32,892 in the case of F*** the DH v. MLB, Will Smith showed himself to be a strong, independent pitcher who don’t need no professional hitter to score him some runs. On Sunday night, the San Francisco Giants closer recorded the first hit of his career, driving in two on a line-drive single and thoroughly humiliating the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Giants, of course, are no strangers to relative weirdness when it comes to relievers doing things that relievers aren’t supposed to be doing. Think Cory Gearrin playing in left field, or Sergio Romo pitching to a switch hitter in an elimination game during the 2016 playoffs.

But no one matches the oddity that is Santiago Casilla, professional batter.

Officially, the not-quite-officially-retired former Giants closer sports a career line of .250/.400/.250, good for an OPS+ of 92. That’s 45 points better than Madison Bumgarner! Sure, Casilla might have never hit a grand slam or smashed two home runs on Opening Day, but read the spreadsheets, jocks—the numbers don’t lie.

But even the numbers don’t fully capture how weird Casilla’s career was during the very few times he held a bat. Let’s start with…

The Good: RBI single

September 14, 2012. The Giants were up 5-1 against the Arizona Diamondbacks going into the top of the 8th. Casilla, who replaced Jeremy Affeldt in the bottom of the 7th to get the final out of the inning, was on deck when Brandon Belt was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

In true Bruce Bochy fashion, the manager let Casilla hit for himself, hoping to get another inning out of the pitcher. It was objectively the wrong baseball decision, but also in true Bochy fashion, he had backed himself into a corner with terrible bullpen management, burning through three relief pitchers in 1.2 innings after pulling Matt Cain in the bottom of the 6th.

Of course, this is 2012 we’re talking about, and EYBS was on full display.

Casilla grounded a ball to right field just past a diving Aaron Hill, bringing in a run and further cementing a Giants victory. This would be the first and only time Casilla would ever record a hit or RBI.

The Bad: Groundout-induced injury

Do you remember that time when Masahiro Tanaka managed to pull both hamstrings scoring on a sacrifice fly? There’s a reason why pitchers, as a rule, don’t overexert themselves on the basepaths: It’s because they’re essentially Mr. Burns.

Casilla forgot about that rule.

During a May game against the Colorado Rockies in 2014, Casilla was sent to the plate again in the hopes that he could pitch another inning. In this case, it was more defensible: Matt Cain had come out of the game early due to injury, and Bochy had worked through three relievers before handing the ball over to Casilla in the 8th. Somehow, Casilla managed to get through the inning on only four pitches, and with a relatively safe 5-1 lead, it made sense to have him close out the game.

Then, in an inexplicable act of bravado, Casilla tried to beat out a grounder to short.

Casilla would miss about a month with a right hamstring strain. Of course, it ultimately didn’t matter, because EYBS, but it was still a Picard-facepalm worthy moment. And, as it turned out, Bochy had explicitly ordered Casilla not to swing.

So why did he swing and then pretend he was Billy Hamilton? Who knows. Competition is a helluva drug, and it’s made plenty of players pull even dumber antics.

The Weird: A four-pitch walk

Some brief context: it’s August 14, 2011, and the Giants are playing at Florida against the Marlins. With the Giants leading 5-2 in the top of the 9th, Bochy once again decides to try extending Casilla to pitch the bottom half of the inning after the reliever recorded the last out in the previous inning. Casilla dons a helmet and steps in the box to face down opposing pitcher Jose Ceda.

This is the first time Casilla has ever stood at the plate in his first eight seasons of his career.

Jon Bois does a better job breaking down this bit of baseball history than I ever could, but honestly, you only need a single picture to tell the story.

This is where Casilla stood during the entirety of his at bat.

Ceda threw him four straight balls. The Florida Miami Marlins haven’t recovered since.