The good news — when Casilla is pitching well, he looks like a dominant reliever, throwing mid-90 MPH heat with filthy breaking stuff.
GIF example of said filthy breaking stuff.
That’s from April 26th this past season when Casilla struck out the side in a game against the Cincinnati Reds. In this particular game, Casilla was burying 95-MPH two-seam fastballs inside on right-handed batters, working away left-handed batters with the same pitch, and dropping in the occasional power curveball, just to even things out. Casilla — though up-and-down at times — looks like one of the better relievers in the National League when he’s “on.”
And, when one considers that Casilla was due around $5M this year by arbitration, the three-year, $15M deal looks more like a 2-year, $10M deal. The Giants were definitely bringing back Casilla in 2013 and he was going to get that $5M regardless. All things considered, paying around $5M AAV for a setup / late inning reliever these days isn’t outrageous by any stretch of the imagination. (Cool story: In 1993, Ken Griffey Jr. hit 45 home runs, 38 doubles, won a gold glove, and posted a 171 OPS+. He made a salary of $4.150M.)
Still, while Casilla looks brilliant at times, his core components — walks, strikeouts, ground balls — makes him more comparable to Clay Hensley than any other reliever over the past three years.
2010-2012, relievers with similar rates to Santiago Casilla
(Also, please note that HR% is simply HR/TBF.)
Yep. Clay Hensley. The same pitcher that was terrible — though, I was crushing on him at times — for the 2012 Giants. Affeldt is somewhat comparable, too, just ignore the fact that he’s gotten more ground balls than Casilla; Joe Smith has been a pretty good and underrated reliever; Fernando Rodney has had his ups and downs, but he’s coming off a truly dominant 2012; and Matt Albers is in there doing Matt Albersy things, which mostly means not being good at baseball, but hey, Matt Albers.
Once you get get past the urk-response of being compared to Clay Hensly, you’d also notice that Casilla struggles with throwing strikes at times. He was league average in regards to walk-rate in 2012, but the season prior he walked 11.9-percent of the batters he faced. The league average walk-rate tends to hover at just around 8-perecent. I’m not a mechanics expert, but I’d liken Casilla’s pitching motion to ‘fighting off swarm of bees’ and I can imagine that it’s not the most repeatable, clean delivery out there.
Casilla’s career FIP is 4.01, which means that he’s more of a back-end bullpen guy than a relief ace. Teams are paying these guys around $5M these days. Honestly, baseball salaries are starting to get weird. However, in Casilla’s case, it’s probably an OK deal to make. The Giants will pay for his age 32-34 seasons and he’s been worth — by the FanGraphs’ version — as much as 0.8 wins in a season. Relievers are so volatile that it’s hard to know just exactly what the hell Casilla will do in 2013, but he’s not a particularly bad bet to be semi-useful to the team.
In the larger baseball sense, it might not be a terrific contract, but in Giants sense, it, well, makes a bunch of sense. The team was committed to bringing him back at around $5M in 2013 and now they’ll get an additional two years at pretty much the market rate. Not a terrible deal; not an awful deal; it is, however, a deal.