Giants and Santiago Casilla agree to three-year extension

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UPDATE: Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle hears that the deal is worth around $15 million. Nothing to get too worked up about, but long-term deals for relievers can be risky business.

11:08 PM: Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com reports that the Giants and Sanitago Casilla have agreed to a three-year extension, pending a physical.

No word yet on the terms involved, but the deal includes a club/vesting option for 2016. Casilla was arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter after making $2.2 million in 2012, so the deal buys out at least his first two years of free agency.

Casilla owns a dominant 2.22 ERA in 74 appearances since joining the Giants in 2010. Only Mike Adams and Eric O’Flaherty have a lower ERA (min. 170 innings pitched) during the same timespan. The 32-year-old right-hander took over as the Giants’ closer this past season after Brian Wilson had Tommy John surgery, notching 25 saves in 31 chances, but he’s expected to pitch in a set-up capacity in 2013 now that Sergio Romo has staked claim to the role.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.