• Minnesota Twins' Alexi Casilla not in the swing of things

    Last season, the switch-hitting Alexi Casilla had produced at a very good rate against right-handed pitching.

    In 247 plate appearances in the left-handed batter’s box, he hit .274/.350/.400 – not too shabby for a middle infielder. This was a significant improvement for someone who had hit .228/.299/.320 from the left-side over the two previous seasons (2009 and 2010) in 314 plate appearances.

    Most analysts would likely dismiss his 2011 breakout as a statistical glitch of the effects of a small sample galaxy in comparison to his vast universe of career suck-i-tude. Meanwhile, before this season started I presented the argument that Casilla, at the ripe baseball age of 27, was finally ready to breakout. Based upon his mechanical changes he made in 2011 and his impressive winter ball performance which yielded some very good numbers, I was optimistic that Casilla would more than earn his $1.4 million payday and pick up where he left off in July of 2011.

    Of course, rather than being motivated to prove my thesis correct, Casilla continued to do his best Luis Rivas impersonation.

    After posting a career-best 750 OPS against right-handed pitching in 2011, Casilla has struggled to even reach 500 mark (currently at 475 OPS). In fact, his .192 average against right-handers is the fourth-lowest in the American League and the lowest among those with the platoon advantage. Once again, although it may be easy to simplify his performance to regression, Casilla’s offensive downturn has more to do with his mechanics and timing.

    The first clip is a swing from June 2011 that exemplifies his approach from May through July of 2011. Watch his lower half and witness a fluid and unison leg lift, a front toe tap that comes after the pitcher releases the ball and a noticeably violent lower-half weight transfer:


    Casilla implemented these mechanics from May onward of last season and experienced terrific results. This gives his swing pop, instead of the slap-hitting Casilla we became accustom to seeing over the majority of his career.

    Compare that swing to his pre-May 2011 approach:


    Notice that his stride is completed prior to the pitcher’s release of the ball (in the first version, he started his stride mid-pitch), leaving him flat-footed and simply shifting his weight from back to front and using more of his upper body in his swing.

    Casilla’s current mechanics are almost identical to those he used before his hot streak in 2011. Note the foot plant well before the pitcher’s release and muted weight shift:


    There is no clear reason as to why Casilla abandoned the method which proved the most fruitful for one that is quickly expediting his career out of professional baseball. Perhaps it is that his sporadic time between starts has thrown off his timing. Maybe it is something that the coaching staff has encouraged him to revert back to the old approach. Whatever the rationale behind it, it would seem to make more sense to attempt to revisit video of his swing from last year and attempt to resurrect his mechanics from that stretch of baseball.
    This article was originally published in blog: Minnesota Twins' Alexi Casilla not in the swing of things started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. J-Dog Dungan's Avatar
      J-Dog Dungan -
      I really hope we aren't the only ones that are seeing these posts about how players could improve themselves. Any way we could send this to Joe Vavra?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      He is an awful MLB hitter. The data is quite clear on this.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      old habits die hard?
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Evidently, when Nicky Blackburn was tearing up AAA, it was because he and Bobby Cuellar revisited video of his glory days of 08-09. It would seem to be a worthwhile formula when a player struggles. I suspect at the MLB level, coaches try to "adapt" and outsmart too much rather than just sticking to what has worked in the past.
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      glad Blackburn rediscoverd his old form....sometimes a frog is just a frog
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      I posted a thread earlier saying that the Twins should play Casilla. I, too, believed in the 2011 May-July Casilla. What is sad is that while he's not hitting, he has often been spectacular in the field and he is a fine base-stealer, and he could be a disruptive force on the bases if he only got on base more. The days of no focus have diminished but his performance as a hitter have been meager, even less than his previous stats. He figures to ride the pine unless there is another injury and I have to say he deserves it.
    1. J-Dog Dungan's Avatar
      J-Dog Dungan -
      After tonight, looks like Casilla might have made a few adjustments at the plate with a triple and a double.
    1. Highabove's Avatar
      Highabove -
      Casilla starts reading Twins Daily, and look what happens!
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      Well, I guess I got Alexi going!
    1. Ultima Ratio's Avatar
      Ultima Ratio -
      Quote Originally Posted by Highabove View Post
      Casilla starts reading Twins Daily, and look what happens!
      Is there a spanish version of TD?
    1. one_eyed_jack's Avatar
      one_eyed_jack -
      Casilla is like the Liriano of infielders. He's a tease. He'll have spectacular stretches of play followed by longer stretches of horrid play.

      He's had plenty of opportunities to establish himself as a regular, and hasn't been able to do it.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      He's gone after the season ends... The Twins just traded for his replacement.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      He's gone after the season ends... The Twins just traded for his replacement.
      Who is cheaper. Casilla is using whatever Spanish expletive is roughly equivalent to ****! right now.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      Who is cheaper. Casilla is using whatever Spanish expletive is roughly equivalent to ****! right now.

      Now that I think about it. I wonder if Casilla or Carroll wasn't part of the trade discussion at some point. The White Sox are gonna need a backup SS now.

      It would make sense that Williams would at least inquire about them.
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      I was quite surprised to see Casilla in the starting lineup yesterday. He has been close to dreadful at the plate since the Plouffe injury which put Casilla in the lineup every day at second. Maybe they wanted a fellow Dominican on the field to babysit Deduno. Whatever the reason, the results were good. Maybe there's a totally out of the blue hot streak in Casilla. We've seen it before.
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