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Sam Morley

The Ozzman Cometh Around the Bases Not So Much Lately.

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After reading Parker Hagemanís recent analysis1 on Oswaldo Arciaís approach
and swing, Iíve been thinking about it ever since, particularly as Arciaís slump is reaching toward extreme extents.

I think Parker is on in his critique of Arciaís over-aggressive, indiscriminate approach at the plate: past success swinging at first pitch fastballs has led to present adjustments by pitchers to throw off speed early, but not- so far- to any counter adjustment by Arcia. I also think the swing-out-of-your-shoes approach, in combination with the poor plate discipline, is problematic. I do think that these have both been recent trends and not career-long issues. A quick glance at his 2014 spray chart2 supports the aggressive, hard swinging approach observations. A heavy propensity to pull, including all four home runs, is evident. Compare this to his spray charts from 20133 which demonstrate more even distribution. Just looking at line-drives, in 2013, 10 of 33 counted line-drives went left of center. Whereas in 2014, weíre looking at 2 of 17. Add home runs: 2013, 5 of 14 to left of center; 2014, 0 of 4. The higher percentage of well hit balls in 2013 indicate a more balanced and better disciplined approach than what we have seen in 2014, particularly over the past couple of weeks.

As for his swing mechanics, Iím not too concerned about the hands drop pointed out by Roy Smalley and Parker. Because he starts with his hands so high in his stance, theyíre going to have to come down. If your hands are up by your ears, you canít go straight to the POC (point of contact) or youíll only ever hit ground balls. From the videos I watched of Arcia hitting this year4, last year5, and in minor league seasons at New Britain6 and Ft. Myers7, I could not discern a significant change in the drop of his hands during the load stage of his swing. I suppose there is logic to the notion, which Parker points out, that with a lower load point with his hands, a hitter may be more susceptible to strikes higher in the zone. The video clip of Arcia he included demonstrates this on a one swing sample size as Arcia puts what appears to be a beautiful and well timed swing under the pitch. However, I think the statistics cited regarding Arciaís high swing and miss at high strikes rate, are just as likely explained by his overall lack of discipline at the plate (a lot of bad guessing and not getting a good pitch to hit), rather than an issue with his swing. And, as others have pointed out in the comment boards, Ted Williams- probably the greatest student and teacher of hitting ever- loaded his hands low8 and did not struggle with high strikes9.

While I didnít notice much difference in his swing from last season to this season, there was one significant difference between his swing in the minors and what it is now: the high step. In the minors, there was a toe tap and slide-stride with the knee bending only slightly as the hips cock in. Both this season and last, his stride is preceded by a high, almost Puckett-esque step. I donít dislike the high step. It assures a full load to the back leg and a powerful weight transfer moving forward. It effects more coil in the hips and more power in their rotational Ďsnapí. Many excellent hitters have utilized it without expensing balance or batting average.

I think if there has been a definite exaggeration in the drop of Arciaís hands during his load (which I couldn't see in the video I watched) it has probably come in conjunction with the high step. While I donít think either one is problematic, I do think, in Arciaís case, they might be indicative of something that is: wanting to hit a jack in every PA.

If this is what is at the root of his recent extended slump, then it is an uncomplicated fix, and will inevitably mend itself. When you go 0 for the week, you have to come back to balance, contact, and a disciplined approach. I think Arciaís track record, particularly in the minors, indicates that he is a disciplined hitter. Though his low-ish walk rates and high-ish might suggest otherwise, his ability to consistently hit over 300 indicates some level of swing selection. I think he needs to relax and trust that the quality of his swing, and his strength, will produce good power, and the resultant balance will yield a higher average and on-base rate.

It seems like the Twins coaching staff has, for years, pushed a patient, disciplined approach to batting. I think theyíve pushed the approach to a fault. While I think the philosophy is best for most hitters, I think it has been harmful to a few exceptionally talented players to come through the Twins- Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez in particular. Gomez, especially, I donít think would have become the player he is if he had stayed in Minnesota, as much as I wish he would have. Fortunately, while Oz may have earned some comparisons to the aforementioned players, in terms of batting approach, I do think his true self as a hitter is more in line with what the Twins seem to preach- not totally in line, but enough that I think he will eventual excel here. I hope so. He is far and away the most exciting player on the roster, a la pimping triples off the wall in a ski mask. I hope he works through his slump with the Twins. I really do not want to see him sent to back to 'chester.

1. http://twinsdaily.com/content.php/30...ite-There-Yet)
2. http://www.fangraphs.com/spraycharts...ype=battedball
3. http://www.fangraphs.com/spraycharts...s1=ALL&vs2=ALL
4. A. http://m.mlb.com/video/v33776145/min...swaldo%2Barcia
B. http://m.mlb.com/video/v33469001/mil...swaldo%2Barcia
5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AO2RRUTOSX8
6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0FpJdxq_OE
7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kh_Ka3TkyHY
9. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-84RsOfF6J2...trike_zone.gif
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  1. twinstalker's Avatar
    My hope when Arcia was rehabbing was that the Twins would see his strikeout rate was far too high even at AAA and keep him there with the mission that he needed to figure that part out prior to coming back to the Twins. That's still what I would do (demote him). Unfortunately, the Twins don't have any OFers to bring up, except Hicks, who also needs to figure things out at AAA.

    It's probably time to give Mauer an outfielder's glove and consider giving Vargas, already on the 40, a chance as DH and backup 1B for a while. Arcia and Hicks need to spend their time through July down on the farm with specific goals in mind. Arcia can obviously destroy pitching there, but apparently he can't not strikeout a lot there. Fix that and come back.
  2. Sam Morley's Avatar
    Arcia's K rate throughout his minor league career, including his time this year at AAA, is right around 20%- not great, but not "far too high" either. Last year, his OBP at AAA was .426, this year, it's .365. With his BA basically identical, the difference is in the BB rate. He has demonstrated plate discipline in the minors. He needs to put it together at the show.

    His minor league K rate of around 20% is fine. If he can bring his big league K rate of around 30% down to that, he'll be doing great. Another, albeit better fielding, right fielder, Yasiel Puig strikes out at around 20% and walks at around 10%. I think Arcia's hit and power tools profile similarly. If he can bring to the show the plate discipline he has demonstrated in the minors, I think we could see comparable production. He has nothing left to prove at AAA.
  3. Sam Morley's Avatar
    Now that's how you break a slump!
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