Alexi Casilla – A Twins Career in Retrospect

Alexi (Lora) Casilla was signed by the Anaheim Angels as an amateur free agent in 2003.  He played for the Angels’ Minor League affiliates for two seasons before being traded to the Twins in 2005 for left-handed reliever J.C. Romero.  Casilla started the 2006 season in High-A Fort Myers playing for the Miracle and by September had earned himself a Major League call-up and played in nine games to close out the year.  For the next six seasons Casilla was at least a part time player for the Minnesota Twins, though he never really became the reliable middle infielder that many expected him to become.  And then last week, after losing the starting second base job and struggling to live up to even the meager offensive standards he had set for himself following 2010 and 2011 (the first time in his career he put up two relatively similar offensive seasons back to back), the Twins waived Casilla and he was claimed by the Baltimore Orioles, ending his lackluster career in Minneapolis.

Alexi Casilla, Credit: Knuckleballs Blog

In parts of seven seasons in Minnesota Alexi Casilla hit .250/.305/334 (BA/OBP/SLG), and only in his initial nine games in 2006 did he record an above average offensive season by OPS+ (clearly, some small sample size bias).  All told, he was worth 57 runs LESS than an average hitter in Minnesota.  In terms of Runs Created, among Minnesota Twins players with at least 1500 plate appearances, Casilla ranks 71/76, ahead of only Hosken Powell, Scott Leius, Jim Holt, Al Newman and Jerry Terrell.

Defensively, where most Casilla Apologists would pin most of his value, Casilla falls short of average in almost every defensive statistic. He’s been worth -21 runs in Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Average, -1 in BIS Defensive Runs Saved Above Average, and his fielding percentage (arguably a poor predictor of true defensive value) was just .976 compared to a league average of .985.  Again, against other Twins with 1500 plate appearances, Casilla compares poorly coming at 53/76 with -3 runs created from fielding.  Though he’s ahead of some other big name Twins, Joe Mauer (57th), Kirby Puckett (59th), Jason Kubel (68th), Harmon Killebrew (75th) and Michael Cuddyer (76th).  Unlike many of the Twins below him on the all time list, as noted above, Casilla’s bat did little to justify his continued presence on the Twins roster.

The only place where Casilla compares favorably to Twins of the past, is his ability to effectively steal bases.  Casilla’s 71 stolen bases are good enough for an 18th best in franchise history (though 71 is a fairly low total, as Ben Revere, with 700 fewer plate appearances, is already ahead of him with 74).  However, Casilla is the most efficient base stealer in Twins history (min 25 SB attempts), swiping bags in 88.75% of his attempts.  Why Casilla doesn’t have more stolen bases is probably the result of not getting on base frequently enough and playing for Ron Gardenhire, who doesn’t typically push runners to steal bases.*

Casilla leaves the Twins as a fairly successful Major Leaguer, if not a successful Twin, simply because he was able to collect so many plate appearances.  Not counting his September call-up in 2006, only 241 MLB players have more plate appearances since 2007, putting him in the top 10% of players since the start of 2007 (2,447 players had plate appearances between 2007 and 2012.).  And while that list contains players who may have since retired, Casilla still ranks in the top 15% for plate appearances by active players during the same time period.  Whether it was the Twins’ lack of viable middle infield options, or their continued belief in Casilla as a project, he has more plate appearances than all but 57 other Twins players putting him ahead of 92% of players to play for the Minnesota Twins.  He might not be missed, but he was certainly a big part of the ball club for a little more than six years.

*Only three Twins have more than 100 SB attempts since Gardenhire took over as skipper, Torii Hunter, Nick Punto and Denard Span.  And only Ben Revere has a chance to join that group in the next several years.  For a quick point of comparison, Tom Kelly had seven different players attempt at least 100 SB, and Chuck Knoblauch attempted 353 (2nd in team history to Rod Carew).  

-ERolfPleiss

Twins History Lesson: May 3-9

There’s no off-day this week, but there have been a few notable games and events in Twins history during this week and since I didn’t have anything better to do after Sunday’s game, I thought I would share a few of the more noteworthy items with you.

May 3 has been relatively uneventful but in 1986, leadoff hitter Kirby Puckett homers off of Walt Terrell’s first pitch of the game. Not a big deal, I know, especially since the Twins lose the game to the Tigers 7-4. But it’s the second night in a row that Puck hit a HR on the game’s first pitch, having done so the game before off of future Twin Jack Morris.

May 4 has been a bit more eventful for the Twins:

1975: The Twins retire Harmon Killebrew’s #3 in a ceremony before Killer takes the field as a Kansas City Royal against the Twins. Killebrew expresses his appreciation by hitting a home run off of Vic Albury in the first inning.

1982: The Twins’ most famous sufferer of Tourette’s Syndrome, Jim Eisenreich, removes himself from a game in Boston due to taunts from the Sox fans in the cheap seats.

1984: What goes up must come down… eventually. Dave Kingman of the A’s launches a ball up through one of the drainage holes in the Metrodome roof and is awarded a ground rule double. The ball is found by a Metrodome worker the next day, who drops it down to the field where the Twins OF Mickey Hatcher is waiting for it. Hatcher drops it.

1999: The Twins’ victory number 3,000 is recorded in an 8-4 win over the Evil Empire.

May 5, 2005 (aka 05/05/05) brings Twins fans (and especially Batlings) the Best. Cupcake Day. Ever as the Twins score 5 runs in the 5th inning to beat the Tribe, 9-0.

(I could have also listed Luis Tiant’s remarkable 2 hit, 9 walk, 5.2 inning effort in 1970, but on the off chance any current Twin pitcher might read this, we don’t want them to get the idea that’s how they’re supposed to pitch, even though El Tiante won the game to go 5-0 for the season.)

On May 6, 1978, the Twins entered the day having lost 14 of their previous 16 games and Roger Erickson had given up a 5-run third inning to the Orioles, resulting in a 5-1 deficit entering the 9th inning in Baltimore. The Twins, led by Rod Carew’s bases-loaded triple (yes, this was back when the Twins actually got hits with bases loaded), scored 7 runs in the top of the 9th to take an 8-5 lead. Tom Johnson coughed back up 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th before getting a double play ball out of Lee May to end the game in an 8-7 win for the Twins.

May 7 has seen a couple of interesting events in Twins history:

1995: The Twins and Indians play for 6 hours and 36 minutes before the Tribe finally wins 10-9 in 17 innings.

2000: Tom Kelly becomes the first Twins manager to reach 1,000 wins.

2008: Carlos Gomez leads off the game with a HR and then hits for the cycle in a 13-1 win over Ozzie’s BitchSox.

May 8 was a meaningful date for a trio of Hall of Famers:

1967: Rod Carew collects five hits for the Twins… the first Twin to accomplish the feat.

1968: Catfish Hunter beats the Twins 4-0. Technically, his Oakland A’s team beat the Twins, but since Hunter not only pitched a perfect game against Minnesota, but also drove in 3 of the A’s 4 runs, it’s safe to say he pretty much beat the Twins by himself. Less than 6,300 fans were in attendance at the game in Oakland.

1984: Kirby Puckett collects four hits in his Major League debut as the Twins beat the Angels 5-0 (something that wouldn’t be accomplished by another Twin until today’s debut by Wilson Ramos).

Wrapping up the week, there are only a couple of noteworthy games on May 9:

1961: The Orioles’ Jim Gentile hits a grand slam home run in the first inning against the Twins. Then, just to prove it was no fluke, he hit another grand slam in his next at bat, in the second inning. Only 3 players in MLB history had hit grand slams in back-to-back ABs prior to Gentile. He also added a SAC fly to set a single game RBI mark with 9 RBI for the game.

2003: Rick Reed was injured so Ron Gardenhire turns to lefty Johan Santana as his sacrificial lamb to face off against Pedro Martinez (who had struck out 12 Twins in their previous meeting) and the Red Sox. The result is a 5-0 shutout… for the Twins. Santana went just 5 innings and was aided by LaTroy Hawkins, J.C. Romero and Eddie Guardado, to complete the shutout. Not one who’s easily impressed, Gardenhire sends Santana back to the bullpen and uses Johan only as a spot starter vs. a couple of NL teams during interleague play until he’s given a spot in the rotation in July. He performed pretty well after that.

Speaking of Baseball Boyfriends

While Babs is trying to sort out what to do if her baseball boyfriend ends up on the DL, I’m sitting here wondering if I’ll ever be able to choose another Twins boyfriend at all.

I’ve had two BFs in the past, and both ended with the players being traded. It’s sort of interesting that both are pitchers because I don’t necessarily consider myself to have a favorite position or anything, but there it is.

While some girls may have practically a harem of BFs, backup BFs, and flirt buddies, I’ve always been pretty monogamous about the whole thing. I don’t really remember now how I pinned by BF sights on Eric Milton, but I’m guessing his no-hitter back in ’99 didn’t hurt. I finally bought my first Twins jersey in 2003 with Milton’s name on it, and he was traded after that season. *sigh*

[Milton was before I had a digital camera. Considering how long it’s been since I got my first one, wow, it’s been a long time since he left. If I scrounge up a non-digital photo I’ll scan and add it.]

One problem I have with choosing a Twins BF is that I don’t really like to share, at least not with those I attend games with or talk baseball with ever, which might explain my fling the next couple of seasons with J.C. Romero. He seemed to be someone others loved to hate, so I pretty much had him to myself. I didn’t get as far as buying a jersey with his name on it, but I probably would have if he hadn’t been traded after the 2005 season.

romero071905-3

Wait — it’s been four years since Juan Carlos (that’s what I called him in my head) was traded? I’ve really lost track of the time while trying to figure out who would make a good new BF.

The first place one might look is who my former BFs were traded for. Milton: Carlos Silva (now with the Cubs), Bobby Korecky (now with the Diamondbacks) and Nick Punto. Huh. It feels like Punto’s been around longer than that. He isn’t BF material for me, but I can’t imagine the Twins without him right now.

Romero: Alexi Casilla. I love watching Casilla play, but also just not quite right for my baseball BF.

So I’m back to the rest of the guys. I’ve been perusing the 40-man roster and no jumps out at me at all. I like so many of them, but either they’re not a good fit for me or they’ve been claimed by someone else.

Maybe the problem is that I really need to be able to see these guys out in the sun or something before I’ll find one who makes my heart sing. I know I saw many of them in a new light when I attended an away game in Anaheim a few years ago, so maybe the new ballpark is what I really need.

Rather than studying the roster maybe what I really should be doing is figuring out if I’m going to be able to buy tickets for a game or two when the single-game tickets go on sale this Saturday.

So, who makes your heart go pitter pat?