Saturday, April 30, 2011

Alexi Casilla, scapegoat

Five plays comprised the Kansas City Royals' game-winning rally on Friday, five plays that resulted in two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Alexi Casilla had a
difficult eighth inning
on Friday.

Alexi Casilla was involved in three of the five, and when the game was over FSN studio analyst Ron Coomer heaped the blame on the Twins' beleaguered shortstop.

Let's break the rally down:

Alex Burnett struck out the leadoff man, then (PLAY 1) allowed a double to Wilson Betemit. Then came Casilla's troubles.

PLAY 2: Kila Ka'aihue hit a sharp grounder at base-runner Betemit, who broke for third. Casilla let the grounder kick off his glove. It was ruled a hit, which is sloppy official scoring by any standard; it should have been an error. Hit or error, the Royals now had the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first.

Comment: This is the easiest play to criticize Casilla on, and as a physical error the one Coomer was least willing to rap him for. I assume that, because Casilla was headed toward second, his play would have been to first base, conceding third to Betemit. That would have left the Royals with two outs and a man on third.

PLAY 3: Kansas City pinch-ran the speedy Jerry Dyson for the plodding Ka'aihue. On the first pitch to Brayan Pena, Dyson stole second. Drew Butera's throw was well to the first base side of second base (behind the sliding runner) and went into center field. Betemit scored and Dyson advanced to third on the Butera error.

Comment: Casilla was the man covering second on the steal attempt, and he held at second as the ball sailed though. Coomer's criticism was that Casilla should have left the bag to try to keep the ball in the infield. Watching the play unfold, I expected Butera's throw to hit Dyson, and if that happened, there was no telling where it would go. (And, obviously, in an alternative universe in which Casilla makes the Ka'aihue play, there is no steal and no error,) The throw was errant enough that I'm not sure Casilla could have kept it in the infield anyway.

PLAY 4: With Dyson on third, Burnett walked Pena (Burnett was up 0-2 in the count and lost him).

PLAY 5: Alcides Escobar hit a looper between third and short. Casilla dashed over and back to catch the ball, but his momentum was carrying him away from home plate, and Dyson tagged up and dashed home. Casilla threw, third baseman Danny Valencia tried to cut it off, the ball went well up the first base line, and there was no play on Dyson.

Comment: There was nothing wrong with the catch, and while I can't prove it, I doubt that the slower J.J. Hardy would have gotten to the ball (assuming that Hardy were healthy enough to play, which he isn't). Coomer's complaint is that Casilla didn't immediately plant, pivot and throw home. (The catch was good; a throw, against Casilla's body, strong and accurate enough to catch Dyson would have been even more impressive.) Coomer sees this play, and the stolen base play, as further examples of Casilla's pattern of mental errors, that he wasn't adequately aware of the game situation.

And that's certainly possible. Casilla's problems over the years have generally been from the neck up. In this inning, however, the mental errors, if any, arose directly from the physical mistake on Ka'aihue's grounder.


  1. Great analysis. Look, Casilla has not played well, by any measure, so he's opening himself up to criticism and quite possibly to getting replaced before long. But the degree to which so many people are willing to focus their wrath on Casilla, while letting the guys who are supposed to be leading this team with their bats totally off the hook, is a unfortunate.

  2. I agree with Jim. Although Casilla may have had trouble in the 8th inning, where are the guys that are supposed to be leading this team? On the bench or on the DL. Before this team turns it around, they need to get production out of their stars and right now that is not happening.