Thursday, June 4, 2009

Alexi Casilla's Defense

The Twins got it handed to them on Wednesday against the Indians, as they lost 10-1. But one question was lodged in my head after the game--is Alexi Casilla's defense good? There were a number of plays that had me questioning this, and I'll start by going through them.

-->In the second inning, Casilla ranged to his right to get a slow grounder that hit second base. He picked it cleanly, but didn't throw it as he had no chance to get the runner at first. Was it impressive that he got the ball in the first place, or could someone else have actually gotten an out (on this one I'm pretty confident the answer to that is no)?

-->The next inning, a pop fly was lifted into shallow right field and Casilla managed to run it down, only to have it bounce out of his glove. Again, was it impressive that he even got there? And should it have been an easy catch once he got there, or was it a difficult catch because of the angle and speed he was running at?

-->Then in the fourth inning, with two outs and two on, Casilla made a diving attempt on a ball that rolled by him on the first base side; he came up just short. Would another second basemen have been able to make it, or was it just too far away?

-->That was followed by a remarkably similar play in the fifth inning, except that he got to this one. He stood up and made the easy throw for the out.

-->Later, in the eighth inning with a man on first, Casilla made another diving attempt on a groundball, this time to his right. The ball went under his arm essentially and he was charged with an error. Did he even have to dive, and should that have been an easy play?

-->And the last one occurred in the ninth. Like the play in the fourth and fifth frames, Casilla dove to his left to get the ball, but this time he knocked it down and couldn't control it. It stayed nearby, but he didn't have a chance to throw out the runner at first.

As for my original question, about whether or not his defense is good, his UZR/150 at second base is -8.1 this year (221.1 innings) and -4.0 for his career (1,489 innings). Last year, though, he was almost average with a -0.8 UZR/150 over 833.2 innings.

But basically, I just want other people's thoughts on whether or not he should have made those plays, and whether or not other second basemen would have been able to make the plays.


  1. Shouldn't you be working??

  2. This is what statistics are for. Some people would have very strong opinions one way or the other about the difficulty of these plays, but the problem is that our eyes (and memory) can deceive us. The velocity and location of each batted ball is so subtly different that it is very hard to tell by watching, which is why we call upon statistics to help out. He does not have huge samples for his defense, so I think it's best just to look at his career numbers. A UZR/150 of -4.0 means that he costs the team about 4 runs on defense per 150 games compared to the average 2nd baseman. That combined with a single season high UZR/150 of -0.9 indicates that even if you equate average and good, it would be a stretch to call Casilla a good fielder.

  3. I understand that, but you would agree that defensive stats aren't reliable for the sample size of one game, so I just wanted to know what people (such as you) thought of those plays.

  4. Shouldn't you have been at work when that was posted????

  5. Ry ry I have a feeling you don't really care what I think of these plays.

  6. Well that's only because I have a feeling you didn't see any of them.


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