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  • Examining Oswaldo Arcia's recent struggles

    Figuring hitters out, a baseball lifer told me recently, is like trying to untangle a giant knot.

    At first you just try to attack it in the easiest manner possible. If that does not work, you pick another course. And then another and another. You keep trying different things until something gives and you attack that spot until the knot becomes an unraveled mess of string with a sub-.200 batting average and a ticket back to Triple-A.

    That, in short, is how teams approach players who are new to the league. Pitchers go right after hitters until the method proves fruitless. Then they start pitching away. Or they pitch up. They change speeds. Or they feed them breaking balls until they go cross-eyed. Meanwhile, the good hitters – the Joe Mauers of the world – adjust with the pitcher. They take that pitch on the outer-half to the opposite field. They lay off the high ones. They wait on the breaking ball. Those less experienced may fall right into the game plan of the other team.

    Take Danny Valencia and Brian Dozier as examples. Both these players enjoyed immediate success but fell apart as teams began to exploit their tendencies to pull everything. Valencia has hit .234/.274/.365 since that exciting rookie season while Dozier is a career .226/.265/.319 hitter in almost 500 plate appearances. Chris Parmelee enjoyed his month of September back in 2011 but has been a pile of yarn in the batters’ box since, hitting just .218/.284/.351.

    This brings me to the latest hot-hitting young Twin, Oswaldo Arcia.
    Arcia began the month of May with an 8-game hitting streak. Within that stretch, he hit .438 with four doubles, a triple and a home run. That performance, spread across three series, undoubtedly had advanced scouts saying “uh-oh, we’ve got to deal with this.”

    In a USA Today article, Bob Johnson, an advanced scout for the Braves, who just finished sweeping the Twins, explained a bit about his technique:

    "I'm looking for tendencies," he explains. "If a guy sets his hands at a different position on different counts. I want to know his stance. Does he close up? Is he an open-style hitter? Does he dive into the pitch? … I first check his hands, then his feet. Then I check where his head goes on certain pitches."


    Back at the hotel, he writes up reports on the game and then emails them to the team's video coordinator, who compiles the various streams of research. The team's manager and staff will ultimately share the information with the players to help them prepare for future match-ups.
    What advanced scouts saw with Arcia is a hitter who has a great ability to keep his hands inside his swing. He generates plenty of his power that way. He is a hitter who has no trouble going to all fields. In fact, he has hit the ball the opposite way (37% of balls in play) more than he has pulled it (31%). Teams realize that they need to get him to move his hands away from his body which requires avoiding pitching him middle-in.

    The assumption may be that he is seeing fewer fastballs but the reality is he is seeing roughly the same percentage of fastballs, just fewer of those for strikes. Take a look at this animation of his swing on fastballs, from the beginning of his major league season to when his hitting streak ended, compared to his past 10 games.

    Notice the cluster of fastballs near the heart of the plate in the first series and the lack of anything there in the second series.

    The number of in-zone pitches Arcia has seen has shrunk significantly (his in-zone pitch percentage is 46%, well below the near 50% mark and has been at 39% the past two weeks). Arcia, so far, has not been the type of hitter who takes walks. He is a power hitter who is ready to swing (his 54% swing rate is also well above the MLB average of 46%).

    During the Atlanta series, Ron Gardenhire held Arcia out of the lineup, saying that the rookie was “misfiring” at the plate. True, the above numbers indicate that he is pressing hard at the plate with little to show in the past few weeks. His ninth inning pinch hitting appearance, resulting in a foul out to end the game, was a prime example of why he is mired in this offensive quagmire. On a 1-0 pitch, Arcia was sitting dead-red on a fastball. While the Braves gave him one, it was on the outer-half, running away and the contact resulted in an easy third out for Justin Upton in foul territory.

    In that situation, under those conditions, you can expect that the manager wants his player to be teeing up on a better pitch - particularly when ahead in the count.

    Prior to Thursday’s game against the Tigers, Gardenhire informed the media that his starting lineup would not include Arcia for the fourth consecutive game. When pressed for an explanation, the manager said that he wanted to play the matchups and that Ryan Doumit was 4-for-10 off the Tigers’ starting pitcher, Rick Porcello. This reasoning, based on absurdly small sample size, is likely the cover for the manager and coaches wanting Arcia to slow down and recognize how pitchers are approaching him. He has fallen into a pattern of trying to force everything. Their advice could be don’t swing so much, don’t expand the zone, and let the game come to you.

    Based on his tools, Arcia has a bright future. In order to realize this potential he needs to refrain from chasing everything that moves. His mechanics are solid and his strength will ensure that he will blister pitches that come into his swing path. As major league pitchers continue to pick at his weakness, he needs to adjust with them.
    This article was originally published in blog: Examining Oswaldo Arcia's recent struggles started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 14 Comments
    1. SoCalTwinsfan's Avatar
      SoCalTwinsfan -
      Don’t swing so much, don’t expand the zone and let the game come to him.
      Suddenly, Arcia's aggressive approach isn't such a great thing.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      This is why it is so uncommon to succeed in MLB without some time in AAA. The pitchers in AAA adjust faster and are just plain better than they are in AA.
      Then it is yet another step to MLB.

      Tough game. The best.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      Sometimes it doesn't hurt to go down to the minors again and work on somethings...and play regularly, too. Think it is time to send Hicks out for the same reason. If they work on things in the minors, then they re listening and become much more valuable. The biggest adjustment is that there is so much more info poured over every player in the majors. What I'm getting a bit disappointed about is that the Twins are bringing up too many placeholders. Maybe they should be rotating in some guys like May and Hermsen and Sano and Santana just to give them a bit of major league touch...make then even more hungry.
    1. chopper0080's Avatar
      chopper0080 -
      A move needs to be made in one form or another. Either the Twins need to play Arcia consistently so he can make adjustments and apply them in game, or they need to send him down so he can do that at the AAA level. Very few players learn on the bench.

      If Arcia is unwilling to change his approach, send him down.

      If Arcia is willing, but you don't have a place to consistently play him, send him down.

      If Arcia is willing, and you are willing to play him so he can refine his approach that the major league level, then for God's sake, play him.

      Anyway you cut it, the Twins need to make a decision and move forward rather than this treading water which is accomplishing nothing.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Suddenly, Arcia's aggressive approach isn't such a great thing.
      Did somebody say it was?
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      Parker your analysis is just awesome. Thanks!
    1. adjacent's Avatar
      adjacent -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      Did somebody say it was?
      Plenty of times, TV broadcasters onFSN
    1. notoriousgod71's Avatar
      notoriousgod71 -
      And he still has the third highest OPS on the team. This front office is a joke.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oldgoat_MN View Post
      This is why it is so uncommon to succeed in MLB without some time in AAA. The pitchers in AAA adjust faster and are just plain better than they are in AA.
      Then it is yet another step to MLB.

      Tough game. The best.
      I disagree. Arcia's problems aren't that he skipped AAA but rather that he just turned 22 and he only played a half season at AA.

      Quote Originally Posted by SoCalTwinsfan View Post
      Suddenly, Arcia's aggressive approach isn't such a great thing.
      This is one of the concerns that I had about Arcia but his raw hitting skills are immense. I think he will be fine and be a fixture in the middle of the order in a year or two. Hicks I'm not as never was as sure about.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      AAA experience doesn't prepare a guy for the majors. Twins fans get very excited about the minor leaguers that show promise, but forget that most of them don't succeed at the ML level for long.
    1. Danchat's Avatar
      Danchat -
      Pretty sure I just heard Arcia is going to AAA. I wonder if this is to make room for Walters?
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      Quote Originally Posted by Danchat View Post
      Pretty sure I just heard Arcia is going to AAA. I wonder if this is to make room for Walters?
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      recent struggles yes, but second on the team in slugging. Getting him down for 5 days to get the 7th year of team control is fine, but he should be back sooner than later. In reality, he is bein blocked by Morneau.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      Actually he is being blocked by Parmelee. That should end in the next couple of months if Parmelee does not figure things out and start hitting. That will also make the decision on Morneau easy, extend him if the price is right.
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