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  • Are Arcia's Problems Self-Correcting?

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

    I think Parker is spot 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 poor plate discipline, is problematic. I do think 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 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, 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 he is a disciplined hitter. Though his low-ish walk rates and high-ish K-rates 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 swin, and his strength will produce good power, and the resultant balance will yield a higher average and on-base rate.

    It seems as though 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' system- 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. Maybe 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
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. drock2190's Avatar
      drock2190 -
      Very good article
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      "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," Don't think I buy it. Young used all fields in 2010 and had his career year. Moved to Target and tried pulling the ball and failed. Gomez had two miserable years with Milwaukee before figuring it out. The misconception is that the Twins somehow throttled his swing while he was here. This is absurd. Think back to that year. If anything he swung harder then than he does now. He often fell over from swinging so hard to the extent it was often comical. Thome swung hard, Morneau swung hard, Cuddyer swung hard, Kubel swung hard. The ones that slumped did so when they chased pitches (lacked discipline) or tried too hard to pull the ball. If the Twins did actually teach players to go to the opposite field that is one thing. If they taught them to go with the pitch that is another. Arcia is proof that you can't just go up there with no discipline and trying to pull the ball. Gomez probably would have been just successful with Mn and maybe more so and maybe sooner.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      I've said it before but Arcia's slump reminds me of a couple of Cuddyer's. He would be so anxious to hit the pitchers could often get him out without throwing a single strike. The more aggressive he got the farther out of the zone the pitchers would throw it. He got out of the slumps by accepting the walks. He had one three day weekend where he had an absurdly high number of walks. Pitchers realized they had to pitch to him and he started getting the pitches he wanted. Just guessing that if Arcia didn't swing at a pitch for an entire game he would walk twice. Do that a couple games and be less pull happy and he will be back on track. He's got a beautiful swing that will probably get more homers not trying to hit it out of the park than when he does try to hit it out of the park.
    1. DK's Avatar
      DK -
      A very good article. As I mentioned before, the great Ted Williams had a hitch in his swing early in his career. His adjustment was to lower his hands in his stance. As he triggered his hands would come up to the top of the strick zone. He could then hit the high pitch as well a recognized it. He also could drop the barrel of the bat down on the lower pitchers. Maybe the recognition part of his set up was the key.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      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...
      First off, I appreciate your critique and your thoughts on this matter. I will just address a couple of your concerns regarding my analysis:

      (1) Yes, it is a one-swing example because (a) I do not need to litter a post with multiple examples of this effect when the numbers/in-game examples demonstrate this and (b) MLB has a pesky problem of not posting outcomes like that. Rest assured, Arcia has swung underneath plenty of high pitches (28 of 59 pitches offered at this year). I realize I have access to a database that shows more than than most people can see, but I feel that I should not have to post dozens to highlight what the data speaks to.

      (2) His struggles with the being pitched up in the zone (now batting .143 for his career and 0-for-20 this year) is part of his inability to recognize pitches/free-swinging approach but that ties back into his mechanical issues to catch up to pitches up in the zone.

      (3) It's not the low load in and of itself. It is because he brings his hands down from a high point during the pitch. When you consider the time to recognize and react, this puts him at a severe disadvantage on balls up in the zone. Factor that adjustment in addition to the effective velocity tenet that shows that pitches up in the zone are effectively faster because of the distance needed to move the bat, it is clear why he has had issues with that part of the zone.

      Adjusting to compensate for the high pitch causes Arcia to commit to the fastballs sooner and leaves him ineffective vs off-speed pitches (career .183 hitter vs off-speed/breaking balls).

      (4) Williams did not start his hands high. He started and loaded low, unlike Arcia who drops his during his load.

      All in all, I think we're in agreement that Arcia has a great swing. It's powerful and aggressive. It boils down to what I wrote:

      As Smalley championed during the game, Arcia does not necessarily have to change his swing -- he just needs to recognize pitches and understand his limitations. A high fastball is going to give him issues. Cheating for high fastballs is going to leave him susceptible to slow breaking balls. This goes back to improving his plate discipline. As pitchers shift their offerings and attack certain holes, Arcia will need to make adjustments.
    1. DK's Avatar
      DK -
      I believe he needs to change his stance. If he lowers his hands in his stance his hands will naturally come up or stay at the top of the strike zone when he strides. Todays game showed that his hitch and pitch recognition need a lot of work. Bad habits are hard to break. I hope someone can get to him before its to late.
    1. Sam Morley's Avatar
      Sam Morley -
      Parker, I think what you're saying makes sense if Arcia's hands are still dropping when they should already have been loaded. I don't see how the distance, though I agree it is extreme, Arcia's hands move from his stance to load point would affect his pitch recognition or ability to catch up to high strikes, as long as it's not delaying his load. As long as he gets to his load point on time, what difference does it make how far his hands move to get there?

      I sat clicking play-pause on a few different clips of his recent swings, and it's just really hard to tell without a frame by frame high resolution gif. It seems like maybe his hands are still dropping when they should already be loaded, but it's basically impossible for me to tell from what I'm watching.

      What do you think Smalley means by "cheating"? Do you think he means starting the whole step/hitch mechanism a touch earlier, or do you think he means over committing to make up for lost time? I'd buy the over committing line of thinking if he's doing it to make up for his hands continuing to load when they should have already.

      I personally tried to duplicate the stance to load part of Arcia's swing, and it feels admittedly strange and slow-pitch softball-esque. It seems like he must be really trying to crank up the power.

      Didn't mean to pick on the sample size thing. It did stick out to me though. I'm definitely a mechanics and film junkie, and would've enjoyed the post even more if you had 'littered' it with a few more image samples. But thanks for clarifying some of your points.
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