Alexi Casilla to Stop Switch Hitting?

Late last week, the Orioles announced that Alexi Casilla may stop switch hitting in favor of solely batting from the right side.  The move seemed like a curious decision to me, and my initial reaction was that the Orioles were looking to exploit some sort of platoon advantage at second base, especially considering their other second baseman, Ryan Flaherty, bats left handed.

It’s no secret that the second base position is something of an offensive black hole for the Orioles since Brian Roberts went down with a hamstring injury 3 games into the season (and even Roberts was not a sure bet to be productive at the plate this year).  In the absence of Roberts, the Orioles have been sending out Casilla and Flaherty to man the keystone, and it has not been pretty.  Orioles’ second basemen possess a combined .221 wOBA and a 30 wRC+*, both ranking 28th in the league.  For anyone too lazy to click on the link below, a wRC+ of 30 corresponds to a batter who is 70% worse than league average.

*click on the link for a definition of wRC+

Individually in 2013, Casilla, a switch hitter, has a .209/.244/.256 line (AVG/OBP/SLG) in 46 PA’s, with roughly two-thirds of his plate appearances against LHP’s (batting right handed).  Flaherty, a left handed hitter, has a .131/.223/.202 line in 95 PA’s (facing a RHP in all but 5 of them).  Just looking at those two lines makes me think that the Orioles are desperate to suggest Casilla give up switch hitting to focus on batting right handed, but maybe he has hit much better batting right handed against left handed pitching over the course of his career.

It turns out to be the opposite. The table below shows career numbers, and Casilla is a worse hitter when batting right handed in every offensive statistic except for batting average. He walks less, strikes out more, gets on base less, hits for less power, etc.  You get the picture.

Casilla

I can’t comment on whether the Orioles coaches see something better in his right handed swing than his left handed swing based on some sort of scouting or mechanical characteristics (because I don’t know), but the numbers indicate that this will not do anything to improve Casilla’s offensive production, and may even make it worse.  In any event, as long as the Orioles keep playing any combination of Casilla and Flaherty at second base, you can expect little offensive production from them, regardless of what side of the plate Casilla bats on.

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