Secretary of Transportation: Alexi Casilla
After getting our asses handed to us in wicked Baaaston fashion on Wednesday afternoon, I figured a little injection of positive reaffirmation following the series sweep was needed as the Twins make their way to Detroit for a four-game set before the All-Star break. Yet, I do proceed with some small degree of caution while naming the third member of the 2008 Twins Cabinet as the first two appointments, Secretary of Agriculture Livan Hernandez and Secretary of Defense Michael Cuddyer have, in brief, handled their nominations will all the poise and composure of a combined Milton Bradley/Jose Guillen/Kenny Rogers therapy session. Livan of course leads the club with 9 wins and Cuddy gets a pass due to injury, however the objective of donning their respective letterheads with said seals is to propel these boys to greatness.
But we press on. And as the political faces within out televisions offer their pitch with increasing regularity and volume, we'll vote for the tenet of timing by herein assigning the next chair to the Twins Cabinet, our new Secretary of Transportation: Mr. Alexi Casilla.
Comparing Casilla's phenomenal 50-game run to anything in his past would be a point both dead and moot as prior to his May call-up, Casilla had not only done nothing in the Show, he really hadn't done anything in the Bigs to even warrant the chance to do nothing.
But now that's changed, and as per any return trip back to Rochester, Alexi can inform teammates that it's acceptable to remove the second two syllables from his surname when discussing his once-erratic travel itinerary between New York and Minnesota.
Since his mid-May call-up, Casilla has truly gotten the lineup moving. Upon his first start on 5/14, the Twins were a single game over the .500 mark, but have played at 8-games over .500 since that date. His offensive performance has been emblematic of myriad virtues that are required to bat second -- the slot I feel to be most important in the batting order-- hitting for average (.309), working with speed (4 steals in 5 chances), exercising (surprising) savvy, showing just enough power (4 home runs) to earn respect, and spraying the ball around as evidenced by this hit chart:
In April, the Twins scored just 99 runs, second to last in the American League, However in May, thanks in large part to Casilla's contribution, the Twins scored 154 runs, tied for second in the league. In June, they plated 142, good for 5th. Entering Thursday's game versus Detroit, the club scored 48 July runs, a clip of 6 per game, third best in the A.L.
In his 46 games started, Casilla has driven in a run, or reached base via hit, walk/hit by pitch in 44 of those games. He's accrued two hitting streaks that have reached the teens, 13 and 14 respectively, the latter of which usurped the former (somewhat obviously) as his career high.
Casilla has been especially strong in innings 1-3 of ballgames, hitting at a .358 clip, which is notable as the Twins are 23-7 when leading going to the 4th. Timely hitting has followed suit, as evidenced both by his .400 average with runners in scoring position, his .346 rate with RISP and 2 outs, and also by his mirrored .346 clip and .414 on base average with 2 outs overall. Among A.L. peers at his position, Casilla ranks among the top half in virtually all offensive categories, although I find it especially notable that he leads the post with 7 sacrifice hits, and also ranks 4th in RC27 at 5.68, a unique stat that essentially measures how many runs per game a team made up solely of this player would score.
Alexi Casilla was the 2006 Twins Minor League Player of the Year, and then seemingly became a dude with a cool trophy who developed the unfortunate habit of getting under Gardy's skin. But for exemplifying the resilience often disassociated with youth (at 23, he's still the youngest starting 2B in the AL), for showing growth beyond his 5-9' stature, for combining with Carlos Gomez and Denard Span to give the club the craziest set of legs since Gisele Bundchen, and for getting the club moving when the tires were flat, we hereby name Mr. Alexi Casilla as the 2008 Minnesota Twins Secretary of Transportation. Here's how the Cabinet lines up thus far: