By now you’ve probably seen the home run that Triston Casas smacked in last night’s game against the Rays, the first homer of his Big League career. He got a mid-90s fastball up and in, whipped his bat around much quicker than someone his size looks capable of, and turned on it, depositing it over the right field fence. It was a hell of a swing, displaying the bat speed and power that have made him one of the top prospects in baseball.
And it wasn’t even my favorite Triston Casas swing of the night.
In the seventh inning, Casas stepped in to face lefty Brooks Raley with two outs and the bases empty. Making contact against lefties is the last developmental step Casas has to take, the final piece in the complete hitter puzzle. He’s never hit lefties well, and he actually regressed a bit against them as he made the move up to AAA Worcester. In 256 plate appearances against righties this year, he hit 13 home runs with a .975 OPS – that’s the statistical equivalent of Stan Musial. Against lefties, though, he didn’t hit a single homer in 90 plate appearances, with an OPS of .598 – that’s Rey Ordonez.
Raley started him off with two hard sinkers that dove towards Casas’s knees. Casas swung over both of them, and wasn’t particularly close to getting the bat on the ball. Raley probably figured he could get him out by throwing the exact same pitch three times in a row, but his slider is his put-away pitch. He throws it more than any other pitch, hitters whiff at it 36% of the time they see it, and he’s recorded more strikeouts via the slider than anything else in his arsenal. He probably wanted to show the kid what a big league wipeout slider looks like. So he threw him a sweeper that started in over the plate and broke all the way across the zone, ending up on the outer edge. Here’s what Casas did with it:
A foul ball to the left side! Ok, that’s probably not the dramatic payoff you were looking for. Sorry about that – I have a tendency to overpromise and underdeliver. But, actually, I’m not all that interested in what happened to the ball. I’m interested in Casas’s swing.
Take another look:
That’s an inside-out swing! Short, quick to the ball, an attempt to simply pop one into shallow left. Let me ask you: how often do you see a major leaguer shorten his swing these days, trading in power for contact? How about when that hitter is a 6’4”, 250-pound moose of a first baseman? How about when that hitter is a 6’4”, 250-pound moose of a first baseman who just hit his first career homer a few innings earlier?
It’s extremely rare to see a hitter employ two different swings in modern baseball. Players have become too finnicky, too attuned to every little moving part of their mechanics to risk having their whole swing fall apart because they got too cute. And further, in the Three True Outcomes Era, this isn’t what’s supposed to get you the money and attention. It’s the home runs that everyone wants, from the fans on up into the front offices. No one has time to appreciate a subtle shift in approach that, even if it did result in a base hit, probably wouldn’t have led to a run anyway.
But Triston Casas, as we’re learning, isn’t most hitters. This is a guy who started his big league career by doing half-naked Pilates in the outfield. This is a guy who has the confidence to call out the home plate umpire in his second game. This is a guy who, last night, said sure, shots to straight-away rightfield are cool, but have you ever considered the subtle beauty that’s inherent in a soft liner to left?
Triston Casas is a baseball hipster, and I couldn’t love it more.