25 Million Later…Luis Castillo In Retrospect.

An article by posted on March 18, 2011

Luis Castillo was officially released today and is no longer on the active roster of the New York Mets. I wish I could’ve heard these words a few years ago, but after reading numerous posts and insights into the situation varying from “good riddance” to “why?” I decided to give a full scope look into the entire tenure of Luis Castillo with the Mets, both defensively and offensively, trying to be as neutral as possible.

Luis Castillo was good for the Mets in 2007, as in good fit, not good player. His better days were way behind him, and the Mets needed an everyday second baseman to solidify that team. Instead of trying out a younger player or signing a free agent, the Mets spent 25 million re-signing a 31-year old slap-hitting second baseman who’s value was entirely in his legs, that which towards the latter part of his career gave out on him. Watching him hobble on his uneven legs to first base was something that really made me shrink.

As bad as the Oliver Perez deal was, the difference is Minaya paid for potential and the fact that Perez threw with the wrong hand for Perez. In Castillo he threw 6 million annually at an OBP machine with fading defense who in the last 2 years just seemed to get on base by not swinging at pitches. I recall seeing Castillo look at strike-3 without swinging at all in an at-bat a few times, and his OBP shows it. Last year he posted his lowest OBP numbers since 1998, when he was a part-time player.

Now, the strictly statistic point of view:

Offensively…

Luis Castillo was traded to the Mets from the Twins in 2007 for 2 minor league prospects, Drew Butera and Dustin Martin. Castillo’s primary purpose was to fill the gap that was left by Jose Valentin when he broke a bone in his leg fouling a pitch off it. Castillo’s line for Twins was 54 runs, 0 home runs, 18 RBI, 9 stolen bases in 13 attempts and 29 walks to 28 strikeouts. Upon coming to the Mets, Castillo’s line over 199 ABs was 37 runs, 1 home run, 20 RBI, 10 steals in 12 attempts and 24 walks to 17 strikeouts. Despite these numbers, he managed 25 XBH throughout the season, with 5 of them being triples. Based on this stat-line, the Mets gave out a 4 year/25 million dollar contract to Castillo in hopes of solidifying their infield around young up-and-coming stars David Wright and Jose Reyes.

In 2008, Castillo’s numbers took a nose dive as he was injured. In 298 ABs , his line was 46 runs, 3 home runs, 28 RBI, 17 steals in 19 attempts and 50 walks to 35 strikeouts and a .245 average. Castillo seemingly failed in his first year of the contract, and at that moment the deal looked like a disaster. The two things Castillo was good at – hitting for average and stealing bases, were hindered by his injury and sent his value through the floor. Talks already began swirling about how Castillo needed to be purged and that Minaya had thrown good money at a lackluster player.

Castillo was hell-bent on changing that opinion in 2009, scoring 77 runs, hitting 1 home run, notching 40 RBI, stealing 20 bases in 26 attempts and walking 69 times to 58 strikeouts for a .302 average.Castillo hadn’t neared that walk total since 2005, but his strikeouts were always on a ratio with his walks. It seemed Castillo was swinging more, and thus putting more balls in play, drilling them into the ground. The fanbase hoped 2009 was the real Castillo and 2008 was just bad luck.

In 2010, Luis Castillo played through numerous injuries, but the numbers were not pretty at years end. In 247 ABs, Castillo hit .235 with 28 runs scored, 0 home runs, 18 RBI, 8 steals in 11 attempts and 39 walks to 25 strikeouts. Castillo was benched late in the season and a multitude of farmhands/free agents filled the gaps, showing how far from the Mets grace that Castillo had fallen. A rookie who had limited experience above Double A at shortstop – his natural position, received more playing time then Castillo in September.

Defensively…

Castillo’s UZR, by the years. 1.3, -4.6, -11.3, 2.8. TotalZone says he was 0.7, -11.5, -0.4, 3.0. Both measures seem to agree that in 2008 and 2009 Luis Castillo’s defense had deteriorated to a below average defender. His range in the field, based on FanGraphs clearly has Castillo as an average defender in 2007, well below average in 2008, below average in 2009 and in a limited sample size average or above average in 2010.

What the eye saw was a player who was unable to consistently stay healthy, finding difficulty playing his style of game without his legs and losing whatever value was attributed to his glove once his range deteriorated to something pathetic and his arm made rookie Ike Davis stretch for days.

Closing Thoughts:

Castillo wasn’t exactly a bad player, but he was an average player who was out to get as much money as he could doing what he was good at in his walk year. Regretfully, the Mets paid that sum and were rewarded with one good season, two bad seasons and a season that will more then likely be on the Mets payroll while Castillo plays for another team (Phillies, anyone?). What makes this much worse to the fan is that the proverbial bleeding was only stopped, about 18 million dollars too late.

Luis Castillo, you aren’t a bad baseball player, your age just caught up to you and took the two things that made you worth 6 million plus a year – your speed and your defense. As a fan of the Mets, I’m glad your gone because watching a shell of who you used to be for more money then Angel Pagan hurts me. As a fan of honesty, however – you should’ve been cut at the beginning of spring training instead of being dragged through the mud.

Farewell Luis Castillo.

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