Batting 2nd And Playing 2nd Base, #1, Luis Castillo

Can you believe that Luis Castillo has won the starting 2nd base job for the 2010 New York Mets?  He is the last man standing.  He was a huge underdog to win the job.  But he persevered.  He beat out Orlando Hudson, Adam Kennedy, Felipe Lopez, Brandon Phillips, and any other 2nd baseman that might have been available through trade or free agency.

Luis might have won the job by default but he still deserves the credit.  Last year when he dropped the pop up, he courageously faced the media and the fans wrath.  He will undoubtedly be there to face the media and all their redundant questions again this spring.  I expect him to confidently say that he is in great shape and plans on playing even better than last season.  And he intends to prove his detractors wrong.

Luis Castillo is showing us something –  heart and courage.  He has exhibited incredible mental toughness to not have quit on himself or his team, just because the fans have quit on him.  Even if we don’t like his game, we should respect his efforts and attitude.  And support him.  It turns out that Luis is the kind of player we need on the Mets.  He is a leader.

There are so many Mets fans, me included, that had grown tired of watching his game.  But it’s now time to put all that behind us;  the dropped pop up, the lack of power and the poor defense. Let’s face it.  If Luis Castillo can repeat the year he had in 2009, he will be an asset to this team.

Last year he proved that he could play injury free for an entire season.  He played in 142 games.  He hit .302 with a .387 OBP.  We might not like that he is just a singles hitter, but you can’t argue that he constantly gets on base.  If he can repeat this performance in 2010, he will help the team.  Luis’s weaknesses were especially evident last year because of the injuries and poor play by the players who were being counted on to lead the team on the field.  In other words, Luis was not responsible.  Lost in the failure of the team as a whole was the positive contribution of Castillo.

If batting second, I’d like to see Castillo forgo the sacrifice bunt, especially in the early innings.  That means that Reyes or Pagan, from the lead off spot must be given the opportunity to steal 2nd base.  Then if Castillo can get on base 38% of the time, Beltran, Bay and Wright should have many opportunities to drive in lots of runs.

Defensively, it remains to be seen how Luis will do.  But one thing that I’m starting to question is the validity of the UZR statistic.  I recently wrote about how terrible 1st baseman Mike Jacobs is based on his UZR rating.  In answer to this, I heard Jacobs say in an interview, that players often get bad raps that stick with them regardless of their validity.  Although he had a terrible rating in 2008 his prior years UZR weren’t nearly as bad.

UZR numbers, in any given year can be deceiving.  UZR is a very complicated system of measuring defense which takes into account numerous variables and statistical analysis, and to use this single UZR number alone is totally misleading.  According to Mitchell G. Lichtman (MGL), creator of UZR, a single year’s number is not very significant.  Read all the rhetoric from his comments through this link and please explain to me what he is  talking about.

Castillo’s poor defense last year was likely exaggerated.  And UZR accuracy is certainly questionable when you consider how Castillo could have possibly fielded better in 2008 (UZR of -9 vs. -12 in 2009), despite playing on two gimpy legs and a noticeable limp.  Fans might claim he is indeed bad defensively by watching him play every day.  But surely these fans can not possibly be objective as their perceptions have been highly skewed by their preexisting bias against Luis.

I realize that anyone, including me, can spin numbers to use to his advantage in making a point.  So just hear this one example and you decide if Jacoby Ellsbury is a good center fielder.  Jacoby Ellsbury’s 2008 UZR was a +16.5 and in 2009,  -18.6.  Give me a break Fan Graphs.

I’ve changed my tune on Luis Castillo.  I have gained new respect for him for having the fortitude to survive the media blitz against him and this winter’s discontent by Mets fans.  It’s time to jump on the Castillo bandwagon.  On opening day when the starting lineups are announced, I for one will be at Citifield cheering Luis Castillo’s introduction.  And I hope that all 41,000 others there that day will do the same.

BTW – I’m back at Danny Baseball