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On Castillo: You Don’t Bet with a Pair of Twos

By Howard Megdal ~ March 18th, 2011. Filed under: Howard Megdal, New York Mets.

Look, it is easy to take today’s move by the Mets to release Luis Castillo in two ways. One is to somehow blame him for his injuries and diminishing performance, ignore how hard he worked to stay on the field as much as he did, and assume everything will be better once he is gone. Another is to point out, rightly, that there is much unknown about the potential performance of the remaining second base options.

But the case to let Castillo go is two-fold. One is the extremely limited nature of Castillo’s ceiling. The other is how unlikely he is to even reach that ceiling. This is like betting on a poker hand of a pair of twos. You could end up with even less next time, but you are probably a lot better off getting some new cards.

In the past three seasons, Castillo has posted OPS+ numbers of  77, 99 and 68. His games played in those three seasons are 87, 142 and 86. Considering that he’ll be entering his age-35 season, that probably puts his ceiling somewhere around 120 games and an OPS+ of 90. But again, he’s failed to come close to that ceiling in two of the past three seasons. His glove, while dependable on balls hit to him, cannot compensate for aging legs, so his defense is significantly below average, and likely to be worse going forward.

So the question becomes: can the Mets do better than Castillo’s ceiling among the group Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner and Brad Emaus? (They can’t with Luis Hernandez, and Sandy Alderson’s comments on the Mets broadcast Friday afternoon cast further doubt on the accuracy of the New York Post’s scoop from earlier this week. It’s not going to be Hernandez if rational decision-makers have any say- and they do.)

In Daniel Murphy, the Mets have a hitter with a career OPS+ of 103, entering his age-25 season. So his chances of besting Castillo’s ceiling, let alone any performance from Castillo that falls short of it, is considerable. We don’t know if his defense at second base will be passable, as poor as Castillo, or disstrously worse than Castillo. But again, when the incumbent has next-to-know possibility of improving, and is far likelier to decline, why not take a chance? If his defense is merely Castillo-bad, with some plays right at him traded for additional range, his bat towers over Castillo’s.

The same is true, to various extents, with Justin Turner and Brad Emaus. For reference, Dan Szymborski’s ZIPS has Murphy at 106, Turner at 89, Emaus at 81, and Castillo at 80. All three are young, capable of improvement, and could surprise. Neither Turner nor Emaus has a track record in the major leagues. But it is time to stop treating this like a bad thing in comparison to a track record that is poor, and given age, likely to get worse. And the non-Castillo options have a much better chance of exceeding their projection than Castillo does.

That’s true for both 2011 and beyond, an era when many Mets fans are counting on Reese Havens. This is just not practical, given Havens’ inability to stay healthy. Staying healthy is a skill, and assuming his power and plate discipline will continue while his injury woes won’t is optimism bordering on wishcasting. By all means, don’t give up on Havens- but assuming he’ll be fine is not a plan, so the Mets are rightly seeing what else they have.

Whatever one’s personal feelings about Castillo- I usually felt badly for him, a proud competitor who worked very hard at his craft- this move is the right one from a baseball perspective, now and in the future. I don’t gamble much, but I know when to fold ‘em. Finally, so do the Mets.


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Howard Megdal is the Editor-in-Chief of The Perpetual Post. He covers baseball, basketball and soccer for Capital New York, MLBTradeRumors.com, New York Baseball Digest and has written for ESPN.com as well as numerous other publications. He is the Poet Laureate for SBNation New York. His book about Jewish baseball players, “The Baseball Talmud,” is available for purchase on Amazon.com and wherever books are sold. His next book, "Taking The Field", is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and will publish in May 2011.

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1 Response to On Castillo: You Don’t Bet with a Pair of Twos

  1. PAUL

    The Mets got what they paid for with Castillo; *this* is what they purchased. The biggest problem was the symbolic nature of the club’s downfall almost immediately upon his arrival in 2007 to now. It’s not his fault, but he’s the scapegoat.

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