By Marty Noble / MLB.com
02/05/10 1:00 PM EST
I often read how fans think that the Mets should move Luis Castillo. After a terrible 2008 season and despite the dropped popup against the Yankees in June, he had a quite respectable 2009 season, batting .302 and stealing 20 bases, while regaining his health. Why does everyone want to move him? What "star" would play second base? Is this a spot for Daniel Murphy since he was a third baseman?
-- Robbie B., Glendale, N.Y.
Castillo's range is an issue at least partially because Murphy's range at first base isn't special. The lack of range probably would become more noticeable if the Mets' rotation includes three right-handed pitchers -- Mike Pelfrey, John Maine and Fernando Nieve -- as a likelihood of more ground balls to the right side would exist. If Jon Niese were the fifth starter instead of Nieve, the potential for a problem wouldn't be so great.
A lack of extra-base hits by Castillo could become an issue as well, depending on where he bats in the order.
With a catching tandem not likely to produce many extra-base hits -- not as many as Bengie Molina -- Castillo's singles offense would be a problem if he were to bat low in the order. Batting him second would offset his lack of doubles to a degree, if Jose Reyes were leading off and running well. But if Castillo bats eighth, as he did in 23 games last season, the Mets wouldn't get their money's worth offensively. His singles would have greater value if the players on base in front of him were faster and able to advance two bases. If he were batting eighth, he likely would be following a catcher -- Omir Santos or Henry Blanco. Moreover, Castillo still runs well enough that he can advance two bases on a single or score from first on some doubles. But if he's batting eighth, the chances of him advancing on a hit are diminished.
Castillo's batting average and on-base percentage as a No. 2 and a No. 8 hitter were good and quite comparable last season -- .326 and .402, respectively, batting second and .324 and .415 batting eighth. But consider this: Though his on-base percentage as a No. 8 hitter was 13 points higher, the 34 times he reached base batting eighth produced 10 runs, or runs in 29 percent of the opportunities. The 144 times he reached base as a No. 2 hitter produced 56 runs, or 39 percent of the opportunities.
Or put aside the numbers, it makes sense he would score more often as a No. 2 hitter than as a No. 8 hitter. And since he is on base more than most players -- his overall OBP for the season, .387, was 16th in the National League -- he should bat second to afford him as many plate appearances as possible.
So it's not that Castillo is a diminished player so much as it is that his skills and those of some teammates don't mesh well.
And, no, Murphy is not a second baseman.--Marty Noble