Making sense of Juan Castro to Phillies

On the face of it, Juan Castro signing a major-league contract worth about $700,000 with a 2011 club option makes no sense. After all, this is a 37-year old with a career line of .230/.270/.332. He has negligible value on offense, and I couldn’t care less about his .277 mark he posted last year (/.311/.339). The only thing separating .277 from a .230 average is five hits. With Castro’s weak power, I would be willing to bet those extra five hits were likely nabbed on either a seeing-eye single fluke, a texas leaguer or incompetence from defenders.

David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer likens Castro to Omar Vizquel, who just inked a one-year pact with the Chicago White Sox for 1.375 million. He’s comparing a Hall of Famer to a never-has-been journeyman. His logic? Castro had a .569 OPS over the last two seasons while Vizquel is at a .594 OPS.

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How about defense? Looking at UZR/150 for the three infield positions Castro and Vizquel predominantly played, we can come to the conclusion that the two are actually similar defenders. We’ll use career UZR/150 numbers to cut down on the small sample size issue, although Vizquel’s time at 2B and 3B came only in 2009:

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Player 2B SS 3B
Juan Castro
13.5 6.1 -13.2
Omar Vizquel 0.3 7.1 56.1

Other than 3B, it’s a compelling argument to say that Castro and Vizquel are rather similar players at this stage of their respective careers. I wouldn’t lend too much credence to both Castro’s and Vizquel’s 3B numbers, because UZR/150 is a tough statistic with small sample size. I would argue the gap is significantly smaller than it appears, although Vizquel would still have Castro beat.

I predicted a while back that Omar would end up with the Phillies. Obviously, I was wrong, but doesn’t it look like as if Philly essentially did sign Omar, only for about $600,000 less?

To be sure, the signing doesn’t change what Philadelphia hoped to do with the backup infielder position. Philadelphia was on record saying they wanted a strong defensive option with pop in his bat who could spell Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and their eventual third-baseman a bit more frequently given their progression to middle age. Unless Amaro is smitten by that .277 batting average and truly thinks it sustainable, this isn’t happening. But Murphy brings up a logical point:

Keep in mind that two candidates to replace Pedro Feliz at third base are Placido Polanco and Mark DeRosa, both of whom have played extensively at second base. And while the Phillies do not view Greg Dobbs as an everyday third baseman, they do contend – at least publicly – that they are comfortable starting him there occasionally. Last year, Dobbs hit .309 with a .829 OPS in the 28 games in which he started.


One more thing. Some are saying it’s a lateral move from Eric Bruntlett at best. Let’s compare the two, both offensively and defensively given their career numbers:

Player 2B SS 3B OPS
Eric Bruntlett -3.2 1.9 -0.2 .633
Juan Castro 13.5 6.1 -13.2 .601

Hmm… maybe not such a lateral move after all. Looks like Castro’s better on defense.

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Actually, just looking at WAR is not “saying enough.”  Evan’s 6+ paragraphs said what needed to be said, whereas your link to small sample sizes masquerading as legitimate information added nothing.  Believe it or not, FanGraphs WAR is not the authority on every baseball move, and GMs who run their team based solely on WAR will be out of a job very quickly.

Nick Steiner
Nick Steiner
Chuck Brownson
Chuck Brownson

Small sample sizes?  Castro has 2694 career PAs and more than 6000 defensive innings played.  Those are hardly small samples. 

Additionally, I disagree with the idea that Omar Vizquel is a Hall of Famer.  He might make it but it’s difficult to make the argument that he’s worthy.  I have no idea how the voters will vote and they might put him in, but he doesn’t belong.  Trammell, yes.  Larkin, quite probably.  Vizquel, an unqualified no.