A Hard Look at Jose Castillo – Turning the DP
A follow up article after Castillo lost his starting job is here: [link].
One of the comments made by reader "rick" about my evaluation in Part II was this:
"As far as zone rating goes, my point isn’t that Castillo’s got worse last year. My point is that Castillo’s is consistently bad. And I disagree with your analysis of zone rating. It isn’t perfect, but it’s good."
It’s a great point and one I want to address. One of the best discussions ever held on the Internet about the limitations of STATS, Inc’s Zone Rating (ZR) was in 2005 at The Baseball Think Factory [link]. Not only was ZR explained in detail, many of the web’s most talented, and well known, sabermetric analysts talked openly about its limitations.
Over the last few years, many statheads have drifted to John Dewan’s Fielding Bible as a better ZR source because he eliminates as many of the limitations as possible. He does such a good job, almost all of the teams now rely on his work as a primary source of information outside of their own in-house statistics programs, and Bill James incorporated them into his Handbook starting in 2006.
As such, how did Castillo fare in ZR under Dewan’s system in 2005 and 2006? He actually improved.. a .773 ZR in 2005 to a .777 ZR in 2006 [link to Hardball Times]. The median ZR for all 2B in MLB with 300+ innings at the position from 2004 – 2006 is .815, so Castillo was -.038 in 2006.
What does that -.038 mean? It stands for 3.8% fewer balls in play into Castillo’s zone being turned into an out than the average MLB second baseman. Or, the equivalent of 12 fewer outs (309 Balls in zone * .038) than the league average 2B.
However, Dewan’s ZR doesn’t give credit for double plays and you need to know that Castillo’s 69 double plays turned (DPT) in 2006 was not only the third highest number turned between 2004 and 2006 [link], it was 25 above the 2004 – 2006 median second baseman. Setting that off even more is the fact Castillo only saw 30 more balls in the zone than the average second baseman over the three years.
That’s extremely impressive.
The 25 extra double plays turned converts a much higher out total than the 12 lost above by his slower foot work in the zone. I hear you, why couldn’t he have both? Few players are that perfect, but remember, Castillo only has 2.3 MLB years experience (games played divided by 162). Give him time to develop.
When we revisit the suggestion made by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Stat Geek [link] the other day that Castillo was seemingly the problem why Jack Wilson didn’t turn as many double plays in 2006, we have to look at what opportunities Castillo had to start a double play to Wilson in 2006.
We saw in the Hardball Times link above that Castillo started 7 more double plays in 2006 than 2005, but played about 400 more innings. First, the 2004-2006 league average second baseman started a double play one time for every 10.2 balls in his zone. Castillo started one every 7.9 in 2006, and 7.8 in 2005.
The fact Castillo was 22% better than the 2004-2006 league average second baseman starting double plays to begin with, makes it almost ridiculous to even wonder why Wilson had fewer double plays turned. But I dug anyway just to see what I could find out just because the Stat Geek was wondering.
Wilson had 62 double plays started in 2005 and just 34 in 2006.. a decline of 28. But he also played 280 innings less. Normalized by the number of opportunities Castillo had to start a double play (ie: less than 2 outs, man at 1B, ground ball hit to Castillo, and Wilson playing SS), Jack Wilson turned 9 fewer double plays in 2006 than in 2005 with Castillo.
So what happened?
Castillo had 102 double play opportunities with Wilson in 2006 and they turned 62.5% successfully, and 76 opportunities in 2005 and turned 57.5%.
However, Castillo did have 9% fewer 4-6 double play starts with Wilson in 2006 as a percentage of his double play opportunities. Part of that 9% was in 4% more outs obtained by Castillo throwing to 1B instead of to Wilson to start a double play.. one time every 2.4 DP opportunity in 2006 vs one every 2.6 in 2005. The mean difference was 5 more.
The other 5% lost was in more singles obtained on ground balls hit to Castillo.. one every 15.2 DP opportunity in 2005 vs one every 8.5 in 2006. The mean difference was 6 more singles allowed.
That 9% shift represented 11 fewer double play starts to Wilson which pretty much explains why Wilson saw his 9 less double plays turned with Castillo. The question now is, why these two events occurred.
Castillo also saw an 11% drop in the number of DP opportunities with a right hand pitcher on the mound in 2006. That’s important because our right hand pitchers have been primarily power oriented pitchers, as compared to our soft tossing southpaws. When I looked at the success rate in MLB of a second baseman starting a double play in 2006 with a righty on the mound, the rate soared above southpaws almost 23%. The obvious reason for that is that balls put in play off a power pitcher are typically hit crisper than from finesse pitchers.
While researching that tidbit I came across Freddy Sanchez’s double play started rate in 2006 and saw it was 25% better than Castillo’s. I quickly found out the reason – Jim Tracy put Freddy at second with a righty on the mound 60% of the time and he benefited from that with a 33% better double play started rate. So when you compare Castillo to Sanchez turning double plays in 2006, you won’t be comparing apples to apples.
The higher single rate allowed by Castillo seemed to be a direct result of balls in play from southpaws because Castillo had 12 total singles allowed in 2006 and 9 of them were from left hand pitchers. In 2005, only 1 of the 5 singles were. So perhaps they were from lite grounders or balls in play up deep up the middle Castillo got a glove on? I don’t know because I didn’t research all 9 to see.
The bottom line is, while Wilson did turn 9 less less double plays in 2006 than in 2005, you have to be hard pressed to even be worrying about a trivial 9 fewer Jack Wilson double play starts when Castillo’s double play start rate in 2006 was 22% better than league average to begin with. But if you want to blame Castillo, be sure to also consider the change in the distribution of balls in play from southpaws.
As for reader "rick" suggesting Castillo is ‘consistently bad’, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Bad is too vague a term for me. I mean, if 11 fewer DP starts to Wilson is bad, so be it. If Castillo seems ‘aloof’ or ‘lazy’ to the fans, it’s pretty obvious by his statistics in this three-part series he is performing above average in many fielding categories, so what relevance is there to the observation? If you want to complain about 18 errors, then you haven’t read the series. And let’s face it, fielding percentage is almost a worthless stat.
Wrapping up this series I’ll just say that Jose Castillo is far from the best overall fielding second baseman in the game. However, he is one of the best pivot man in the game despite his limited 2.3 years of MLB experience. While his footwork in the zone might be a tad slow, the increased productivity from his cannon arm and pivot far exceeds that lost from his slower ground work.
Now all we can do is pray he finds some more plate discipline, learns better pitch recognition, and continues to mature as a hitter. My bet is that he is about a year or two from breaking out into becoming a solid .280 hitter or better with 20 home runs and above-average defense.