Looking Forward to Luis
After a long hiatus, Luis Castillo
is returning from the disabled list and scheduled to be in the starting lineup tonight against the Astros.
UPDATE: Luis will NOT be returning just yet … but feel free to read on anyway.
Many people are unhappy with this development. However, I’m not one of those people. In fact, I am excited to see Luis Castillo back at second base and in the #2 spot in the lineup. Allow me to explain.
First, let’s get the love for Argenis Reyes out of the way. I absolutely loved watching Argenis play with the Mets over the last few weeks. I love his attitude, his selfless play, his hustling and diving, his ability to do all the “little” things, such as execute the hit-and-run, get bunts down, hit ground balls to the right side to advance runners from second to third. And then there is that “he’s always in the middle of something”, that if you didn’t notice on your own, was pointed out by the SNY announcers. His hunger to remain in MLB seemed to rub off on the veterans, perhaps sparked them to play just a little harder. Further, as astutely brought up by MetsToday reader “isuzudude”, Jose Reyes took Argenis under his wing, and began to show leadership qualities — a factor that should help Jose mature as a ballplayer going forward. Finally, there is that “chemistry” element that no one wants to mess with; in other words, the Mets have been winning with Argenis playing regularly — so why mess with a good thing?
Now, with all the love out of the way, let’s talk about Luis Castillo. People have short memories, so let me remind you what Castillo brings to the table:
– average to below average range, but sure hands, and great ability to turn the DP
– ability to get down bunts
– baserunning speed and stolen base ability
– ability to execute the double play
– ability to get on base
– patience at the plate; ability to get into deep counts
– contact hitting
So, when we compare Luis Castillo to Argenis Reyes, there are many similarities. Argenis was an OK fielder who extended his average range through hustle and diving. His double play turns were good, but not expert. Offensively, he was “always in the middle of things”, but — other than his recent hot streak — his overall contribution really wasn’t enough to make up for his average defense. Despite his .300 (actually .297) OBP, Jerry Manuel insisted on batting Argenis second in the lineup. You know what? Even a poor-performing Luis Castillo is going to get on base at a rate around .365. Plus, Castillo takes pitches, lots of them, and much to the chagrin of shortsighted Mets fans. Having a guy at the top of the lineup forcing deep counts is a “little thing” that adds up — first, it gives Jose Reyes a chance to steal second base, but secondly and more importantly, it wears down the opposing pitcher AND it forces the pitcher to show all of his pitches (this helps everyone in the lineup). With that patience also comes walks, and once on first base, a healthy Castillo can steal bases — something that was a bit lacking in Argenis’ game.
That’s the key — if Luis Castillo is at least 85% healthy, he should be an upgrade over Argenis Reyes in every facet of the game. Reportedly, Castillo has shown up at Shea looking several pounds lighter, and more fit than he was a month ago. If that’s true, it should put less pressure on his aching knees. In addition, I think the effectiveness of the Argenis/Damion Easley duo has not gone unnoticed by Castillo, and believe that Luis will be motivated to play at a higher level than we saw in April and May.
Think about it: a motivated, healthy Luis Castillo would be a welcome addition to the top of the lineup, and a potentially key cog in the Mets machine for the September stretch run. And hey, if he’s not healthy, and proves to be a slouch, the Mets can always go back to the Reyes/Easley platoon.
Now do understand why I’m excited?