Should Luis Castillo Lead Off?
From the MetsToday mail bag, a reader suggests:
Can Castillo be our leadoff man?
A high OBP. Can still steal some. And not enough power for driving runners in. Perfect for when nobody is on base.
I know the argument for him at number 2 is so that he can move the runner over. But why would Reyes ever really need to be bunted over? I imagine after a few pitches he’d already be on second (or even third). Why waste the out?
Plus, all those Reyes triples would certainly be a lot more exciting if Luis were already on first.
An interesting thought, and he does have points worth considering — particularly the last one. It WOULD be nice if someone scored when Reyes hit a first-inning triple. And you can’t argue that Castillo is an ideal leadoff hitter, assuming his OBP remains close to .400, and if he’s still healthy enough to swipe 30-35 bases.
But there are two main reasons I prefer to see Reyes at leadoff. First, because after the first inning, the leadoff spot isn’t necessarily the leadoff spot any more — unless the pitcher / #9 hitter makes the third out of a future inning. And actually, the #1 spot in the order often is an RBI opportunity, because the pitcher is called on to bunt a runner into scoring position. I like Reyes hitting with men in scoring position — he seems comfortable in that situation and the numbers support it (.291 career avg. through over 660 ABs).
Further, I don’t know that Reyes would steal as many bases from the two-hole, with David Wright hitting behind him. On the one hand, Wright might get more fastballs, but on the other hand, do you want him taking pitches to let Reyes steal second base? Probably not. And you might not want Reyes taking chances if Wright is on a hot streak and putting balls over fences.
Which brings me to my final point. No, Reyes does not need to be bunted over to second base, but he does need an opportunity to steal — and Castillo, who takes more pitches than anyone in baseball, affords him that opportunity. Plus, you don’t mind so much that Castillo isn’t swinging, because he’s not likely to smack an extra-base hit. Further, after Reyes steals second, Castillo can bunt him to third — setting up a David Wright sac fly and a 1-0 lead.
But, I still believe that the reader has something worth arguing. Post your comments below.