Castillo as Mets lead-off hitter is, surprisingly, the best choice

I make a joke on Twitter today that, in the wake of the announcement that Reyes will be batting third while Beltran is on the DL, Luis Castillo batting lead-off creates “a level of depression in futility only Mets fans can feel.”

After posting it, a few people pointed out that Castillo had a .387 on-base percentage last year and that the guy has done a very good job of getting on base for his career with no power.  Looking over it now, holy moly, the guy is very good at it. His career on-base percentage is .369 (with a .292 batting average) while the league average for on-base has been roughly in the mid-.330s for his career.

Part of that, someone pointed out, is because Castillo rarely swings at anything.  Literally.

Fangraphs has him with a 35% swing percentage, which means he swings at 35% of the pitches thrown to him–the league average for 2007, 2008 and 2009 was 45.9%, 45.9% and 45.2%. This is very low, and especially low for a guy who has 35 home runs in 7,000+ plate appearances.  In contrast, both Albert Pujols and Mr. Three True Outcomes (Adam Dunn) both have higher career swing percentages.

(Just a side note: Castillo is very, very good at hitting balls he swings at, with a 95% contact rate inside the strike zone and 75% contact rate outside it).

As for his teammates, Jose Reyes and David Wright both have a career 44% rate and Jeff Francoeur has a ridiculous 58.6% career rate.  So yes, this is a very smart decision, even if Castillo has bad knees and almost 35 years old.  Just don’t let him run the bases too much, jeez.

Just because Francoeur’s was so high, I checked around to see who had a higher one and Vlad Guerrero career swing percentage is only .1% higher than Francoeur’s (58.7%), though Guerrero has played over many more seasons.


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