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The importance of Castro

Posted by Thieres Rabelo , 21 April 2019 · 1,396 views

The importance of Castro I have seen complaints about many Twins players so far across our comment sections and Twitter. Even Nelson Cruz, who’s been almost unanimously admired by the fanbase and may be the team’s most threatening bat. It happens. No one is to tell you how you should think, no matter how statistically unusual your opinion might be. But there’s one particular take that has spread quickly all over Twins Territory and it puzzles me.

I don’t think there is any Twin who has been more complained about this season than Jason Castro has. Even though I don’t agree with the large number of fans (at least that I have seen so far) that have been vocal about wanting him gone from the Twins, it’s completely understandable. Afterall, Minnesota’s offense has been amazing, especially after this weekend’s series in Baltimore. Castro, very obviously, hasn’t been nearly as productive as his teammates. But ditching him might be too simple of a solution and, in my opinion, not the wisest of choices.

Castro is in the last year of his three-year contract with the Twins, signed in late 2016. Per Baseball Reference, he is the third highest paid position player of the roster this season, in which he is owed $ 8 million. At 31 and with two very hot bats battling him for the position of catcher, it’s very unlikely that Minnesota will renew its commitment with Castro after the season is finished. But that doesn’t mean he serves the team no purpose this season.

Since the start of the 2017 season, the Twins haven’t won more games while starting any other catcher than Castro. Here’s the team’s record with each starting catcher since then:

Jason Castro: 69-62 (.526)
Mitch Garver: 38-48 (.441)
Chris Gimenez: 32-29 (.524)
Bobby Wilson: 24-21 (.533)
Willians Astudillo: 10-8 (.555)
Juan Graterol: 2-0 (1.000)

Whether you associate the team’s record with Castro’s presence or not, the numbers don’t lie. The Twins have been a winning team with him behind home plate. But, of course, this could be highly circumstantial and it’s too hard of a connection to make. But, wait. The list of perks from having Castro on board goes on.

The biggest point used by the anti-Castro party so far is how bad he’s been on offense, not only this year, but ever since he came to Minnesota. And that becomes a much stronger point when you have Mitch Garver blossoming into one of the best offensive catchers in the game and the also the Willians Astudillo phenomenon captivating our hearts each day more. A lot of folks label Castro as dead weight on offense. But, is he?

Well, he isn’t, for sure, as prolific as the remainder of the Twins lineup. But, to be fair, neither are two thirds of all MLB lineups. But that doesn’t mean Castro hasn’t done his part. Right now, he holds the team’s fourth highest OBP, with .360. Other than that, that’s tied for MLB’s 12th best OBP among catchers (min. 25 PA). I’m sorry, but one doesn’t just throw away a Joe Mauer-type occupation of bases just like that.

Besides that, Castro’s .333 OBP as an 8th batter ranks 15th in MLB among all such hitters (min. 21 PA). This may sound like very little, but when you look at the fact that Minnesota has one of the league’s best bottom part of the lineup, you can tell how important Castro’s contribution really is. Currently, when taking into account the positions seven, eight and nine of the lineup, Minnesota has a .273 AVG (3rd best in the league), .346 OBP (4th), .487 SLG (3rd) and .833 OPS (3rd). Say what you want about how Byron Buxton is the biggest responsible for such productivity. You’re right. But you can’t realistically say that Castro hasn’t done his part.

Then, one might point out that Garver and Astudillo have been incomparably more productive on offense and one would definitely be right. They both have been raking, especially my former UNM colleague. If offense was the only aspect on the table, there wouldn’t be a lot of reasons to start Castro over the other two much more than Ehire Adrianza over Jorge Polanco. It wouldn’t make any sense. Well, but it isn’t.

At the same proportion that Castro’s offense is no match to his competition, his defense would similarly be no match to his competition. And I’m not just talking about widely explored pitch framing stats, Castro’s biggest advertisement tool throughout his career. Twins pitchers have performed much better while being caught by him than by any of the other two.

Jason Castro (63.0 innings) - 3.57 ERA, .703 OPS, 65% strikes
Mitch Garver (67.0 innings) - 5.78 ERA, .773 OPS, 61.8% strikes
Willians Astudillo (39.0 innings) - 3.69 ERA, .677 OPS, 65.2% strikes

Finally digging into the somewhat popular pitch framing stats, by using Baseball Prospectus’ Framing Runs metric, we can notice that Castro is the 11th best catcher at it in the MLB, with +0.6. Astudillo ranks 51st, with -0.2 and Garver ranks 60th, with -0.5. This is not a hit at Garver, whom I absolutely enjoy seeing play and am sure is going to be the team’s main catcher for years, but he is still not on the same defensive level as Castro is. But, hey, that’s not even a bad thing, because now we get to Castro’s biggest importance for the Twins.

It’s obvious that Garver can hit. We’ve known this since he was a minor leaguer. But picture this: what if we could get Garver’s offense and combine it with Castro’s defense? That, ladies and gentlemen, could be Jason’s biggest contribution for Minnesota. I have been personally tracking each pitcher strike percentage with each catcher on this spreadsheet since the beginning of the season and I can tell you how much Garver has been evolving. By mentoring Garver, especially defense-wise, Castro could lead him into the Twins best catcher since… well, you know who.

Once again, let me make it clear that I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion here. But I do give a piece of advice. Instead of getting angry and vent over how bad Castro’s bat is, why not look at him as a source of improvement for one of the Twins biggest hopes for the future? I don’t believe it’s good to take his help for granted. Besides, like demonstrated in the beginning of this article, the Twins are a winning team with Castro on board. It has been like that in 2017, culminating in their first playoffs appearance in almost a decade. They were dreadful without him last year. Now, they are back, at least momentarily, at the top of the Central. This can’t be a coincidence.

  • howieramone2, wickedslider and nclahammer like this



Catching 4 of Berrios' 5 starts probably accounts for most of the difference in catcher ERA.

 

Missing the 2018 team (with bad versions of Dozier, Buxton, and Sano) probably helped the W-L record

 

Whether you associate the team’s record with Castro’s presence or not, the numbers don’t lie.

Numbers lie all the time. As the saying goes, there are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

 

I'm not saying the Twins should dump Castro. The money is already spent, he's a good defensive catcher, and he may still work off the effects of injury and inaction to once again become an adequate hitter (although good is probably too much to hope for at his age.) 

 

I'm not ready to put all my chips on the Tortuga phenomenon or on Garver's concussion recovery (and marginal defense), but I would like to ride their current performance a bit more heavily for now.

    • DocBauer and Thieres Rabelo like this

Another thing I like about having Castro is it gives us the ability to use Astudillo at other positions when he is not behind the dish. If Garver is the starter and Castro is gone, Astudillo has to sit on the bench in case there is a Garver injury.

    • gil4, DocBauer and howieramone2 like this
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Thieres Rabelo
Apr 22 2019 10:06 AM

 

Catching 4 of Berrios' 5 starts probably accounts for most of the difference in catcher ERA.

 

Missing the 2018 team (with bad versions of Dozier, Buxton, and Sano) probably helped the W-L record

 

Numbers lie all the time. As the saying goes, there are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

 

I'm not saying the Twins should dump Castro. The money is already spent, he's a good defensive catcher, and he may still work off the effects of injury and inaction to once again become an adequate hitter (although good is probably too much to hope for at his age.) 

 

I'm not ready to put all my chips on the Tortuga phenomenon or on Garver's concussion recovery (and marginal defense), but I would like to ride their current performance a bit more heavily for now.

If we talk about the future, I definitely don't see Castro in Minnesota after this season. Astudillo's defensive numbers are, so far, kind of similar to Castro's (except for framing). Pitchers are doing well with him is what I mean. An Astudillo-Garver combo for the next year looks pretty good to me when I picture it.

 

All I'm trying to say is that, as a mentor, Castro can play a big role in shaping Garver's future. And of course, the team can benefit from his upsides one more season, by having a very solid defensive catcher.

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howieramone2
Apr 22 2019 10:53 AM

I'm guessing they trade Castro at the deadline. I have no problem with Garver and A-Stud sharing duties.

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theBOMisthebomb
Apr 22 2019 02:51 PM
The Twins are stuck with Castro through 2019. His contributions are apparently somewhat nuanced and hard to quantify. As of today, the formula is working so let's ride the train as long as we can. I would like to see more Garver. Keep rotating Tortuga around the diamond and get him his reps. There is a certain trust level that Castro's defense adds value. I won't be sad to see him leave, though.
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Channing1964
Apr 22 2019 03:59 PM

The Twins are stuck with Castro through 2019. His contributions are apparently somewhat nuanced and hard to quantify. As of today, the formula is working so let's ride the train as long as we can. I would like to see more Garver. Keep rotating Tortuga around the diamond and get him his reps. There is a certain trust level that Castro's defense adds value. I won't be sad to see him leave, though.

I have seen all the negativity towards Castro and though I don't agree with it completely, I do understand it. With the other two catchers hitting so well its easy to bash him. The facts to me are, Astudillo's value to the team at other positions will ultimately keep him in the Majors when Sano is deemed ready to return. Garver, I believe has options as well so his bat and his versatility at 1b is in his favor. If Castro is truly assuming the role of veteran mentor that we hope he is(i have no inside info one way or another)then i understand why we need him or want him around. He Does take good at bats, he hits left handed, his contract, and his willingness to share his defensive knowledge make him valuable and unlikely to get cut. I highly doubt a trade is possible unless we have another 2018 disaster. Garver and Astudillo hitting this well all year us highly unlikely
I think the OP echoes things I have said elsewhere. Catcher is such a hard position to accurately quantify in regard to value. Oh, it's easy to compare offensive numbers. Caught stealing is another number easy to measure, however, a good portion of CS can also be related to opportunity and who is on the mound, and how well they hold runners on. Despite advanced metrics such as pitch framing, I remain somewhat skeptical as I don't know how you take the receiver, the pitchers and umpires involved, and come up with a viable statistic that is entirety accurate. (Maybe the match is accurate and simply illudes me).

At the end of the day, what is most important is nuanced things that can't be measured such as setting up a target, having the confidence of a staff, etc. A lot of people didn't like Suzuki, for instance, but a lot of pitchers have spoke how they liked throwing to him.

I appreciate the various numbers presented in the OP, but as pointed out, opportunity catching certain pitchers, and Castro missing so much time in 2018, can easily skew numbers as well.

I think it comes down, often, to an eye test, for lack of a better explanation. A guy just seems comfortable and efficient and quiet behind the plate, blocks balls, and just seems to handle the staff. I think Castro is largely positive in this regard. I believe we saw his value in 2017 and witnessed his loss in 2018 when Garver, a rookie, and Wilson, a solid journeyman, were the primary backstops. I believe Castro offers real value as an experienced example and mentor to the young Garver and Astudillo, especially if he is taking an active role in mentorship.

There is no need for the Twins to "dump" anyone at this point. Roster issues in regard to Sano could easily be a month away. For as long as they can, I would love to keep Castro around while using Garver more and more as the primary. Castro's presence also allows Astudillo to play multiple spots while still taking turns behind the dish.

I think we can all agree the future of the Twins doesn't include Castro. Garver keeps getting better and has a bat to make him, potentially, one of the top offensive catchers around. The same for Astudillo as the backup and useful role player. Depending on how injuries could affect the roster, not to mention using an odd option or two available, eventually a move will take place. I want to utilize Castro for as long as possible, but at some point the best move for all involved is for Castro to be moved to a team needing catching help.
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The Twins are stuck with Castro through 2019. 

The first thing that came to mind: "I thought his contract was up this year." The I realized this year is 2019.Getting old.  

 

The good new is I think it has been at least a year since I wrote a date and started the year with 19__.  

 

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killertwinfan
Apr 23 2019 04:50 AM

I like Castro, he is a good catcher and if you look past his injury he has had good production. But, the team has evolved past him so as soon as we can get reasonable value for him we should make the move.Also, the writer's data set implies that Castro has won at a rate that was similar to Bobby Wilson (now in triple A somewhere) and Chris Gimenez (no longer playing).Let's leave this point out of the trade negotiations.