April 22, 2009
Is This Sustainable?

2B Luis Castillo: .389/.436/.444.

No, this isn’t an investigation into whether Luis Castillo is going to hit .389 all year. That answer is pretty easily divulged from his early-season .452 BABIP that is further buoyed by a 33.3% line drive rate, both well above his (or most anyone’s) career lines. One interesting trade-off that Jerry Manuel has made by batting him eighth: the value of his speed is almost completely negated since the pitcher is going to be bunting him over most of the time, but moving him to the eighth spot has so far had a moderate increase in the amount of fastballs he sees. His Mets career so far has seen him with about 70%, while so far he has seen 75%.

While it’s far too early to completely judge Castillo’s attempt to reach back up into mediocrity, one very positive sign is that he’s already got three bunt hits, after having only four all of last season. For most guys, this would be no big deal, but so much of Castillo’s game relies on his speed. He needs to have his BABIP be nearer to his career rate of .333 than last seasons .269 showing to have value to the Mets. If the legs hold up and Castillo can keep his UZR within shouting distance of average, he could be about as valuable as he was in 2007, which would be a huge help in comparison to last year.

RF Ryan Church: .378/.477/.541.

For the second straight year, Mike Newman’s whipping boy has come out firing in April. His career shows a startling split: 109 OPS+ in the first half, 88 OPS+ in the second half. Church has about a 5% spike in his line drive rate so far, with a .412 BABIP that is about 80 points over his career rate also helping to power that batting average. Perhaps most impressively, so far Church has struck out in just over eight percent of his at-bats, while his career rate is close to three times that.

I suppose it’s possible that Church stole Barry Bonds’ eyesight, but I think this start just has fluke written all over it. Church will probably hover around an .800 OPS and be a solid-to-average corner outfielder, but there aren’t any leaps forward on his statistical record to show that he’ll do better than that.

RP J.J. Putz: 1.29 ERA, 7 IP, 3-3 K/BB ratio.

With Putz, this basically boils down to a question of where the strikeouts have gone. Guys that have struck out over a batter an inning in their careers don’t generally start the year striking out three in seven innings, and Putz has no history of slow starts. Look over the stats, and you’ll see this pop out at you:

Year        FB (MPH)
2007         94.7
2008         95.0
2009         92.2

That is a relatively scary decrease to this Mets fan. He’s compensated by throwing the pitch less and mixing in the slider more. For what it’s worth, his infield fly ball rate is at 42%, which is a four-fold increase from his career numbers, so it seems like he is fooling batters at this point. The key is going to be 92 or 95; if the velocity doesn’t go up, I bet the ERA will. Keep an eye on this one and don’t assume that the track record matches what we’ve got.

3 Responses to “Is This Sustainable?”

  1. Comment posted by Gina on April 22, 2009 at 9:08 am (#959957)

    Even with the decrease Putz has also seen a major increase in his ground ball rates. So maybe he knows his velocity had decreases and has adjusted his pitching tactics to compensate.

  2. Comment posted by JamesSC on April 22, 2009 at 9:15 am (#959964)

    Putz is getting outs so I am happy so far, 7 innings is an rather small sample size. Troubling, but I am not worried yet. Also, I don’t think you meant that his “k/9 is greater than 1” as obviously his k/9 is closer to 4 even this season, I think you meant more than a strikeout per inning.

    As for Church, his hot start is his usual hot start, just not sure I expect him to go back down as low as you do, that plus his above average defense (with a very underrated arm) makes him a very nice piece in the OF IMO. Now if we could just take his defense and give it to Murphy…

  3. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on April 22, 2009 at 3:01 pm (#960413)

    Too small a sample size to compare 2009 velocity to prior years.