The Hot (And Not So Hot) Corner
News Item: Colorado Rockies 3B Vinny Castilla declined his part of a mutual option for 2005.
Lee Sinins reports that Castilla had -9 Runs Created Above Average (aka nine runs below average) in 148 games in 2004. Sinins writes that Vinny has a "Coors-inflated .813 career OPS, compared to his league average of .771, and -159 RCAA in 1625 games."
For the uninitiated, this is a great example of how runs created on a park-adjusted basis captures the essence of a player like Castilla, who has put up what appear to be gaudy numbers throughout his career (including a N.L.-leading 131 RBI in 2004). However, he has actually been a below-average producer when viewed in the context of his home ballpark and the era in which he has played.
On the surface, one might think that Castilla's .280 career average and 303 home runs would be such that he would be viewed as one of the most productive hitters to ever man the hot corner. Au contraire. There have been more than 50 3B who have played 1000 or more games with positive RCAA totals as compared to Castilla's minus 159. Get this, our man Vinny has the fourth worst RCAA total among all third basemen in the history of the game. Only Aurelio Rodriguez, Ken Reitz, and Billy Shindle have generated such ugly totals.
In fairness to Castilla, the 37-year-old must have some value or else he would never have stuck around this long in the big leagues. It is fair to say though that his career stats greatly overrate him. He is one of three players to hit 300 HR and put up negative RCAA totals. The others? Fellow third baseman Gary Gaetti (a reasonable comp) and Lance Parrish who, as a catcher, was a much more valuable player than Castilla. Parrish actually created 130 runs above his position whereas Castilla's RCAP total has been nearly as bad as his RCAA.
Other overrated players based on RCAP include Joe Carter, Cecil Fielder, Dave Kingman, and Lee May--all of whom also slugged at least 300 HR while producing at a lower rate than the average player at their respective position (i.e., negative RCAP totals).
Suffice it to say that Castilla has been a bigger beneficiary of Coors than all the family's kids and grandkids combined.
Speaking of the hot corner, Bob Keisser of the (Long Beach) Press-Telegram, in a column today regarding the Dodgers and Angels facing the loss of free agent third basemen Adrian Beltre and Troy Glaus, reveals an "an idle thought picked up from a scout": The Yankees will sign Beltre, move Alex Rodriguez to shortstop and Derek Jeter to second base.
Signing Beltre would not only give the Yankees another big bat, but it would enable them to finally put all the pieces where they rightfully belong. Adding one of the best third basemen in the game would "force" the team to find a home for Rodriguez and make it easier for Jeter to accept a switch to the other half of the keystone combination.
Sign me up for first base because an infield consisting of Beltre, Rodriguez, and Jeter could be one of the best in the history of the game.