Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Did Castro Just Finish the Greatest Season For A Catcher in Astros History?

With the news that Castro has been shut down, I want to take a look at his fantastic season. Many were pegging him to be a breakout candidate, but I think very few expected this kind of production. The Astros have not had very much success from their catcher position over the years, as we have outlined before. Its pretty clear that he had one of the best seasons in Astros' catcher history. But was it the best?

There are really only three contenders for the crown. Joe Ferguson in 1977, Craig Biggio in 1991 and Castro this year.

In 1977, Joe Ferguson hit .257/.379/.435 with 16 HR and 61 RBI, in his only full season as an Astro. '77 was his age 30 season, and he had spent the bulk of his prior career with the Dodgers. This season wasn't exactly out of nowhere, as he had put up slightly better numbers in 1973, but he had been pretty mediocre in the prior two seasons.  He was traded back to the Dodgers the following year, and put up good, but not great, numbers for the rest of his career.

Biggio's offensive line of .295/.395/.374, with only 4 HR and wRC+ of 112 falls short of the other two, particular in the slugging department. However, he added 19 stolen bases, with a 76% success rate, adding value in an area that was not really in Ferguson or Castro's game. Sadly, just 25, he does not show up on the Astros' catcher leader boards for any subsequent seasons. I wonder what happened to him?

Castro's 2013 line of .276/.350/.485, 18 HR and 56 RBI compares very closely to Ferguson's 77 season. By wRC+ their lines were nearly identical, with Ferguson at 128 and Castro at 129. Both Baseball Reference and Fangraphs like Ferguson's defense slightly better. WAR paints it as a very close race. Fangraphs has it with Ferguson at 4.6, Castro at 4.1 and Biggio at 3.5. Baseball Reference puts them much closer, at 4.8 for Ferguson and 4.4 for Castro and Biggio.

Castro clearly had one of the best seasons for a catcher in Astros history, although Ferguson's 1977 season was probably slightly better. However, Ferguson was a catcher leaving his prime, and Biggio was in the process of transitioning from a good catcher to one of the best second baseman of all time. Castro, on the other hand, figures to stick at catcher for the long term and is entering his prime. We can only hope that the best is yet to come. Rest up that knee, and lets see if you can blow by Joe Ferguson next year.