Thursday, April 14, 2016

Castro and Ausmus: A comparison

There is an anonymous commenter who comes round AC every so often comparing Jason Castro and his apparent lack of hitting to Brad Ausmus, a former Astro whose managing capabilities seem to fall in line with his hitting capabilities (that was a low blow. I actually haven't paid attention to whether or not Ausmus is a good manager.)

So I thought we could roll out some stats to see where Jason Castro falls. But first, some background:

Drafted with the 10th overall pick in the 2008 draft, Castro made his debut in 2010, hitting .205/.286/.287 with 41K:2BB. But he was 23, so whatever. The rub came when he tore up his knee in Spring Training 2011 and missed the entire season. Castro came into 2012 a year removed from surgery and rehab and played in 87 games, hitting a much more encouraging .257/.334/.401 with 61K:31BB in 295 PAs.

2013 was a revelation. Castro hit .276/.350/.485 with 18 home runs. He struck out 130 times in 120 games, but drew 50 walks. This was good enough for a 4.4 fWAR season among catchers with a minimum of 450 plate appearances - 4th in baseball behind Yadier Molina, Joe Mauer, and Buster Posey. As far as franchise history goes, only Joe Ferguson put up a higher fWAR for an Astros catcher, at 4.6 fWAR. Things were looking up!

His offensive statistics have fallen in each year since that breakout 2013 season. In 2014 he played in a career-high 126 games and hit .222/.286/.366 - a 184 point OPS drop. In 2015 he played in 104 games, again missing time due to injury, and hit .211/.283/.365, a three point OPS drop from 2014. This doesn't include the 1x16 he put up in the postseason.

From the beginning of 2014 through last night's game (that included, improbably, his 2nd triple of the season, tying a career high), Castro is hitting .228/.339/.399 (912 PAs). This is poor to quite poor. FanGraphs rates his offense at -20.2. His defensive value has been worth a 17.3, apparently (and this is the sticking point for most Castro defenders - his value behind the plate compensates for his lack of value at the plate), giving him a combined 2.9 WAR from 2014-16. This is 18th among qualified catchers in that time frame, behind such crouching stalwarts as Devin Mesoraco, Stephen Vogt, Wellington Castillo, and Yasmani Grandal.

So for his career - propped up by that fleeting All-Star season - Castro is hitting .236/.309/.392. His Most Similar Batter, according to Baseball-Reference, is Chris Widger, whom I only know from whatever MLB PSP Game Was Popular in 2003. Chris Widger posted a .283/.296/393 line in ten MLB seasons. Also on the list of batters similar to Jason Castro: Doug Mirabelli, Tom Lampkin, Derek Norris. At this point in his career he is most similar to Chris Snyder, whom I totally forgot split time with Castro behind the plate in 2012, "hitting" .176/.295/.308 in 76 games.

Now, to the point about Ausmus. Ausmus is a lifetime .251/.325/.344 hitter. For ten seasons in Houston, Ausmus had a .246/.318/.327 line. How did I not now that Brad Ausmus BRAD AUSMUS got 19 triples in ten Astros seasons? Anyhow, Ausmus posted a .669 OPS lifetime, and a .646 OPS for the Astros (69 OPS+). Castro has a .700 OPS and a 93 OPS+. BUT! From 2014-16, Castro's .215/.283/.364 line is one point higher than Ausmus' tenure with Houston. Ausmus got on base more, Castro has a smidge more pop.