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NL East: Viva La Revolucion
Paul Lo Duca spent half an hour last Sunday convincing manager Willie Randolph that his strained hamstring, which had caused him to miss the previous six games, felt well enough to catch Tom Glavine's latest attempt at 300 wins. Randolph finally relented, and Lo Duca was behind the plate for the entirety of Glavine's milestone. I must wonder, however, if Randolph's reticence stemmed from something more than concern for Lo Duca's health. Consider the stats lines for the Mets' top two backstops this season:
Paul Lo Duca: .266 avg., .308 OBP, 5 HR, 32 RBI, 19 XBH, 36 R
Ramon Castro: .290 avg., .333 OBP, 9 HR, 27 RBI, 15 XBH, 19 R
Then consider that the 31-year-old Castro has put up those numbers in 37 percent of the number of Lo Duca's at-bats -- 124 to 334. Lo Duca is on track for 528 at-bats this year; were Castro to see that many, he projects out to hit 38 home runs with 115 RBI. Lo Duca, meanwhile, is on pace for 8 and 51.
This is quite clearly something of a specious exercise for a number of reasons, not least of which is that as a backup catcher Castro gets plenty of rest and usually plays when the odds are stacked in his favor. In his ninth season, Castro has already set a career high in homers, and he's never hit better than .244 in a year in which he's had more than 100 plate appearances. It's unreasonable to think that Castro's power numbers would equal those of an in-his-prime Mike Piazza (whose stats at age 31 -- 38 HR, 113 RBI -- were almost identical to those I've just projected for Castro). But the fact that Castro would have a meaty leg up on Lo Duca if he performed at even half of his current pace over a full season is certainly food for thought.
Castro has some knocks against him, the most significant being that he's gunned down a pathetic two of 25 base-stealers this year, for an .080 success rate -- tied for the worst in baseball among players who've had more than eight chances. (A digression, as I peruse the leaderboard: Is it really possible that Jason Kendall, who threw out around 20 percent of base-stealers as an Athletic this year, has nailed none of the 24 gentlemen who have tried to steal off him since he became a Cub? Is ivy Kendall's Kryptonite or something?) Plus, Lo Duca's a clubhouse leader -- his puckish "Captain Red Ass" alter ego led to a mildly controversial SI cover last July -- and he's Brooklyn-born, to boot.
Still, Lo Duca's not exactly Pudge Rodriguez circa 2001 when it comes to stopping potential base-swipers -– his .266 success rate is firmly middle-of-the-pack -- and his offensive decline overshadows whatever defensive advantage he may hold over Castro. While it's doubtful that Castro will unseat Lo Duca this season -- although he probably should -- Lo Duca will become a free agent come autumn and Castro (who's also in his walk year) has done more than enough with his bat to give himself a real shot at becoming the catcher the Mets re-sign to start in 2008. Lo Duca's desperation to catch Glavine's 300th win may have resulted from the knowledge that his career in New York likely won't include many more highlights. I say: Viva La Revolucion.
Labels: NL East
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