Leave Castillo Be

Luis Castillo shouldn’t be on this team. Three off-seasons ago when Ed Wade (who would’ve thought?) offered the then 32-year-old slap-hitter a three-year, $18 million to man the keystone in Houston, the Mets relationship with Luis should have ended right there. Say “thank you” and nab the compensation pick. Instead, Mets brass decided to not only match the offer, but enhance it by a guaranteed year.

Castillo’s profile was well-established at the time: outstanding contact hitter who uses speed to pile up infield hits; very disciplined at the plate; minimal power, but swings a stronger stick right-handed; an excellent bunter; a sure-handed second baseman with declining range. The Mets knew this and decided to lock him up anyway — until the age of 36! — when his knees threatened to deteriorate his already limited skills.

Still, I can’t help but feel sorry for Castillo sometimes — particularly, when he comes to the plate with a runner on second base. He takes his usual pitch or two or three, and generally finds himself ahead in the count. Almost on cue, one of Gary, Keith and Ron will complain about Castillo’s patience.

He takes the next pitch — either a ball or called strike on the corner.

“Luis has got to swing at that!”

Why? The man’s swung at 35.5 percent of pitches throughout his career. With that approach he’s hitting .291 with a .368 on-base percentage. That’s pretty good.

“With Castillo in the eight-hole, he’s got to look to drive in runs.”

Again, why? Luis often hits the ball so softly that he has a tough time driving in a runner in this instance. In 625 plate appearances in this situation, Castillo’s racked up 122 hits, yet has driven in just 52 runs. Meanwhile, he’s drawn 100 walks.

His mission in that situation, like in most, is to get on base. That’s what he’s always done. Castillo knows which pitches he can handle a lot better than Gary, Keith or Ron. Far be it for them, or anyone of us, to decide which pitches he should or shouldn’t swing at when he’s had a long, modestly successful career.

Look, Luis shouldn’t be on the team beyond this season. The Mets can’t suffer another year of his declining offensive production, speed and defense. But leave the man alone when he’s in the box. He knows what he’s doing.

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