Stop the Vinny Pile-On

Earlier this week Washington Expos GM Jim Bowden made a big splash in the free agent market by signing Vinny Castilla and Christian Guzman. The term “splash” is appropriate to describe Washington’s bellyflop, as opposed to a graceful dive, that made waves throughout the baseball community. I have seen very few people praise these signings, and for the most past I agree with the critics. But for some reason, everyone’s jumping on the Castilla signing rather than Guzman. The average yearly dollar damages are $3.1 million for Castilla (2 years) and $4.2 million for Guzman (4 years).

The reason for the the asymmetry in the criticism is easy to see. Vinny is 37 with Coors-inflated numbers. Guzman, though weak with the bat and no better than slightly above average on defense, gets somewhat of a pass, because he is ten years younger. Guzman is just entering his peak and may improve some. Vinny is on the downside of his career and his numbers away from Coors were dreadful last year (.218/ .281/ .493). On Guzman, I think banking on his prime is a stretch. Certainly, almost any AAA SS would be a better deal. Guzman’s .274/.309/.384 is just too weak to command that kind of money. However, I think Vinny may not be so bad. The problem is that people are being oversensitive to his Home/Away splits. Let’s look at the 2004 Coors Field effect in several categories.


HR H BA 2B 3B BB
1.235 1.24 1.24 1.316 1.655 1.181

Let’s take Vinny’s Away numbers and inflate them by the average Coors inflation values.


Field HR H BA 2B 3B BB

Away 21 62 0.218 13 1 21
Home 14 96 0.321 30 2 30
Home* 26 77 0.271 17 1.65 25

The last row (Home*) lists Castilla’s predicted Home stats based on the Coors park factor for all of these events. What does this tell me? Well, while Vinny did play better at Coors, some of that was do the something other than Coors. Although Castilla was obviously not as good as his Coors stats indicate, he is also better than his Away stats indicate. In fact, one bizarre stat is that Vinny has about half as many homers at Coors than predicted. He played better at home in every area except hitting HRs. How odd! Does this mean Vinny was worth the contract he got? No. But, I don’t think it was too out of line. When I put his 2003 Atlanta numbers in the Salary Estimator, he came out to be a $4 million player. But what about Vinny’s hitting style? Maybe his swing is more suited for Coors than the average player. Well, thanks to the new Hardball Times Baseball Annual, I can see that Vinny is average in respect to ground-balls, fly-balls, and line-drives, so I don’t think this is the case. Also, let’s not forget that Vinny is a good defender. He stays healthy and seems to be a decent clubhouse positive.

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