The Understated Greatness of Florida Marlins 2B Luis Castillo

MIAMI - JUNE 1: Second baseman Luis Castillo
MIAMI - JUNE 1: Second baseman Luis Castillo /
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Luis Castillo is our random Florida Marlins / Miami Marlins Player of the Day.

When I construct the Miami Marlins “Random Player of the Day” feature, as I do infrequently, I use the random.org website to give me a year between 1993 and 2019. Then, I select a random game, and lastly, a random plate appearance from that game. With 325,094 combined hitting and pitching plate appearances through their 26-plus seasons of play, there are very few who end up with as much as a one percent chance of getting selected. Luis Castillo sits on top of that list.

There are eight pitchers and eight hitters who account for one percent or greater of the Florida/Miami Marlins career plate appearances. The full list of pitchers consists of Ricky Nolasco, Dontrelle Willis, Josh Johnson, A.J. Burnett, Anibal Sanchez, Brad Penny, Ryan Dempster, and Tom Koehler. The hitters list is led by Castillo, and also has Hanley Ramirez, Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Lowell, Jeff Conine, Alex Gonzalez, Dan Uggla, and Derrek Lee. Academically, Lee is responsible for 1.000018 percent of the Marlins plate appearances, and he will fall off this list after today’s game against the Chicago White Sox.

First overall on the random probability list is pitcher Ricky Nolasco, who faced 5,221 batters during his Florida Marlins tenure, or 1.606 percent of all plate appearances. Next on the list is Castillo, first amongst the position players with 4,966 plate appearances, or 1.528 percent. This percentage, by the way, represents over three percent of all Marlins’ plate appearances over 26 seasons.

Florida Marlins
BRONX, NY – OCTOBER 18: Second baseman Luis Castillo #1 of the Florida Marlins throws the ball to first base during game 1 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the New York Yankees on October 18, 2003 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. The Marlins won 3-2. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

These days, more often than not in Miami Marlins’ fandom, Castillo is regarded as little more than a footnote, due to his namesake getting traded to the Cincinnati Reds for peanuts Dan Straily, and that’s a shame. The younger Castillo has carved out a nice rookie season with the National League Central ball club. The elder Castillo had a pretty nice 15-season Major League career, the first 10 with the Florida Marlins.

During his time with the Marlins, Castillo led the N.L. in stolen bases in 2000 (62) and in 2002 (48). He was a three-time all-star (2002, 2003, 2005), a three-time Gold Glove winner (2003, 2004, 2005), a two-time World Series Champion (1997, 2003), and maybe most impressively, a two-time Fire Sale® survivor. One time, he authored a 35-game hitting streak (see below):

Also during Castillo’s tenure with the Fish, he appeared in a franchise record 1,128 contests, collected a franchise-top 1,273 hits, a club-best 675 runs, a club-best 42 triples, and a team-record 281 stolen bases. Batting leadoff as much as he did, perhaps it’s no great shock that he ranks 17th on the all-time leaderboard with just 271 RBI. He hit over .300 in half of his 10 seasons with the Marlins, and ranked fifth in the N.L. with a .334 average in 2000.

Often lost in the shuffle is how good Castillo developed at the plate. After drawing 14 walks and striking out 46 times as a rookie in 1996, his BB/K rate rose steadily through his time with the team. In his final Marlins’ season, he drew 65 walks and struck out only 32 times in 524 plate appearances.

Defensively, Castillo is likely the best-ever to man the position for the Marlins. He ranked in the top five in each of his final five seasons with Florida in double-plays turned, and in four of those seasons also ranked in the top five in assists. In 2003, he led the N.L. with 286 putouts. He also frequently finished amongst the league leaders in range factor, which was not a widely trackable category at the time, but in hindsight his mastery of the position becomes even more apparent.

Other, more venerable fan-bases may turn up their noses at Miami Marlins fans, and their history. This is due in part to our franchise being so young, and partly due to the anemic attendance recorded through most of their history. Castillo was a truly electric player at the pivot, and one we should remember as Isan Diaz arrives here with the team over the next few days.

Castillo was initially signed to the Florida Marlins through free agency on August 19th, 1992, a long time before they suited up and played their first game. Castillo rose to the club in 1996, and stayed there long enough to top all these leaderboards, even now, years later. In 2006, the Marlins ownership group traded him to the Minnesota Twins for right-handed pitcher Scott Tyler and Travis Bowyer. Neither appeared in the majors for the Marlins, while Castillo went on to play five more major league seasons with the Twins and later with the New York Mets. In 2009, he hit over .300 for the seventh time in his career, racking up a mark of .302 in his next-to-last major league season.

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