2018 Pod Projections: Luis Castillo — A Review

Let’s return to reviewing my preseason Pod Projections, this time with Luis Castillo, a popular sleeper choice and breakout candidate, and for good reason. My original writeup is here.

Games Started | IP: Projected 30 | 177 | Actual 31 | 169.2

Castillo ended up making one more start than I forecasted, but still missed my innings projection by 7.1 innings. That was likely due to two factors — a worse ERA than expected, chasing him from the game earlier, and the leaguewide trend of starting pitchers getting the hook earlier in games.

K%: Projected 24.6% | Actual 23.3%

Though Castillo’s xK% validated his 27.3% debut strikeout rate in 2017, he failed to repeat such a lofty mark in his sophomore season. While he threw more strikes, and generally maintained both his called and swinging strikes, his foul strike rate fell dramatically, which is what fueled the strikeout rate decline. That’s actually good news as foul strike rate is less stable from year to year than the other two strike types. And, his xK% was 1.6% higher. There’s far more upside here than downside.

BB%: Projected 8.6% | Actual 6.9%

Not only did Castillo vastly improve his walk rate and outperformed my projection, but the underlying skills that drove his xBB% also improved drastically. As mentioned above, he threw more strikes, which would obviously result in a reduced walk rate, but he also got into 3-0 counts far less frequently. Given his minor league record, I’d bet his true talent level is closer to his 2018 walk rate than 2017.

GB%/LD%/FB%: Projected 49% / 20% / 31% | Actual 45.9% / 21.8% / 32.4%

Throughout his professional career, Castillo’s ground ball rate has jumped all over the place, making a 2018 forecast quite difficult. He ended up regressing to right near the league average, even though he dramatically reduce his reliance on the four-seamer (a notoriously fly ball pitch), while upping the usage of his sinker (which is known for inducing grounders). Every single one of his pitches generated a lower GB% this year, which makes us assume that he must be throwing higher in the zone. Unfortunately, his vertical pitch location graph shows us that this wasn’t the case, and if anything, he actually threw slightly lower in the zone this year. So basically, it’s anyone’s guess what kind of batted ball distribution he’ll post in 2019.

HR/FB%: Projected 14.5% | Actual 17.9%

The calculus for my projection is that the leaguewide HR/FB rate would regress a bit after a historic 2017 (which it did), but the decline would be offset by Castillo’s unfavorable home park for dingers. Amazingly, his already inflated HR/FB rate jumped even higher! His 17.9% was actually the second highest mark among all qualified pitchers. While he allowed a barrels per true fly ball rate double the league average, which supports an inflated HR/FB rate, I would bet this mark comes down and his HR/FB rate drops with it.

BABIP: Projected .300 | Actual .282

Castillo’s batted ball distribution was pretty league average and his team’s defense ranked just 21st in UZR/150. Yet, he somehow managed to post a better than average BABIP. I’m not sure if there’s some hidden skill here, but I will continue to project a BABIP around or worse than the league average.

Below is a summary of the projection systems, along with Castillo’s final 2018 line:

Luis Castillo Projections & Actuals
2018 169.2 10 4.30 1.22 165 8.8 2.6 1.5 23.3% 6.9% 45.9% 0.282 71.2%
Pod 177 11 3.84 1.28 184 9.4 3.3 1.1 24.6% 8.6% 49.0% 0.300 73.9%
Steamer 144 9 3.91 1.26 143 9.0 2.9 1.2 23.6% 7.7% 48.4% 0.292 73.2%
Fans (14) 168 11 3.39 1.21 177 9.5 3.0 1.1 0.300 77.9%
ZiPS 156.1 10 3.80 1.20 146 8.4 2.4 1.2 22.2% 6.2% 0.287 73.1%
ATC 161 9 3.50 1.19 165 9.2 2.8 1.1
THE BAT 142 8 4.15 1.29 133 8.4 2.9 1.3

Wow, so the system closest in each metric was all over the place. Sadly, my projections never ended up closest 🙁

Castillo disappointed all of us, even underperforming THE BAT’s pessimistic forecast as the only one with an ERA above 4.00. All the systems correctly projected regression in his strikeout rate, but none thought he would be afflicted with such severe gopheritis again.

Thanks to a big second half, Castillo is going to be valued well above what his full season line suggests. So those hoping to scoop him up cheap after a 4.30 ERA are likely going to be disappointed.

We hoped you liked reading 2018 Pod Projections: Luis Castillo — A Review by Mike Podhorzer!

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Can we get your thoughts on his future, especially considering his second half?