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Jeremiad for Castilla

Vinny Castilla was a bad signing. He was a bad signing in the beginning, and he was a bad signing at the end. Only for a short while did he not seem like a bad signing---and, for a shining and unforgettable moment, he actually looked like a good signing. But he was a bad signing.

Oh, and he was pointless, too.

Jim Bowden truly screwed up on that one. Vinny Castilla never should have worn the Washington uniform.

But Bowden's made amends tonight, and it is good. Brian Lawrence is no worldbeater, and he's coming off his worst year, and his career record is twelve games below .500 and . . . this is a good thing?

You bet it is.

A couple of introductory points here---designed specifically to refute the patsy arguments I just introduced:

  1. We just gave away Vinny Castilla, for crying out loud, not el Junta de Castilla y Leon. Vinny's not going to net us the superstar Lawrence talent.
  2. And what about that record? St. Barry writes:
Lawrence is 49-61 with a 4.10 ERA in five major league seasons, all with San Diego, and he only has one winning season, when he went 15-14 in 2004.

Well, first of all, that's kind of a rough characterization; it's not like Lawrence has surrounded that lonely winning record with a bunch of losing. Rather, in those five seasons, he's also thrown in two .500 seasons. Second, who cares? Don't completely dismiss Lawrence's won/lost record, obviously, but contextualize it a bit. Lawrence has a career ERA+ of 96. Does that translate to a career .446 winning percentage?

Doubtful, gang. Lawrence is a better pitcher than his record would indicate.

All this isn't to minimize how much Lawrence stunk in 2005---7-15, 4.83 ERA, left out of the Pads' (competitively truncated) playoff rotation---but, heck, let's minimize how much Lawrence stunk in 2005. Lawrence's ERA+ (his ERA measured against the league average, and adjusted for ballpark factors) was 80, which really does stink. (Or maybe it was actually 88, as his Hardball Times player page would indicate, in which case he still stunk, but not as much.) However, his Fielding Independent Pitching ERA (which "helps you understand how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded") was 4.13, and that's not too bad.

And, remember, this is Lawrence's worst season we are evaluating.


So, what does this trade bring for the Nats? Lawrence provides two things, more than likely:

  1. Innings pitched; and,
  2. League-average pitching in those innings.
It's not sexy, but it has teeth---with teeth defined as "value" here.

Thus, my friends, we are witnessing an important transaction---perhaps not a watershed change in the quality of Jim Bowden's management of the roster, but an important step, nonetheless. This is the first player-for-player transaction Bodes has made as GM that has strengthened the club's pitching. Since Bowden's offensive-oriented deals have largely backfired (Spivey-for-Ohka)and/or sucked (Preston Wilson-for-Anybody, when Wilson is counted on as an offensive savior), tonight's trade is one hell of an encouraging development. No more Kitchen Sink Staff for us next year, sir.

As we all know, Esteban Loaiza filed for free agency recently. Other teams are looking at him as an attractive option. Loaiza is gunning for a heady years-and-dollars combination; I think this thread over at Distinguished Senators demonstrates that his reliability is probably an open question, but I'll readily acknowledge that the Nats need him.

This trade perhaps places the Nats in a slightly less desperate position to bring back Loaiza---truth be told, although Loaiza's been positioned this season as a competent innings-eater, his performance has tended to fluctuate wildly throughout his career. Hopefully, Loaiza's stabilized, but at least we know that the Nats now possess a starting pitcher in Lawrence who, while not as good on his best day as Loaiza is on his, will still provide performance out of the same mold.

Plus, if Loaiza is indeed re-signed, then a rotation of Hernandez/Patterson/Loaiza/Lawrence/Fifth Guy looks rather decent on paper. Considering Bowden could have tossed an Ohka or Day or Kim or Vargas in those fourth or fifth spot had he not purged the roster of fourth or fifth starter quality, I'll concede that Bodes is recovering well now.

There are other angles to be explored as a result of this trade (St. Barry even intimates that Brendan Harris now stands a chance to contribute something to the cause, glory be to Bodes), and the rest of the Natosphere is quite willing and able to go where I haven't. (When I read the analyses, I'll try to post some links.) But, for now, let me close by giving credit where credit is due:

Thank you, Vinny Castilla. And have a ball in San Diego.

EDIT 1: I contended a couple times this offseason that Castilla could have capably filled the back-up first- and third-baseman job in 2006 that Wil Cordero ostensibly filled in '05---well, more capably than Cordero, at least, which I'll admit isn't saying much. On the other hand, Castilla was not shy in opining that he's still capable of playing every day at the hot corner. One would suspect that it's put-up or shut-up time for Vinny. Good luck!

EDIT 2: The returns are in ---
---> Well, gosh. Capitol Punishment submits what may prove the definitive analysis of the transaction. He's got the FIP stuff, a more probing look at Lawrence's peripheral numbers, the salary implications, a look at the consequences for Harris and/or Rick Short, and an early preview on who might be that fifth starter. Read this one, gang.
---> SuperNova over at Nats Blog captures an interesting angle on Lawrence's 2005 season: if you think that a 4.83 ERA compiled while operating out of a home base at pitcher-friendly Petco Park is kind of pathetic, you'd probably be right . . . but the assessment wouldn't really apply to Lawrence, who drew the short straw and pitched on the road sixty percent of the time.
---> If Distinguished Senators gets any softer, he'll turn into a stick of Land-o-Lakes. He likes the trade! He compliments Bodes---AGAIN! What's going on? (On the other hand, I guess Ryan's street cred is still intact, as he completely eviscerates Rocket Bill and Ooops Carroll.
---> Ball-wonk prefers to remember the good times with Vinny. Eh, I guess I can't blame the ol' Wonk here. Clearly, he liked the guy.
---> Beltway Boys reminds us that this is Dutch Zimmerman's big shot.
---> David Thurdl has Dutch on his mind, too.