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Cubs SS Starlin Castro’s similarity scores draw comparison to Garry Templeton

Baseball-reference.com says most similar player StarlCastro date is Garry Templeton. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Baseball-reference.com says the most similar player to Starlin Castro to date is Garry Templeton. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 27, 2012 6:19AM



Coming to the Cubs as a 20-year-old and showing immediately that he could handle major-league pitching marked Starlin Castro, now 22, as an unusual player. But no matter how unusual a player is, the long history of baseball is filled with others who had similar career starts.

That’s where similarity scores come into play. On each player page at baseball-reference.com, you’ll find a list of the 10 most similar players in baseball history. It’s a Bill James concept that has been tweaked during the last couple of decades.

Any comparison of two players starts with a score of 1,000, then deducts points for ways in which the players’ statistics differ. There’s also an adjustment for different positions.

Similarity scores aren’t predictions. What we can do with Castro is look at his closest matches for a peek at the differing career arcs of players who had similar starts. The closest match through full seasons at age 21 is Garry Templeton, with a 957 similarity score.

Templeton was an immediate hit at age 20, with a .291 batting average in 53 games with the Cardinals in 1976, then a .322 average in 1977. He showed some pop with eight home runs in ’77, but he had little patience at the plate, drawing seven walks in ’76 and 15 in ’77.

He never developed more power and had a career high of nine homers. And he never developed much plate discipline, finishing with a career high in walks of 42. After being traded to the Padres for defensive whiz Ozzie Smith, he settled into a long but unspectacular career that spanned 16 seasons.

The early similarities are striking, but that doesn’t mean Templeton is Castro’s destiny. The 10 most similar players to Castro include four Hall of Famers — Arky Vaughan, Travis Jackson, Bobby Doerr and Rogers Hornsby — along with a couple of stars in Jim Fregosi and Vern Stephens. Jackson walked the least of the bunch, but he progressed from 24 walks at age 21 to 56 at age 24 to a career-high 64 at age 25.

There’s one troublesome name on Castro’s similarity list. No. 10, with a similarity score of 923, is Mike Caruso, whose game collapsed after he hit .306 as a 21-year-old White Sox rookie in 1998. What Castro is doing at 22 shows he’s no Caruso, but there’s still plenty of development ahead before we know exactly what he is.

GLOSSARY: The version of similarity scores used by baseball-reference.com starts with 1,000 points, then subtracts a point for each difference of 20 games played, 75 at-bats, 10 runs, 15 hits, five doubles, four triples, two homers, 10 RBI, 25 walks, 150 strikeouts, 20 stolen bases, .001 in batting average and .002 in slugging percentage. It also adjusts for differences in position.



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