Astros History: Casey Candaele's 113 OPS+ Season


One of the things I like about the astros history series is that it highlights achievements by less well known players, as well as past stars. Casey Candaele fits the profile of "gritty utility infielder." Examples of players who filled this role for the Astros down through the years include Jimmy Stewart,, Harry Spillman, Jim Pankovits, Art Howe, Jose Vizcaino, and Geoff Blum. Since Candaele played for Howe, one can guess that the manager had an appreciation for Candaele's versatility, inserting him in most of the team's games in 1990 and 1991.

In 1990 Casey Candaele, a switch hitter, had a career best OPS+ of 113, which corresponds to game number 113 today. Candaele split time playing all three outfield positions, shortstop, second base, and third base. In his age 29 season, he hit .286, .364, .397, .761 in 130 games, but only 298 plate appearances. Candaele developed a reputation as a hard nosed, aggressive player, earning him the moniker "Mighty Mite" from Milo Hamilton. As the nickname suggests, Candaele was diminutive in size, listed at 5-9, 160. According to total zone metrics, Candaele was an above average defensive player over his career.

Originally an undrafted free agent signed by the Montreal Expos, Candaele was traded to the Astros in 1988 for Mark Bailey. 1990 was Candaele's first full season with the Astros, and he followed it up by playing 151 games and 505 plate appearances in 1991. Candaele's playing time and performance trailed off in his age 30 and 31 seasons for the Astros in 1992 and 1993. Candaele hit 14 triples while playing for the Astros, and was no. 7 in triples in the NL in 1991.

Candaele had an interesting background beyond his play on the field. Candaele's mother, Helen Callaghan Candaele St. Aubin, was a star hitter for the All America Girl's Professional Baseball League during World War II. Her teammate, Dottie Collins, said that Helen's swing and batting stance are almost perfectly preserved in the swing and stance of Casey Candaele. Casey's brother, Kelly, made a PBS documentary on his mother's baseball career, and then wrote the story for the hit movie, "A League of Their Own," which starred Gina Davis and Tom Hanks. The movie celebrated the girl's baseball league and was released in 1990., the same year that Casey Candaele posted his best offensive stats.

Broadcasters and newspaper writers frequently mentioned Casey Candaele's connection to the movie. It's common for observers to compare young players, like Delino Deshields Jr. or Ken Griffey Jr., to their fathers who also played professional baseball. Casey Candaele is the unusual case of a major league player who learned baseball from his mother who played pro baseball.

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