Frustration and fixation with Starlin Castro misses the big picture

I understand the frustration with the Cubs this year and specifically with Starlin Castro.  There's not a Cubs fan, including myself, who doesn't want to see him reach his "potential"-- whatever that may be.

Sometimes the focus is so far ahead that we forget that Castro is a good player right now.  He has been a 3.2 WAR player for the past two seasons, not to mention an all-star shortstop.   He is the team's best hitter, plays a premium position well, if not consistently, and he's 23 years old, still a few years from his peak seasons.  So the best may be yet to be come.

Yet everyone out there seems to talking about the error yesterday.  Or the fact that he hasn't walked yet.  Has anyone brought up yet that he occasionally looks over his shoulder when on the bases yet?  No?  Give it time.  When it does, it's certainly going to be a more crucial event than his production as a ballplayer.

Errors are a visceral thing.  We see them, they are obvious, and they cause a strong, instant negative reaction that tends to linger.  Because of that, they can also be misleading.  We fall into a sort of trap.  The memory of the last error is still vivid when, oops, a second error is committed.  Then, perhaps a third.  Now we believe we see a pattern of error-filled play.  From there we fall into a loop of confirmation bias.  We have decided that this is the way things are, so much to the point that we will discard everything else in between errors.  We may rave about a Castro at-bat or defensive play, but when that next error is committed -- even if it occurs after many games, the focus shifts again. "See, Castro is always making errors!"  And we confirm our bias, even though in that time span, Castro will have produced above and beyond the cost of one error.

It's a very human thing.  We all do it at times whether we realize it or not.  This is why modern statistics are so important.  We may overemphasize certain patterns, specifically the ones that stand out, and because we do so, we can come to incorrect conclusions about the big picture.  Advanced statistics are sometimes counter-intuitive, which explains much of the resistance to them.  They don't always "feel" right.  When we saw Castro making errors early last season, yet defensive metrics graded him as average or above, it just doesn't seem to make sense.

This isn't limited to errors.  It can be whatever pattern we choose to seek out. It can be either positive or negative.  We may think Tyler Colvin was a tremendous player last year because he had a good run early, so that when we look at his final numbers, we may be surprised to find that he was an average player -- and much less than that away from his hitter friendly home park.  We may lament his loss and not even notice that he didn't make a mediocre Rockies roster this year.  We may think Aramis Ramirez doesn't try hard because we saw him dog it to first base a couple of times.  Perhaps that image becomes even stronger if it's confirmed by a third party.  Eventually that becomes such a big focus that we forget that Aramis Ramirez was a very good, productive player for the Cubs who was well in the black for his career in Chicago when it came to how many wins he added with his overall play.

So getting back to Starlin Castro, a similar cycle is beginning to emerge.  Suddenly there is talk of trading him and eventually replacing him with top prospect Javier Baez without, even considering the fact that Baez has the same exact flaws at a much lower level of play.  He swings too much, he's made errors early on (4 so far)  -- and most importantly, he is nowhere near a guarantee to produce at the same level that Castro already has to this point.  In fact, Castro was already a productive MLB player when he was Baez's age.  This is not saying I want to trade Baez or that he won't be a good player.  In fact, I believe he will be a very good player.  But I already know that Castro is a good player and at age 23, if normal MLB age progression is applied, he's almost certain to get much better over the next several years. If Castro were to be traded, the Cubs are basically guaranteeing they will lose significant value at a premium position and would likely be taking on players that don't offer that same promise.

I very much want to see Castro improve his game and I am as frustrated as anyone when I see mistakes such as the one he made yesterday.  But I don't want to miss the forest for the trees here.  Castro is a good, productive young player who history says will get even better over time, and while the next mishap will probably make us doubt that once again, we need to step back and see the whole picture -- because that picture is a very good one overall, even if it's still incomplete and contains a few flaws.

In the news:

  • The big news yesterday was the melee that resulted in a fractured clavicle for the Dodgers top starter and key free agent acquisition Zack Greinke.  Carlos Quentin was hit by a pitch, apparently took it personally, and charged the mound.  The two collided with Greinke absorbing the blow with his left shoulder, which may have caused that fracture.  Apparently there was a history between the two players and Greinke has hit Quentin 3 times, though he says none of them were intentional.  Quentin, as you may know, gets hit with a lot of pitches and, in fact, led the league one year.  Buster Olney of ESPN calls Quentin's reaction "ridiculous" (insider only).
  • Here is a very good article on statistical trends and Paul Konerko by Christina Kahrl.  The article is honest in that it says we don't know everything despite all the advances and uses Konerko's improved production at a point where historical trends say have been declining.
  • Baseball Prospectus talks about the top 11 (actually 10) players who have re-invented their careers.  Number 5 on the list is Scott Feldman, who changed his delivery, and number 8 is Bryan Bogusevic, who has become a better hitter.

Today's Lineup:

The Cubs face the Giants today at 1:20 CT as Carlos Villanueva tries to build on his previous start and tries to outduel Matt Cain, one of the better pitchers in baseball.

  1. DeJesus CF
  2. Castro SS
  3. Rizzo 1B
  4. Soriano LF
  5. Schierholtz RF
  6. Castillo C
  7. Clevenger 3B
  8. Valbuena 2B
  9. Villanueva p

What to Watch For:

Felzz: Steve Clevenger playing 3rd brings the total of people playing 3rd base this year to 3. ( I set the over/under at 5.5) and we're only in the second week. I'm sure Bochy will lay down a bunt or two. But I think he'll handle himself OK. Hopefully his bat makes this part time experiment worth it.

John: Like Felzz I'm curious to see Clevenger at 3B but it also means Luis Valbuena playing 2B. The third DP partner for Castro in the early going and there will be a 4th when Darwin Barney finally comes in to re-stabilize the position.  Aside from seeing Valbuena's defense at 2B, he had some good ABs yesterday and hit a couple of balls very well, including just missing a big HR late in the game.

Tom: Want to see how Starlin Castro bounces back from yesterday.  Hopefully it won't carry in to today.



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Tags: Cubs, Starlin Castro


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  • An excellent dose of reality. I fall into that trap regularly. Thanks for the reminder.

  • In reply to cubbydon:

    Thanks cubbydon. We all do. Myself included.

  • Seems like this post was directed at me, so I will respond to some of your points.

    First off, I haven't given up on Castro by any stretch, and you are correct in saying some of my comments are due to his poor start. But I think there are some things that are a bit alarming.

    As you stated, some of the defensive metrics from last year show him to be an average or slightly above average SS. I am hoping to have my SS by well above average. Making 27 errors and being mediocre for the most important defensive position puts you in a hole to start with. Castro certainly has the skills to be a top end SS and hopefully we start to see some of that progress. But early on, we have not seen it in the first 9 games.

    As I pointed out before, he should really have 5 errors right now and not 3. He has been gifted fewer errors from the official scorekeeper.

    His error yesterday was crucial on many fronts. It opened the floodgates for 4 runs, added a bunch of pitches the Feldman had to throw which in turn shortened his outing which in turn taxed the bullpen. One little routine play cost us a lot.

    Offensively, he is struggling. He is slugging just a tad over .400 and his OBP is under .300. Last year his AVG, OBP and OPS was the worst of his 3 seasons and that worries me that this could be a trend.

    Castro had opportunities to drive in important runs Saturday against the Braves and yesterday against the Giants. He didnt come through. I know he won't do so all the time, but the stars of the game find a way to drive in key runs - that is why they are stars.

    And you of anyone John should never ever use the fact that someone is an All-Star to prop them up. Being an all-star doesn't make someone one of the best in the game. Just ask Steve Swisher.

    Lastly, I brought up the possibility of trading Castro only after you posted something about trading Baez. I am definitely not suggesting that we trade either one, but if there was a choice, I think it might be wise to consider Castro due to my concerns that maybe he isn't going to turn out to what we had hoped for a couple years back.

    I hope I am so wrong on this. I hope that he is just in an early season funk and once the weather warms up, he will too. I truly want to love this guy. I am just concerned that early returns seem to be the same as last year.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    It is not directed at anyone specifically, Irwin. I apologize if it seems that way. There was a huge explosion of frustration with Castro all over the internet -- some of it even from beat writers. In fact, I was actually referring to ESPNs Jesse Rogers on bit about replacing Castro with Baez. I thought about linking the piece but I didn't want to make it about his column. I wanted to speak more generally.

    I share some of your concerns about Castro. I think we all do to some level. The article was as much a reminder to myself than anyone else that sometimes I need to step back and look at the whole picture.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That was a bit tongue in cheek about the post being directed at me. And I agree that some of my thoughts were out of frustration.

    You are 100% correct about the error on Castro was just one play. Feldman certainly could have stepped up and gotten out of the inning. I get all that. But the star players make those plays to prevent the team from caving in. We are not good enough for our best players to make mistakes that cause implosions like that. If Matt Cain is on the mound, maybe he goes and gets the next guy. We can't expect that from Feldman, Wood or Villanueva at this point.

    Our stars need to play like stars. It has been only 9 games, lets hope he can turn things around.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    "But the star players make those plays to prevent the team from caving in."
    Which is exactly what Castro did in the win over the Brewers. His diving stop of Betancourt's shot up the middle, with the lead run on third, saved the Cubs from falling behind in the 8th inning, and preceded their game-winning rally. That entire inning would have played out differently, strategy-wise, if we had gotten behind instead of being tied.
    Please -- let's look at both sides of the ledger with Castro and everyone else.
    p.s. Baez is FAR from ready for MLB. He's not even ready for AA ball yet.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Agreed, Irwin. I'm on board that the stars need to play like stars. Castro isn't quite there yet and he has shown flashes of being that star and doing those things, but he will have to keep improving to do it consistently. If he doesn't, then he's still a good player, but Cubs will need to support him with a much better cast than they have now.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Castro's error only cost one run. The rest of those runs are on the rest of the team -- Feldman, Lillibridge, etc. You can blame him for the error, but you can't blame him for the Cubs play afterward. If the Cubs can't recover and focus after one error, then that's a big problem with the whole team, not just one player.

  • Good analysis John. I see Castro as a young player trying too hard at a game that is still a little too fast. Time and experience will take care of that.

  • In reply to robertxyz:

    Thanks Robert. Agreed that we need to give him time and experience.

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    It's too early in the season to draw conclusions on almost anybody, not just Starlin Castro. Anybody can have a bad week. Sure, it's notable when someone gets off to a fast start or slow start (like Castillo; he's off to a fast start), but that may just be luck more than different approach.

    Let's see how Starlin is doing in May

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Agree 100%. I used Castro because the twitter-verse was extremely frustrated yesterday and I thought it would hit closer to home.

    Good point on Welington Castillo. I could probably write a mirror article on his success. I think he'll be good. But he's not *this* good.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly......Castillo is hitting .400, but he also has a BABIP of .450. He's been lucky. That isn't to take anything away from his approach, he hasn't struck out as much, which is a good thing, and looks good. But he ain't Buster Posey

    PS: I didn't know that on Colvin, how interesting he didn't even make the team (or LeMahieu). Colvins' BABIP at home last year was .415. The Rockies know his season last year was a mirage.....(btw, his road BABIP was .315, and his road OPS was under .700)

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I was surprised to see that about Colvin as well. Part of it was a numbers game. They've had OF'ers come back from injuries and maybe they figured they wanted to give him ABs.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    Would like to add that I think Castillo's BABIP is so high not from luck but because he puts a torch into the ball when he gets it. None of his hit have been bloopers or dribblers in between the SS/3B. He's been consistently hitting rockets where they can't be caught all over the field. You have to admit the guy is locked in,

    hitting the ball so hard players can't react every single time is not luck and that's what Castillo has been doing.

  • Also, people forget that he missed most of ST for injury &/or precautionary measures. So it's not unrealistic to see him be a little sloppy early on. He was lights out during the hot months last year. Maybe he doesn't play as well in the cold?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I totally forgot about that, Hoosier. Good point. And maybe he does play poorly in the cold. He wouldn't be the first Cub infielder to do that. There's a certain HOF 2B that got off to notoriously slow starts every year, though his were more about the bat than the glove.

  • Nice piece, John. In these days of instant gratification, we want our talented players to be stars now, not later. When the team loses, we look at the leaders and want more, when often the reason for the losses is that those leaders aren't surrounded with quality talent. This is why I appreciate your page so much, because writers for major media outlets are clearly playing toward the lowest common denominator and reactionary readers.

    We are still in the first two weeks (check the calendar - it is April 12) of a season that anybody who follows the team knew that the team wasn't going to be competing. Calm down, let the kids grow up a bit, and see if any of these veterans could provide some long term value (Schierholtz has been impressive so far). This "trade Castro" nonsense reminds me an awful lot of ignorant reactions at last year's trade deadline when people were openly complaining about trading Dempster and not Castro as though they've never heard of the law of diminished returns.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    Thanks Sinister. And you're right. It's early.

    I'm equally grateful, by the way, that this comments section is so good. I learn from you guys even when I disagree!

  • It is difficult not to be a little discouraged at this point for many reasons. Castro and Rizzo have not been at their best, Barney(glue) is on the dl, Ricketts is fighting with the city and rooftop owners, FO is showing some frustration, Soler is suspended, Baez is pressing, Almoro is hurt, and the Cubs are giving away games. Not mention that Wregley Field is thought by many to be dump and attedence is down. If we start winning a few, that would help.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Somebody needs a dose of Ernie Banks Sunshine....

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    We just had a dose and it didn't seem to do much. I am still optomistic about the future. Sometimes things get worse before they get better.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Yes, indeed. Just watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with my grandkids who picked up on the song. "From the Ashes of Disaster Grow the Roses of Success".

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Haha! When you list it all, it does sound like a horrible way to begin the year.

    Hopefully that means there's nowhere to go but up.

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    Do you think we could trade him to the Cardinals for Chris Carpenter?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Ugg,... don't even suggest that in jest Mike.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I see what you did there.

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    In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    It even has a C-for-C theme to follow B-for-B.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Haha! Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio redux.

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    The point in the article that struck closest home for me was the point about Aramis Ramirez. I do think it was time for both parties to move on last year, but he is far an away the best third baseman the Cubs have had in my lifetime and one of the best players, period. I'm not sure why he wasn't more embraced by Cubs fans, but it's a tragedy. It would be equally horrible if Castro is always the guy who doesn't focus or try (and as I said yesterday, it really does seem to me as if his problems this year are caused by trying too hard) when he's probably the best shortstop the Cubs have had since the 60s.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Agree on Aramis. He could rake and rake in the clutch. He was just a laid back personality. When he wasn't successful at the plate, he would note to the media "sometimes one has to give the pitcher credit". His issue was and still is staying healthy. My son joked that, "if he was the manager and caught Ramirez busting it to 1st, he would fine him because always pulled a hamstring".

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I've always thought about that too. I think there was a lot of influence by the media on Ramirez. When I said in the article that the image gets stronger when it's confirmed by a third party (especially a perceived expert), I was loosely referring to the media here in Chicago. It saddens me that some of the media has replaced Ramirez with Castro as their source of frustration.

    I think it's safe to say too that Castro is easily the best Cubs SS since Ernie Banks. At least statistically. And I'm a guy who loved Shawon Dunston as a kid.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Shawon Dunsten would have made a great CFer and being in center I believe he would have been a better hitter. He had a great arm and the worst foot work at SS.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I met the whole gang in Atlanta April of 2007. I was staying at the Ritz Carlton, and so was the Cubs. We happened to be stepping out one evening, just as the players were returning from their after game dinner, etc... I approached Rami and said I was a grateful fan, and that I admired & respected him for re-signing with a hometown discount so we could make a run at the post-season. Seemed like a really humble dude who genuinely appreciated the positive sentiment from a fan...

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Thanks for sharing that -- awesome story. I hope he sees this. It wasn't quite the embarrassment of going nuts for Tony Campana at the convention and then polite applause for Castro, but I've always thought Cubs fans embarrassed themselves by not giving him a standing O when he came up for the first time with the Brewers.

    He was the guy on those teams -- more so than even Derrek Lee -- that I knew was going to have a great at bat almost every time up.

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    My feelings on Castro is he has great potential. Its the fundamental errors that pop out at me that is exasperating. For example, the undisciplined approach at the plate. Swing at pitches out of the zone regularly( translates into no walks). His inconsistency in the field. Its like he is not a smart player. I don't question his athleticism, its his fundamentals or lack of it that is frustrating. Its the mental aspect. On that error that lead to the big inning you've got to block that ball, stopping it from getting thru. John you talk about his production and potential, my problem with him is he is not fundamentally sound at the plate or in the field. He is so gifted athletically that a lot of this is forgiven, Time will tell, he just has a lot to learn.

  • In reply to John from Denmark:

    I can't disgree with you there. I share those same frustrations, but even if you question those fundamentals (or his baseball IQ), the fact remains that productivity is what wins baseball games and Castro is highly productive for a SS. That does not mean we all wouldn't like to see him improve, of course.

    I remember Lou Piniella got frustrated with a player because of his bonehead plays and lack of apparent baseball IQ and they shipped him off for basically nothing. That player, Angel Pagan, was instrumental in guiding the Giants to the WS last year. Some players need more time.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Patience is the watch word with Castro. No matter how you feel about Castro as a Cub fan we all want him to be great! Its tough to watch games that are winnable like yesterday, when winning is so rare in a season like this. I think that's what all the complaining is about, we're tortured as fans in this early season backed by last years water board treatment, and the complaint's do have substance.

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    I think you hit the nail right on the head with this one John....Everybody gets so hyped up over every error Castro makes almost like their waiting for it to happen so that they have a reason to bash him it seems like...

    .I've noticed this trend....Castro will play lights out for weeks, hitting everything, making every play, etc and the internet is quite. Nobody talking about this 23yr old playing at a high level which should be big news(baseball media loves to drool over young players producing) but it's not. The second he commits an error or has a bad week at the plate the internet explodes with "Trade Castro", "Get him off SS", etc. It's almost reaching the realm of not fair and Castro being purposefully singled out.

    I've seen headline after headline about Castro's flaws, his errors, misshaps, whatever, But you know what I havn't seen?

    Anyone talking about how many runs/bases he's saved on defense already....

    How many plays he makes up the middle and in the hole that most SS don't even get a glove on with his superior range...

    How he hustles down the line each and every time(Harper regularly gets credit for this).

    Nobody talks about any of that(except for here of course) and even when they do it's a small blurb/shout-out at best. But so god help his soul he makes an error....

    Mike Trout hitting .190 and complaining about money and a selfish desire to play CF when Bourjos is clearly better than him there. Nobody cares

    Mike Olt(who is older than Castro mind you), who everybody wanted and still wants for some reason, Hitting .100 with more strikeouts than Bjax in AAA.

    Nobody cares

    Castro makes an error that leads to a run or Castro hitting .200 to start the year.

    The world falls apart.

    Makes no sense to me.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    This is extremely well said Marcel.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    "Anyone talking about how many runs/bases he's saved on defense already....
    How many plays he makes up the middle and in the hole that most SS don't even get a glove on with his superior range..."

    See above post re: saving a huge run in our last win. I'm with you, Marcel.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Agreed on all counts, Marcel.

  • Its funny how one error can change you from being a core player to being the one player everyone wants traded. John I saw the jesse rodgers article last night and thought that was one of the worst articles out. I think castro is trying to hard right now, he knows the aftermath of any mistake he makes. You think he doesn't know beat writers,twitter,and everyone else is going crazy about every error or bad plate appearance? You notice after that error his at bats look like he is trying to win the game his self ? I also would like to say thanks to john,tom,felzz, and to everyone who comments on the site because this is hands down my favorite site.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Thanks for the kind words Sean as well as the input. I agree that way too much is made over every mistake.

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    In reply to seankl:

    I had the misfortune of having to read Jessi Rodgers' articles while he covered the Blackhawks the last few years. He's not among Chicago's finest sportswriters.

    If anyone recalls, he started in Chicago being a gopher, then beat reporter for one of the Sports radio stations.

  • I'll take the over at 6 third basemen. I think we'll see Stewart in a month, and then we'll see Vitters and Lake at third base by the end of a miserable September.

    I also see Starlin Castro at third base one day - that's my prediction. Shortstops have something more than just talent in their games. They need to be smart and aware - they need their heads in the came almost as much as a pitcher and catcher. I fear he doesn't have that capacity.

    Maybe he'll prove me wrong. But it's fine right now, that we have time to see what he can do. By the time we figure this out, within the next two years, we'll be able to see what we have in Watkins and Christian Villanueva, not to mention Lake and Vitters, to see how the entire infield pans out. And Baez will show us what he can do in a year or so after that. Meanwhile, it's obvious that Darwin Barney can also play a very good shortstop if we keep him.

    Necessity will dictate what happens with Castro by April 2015. Absolutely zero sense worrying about it now.

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    In reply to HackWilson09:

    "It's obvious that Darwin Barney can also play a very good shortstop if we keep him"

    This statement stood out as stretching it to me. Passable would be a word i'd use to describe Barney at SS. He has neither the range nor the arm to be above-average there.

  • John, I'm was very happy to see your comments in defense of Castro. I saw that Jesse Roger's post this morning and my head was about to explode. Guys like Rogers, like the most of the guys on sports-talk radio, remind me of Mariotti -- they feel its their job to say something provocative. The ultimate pot-stirrers.

    The fact of the matter is that Castro is quite clearly our best player. Period. (Maybe Rizzo can surpass him one day).

    I was also happy to read your comments about Aramis Ramirez. He was "my guy" as the main offensive force behind the glorious 07 and 08 (regular) seasons. In fact, in light of the fact that we still don't have a 3B and maybe won't have one for another year or two, I really wish the had given him a handsome 3 year deal instead of letting him walk. It'd be great to have his bat in the 3rd or 4th spot, either before or after Rizzo.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Me too!

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Thanks Nondorf. I think A-Ram was very much underappreciated in his time here. We can see how much we miss his production right now.

  • There will be so many disappointments this season with ths team, that at this stage it is just unrealistic. Castro is the best player on the roster. Nobody here would turn down 7 more with his talent.

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    This is exactly the reason I come here daily. Instead of the sky is falling or we need drastic changes (as some other sites bellow daily) I am reminded that Rome wasn't built in a day. Well written Sir.....

  • In reply to Rich Cap:

    Thanks Rich.

  • The Angel Pagan/Lou Pinella thing made me wonder what would be the most unpopular/no-try-hard-enough/"bonehead team as perceived by the media.

    Here is my all-time team...

    LF: Soriano
    CF: Pagan
    RF: Sosa
    3B: Ramirez
    SS: Castro
    2B: Trillo
    1B: Durham
    C: Soto

    I think you could win a ton of games with that team.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Regular season games.

  • The goal is to get into the playoffs. After that, anything can happen in a short series.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That sounds like Hendry's thinking.

  • It's actually Theo's and every progressive GM out there. You can control larger samples because they are more predictable.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I've always liked it when GMs or managers or players are asked what their goals are for the team and they reply "To win the World Series".

  • I just want to add my compliments for a great article and for putting everything in perspective. Catro is only 23. He is not and may never be Derek Jeter. However, he is the best player we have and will probably get better. He surely has the desire and ability to get better. Even if he doesn't get better, he is still a better tnan average player that we should happy we have.

  • In reply to cubman:

    Agreed cubman. And thanks.

  • One additional thought, we now look back on Dunston with affection and I'm not questioning that. He was a good player whose abilities never equaled his results. He did cut down his errors, but he never got much better than he was when he started and continued to his last day to make bone head plays.

  • In reply to cubman:

    No doubt. Dunston never came close to expectations. He was both an exciting and frustrating player to watch.

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    Castillo nails another runner going for second and a fast one at that. He's going to get a reputation if he keeps this up....Guy has a cannon behind the plate.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    His arm is a legit weapon back there. Should save the Cubs quite a few runs.

  • My point is to appreciate what we have.

  • I don't know how it works in other sports towns but in chicago I notice that you are there guy or your not. Castro is not chicago's player, have you notice no one fights for castro on a national front. Chicago does not want castro to be a cub, after every error everyone turns into a psychiatrist. Rizzo is what chicago wants which is fine, were was the outrage that furcal started the all star in front of castro. So like marcel said castro does not get the praise that a trout or harper gets. Its a shame that hawk harrelson see what type of player we have but cub fans don't.

  • Definitely agree with Marcel here; always seems like people harp on Castro for the errors, but never talk about the good plays. He even had that stretch last season (think june-august) where he only had a few errors last season, yet people see 27 errors and harp on him being an average player.

    Castro kind of reminds of a Jay Cutler actually. Both guys with huge talent, capable of making the big play, having some good games. But also both haven't been able to put it all together or are on the cusp of elite-ness. Every time you start thinking Cutler is an elite QB, he'll go off and throw 3 picks, in Castro's case he'll misplay an easy grounder.

  • In reply to Furiousjeff:

    That's a pretty good analogy. I think like Cutler or Aramis Ramirez, you'd really feel the difference once they're gone -- yet people can't appreciate them while they are here.

  • Loving Castillo's arm behind the plate. It really changes the dynamic of running situations from what we've seen in the recent past.

    It got me thinking about something I used to see with Cubs infielders over the past few years, Ryan Theriot in particular. Ive seen Castro do it too, and occasionally, although not nearly as often, Barney. (BTW, I liked Theriot, and really like Castro, so this is not a piling on) But I cant remember how many times that a Cubs infielder covering 2nd on a steal attempt was too far in front of the bag when catching the throw and missed a possible tag out because they were too far away. I watch a lot of baseball and dont notice many other teams having this problem. Most other temas have their guys close, if not sraddling, the base. Is this something the Cubs teach institutionally?

  • In reply to JerryMartin28:

    He is tremendous back there with that arm -- and quick release too.

    As for infielders, I have to say I've never noticed. I'll try and keep an eye on it.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Fangraphs had a piece earlier this week on worst pitching calls of the gif included Castillo, and the writer complemented how well he framed the pitch. So far he also seems to have a more advanced approach behind the plate, not to mention a better approach AT the plate.

    His BA is luck, but he isn't striking out, which isn't.....good start for him

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    In reply to Zonk:

    The BA is not luck for Castillo. The guy is bashing hard line-drives all over the field. BABIP Luck is a squibbler that gets through the infield or a bloop double that a better OF gets to. Not the case here. Castillo is putting a hurting on the ball when he connects. Can't call crushing the ball every time luck. He's just seeing the ball well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I didnt see Pence' s steal. How was the base coverage?

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    In reply to JerryMartin28:

    Castro and Castillo did everything right. Was bang-bang because Pence ran on a Change-up but he should have been out.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Thanks Marcel

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    Great start to the season by Villaneuva. Hope he can keep it up this year.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    He's got a chip on his shoulder. People keep saying he's not a starter and I think he's out to prove everyone wrong.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    As oppossed to Feldman, who seems to be proving Texas right.....

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    In reply to Zonk:

    To this point. The thing is, though, if you take changes on three guys (Feldman, Villaneuva, Baker) for limited money and score big on one and get a bullpen arm out of a second, you're still way up.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yep, Villanueva is looking like Jeff Samarzjija did last year, proving that he's a starting pitcher despite all the historical evidence that suggested it wouldn't work out. Conversely, Feldman is this year's Chris Volstad. Great raw stuff but no control, questionable makeup and prone to big innings.

    But as you say, we're still playing with house money. If Villanueva is a legit starter, then we can add him to a group that includes Samardzija, Jackson and Travis Wood, with the possibility that Garza and / or Baker return to their past brilliance. If current trends hold (admittedly, a big IF), that's an upper echelon staff. This FO has done a pretty good job revitalizing the team's starting rotation by using internal candidates and the free agent market.

    It could still fall apart, as most free agent-driven rebuilding plans do, but the FO is also aggressively rebuilding the rotation through prospects, some of whom will be ready if / when our current starting Ps hit the skids.

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    Speaking of twitter fans and overreactions to players.....remember the hue and cry over us cutting fan-favorite Tony Campana?

    He's 1 for 23 so Reno!

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Wow. Seems like he's actually regressing.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Still amazed we got 2 nice pitching prospects for him. This just cements that.

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    Back to Castro for a second. It occurs to mes: if can fix his issues, he's a first ballot Hall of Famer. The natural tools are easily that good. That's what we see, and that's what we want. And the frustration is when he doesn't meet that insane standard.

    Having said that, even if he never gets any better than he is right now, he's a perennial All Star. I think we can win games with that starting at short.

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    Hey John, excellent article first off. I couldn't agree more with what you're saying about Castro. It's very easy as a Cubs fan to get frustrated when he makes mistakes and a lot of people complain about his lack of inconsistency on defense. We have to remember how young he is as a player though and how early he hit the majors. I have confidence that he will develop into a better defensive player as he matures and gets older. I know a lot of people may not be as optimistic, but it is important to look at how quickly a player can improve and become a great defender. A lot of people are quick to point to Darwin Barney as the best defender on the team, which is reasonable after winning the gold glove. Not a lot of people point out that he had 12 errors in 2011, 14 in 2010, and a whooping 27 in 2009 (although most were at SS). He has improved a lot as an instinctual defender in his last few years, so hopefully Castro will follow that trend.

  • In reply to Bill Newton:

    Thanks Bill. Great point on Barney. There was a time when people were mixed on whether he'd be an average to good fielder but not a great one. Ironically, it started to turn around late in his minor league career despite all those errors. Obviously scouts saw something they liked.

  • Great article, John. You know, I think it's gotten to the point for me that I need to stop watching sports talk television for the same reason I stopped watching political talking head shows - the hysterical overreacting. It doesn't add anything to the conversation, it just makes me irritated and upset.

  • In reply to midwestlefty:

    Thanks. And I'm the same way. I've gotten to that point as well.

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    In reply to midwestlefty:

    Exactly why I stopped watching Espn and now MLBnetwork, which started out good but has devolved into another ESPN over the years.

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    Castillo with another perfect throw from the cannon but runner called safe. Castro with the longball!

  • Watch for the "no comments" on Castro doing something good, in this case a homer to pad the lead.
    We are fortunate to have this guy.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Meaningless homer. He should have come through with some runners on base...

    Blah, blah, blah is this what you were looking for?

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    Well done!

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    I just joked on Twitter that it wasn't good enough. Should have hit it on to Waveland.

    A few people blaming him for the SB by Pence, though. That's a head scratcher.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Castro and Castillo did everything right. Was bang-bang because Pence ran on a Change-up but he should have been out. That was on the UMP not Castro.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Usually you get those calls on SBs even when they do sneak in. I was surprised

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    In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Fucking Castro. If he'd just hit a double, then Rizzo and Soriano would have gotten hits to drive him in. I'm so sick of his selfish play.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:


  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yes, we are doing so well in driving runners in who have doubled. And Rizzo and Soriano have come through with RISP all year.

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    In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    You got the sarcasm, right?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Got it and sent it back. Thanks, Mike.

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    In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Cool. Couldn't quite tell if that was sarcasm playing along or sarcasm how could you be that stupid. Given some of the things I've seen written about Castro, I wouldn't have blamed anyone who thought I was serious. ;-)

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    Seein how we're an 18th of the way through the season I think everyone needs to chill out.

  • In reply to NateDHummel:

    Agreed. Lot of baseball to be played.

  • Castro has always been a whipping boy. It's crazy, he is an elite player. Cubs #3 hitter is hitting .173 and the cleanup hitter is hitting .180 with no runs batted in, but Castro is the reason they have lost games. You want to worry about anybody, Rizzo is not adjusting well to what pitchers are doing to him.

  • In case anyone's forgotten this peek into the future (now??) here's a post from earlier this year by John:
    Enjoying the articles from LA! Thanks John.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Thanks Toby! How's the weather out there?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Extremely nice, thanks. Low to mid 70s today, 80's by Wednesday.

  • is anyone else getting annoyed by how Dale is managing? how many lead off doubles do the Cubs need to get and not score a run after for Dale to realize this team needs to play small ball ? why hasn't Dale issued a simple bunt to advance the runner? The Pitching has been pretty decent... just lazy managing IMO...

  • On a positive note, I'm really enjoying Len and JD. I think he's fitting in quite nicely. He's very smart, and I like his laid back style. Plus he's funny!

  • In reply to midwestlefty:

    Agreed. I loved the line from JD where Valbuena hit a line drive and made Matt Cain duck: Luis Valbuena just "Charlie Brown'd" Matt Cain.

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    High school players are expected to shoot the ball to the right side without needing to automatically sacrificing an out via a bunt. If high schoolers can move a runner without a bunt i think dale can expect his pro hitters to do the same. Dale cant control where they hit the ball. I like Dale, his demeanor is much more appealing than previous coaches i think. A manager can only do so much

  • In reply to NateDHummel:

    Nicely said! I agree, thanks for the reply.

  • In reply to NateDHummel:

    a simple bunt tho is the easiest and safest way to advance a runner, if you hit the ball too hard to the right side they can still easily throw the runner out at 3rd... small ball doesn't have to be a negative thing... Ozzy and the 05 White Sox played small ball to perfection. That sounds great and all but if your hitters are continuing to not advance the runner then it is time for Dale to manage and call for a bunt. Just IMO

  • In reply to NateDHummel:

    Most high school players need to worry about making contact period.

  • Castro already has 2 300batting average seasons lol! he is a hitting maching. I never worry about him... he's also the youngest player ever to lead the National League in HITS...

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    im watching on gamecast in class but it looks like the mustache has been hitting corners all day

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    Castro just got robbed of a hit by Blanco on a sliding catch.

    Should have hit it over his head instead to avoid the risk of a sliding catch, idiot.

    Trade 'em......

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    That darned Castro even wastes line drives.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Hit it too hard.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Not hard enough. Banks would have hit a home run with that.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Ditka woulda hit it harder and glared better too.

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    lol. i wouldn't trade castro if he changed his name to milton bradley

  • Castro should have gotten to that ball hit through the right side.

    Oh well, at least Ozzie Guillen admires him.....oh wait....

  • I gotta admit - with a sample size of two games started - that $2,277,500 spent on Villanueva's salary is looking like the bargain of the FA season.

    2 quality starts. ERA below 1.00.

    I'm thinking if it comes down to Villanueva or Feldman as staying in the rotation if/when Garza comes back - it's going to be a realy easy choice. to make.

  • Uggg,.... and another blown save,....

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    Cubs can't buy a win

  • Some people are born with focus others have to work hard at concentrating. Castro may be the latter, but has made good improvement. He is a good hard working kid.

  • And there are people worried about trading our best player !!!!!!!

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    In reply to seankl:

    Castro clearly distracted Fuji by missing the ground ball yesterday. This is his fault.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Trade him while he's hot! Insert emoticon of your choice here.

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    We keep taking about Arodys Vizcaino being a starting pitcher. If he can be a lockdown closer, I think I'd rather he stay there. I'm sick of this happening every ninth inning.

  • Aaarggghhh.

  • Are closers have suck this year. no other way to put it.

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    OK, let the Fujikawa bashing begin! (Just kidding) What an awful 9th!

  • Good grief, it just gets absurd. Who is the Cubs best relief pitcher, and why can't he get in the game?

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    Because he's still recovering from TJ surgery.

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    Romo getting calls that Fujikawa didn't. Hate to see that inconsistency with umpires.

  • Fujikawa owes Navaro dinner. Should take Villanueva too.

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    Why is Lillibridge even in the majors?

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  • So Tom was wondering how Starlin Castro would react today. I'd say pretty well.

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    Somehow Castro doesn't deserve credit for that. When I remember this game, I'll just assume Javy Baez got the winning hit.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Or CF misplayed it and it was all about DeJesus' baserunning.

  • How do you like Starlin now?! Kid has it... He's frustrating sometimes, but he's a star.

  • Darned Castro !!! Instead of homering, he made DDJ run hard all the way around the bases with a puny double....

    Wonder what the naysayers will dig up now?

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    In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Exactly what were doing....except you know....being serious instead of goofing off like we are because we know all this "trade Castro" mess is dumb.

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    *Guess he has to go above and beyond get some good attention*

    Damn Castro, should have hit it over the fence....would have looked flashier and presented something wild from happening....He just can't do anything right

    Trade 'em

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Well, even John isn't giving him his due. He said Fujikawa should take Navarro and Villaneuva to dinner but completely ignores Castro. ;-)

    Man, this is a lot more fun when we win.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Haha! I spoke too soon. Take Castro and DeJesus while he's at it. And Kim.

  • A win is a win....but......this game should have ended at the top of the 9th.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Agreed. Yuck! Good result - terrible way to have to get there.

  • Patience is a virtue. At the plate and in the stands. I felt the above article basically said,"He's 23, an all-star SS who has been an over 3 WAR player past two years. CHILL PEOPLE!!"

    But even that would have been too many words after Starlin's performance today. Fellz's article today should have the headline "player makes article irrelevant".

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    In reply to Quedub:

    Actually, being serious for a second, I was really impressed with how he approached that at bat. Last night he looked like he was trying to win it on every pitch, regardless of whether it was his pitch. Today he stayed relaxed under pressure and forced Romo to come to him. Great player, great at-bat.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Made the adjustment to Romo. Knew he was going to get that slider away and took it. Then when Romo was forced to come inside,he crushed it.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Haha! I like that idea.

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    Another thing -- and this is not to minimize what Castro did in any way -- but the way Rizzo and Soriano are going, I seriously question the Giants strategy of allowing Castro to beat them. Seems like the right play is four sliders, outside and breaking away from him. If he swings, great. Otherwise, pitch to Rizzo.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    But then you put tying run on 2nd where you only need a single. I'd have pitched to Castro too, actually.

  • I have trouble reconciling Sveum baseball IQ with his determination that Rizzo and Soriano shouldn't be dropped from 3rd and 4th in batting order, but sheez. But he is the model of consistency, still trots out Fujikawa despite his being horribly ineffective thusfar. When it warms up, different story altogether.

  • In reply to IVYADDICT:

    I think that's just it. He wants consistency and his ballplayers to know what to expect everyday. It makes their jobs easier. Right now those guys are in a slump but keep running them out there until they break out of it.

  • Castro, another game without taking a walk, kid is just killing the ball club!

  • Rony Torreyes just got the call to AA folks. He was tearing it part in extended spring training.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    john does the pay rate go up at every level of pro ball ?

  • In reply to seankl:

    Not sure. May just go by year.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Crap, I might just have to spring for

    Especially when Soler is promoted.

  • What's really impressive about Castro is how quickly he was able to learn and make adjustments from yesterday's game against Romo. Great stuff, he def learned from bad at bat in 9th yesterday . Laid off outside sliders and hit fastball to win it. He is a pure hitter, youngest ever to lead National league in HITS and a 2time 300avg hitter already, unreal if you ask me :)

  • Just think how much easier a win this would have been if Castro had been traded overnight.

    With luck Rizzo will get traded and Sveum will be fired before tomorrow's game since it is clear they will never amount to anything.

  • Castro looks to me like he's still "learning" his position. He's still learning how the ball bounces or rolls his way. There are probably 50 things to remember when going to catch, and throw a ball to first base, or start a double-play. Then he forgets 12 of those things and he commits an error. I've seen ground balls just eat him up. Or then all of a sudden he looks like Luis Aparicio. I don't get it.

  • You are exactly right. He is learning the position unfortunately he is doing it at the big league level. His bat carried him the bigs a couple years earlier then he really should have gotten there. He was rushed through the minors before the new regime was in place with the new approach at making sure that players reach certain milestones at each level. If Theo and Jed were here 3 or 4 years ealrier Castro would not have been promoted so soon.

  • Thanks for the article, John. This is the kind of thing that turns my stomach. Here we have a young kid that is already under all this pressure from the media and the know-nothing fans. We live in a "what have you done for me lately?" society, instant gratification, and just plain senseless attitudes. And here's what is getting scary to me (and maybe I'm overreacting myself) - this could get to the proverbial "he needs a change in scenery" stage if all this negative attention gets into his head. We don't want him pressing to avoid the negatives. We need him relaxed and playing to win while having fun out there. We certainly DON'T need a change of scenery scenario going on here.

    One more point - I think it's beginning to show what one Mr. Bosio is bringing to the Cubs, even with our bullpen problems. He had a fine starting staff last year until the trades, and it looks promising this year after the retool. Credit to the FO for bringing in the pieces, but Bosio is the one who gets the results, imo. All this bodes quite well for our pitching future.

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