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Are we expecting too much from Starlin Castro?

Are we expecting too much from Starlin Castro?

We may have already analyzed and dissected young Starlin Castro beyond the ad nauseum stage.

Castro's name is almost always mentioned whenever the subject of the Cubs is discussed. You can usually find his name in a column or as the subject on sports talk shows. His own manager even seems to find a way to keep his name in the news. The talk predictably usually turns to his lack of mental focus (thanks Bobby V) or about changing his position (ad more nauseum).

We all know the young shortstop is talented but some think he hasn’t scratched the surface of his potential just yet.

Are we expecting too much of Castro?

I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to playing the comp game. Castro has been compared to names like Derek Jeter and Miguel Tejada ever since he arrived on the scene.

When I first heard of Castro, I immediately asked about a comparison and was told Edgar Renteria. I was good with that. Renteria was a very good shortstop on some very good teams. Some may be disappointed with that comparison after all the hype that has come. The question is whose fault is that?

Is Castro a victim of over-hype? Or at 23, is he simply just not a finished product? There are many who think he should be by now. Maybe there is some truth to that.

However, yesterday I was watching a sports talk show and one of the panelist said he was disappointed in Castro's numbers. He thought Castro would be providing some 35 home run like numbers. Huh? Castro may start to hit for more power soon, but where does this stuff come from?

He also may never be a guy with an on base percentage over .320. If he were to be hitting fifth or lower in a better line up, could he just concentrate on doing what he does? Let’s not forget Castro entered Tuesday night's game against the Pirates with 579 career hits and a career batting average of .295.

John and I talk all the time about the intense scrutiny this player is under. We wonder aloud if he was surrounded with a bit more talent if the media and fans would let up their laser beam focus a bit. I asked Comcast Cubs writer Patrick Mooney about Castro recently and he shared some similar thoughts.

I asked Mooney specifically if Castro was getting a fair shake in this town.

“Eh, yes and no. There aren’t many players in that clubhouse who move the needle, so Starlin Castro inevitably gets most of the attention online, on talk radio and in the newspapers. Cubs managers have also singled him out for criticism. People underestimate how hard it is to make that leap from Double-A kid to .300-hitting All-Star shortstop. But as someone who likes Castro recently put it: It’s time to clean up the mistakes."

"This is Year 4 in the big leagues. The guess here is that Castro will raise his game in the heat of the pennant race when he’s surrounded by a better supporting cast (or part of the supporting cast and not ‘The Man’)."

That is pretty much it in a nutshell. Castro indeed moves the needle.

I just don’t understand why everyone is in such a hurry to move his position.

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    I think Renteria is a good comp, and if after 15 plus seasons in the show Castro has a career slash line of around .280/.340/.400 while averaging 10 to 15 HR and 30 to 35 2B per season, I know I'd be happy. It's frustrating to watch his mental lapses at times, but that is part of being a young player, and I think those defensive miscues are starting to become fewer and further between. Whoever it was that thinks he should hit 30 to 35 homers per season needs to have his head examined. He's not that kind of player.

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    I have thought for two years now that Renteria is a fair comp. Renteria's career slash line was 286/343/398/741 with a 2.8 WAR/162 games. If that is what Castro is does that make hime a "core" piece? Does that make him a #5 hitter like the authors on this blog have said? My answer to those questions are maybe and no. IF Castro can get to a 343+ OBP then I'd put him in the 2 slot. Other than that he's at very best a #6 hitter, more like a #7 hitter. How many #6 or #7 hitters are core pieces for franchises? They are only if they are ++ defenders. Castro is not.

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    Castro is already better than a #7 hitter, even if he doesn't improve at all. This isn't the late 90s where everyone is expected to hit 20 HRs.

    A #6 hitter that plays SS is a core piece on any team. Now if he eventually moves to a position with higher offensive profile then he will need to be rexamined.

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    I think several of your points are spot on. On a better team, he'd be looked at as a solid contributor. On this team, he's the man-and he's certainly not up to the task.

    It's obvious that this FO doesn't value batting average a whole lot. They want on base and/or slugging. Looking at someone like Logan Watkins-low batting average, great on base, decent slugging-he's following their plan. If Starlin only contributes batting average and continues to do so, I don't think they'll hesitate to trade him for a better fitting piece.

  • I still am a big believer in Castro. I'm very happy to have Castro as our SS for years to come. I understand some of the fans concern but were very fortunate to have such a talented SS.. I agree that his OBP will probably be between 320 -330 range.
    Btw I wonder what our record would be with a normal BP?

  • In reply to rockyje:

    That is another article itself.

  • In reply to rockyje:

    Believe me, I've thought alot about a W/L record with 7 more wins and 7 less loses.

  • Castro is a bit off this season. Perhaps he is just in the middle of adjusting to a more patient approach at the plate. I read somewhere he actually is seeing more pitches per at bat. I think he may just be letting that sorta mess with his head when trying to recognize pitches. Instead of swinging at everything he is trying to be selective and when it doesn't work for him he looks a bit discombobulated.

  • I we want to see Castro be more patient at the plate we have to be patient with him and support the effort. Castro is a fine piece of a future contender, not a savior.

  • It's a little late to have misgivings about this guy after having signed him to a long-term lucrative contract.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I would never lament that contract.

  • Are we expecting too much?

    I'm not anymore. I gave up somewhat, as Starlin seems to do a better job of picking up bad habits than he does of losing the ones he has. We've seen slow, steady decreases in his performance where you would naturally expect incremental improvement.

    I think the biggest problems are in a lack of baseball instincts and smarts, and an unwillingness to refine his game. The talent is there, but the numbers don't lie.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    I disagree we've seen steady decrease. We've seen his defense improve every year. We've seen his power (ISO ahd HRs increase every year. This year his pitcher per plate appearance is up significantly even though he isn't drawing as many walks.

    I think what we can ask of Castro is steady improvement and the one area where maybe we need to see it is in those lapses -- and I don't think those have increased either. In fact, I think we've seen less -- though it's still too many

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think thats spot on John. People forget that although this is his 4th year in MLB, he's only been asked to refine his approach and getting quality coaching/instruction for the last year & half. He wasn't afforded the luxury of working on those things in A+ like baez is doing. Which btw is why they're doing that to him down there vs. up at MLB... far less scrutiny in A+ ball.

  • I don't get to see many games here in San Diego, so I'm not that well versed,. There can be little question about his talent, but it is not being displayed on the basis we hope for. IMO OBP is among the most significant stats. In the right spot in the right order, I think he will improve his OBP. I think he may be a little lazy and not the gung ho Jeterish kid for which many of us have hoped. In time I expect him to be replaced by a slicker SS. Another position, might help ease the pressure that seems to be holding him back. Discipline at the plate and in the field are not his long suit. I have doubts about Sveum in general, and I'm less than convinced that he is handling this any better than the pen, which would have cost others in other places their jobs.

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    I live in SD at least for the next 2 months anyway. Are you going to the Cubs/Angels game next month?

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    At what point with Castro do we just say" Hey he is great at what he does"? I like Castro on the whole. There are things about his game I hate (metal lapses) and things about I love (ability to square up any pitch). All in all he is a good player now. The problem is that we need him to be the player he will be when he is 26-31 today. That is not his problem it is the fans, medias, and most importantly the ball clubs.

    I said on an earlier post that the scrutiny on Castro could drop considerably this year with the progress of other players. Yes Castro moves the needle as far as interest right now but what about at the All Star break if Rizzo keeps being as hot as he has been? Or if Soler gets promoted to AA and explodes? Or if Shark takes that next step towards being the TOR pitcher that a lot of people are saying he will be now? All these things will take pressure off of Castro because the story lines with them will be major news.

    I said when I first saw Castro play in AA ball that he reminds me of somewhere between Barry Larkin and a young Jose Offerman. I never really saw that Edgar Renteria comparison because when Renteria came up he was extremely polished for his age. We are still waiting on that type of polish on Castro.

    I know I have become long winded on this but I just want to know when are we going to quit trying to make this kid into what we think he needs to be (lead off hitter, OB machine, 25 HR guy) and just let him be who he is. Because on a daily basis being Castro is pretty freaking good.

  • Castro is being misused. Instead of trying to get him to walk and be a higher OBP guy, he should be hitting in the 5 or 6 hole and just do what he does. Having him bat 2nd makes no sense.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    There has been some back and forth even from Sveum on where he hits so this needs to be settled at some point.

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    In reply to Ike03:

    6 is as high as he can hit with his career slash line

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    Good article, Tom. I'm starting to wonder if we're hitting the point with Castro where we stop trying to turn him into Derek Jeter and just let him play his game. If that means he's a seven hitter -- but an incredible one -- so be it.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Exactly what I am thinking.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Amen brothers! Preach on!

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I concur.

  • Ian desmond is a guy I think castro could some day be compared to. Desmond doesn't walk much but the nationals don't ask him to they just put him in the five hole and let him do damage. Dale Sveum sometimes fuel the fire with some of his comments to the media as well. It seems like whenever he opens his mouth about castro it is something negative. It started before the beginning of last year with him calling his hits empty calories.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Castro is 1000x more important to the organization than Sveum, He needs to understand that and keep His piehole shut to the media about Castro/ Rizzo ect. He has enough to explain about His game mismanagement than throwing the young core guys under the bus continually.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I would love to see in in-depth game by game analysis of Dale's game management. I haven't been real pleased.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Yes Sveum is probably trying to motivate but he comes off rough.

  • If he just hits like he did 2 years ago, I'm good. Get to an .800 OPS or so. Keep improving his defense. If he does that, he's worth his weight in gold given his contract.

    Anything more than that is gravy. If he develops to hit 25 HRs and take 60 BBs a year, holy crap, that's fantastic. But 15 homers, hitting a bit over .300, walking as he does now, I'm good with that. It's not out of this world and it'd be a bit disappointing that he didn't develop much since he was 22, but he's still very valuable.

  • "He also may never be a guy with an on base percentage over .320."

    Really? We realize he's not the front office's ideal OBP guy, but he's got the talent to hit for .320 (BA, not OBP). I'm OK with some 23 year old mental lapses, another 2-3 years to grow into his potential, and the need for a better supporting cast. But this guy's talent level is a .300+ hitter. Oh, I guess I am expecting in the expecting too much camp...

  • In reply to TokyoCraig:

    I think we can and should expect a .300 ish average and an average walk rate. That would put him in the .340-.350 range OBP wise. I think we should expect good defense. I think we should expect 15HR power.

    That's a very good player and I think that's what Castro can be.

    I guess what is really discouraging is that he gets blamed because he's not that already at 23 and that he gets too much blame when the team doesn't do well.

    A part of the problem is that this is not a very good team. If we had a guy hitting .280 with a .325 OBP and double digit HRs, average defense at SS -- and who wasn't the face of the franchise, we'd probably not nitpick everything he does. We'd probably consider the team solid at SS, but I think that when a team doesn't have much to build around, much of the burden gets put on Castro and maybe that's unfair. If he were with Detroitor the Yankees, we'd just hear about what a good young SS they have. In Chicago, we worry because he's not going to save the franchise.

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    Looking at Castro's splits, he's mashing at home .301/.339/.476/.815 but awful on the road .235/.253/.271/.523

    if he could do on the road what he's doing at home, or even close, we're all thrilled. I'd take that home slash line from him in a heartbeat. His home/away splits the last 2 seasons have been virtually identical, so get him hitting on the road, and problem solved.

    He's also really struggled against lefties this year, which is odd. .232/.271/.304/.575
    He's put up great #'s against them in the past, so I don't know what that's all about.

  • In reply to brober34:

    I'd take those home numbers from Castro if those were his overall stats. That's pretty much the player I expect him to be.

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    Sometimes I like to look at the comparisons on Baseball Reference just to put into context what I am seeing in a young player. The top ten comparisons for Castro at this point has some pretty big names on it including Rodgers Hornsby, Alan Trammel and Renteria. That is pretty good company to be compared to at this point in his career.

  • We have to understand to that he has had little time in the minors to develop. Hendry place this burden on him, now we have people saying he should be a finished product. He can't be if he was not being taught the things that the new front office preaches. Its unfair to say he should be a finished product going into is fourth season. Every ball player has things to work on, it's just castro is working on his game in the majors.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Good point for sure.

  • Great points everyone. I think Castro is a core piece and maybe .320 was a low mark for OBP but I was just saying even if he could still be a great player. I just want everyone to ease up on him a bit and maybe he will settle in even more. That goes for his manager too.

  • Castro is one man out of 25 players......there are 29 other teams that would take Castro in a New York minute......

    Memorial Day Grades for Cub players,,,,,,

    Camp - F.............Put a Fork in him
    Feldman - B........best trade chip now
    Fujikawa - F........big disapointment
    Garza - INC........great start, more to come
    Gregg - B...........big surprise
    Jackson - D........over-rated?
    Marmol - D.........non-movable
    Rondon - D........heading to DL soon
    Russell - A.........will be around for some time
    Samardzija - C.....need to produce!
    Villanueva - C....value will suffer going to pen
    Wood -A..............Ranks top 3 in NL pitchers
    W. Castillo - B.........under-valued
    Navarro - C........Can I suggest Jennie Craig
    Barney - D.........last year with Cubs
    Castro - C.........a project in work
    Ransom - B.......good pick up for now
    Rizzo - D...........need to be clutch player
    Valbuena - C....average back up IF
    Borbon - D........expecting more from him
    DeJesus - A.....another good trade chip
    Scheirholtz - B....will be traded
    Soriano - C........will be with us in 2014
    Sweeney - B.....good back up
    Bowden - C.......trade inthe works
    Loe - F............not worth discussing
    Takahashi - F....(see Fujikawa)
    Gonzalez - F...new team just dumped him
    Lillibridge - F....can't hit the curve ball
    Sappelt -F.....can't hit any ball
    Clevenger -F......Put "DL" in his name
    Hariston - F.....a real bomb
    Stewart - F...can't even hit above 200 in Iowa
    Baker - INC...won't see him at all in 2013

    Sevum......F........will be fired in 2014

    Theo........D........he needs to score in the draft and trade dead line.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Agreed, Cubs Talk on that first sentence.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    you realize Rondon has been hurt the last few years and this is a huge step up in competition . Except for a couple outings Rondon has been pretty good. A D for him is crazy. He should be used better by the manager . He shouldnt have faced the 3rd batter yesterday . Sveum needs to use Him in low stresss situations and used Villenueva in the role He put Rondon yesterday. Lots of culprits on the 25 way worse than Rondon right now .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Rondon is not ready for this competition...as you said, he is hurt....we let Castillo play the full season, and sent him off to learn more afterwards....the Cubs will do the same for Rondon......when teams draft Rule 5 players and keep them, it has to be for the long term for the big payout at the end.......I don't see it with Castillo....but maybe in the long run, Rondon might be a good #3 starter for us.

    Right now, Rondon needs to throw more innings to build his confidence up......maybe Dale should look at Rondon as a starter after the trade deadline.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    He was hurt, He is healthy now. I am very aware as is every informed fan the plan for Rondon, Rondon has a higher ceiling than Castillo, that being said, the last player we should concern ourselves with is him, He is a long term asset, (hopefully) picked up in a rebuild year. Camp, Hairston , Sveum need the most scrutiny.. Like I said look at each of Rondon's appearances , a couple stinkers but also a good number of solid outings.

  • Things like the Justin Upton trade discussion ended when AZ brought up Starlin have a way of building up expectations. You're saying he's a more valuable player than a guy whose a legitimate MVP candidate every year he plays. I think fans want to see more to justify management's stance.

  • In reply to CubsML:

    I think the idea is that giving up a younger player with above average offensive potential at a premium position for a guy who hits at a position where you are supposed to hit to have any value is not a step forward.

    I don't think there's a GM in baseball that would have traded Castro for Upton, it may make sense from a raw statistical standpoint, but it doesn't make much sense from a value standpoint. I can pretty much guarantee the Cubs would have been criticized by every respectable baseball analyst for making such a trade. And we saw that the Braves were able to get Upton for so much less than what the DBacks were asking of the Cubs.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, I am not saying it was the wrong move, many baseball people smarter than me (including you) say it was the right move. But my point is fair or unfair it adds to the expectations.

    But since we're discussing it, wouldn't a stat like WAR adjust for position? I think it's possible that without a step forward from Castro that Upton's raw numbers would make up for positional adjustment.

  • In reply to CubsML:

    Very possible, Castro has been a 3 WAR player, which is an above average regular at his position. Upton's is harder to gauge. He's fluctuated a bit, at times he's been a better player, such as his 6 WAR season. At times he's been a 2 WAR player which is more of a fringe MLB starter.

    You just wish you knew which Upton you were getting but, then again, if you did, he probably wouldn't be available.

  • I think the attention on Castro is important for a number of reasons. In a position player, you generally want 1 or more of 3 things.

    1. Power.
    2. Speed.
    3. Defense.

    Castro doesn't exactly burn it up in these 3 categories, or have one category where he is overly strong.

    Thus, the discussion is relevant, because it becomes time to decide to sell high on him early, or, if you think the tools are there, since we are not contending at the moment, you can give him more time.

    They (the Cubs players) make millions of dollars and literally make the decisions through their play on whether we make it to the postseason or not.

    If they don't like pressure they are in the wrong game.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Its different if one player is getting the pressure and everyone else gets a pass.

  • While I agree that there have been times when the media and fans may have been too hard on Castro. At the same time he has been pretty disappointing too. You don't have the first 2 years Castro had without big time expectations put on him. His power has increased a little each year, and he seems to be getting "slightly" better in the field. But I sure as hell hope he plays better in the future than he has this year. Which I think he will when the weather warms up. And why isn't he stealing bases anymore? Rizzo has double the bags he has..

  • In reply to Justin:

    I think this is fair criticism and expectation.

  • I rather wait for castro's peak years and let him figure the game out. Sometimes it takes longer for some players to blossom. Remember how long detroit had to wait on austin jackson ? or the phils waited on Domonic Brown ? My point is we want the player to be in there primes at an early age but for some players it takes little more time.

  • I have always had a problem with Castro from the beginning, because its hard to put him into category. He is a very good player is he going to be great I don't know but I am hoping the young players will push him a little.

  • Anyone who expects Starlin to hit 35 HR needs to get his head checked. This isn't 1998.

    I'm generally pleased with Starlin's progress as a ballplayer but I want more from him, and I think it's fair to expect more from him. If he never posts a four (or better) win season, I'll be disappointed. I think he gets there easily.

  • I am one who thinks he is getting an unfair shake. You just can't overstate the fact that Hendry simply threw this kid into the proverbial deep end when he called him up at 20. I see a kid that was getting lots of ground ball and short line drive hits who is now maturing and trying to add power and some patience. Last year's first/second half splits suggest this: while his average dropped from .291 to .275 his OPS actually rose from .736 to .773 with 9 more doubles and 12 more walks than the first half. During this time his BABIP even fell from .331 to .297. When a guy is so young I think these splits become telling, and I think we're seeing him paradoxically trying to be "the man" while attempting to make necessary adjustments as a 23 year old.

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    Castro will be fine. This kid was rushed thru the system by Hendry in order to save his job. He never really had a chance to learn the game at a premium position. He's getting on the job training now.

    I would hate to trade this guy like some folks want to see and then watch him become what we all want him to become for another team. Visions of Lou Brock keep coming to my head.

    The kid is only 23. If these mistakes were being made at age 28 then I'd be more inclined to make a move. At age 28 do we really think Castro will be "the guy" on the Cubs? I don't.

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    In reply to bocabobby:

    I think it's true that he was rushed, but I'm not sure how much he would have benefited from more time in the minors under Hendry. That organization never really put much emphasis on development and guys were promoted as soon as their minor league stats dictated they should be. He may have seen more pitches, but I'm not sure he would have refined his approach at all.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Lou Brock is right. Lou had just turned 25 years old when the Cubs got tired of being patient and traded him to the Cardinals. At 21 and 22 he's already had 2 seasons of better WAR (3.0 and 3.6) than Brock had by age 24 (2.6). Brock was halfway through his 3rd full season when he was shipped off. Castro has just completed 3 full seasons worth of play. Trade him? Please don't, unless it's for Mike Trout. Even Stanton is showing a real propensity for injuring himself. I swear, if we add trading Castro to the Cubs' history of jettisoning players such as Maddux, Bill Madlock and Palmeiro, I'll puke.

  • I am happy that Starlin was brought up when he was. He has some issues. He's only 23. Can you imagine him just making the major leagues now instead of 3 years ago. The next 3 years would have also been a learning experience. He's growing into the position. Hardest spot on the field. He has pretty much maintained his batting average. His defense is getting better. He's trying to be more pitch selective. Tell me another Cubs shortstop since Ernie that you would rather have here instead of Starlin. Quit over analyzing him and let him grow. 35 home runs is ridiculous at this time. Maybe some day with muscle growth---but then--can he still play shortstop. If he does hit 35 homers---people will be questioning if he is on steroids.

  • First of all, I love the blog. I've been reading since last fall, and have read almost all of the articles since then but have yet to comment. You guys do a phenomenal job.

    Second I want to say that I am not worried at all. Castro has made hard contact the last couple of games. I went to the Mets game Saturday, and he drove the ball twice into the RF/CF gap. I know that he drove the ball into the same gap again last night, but it held up like the other two. All that to say he has been making good contact as of late. But at what point does the front office accept the amount of walks he will take in a year, and just let him and his .300 batting average loose?

  • Nice piece Tom.

    I think we all keep waiting for him to just have an absolute breakout season where he puts everything together (walks, ba, 15-20hrs, 20sbs, etc), but instead of expecting a breakout season maybe we should just expect slight season to season improvement.

    As far improvement this season. It's not like he's not trying he's improved his approach to where his P/PA have gone up from 3.48 to 3.83. The one thing that jumps out to me though is his LD% is at 15% where as in previous years its been at 20%, his GB% is roughly the same, but his FB% is up 2%. I'd like to think his LD% will go up and in turn his batting average so stay tuned. Also he's brought up his BB% from 2.6% in Apr til 4.9%.

    I think we should expect him to have a solid season, and improve on some things (bb% mainly, maybe .iso improvement), but not sure we should expect anything astronomical. Season is still young though.

  • FYI - Camp to the 15 day DL ......welcome back Dolis

  • Castro has some warts for sure, but I'd like any of the detractors make a list of the SS they would take before him. Bet that list would be pretty short.

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