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Starlin Castro is in a slump. That is all.

Starlin Castro is in a slump.  That is all.
Starlin Castro

We're so used to seeing the gifted Starlin Castro so natural and comfortable at the plate that seeing him struggle makes us incredibly uncomfortable.  We want to find answers.

There have been a lot of attempts to analyze Castro and most of them seem to conclude that he is getting worse.  Perhaps no piece exemplifies this than the one Dan Bernstein wrote a few days ago.

Bernstein attempts to make the piece look analytical by quoting new metrics, most of which focus on current value, not predictive numbers.  So all it really does is prove one thing:  Starlin Castro is playing poorly.  It doesn't mean he is worse. The unfortunate truth is that you get more listeners when you focus on the negative on talk radio.  The article struck me as one where the conclusion was decided on before the research.  That often leads to poor analysis because you are looking for numbers that prove what you've already decided to believe.  There's a saying I like to quote from the Scottish poet Andrew Lang:

An unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts -- for support rather than illumination.

With all due respect, I think that applies here.  This is not to call Bernstein "unsophisticated", but I do think the analysis itself can be described that way.

To be fair, Bernstein backtracks and does say this is a small sample size and there is plenty of time to re-write this.  That is probably the most important thing he wrote, yet it gets lost in the mumbo-jumbo of what I call snapshot analysis -- which is to pick a particular moment in a player's career, quote results-oriented numbers, and throw out everything else the player has done in his career to that point.  We're talking about two months worth of numbers for a player 4 years from his peak years.

But this is more than just small sample size.

You'll often here me talk about process and how they often precede results.  There are always growing pains, even for a 3 year veteran like Castro -- especially when they're just 23 years old.  Especially when that player is asked to reverse lifelong habits and learn how to succeed with a new approach and adapt to a new organizational culture.  One important step in this process is an increase in the pitches Castro is seeing at the plate, from 3.46 to a career high 3.85 this season.  That is just one step, however, as it is clear that what Castro needs to learn is to take pitches with a specific purpose and develop a plan to set up pitchers.   Right now it's clearly the other way around, but it's early in the process and according to his hitting instructor James Rowson, Castro has the intelligence to eventually figure this out.

We talked about process when we analyzed Jeff Samardzija as a starter as he made his transition to a starter a couple of seasons ago.  More to the point, we talked about it when we said Jorge Soler's good pitch recognition skills would eventually translate to walks -- which is what we've also been saying about Albert Almora this year.  We've also written about Javier Baez's transition and how, despite the low walk total, there were signs that the process was improving as he was becoming more adept (if still inconsistent) at working counts and waiting for a pitch to drive.  It's an idea that has since been backed up by his manager Dave Keller and Baseball America's Ben Badler.

The problem is that measuring process is much more difficult than measuring results.  It's abstract.  It requires a certain level of comfort with uncertainty.  Results are easily defined.  Process is not.  There is no easy answer and you can sometimes be hopelessly wrong, which is the nature of the game with process-oriented analysis.  I believe that a team that can figure out how to do this well will have a competitive advantage over those that strictly measure results.

So, back to Starlin Castro.  Because there is no easy answer, I've asked a few of my baseball industry contacts -- all of them with a strong combination of statistical and scouting knowledge.  I talked to those in other organizations to get a more unbiased view.  The conclusion was nearly unanimous.

Starlin Castro is in a slump.

That's it. Not one of them was worried about an actual decline in his physical skills.  There was acknowledgement that he was struggling with his approach but that the struggle was almost certainly temporary.

Jed Hoyer also talked about this when he talked with Buster Olney about players improving their approach and that if they didn't, they'll have to find players who will.  Of course, that immediately brought up the subject of Castro.  This is how Hoyer replied,

"He's just in a slump right now. He's not a guy that we really worry about.  He's such an unbelievably gifted hitter.  I'm pretty confident that he's gonna have a .350-.400 batting average month and he'll even out his stats a bit.  He is 23 years old.  Sometimes we forget how young he is because he was up in the big leagues at 20.  I think he does need to improve his plate discipline over time.  I think he will. I think he's going to grow into a lot more power. I think Starlin...he's a big part of our future and he'll figure out the on-base thing.  I think right now that he's frustrated because a lot of hits haven't fallen in but with his hands and his gifts he'll have a good month and get right back on track."

That pretty much echoes what the people I talked to said about Castro.  Once he has that good month and gets back on track, there will be new numbers to analyze -- ones that will likely lead to very different conclusions.

 

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    Keep in mind he is still leading our team in hits. So he is not hitting to the standards that he has set but he is still hitting better than everyone else on the club.

  • In reply to Richard Hood:

    True. Castro's slumps aren't as brutal as your average player's slump.

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    Thank the Baseball Gods that Steve Stone isn't the GM. He would have already traded Castro for pitching?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I couldn't disagree more with Stone there.

  • Great article, John. I needed this, I was starting to freak out a bit. I'm not used to seeing Starlin like this.... lol.

  • In reply to jh03:

    Haha! Thanks. None of us are used to seeing this.

  • John, I was JUST reading Tom Verducci's post on SI and it got me worried about Castro. And then your piece came along and took me off the ledge. A great piece with great timing.

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    Your use of the phrase: "With all due respect" regarding Bernstein, instantly made me think of noted philosopher Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights. Whenever you use that phrase, you get to say whatever the hell you want.

  • In reply to Louie101:

    Haha! That was a great line and it's often true. I just didn't want to call him unsophisticated from a personal standpoint. He's an intelligent guy. But Bernstein's analysis was useless in my point of view. It only served to try and support what he already chose to believe -- and I don't think it even does a good job of doing that.

  • Both Castro's strikeout rate and his walk rate have already stabilized, and both numbers are going in the wrong direction as compared to last season. I'm not interested in panic and I still think Castro has an extremely bright future, but it's fair to be concerned about some of this stuff.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    There's always some level of concern but I think it's been overblown. Not hearing much concern at all and I talked to some very smart people on this.

    The consensus is it's a slump and sometimes we think of it just as bad BABIP luck but in this case I think it's more of struggle with his approach.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Not a BABIP issue. Unfortunately the underlying peripherals support his poor surface numbers. I hope the light goes on soon.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    How much of the peripheral numbers are caused by his struggles with a new approach? I think it can pretty much account for most of it along with just a slump. As I mentioned, I'm not getting much concern from those I have consulted. All recognize the concerns, but none seemed worried about it.

    In some ways this reminds me of another favorite player of mine back when I was a kid: Leon Durham. Manager Jim Frey decide to change his approach at the plate after a 4.5 WAR season in '82. It was a different change, Durham had better pitch selection skills than Castro does now but basically Frey had Durham waiting for more pitches that he can pull/drive for power. Previously he had been more of an all-fields guy. The first year was a disaster as Durham's numbers took a nose-dive. Durham struggled, though he walked more, but that was probably the result of him passing on borderline outside pitches he normally drove to LF. He also struck out a lot more, possibly for the same reason. He righted the ship a bit the next season. Unfortunately Durham had bigger problems than just changing his hitting approach and we'll really never know how his career may have gone. But I think it's an interesting short term comparison.

    Ryne Sandberg is another player who changed his approach and he adapted a bit more easily. Players are different.

    We can't say for certain whether Castro can eventually adapt as well as Sandberg or even Durham, but I think the concerns right now are overstated.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Fair. I didn't bother with Bernstein's piece because I find him personally distasteful, so I don't know to what extent he sounded the alarm beyond the concerns I've expressed.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    I think you nailed it as to what my problem is. You're a pretty level-headed guy and I share the same concerns. Bernstein's piece was alarmist and designed to get people foaming at the mouth. Probably loves it too since I don't believe he's a Cubs fan. Like you, however, I don't listen to him enough to really know.

    We should all be concerned, but I think the level of concern has gotten out of hand.

  • Great blog John! I read the Bernstein article and disliked it, but that's Bernstein. I took it for a grain of salt. Keep up the great work John!

  • In reply to Cubs26:

    Thanks Cubs26!

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    "An unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts -- for support rather than illumination."

    This is my new favorite quote. I am so using this in my intro micro class this summer. I think I may even design a project around it.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Micro class? For people 5'2" and under?

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    In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Priciples of Microeconomics. :-P

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Haha! One of my favorites too :)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yeah, I'm stealing that quote for a Recruiting Metrics white paper I'm authoring...lol

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    I think it comes down to expectations. When he had his 200-hit season, it was a terrific showing for his age, and I had hopes that by now Castro would be an .800 to .900 OPS guy. I thought back then that his foot speed (and bat speed) was better than it actually is, and that he would develop his baserunning ability, which he still may.

    If I lower those expectations to solid everyday shortstop, I relax quite a bit in my evaluation of Castro. I think we can be nearly certain that he is not going to become a superstar. But did I ever have the right to expect that? No. It was the Cub fan in me thinking that the baseball gods owed us one or 10.

    So if we are talking about Starlin Castro becoming Edgar Renteria, I think that can still happen. Time is running out on his becoming Robin Yount, but dreaming of such a scenario in the first place was misguided on my part.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    I think there's still a chance he becomes Robin Yount (or Derek Jeter) but it's much more realistic that he becomes Edgar Renteria. We do tend to focus on players' ceilings when in reality they very rarely reach that.

    I think he's so young and so far from his peak years that it's difficult to draw conclusions at this stage.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Most players destined for greatness in my unsophisticated research seem to have their breakout years by age 24, so there is time indeed. But I think most of us would take a Reteria-like career.

    I went back yesterday and looked at all the MLB drafts since 2000 and was stunned at how few of even the Top 5 picks in a given draft become big impact players. It made realize again how unlikely it is that Baez, Soler and Almora all develop as solid regulars and how even more remote it is that even one of them pans out as a superstar.

    But that's OK. It's all about having so many good prospects that eventually two or three hit big and then you fill in around them with the Castros (if indeed he does not become one of those two or three).

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    Agreed, Castro is going to be a solid major league player but I'm not sure he's a corner stone piece that people thought he'd be. They need to get him out of the 2 hole, he should be hitting 6 or 7 on a good team.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I think Castro as is now is more of a 6/7 hitter. Hopefully he becomes more than that but if he remains the player he was last season, that's not such a bad thing either. At his young age, however, it's difficult to imagine him not improving to some degree. We've already seen it with his defense and power numbers in his first 3 years.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Castro's power numbers increased but it was at the expense of contact. I don't think the increase in power warrants the decrease in OBP. I don't know why people filled his head with thoughts of being a 25 home run player. Why not let him be a .310 hitter that gets 10-15 home runs and 200 hits eveyr season?

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I agree there. I'd be thrilled with those numbers because if he hits .310, he doesn't have to have anything more than a fringe average walk rate to have a .350 OBP.

  • I find it funny how Castro gets all this abuse, yet Rizzo gets let off the hook for his recent slumps and power outage. Doesn't seem fair. It's only been two months, Castro will be fine. Rizzo will be fine. With the team playing how they're playing, it's a good time for them to adjust.
    Does anyone know of Rowson has worked with Castro on mechanical adjustments? It seems to me (not a scout), that Castro's bad speed has decreased. The power he use to generate from his weight shift seems gone, it almost seems his arms swing independently of his body (they are not in sync).

  • In reply to djriz:

    Rizzo's power numbers went down, but his OBP and Average went up from April to May. Rizzo in a down month of May is still a 119 wRC+ player. Castro had a signficantly worse May than April and April wasn't very good. His stats are down across the board from last year which were down from the year before that. People were excited about Castro because he was a 21 year old that was hitting the crap out of the ball. Now he's a 23 year old that is just over a replacement level player (projected 1.7 WAR this year, down from 3.2 the last 2 seasons). The excuse making for Castro is incredible. It was nice for Jed to say, but Castro hasn't had a .350 average for a month in his career. Maybe its time to dial back expectation on Castro from star player to solid major league player.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    The positives also came from outside the organization so I'm not sure what kind of excuses they'd want to make for a Cubs player. I find the hyper-focus and the hand-wringing to be incredible.

    And you're making the kind of snap-shot, results-oriented analysis that changes all the time-- If you'd have made the same analysis on his numbers 3 baseball months ago (Sept. of last year), you'd have had a different conclusion -- as many did. And if you make the same snapshot analysis three months from now, it's likely your conclusions with change once again.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    This isn't a snap shot though, its a season and a third of regression with one month of hitting against September call ups as the only bright spot. I want Castro to be good, I just don't see it coming. People say how smart he is, but he hasn't shown it yet. 4 years in and he still has no situational awareness at the plate. The league has adjusted to him.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    Not true. His ISO and defense has improved every year. His WAR has remained constant.

    He was hitting fine for the first half, higher than the 2nd half. And he had 3 months hitting over .300 -- April, May, and September, so I don't see a steady regression. It's been fits and starts, which is what you would expect as a young player makes adjustments.

    He was better with batting average in the first half, but his OBP skills and power improved in the second half. Again, no steady across the board regression.

    We've only seen some of that early this year but even then we see the same pattern. Walk rates go up, average goes down.

    Seems pretty clear it's a struggle to adjust and he is having trouble hitting on all cylinders and coordinate between the things he used to do well and the things he's trying to learn now.

  • I respect everyone's optimism for Castro's future,[we can only hope] but until he closes his exaggerated open batting stance, he will continue to chase pitches out of the strike-zone, away.

  • Wishful thinking.

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    In reply to Aquinas wired:

    That was a great contribution to the debate, thank you!

  • Wow, Castro is still leading the Cubs in hits? that is amazing, I think people forget this is how baseball is, it's a Marathon not a Sprint! Castro makes contact with everything, he is in a little slump where he is not waiting for a quality pitch to drive. It seems like we have this talk, ESPECIALLY from "experts" like Boers and Bernstein every season with Castro, then he ends up with most hits in National League and already 2 .300 batting average seasons all at the age of 23. I'm with the majority who don't really worry about Castro's hitting, he's already proved to me he is a great hitter who will just get better.

  • I never thought of Castro as more than 15-20 HRs per year type of hitter, but the kid has a Vlad Guerrero type of swing that he can hit bad pitches out of the strike zone. Right now, he has more mental than physical issues with his swing. You can see it in his face and the gestures he makes - he is pressing. Maybe he is trying to live up to his new contract, maybe its because they are losing, or maybe he is just in a funky way. He has 600 hits and we haven't even hit the beginning of his fourth year in the bigs, yet. Let the kid play through it.

  • In reply to historyrat:

    The year is 331/3% over.

  • In reply to historyrat:

    Agreed. I think those are all possibilities.

  • In reply to historyrat:

    Agreed. I think those are all possibilities.

  • Anytime a hitter makes a major change in approach, for example B Jackson's swing or Castro's pitch selection, it is a process requiring that one learn a new way of doing something that has made them successful. It does not always have a good immediate result.

  • I wouldn't be surprised if someone writes a article soon entitled "Who Took the Star out of Starlin Castro?"

  • Sorry, friends, I just don't think you can build a winning team around guys like Starlin Castro. Just saying. He lacks je ne sais quoi. It honestly pained me when Theo extended him - I had such high hopes for Theo. Cultivate Alcantara instead. Or, after he recovers from his very serious leg injury, get Hak Ju Lee back. By the way, I sure hope Rizzo pans out, because Cashner is beginning to look like a legit top of the rotation guy. Keep your eyes on Theo, men. Go for Mark Appel. He won't have you worried about blood testing results. He's a winner, like Andrew Luck. Not Mark Prior potential, but close.

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    In reply to tommy:

    I saw the Cashner article, too. That's entirely projection. His big 6.7 K/9 this year looks anything but a top of the order pitcher.

  • In reply to tommy:

    I think if you're defining cornerstone as a leader, then Castro is a long way away from that. If you define a cornerstone as a guy who can provide good long term value, then he fits.

    And I don't think Alcantara can stick at SS unless the Cubs sign Corey Crawford to play 1B.

  • In reply to tommy:

    Whatever your concerns about Castro's development, that extension was an outstanding move by the F.O. Even if he never improves on his career averages, he's already an average to above average major league player who won't hit his decline years for a decade. Barring injury, he's a lock to provide far more value than he'll be compensated for.

  • In reply to tommy:

    I disagree with you on most of your statements.

    Locking up Castro on a team friendly contract was brilliant.

    They are cultivating all their prospects for SS not just Alcantara.

    They don't have Hak Ju Lee and probably won't ever get him back. Castro numbers at the same level of minors were better and he got them at a younger age.

    Rizzo is going to be good for a long time. Cashner is good too but can't stay healthy. Great trade for Cubs.

    I agree with you that I hope they draft Appel.

  • As Len Casper just said on the radio. Castro's youth is not an excuse anymore. He's been in the majors for 4 years now.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    So just because he's been in the majors for 4 years he can't be in a slump ? This is why I wish sometimes they would just trade him and hope he becomes a hall a famer and stick it in all of the media and fans face.

  • Regardless of how much of this is a slump vs. regression, I've heard from some others (i.e. Levine) that Starlin should have more days of rest, and I agree. I think a day or two to collect one's thoughts every now and then would be especially helpful for someone like Castro.

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    I think that's a pretty good idea. Maybe it would help to slow it down for him a bit, lots of stuff coming at him right now.

  • Great post John. It's really impressive that he's already played 500 games before the age that most good hitters even make it to the majors.

    Also, how many shortstops would you rather have than him if you had to pick one as your cornerstone? Most of the top guys (i.e., Tulo, Reyes, Hanley, etc.) are too risky for me and lack any further upside. It's unlikely that Castro isn't one of the top shortstops over the next decade.

  • In reply to Tom Jacks:

    Thanks Tom -- and agreed. I think that there will be a day where we forget all about the struggles he's having now.

  • I've watched Castro a lot this year, and he is consistently driving the ball. Especially to right center field. Pitchers are starting to figure out his weaknesses. He needs to adjust to the approach he is told to have and pitchers game plans against him. Through all of this, critics expect him to maintain a .290-.300 BA at the age of 23 in the Majors? I have full faith and trust in Theo/Jed to develop Castro until they prove me otherwise. It's a good year for Castro to have a down year because the Cubs aren't really competing. How about we wait until Theo/Jed have a finished product in Starlin before we rip him apart.

  • I'm not one of the people that wants to get rid of Castro. I think he is a great player that is going to help the Cubs finally end their world series drought, but at what point do you stop calling it a slump and just call it plain regression? and that is an honest question. I understand he is going to go through growing pains with his new approach but it doesn't look as if he has made any progress at all. Is there a point where the staff will just let him go back to being the free swinger that he is or does he have to adapt or move on?

  • In reply to Matt:

    We've seen players slump for an entire year and come back the next season just fine. Why is there a rush to call it regression?

    I think they'll stick with the plan and maybe even continue to tinker with him a bit.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    They want to call it regression because that's what they want it to be. Its no secret that fans and media want castro gone because he is not what they want in a ball player. He doesn't play hard enough for them, he is not a ''smart'' player, and lets not beat around the bush with the last point he is not a white power hitter. I know people don't want to hear about it but we have to stop acting like some people don't think that way.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Agreed and I'd like to add that Castro plays and works hard, it's only the perception with some that he doesn't. There used to be that similar perception with Alfonso Soriano, but that's been shown to be false (not that those people have publicly admitted they were wrong, they'd rather believe his work ethic suddenly changed).

  • Wow I can finally log in. Computer at work (sheesh) would not let me log in. I read this site everyday, and have been so frustrated I could not comment. Enough said.

    Wow, a slump. What a novel thought. Throw out all the stats in world. It boils down to just an old fashioned slump. I have been thinking this for a bit now. No need to panic as some posters do. Not so much here, but other sites. Kid is to solid for this to be to prolonged. Worst case he has an off year. That can happen. But I am sure if that does occur, his next season will make us all forget about the previous one.

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    I think that sometimes we look hard for cause -- it's in our nature to do that. In reality, sometimes things can't easily be explained and that's the case here.

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    And glad to have you back and commenting again!

    I wonder if anybody else has had trouble logging in.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    No we have terrible internet at work. I have been told it is because of our building???????????

    John, you think Lake is getting ready to get to IA? If so we can have a log jam at 3b. I know Lake has been trolling CF in AZ as well as third base. But IA would have Vitters, Stewart, Lake as well as Clevenger that can patrol third. Granted you can have Lake in CF, maybe shift Jackson to LF. Vitters can get in sometime at 1B as well as Clevenger. Clevenger I think comes off the 60 on the 14th. If promoted one wonders who goes on the 25 man roster.

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    He's on the Iowa roster so I'm assuming he heads there. He's been playing a lot of OF and i suspect that will be his long term position.

    We'll probably see some moving around out there. Jackson has played LF this year and last, sometimes giving way to Sappelt and others. Sometimes that's the way it works in the minors. I imagine part of the reason is that, unless you're a bona fide MLB regular, you should learn to be as versatile as possible.

  • On a different note, and apologies if noted in other threads. Clevenger in IA line up today. Sounds like Lake is coming along in EXST and would not be surprised to see him in IA soon.

  • What Castro is working through now, is similar to what Baez is likely working through. His bosses have basically mandated seeing more pitches, being more selective and taking more walks. The difference is Castro is doing it on live TV, while Baez is doing it in front of 1,000 fans that probably spend a lot of time chasing their kids down.

    I try to put it into context of my real life. It would be like if my boss said that we are getting new keyboards that are a lot different from the current models, but will enhance typing speed and productivity eventually. Or if they made me use my mouse left handed. Or if they switch-up the excel shortcuts. Etc. My productivity, initially, would likely decline and my performance would suffer. Would Kasper say, 'Daniel's been doing his job for 9 years - so he doesn't have an excuse?' What are peak years? 27-30? Talk to me about Castro in FOUR years, when he is entering his prime about his production - oh, and by the way, he will basically be making the same amount of money in that time...

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    I think there are definitely some parallels between Baez and Castro -- and you know if this group was here earlier, they'd have addressed Castro in A ball they way they have with Baez. I'm sure having him learn on the fly against the highest level of competition in the world isn't exactly their ideal scenario.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly. I'm not saying that Castro will ever significantly increase his walk rate. Dude has legit plate coverage and hits the ball hard with regularity. He is likely to get comfortable with being more selective, formulate an approach that works, and will be better for it. Will he turn into Miguel Tejada and hit 30 bombs a year? Probably not. But will he return to a .300+BA, increase in OBP and hit for nice power? Sure.

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    I'll take it.

  • Such an excellent, well written piece! The notion that Starlin is somehow in decline is ridiculous. You talked about wanting to see him set up pitchers more often and I echo that. We see Soriano do it quite often. The "Statue Take" or the "Trophy Take" on the first pitch of an AB. I'd love to know how many of those result in square up's later in that at bat! That's a veteran move but Starlin is a "veteran" 23 year old hitter. I'm really anxious to see the 26 and 27 year old versions! Still very confident he'll be a major threat. I do think Valbuena or Schierholtz should be in the two hole against righties and Starlin should be hitting fifth but I have yet to receive my check so it seems they disagree. I will be at the game tonight in Anaheim. If Starlin's approach isn't there I'm going to boo him in hopes of shaking him up. Doesn't mean he's not my guy! I'm sure Albert will find a way to leave the yard....

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Thanks. I think I read somewhere that they said his bat speed went down and that he now had a slider speed bat. 23 year olds don't lose bat speed or foot speed unless their is some significant physical change. That is not the case with Castro. The bat speed is there but you wonder if he's having trouble with the mental part of the approach. Your bat can look slower when you're thinking too much and especially when you guess wrong.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He's definitely shown a propensity for struggling with the mental part of the game at times in his career. He rarely seems ready for breaking balls lately which is odd to me. He just doesn't look "ready" at the plate in general. Looking forward to seeing him start to square up off-speed pitches after having set up pitchers a little better. This may sound crazy but I wonder what his vision is? That's something that CAN get worse from 20-23 and certainly have an affect. Any clue?

  • In reply to Ben20:

    I haven't heard about any issues with his vision.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Where are you sitting I will be at the game too?

  • In reply to KGallo:

    My buddy has the tickets. Somewhere behind the dish upper deck area. Yourself?

  • In reply to Ben20:

    I am in section229 row b

  • The press is like a bunch of sharks. They smell blood, for the most part, they go for it without thinking a whole lot about it.

    However, I do wish that Sveum would let up about the leg kick. check out some of the great hitters. Votto? He's got a leg kick. Bruce? He's got a leg kick. They seem to do OK, wouldn't you say? You'll find many a good hitter who lift that front leg.

    Sometimes I think Sveum opens up his yap to the press without thinking too much about because he feels that he needs to say something about something in order to look like he knows what he's doing. He talks a lot about accountability. He needs to be held accountable too for how he manages players. I think it remains to be seen if he is the guy for the long haul.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    I like to give him the benefit of the doubt and think he's struggling with that aspect of his job. Not much can prepare you for the tenacity of the media in a large market city.

  • We have to be patient with him like other teams do with there players. Do you think the phillies are glad they did not trade Domonic Brown ? Castro had early success with out much experience, I wish everyone would wait and see what his 25-26 years bring before we say what he is and what he is going to be. I just hate when fans and media try to be fortune tellers when it comes to young players careers. If he is a 6/7 on a bad team then thats ok but he could be a 3-5 at 26 on so we will never know until we get there.

  • I don't think it's regression as much as its, "learning to adapt" or learning the nuances of a different approach to the game. So far he's taking pitches which is good, the only thing he needs to do is actually start hitting.

    Looking at fangraphs, looks like he's also dropped his O-swing (37.4 to 35.8). He's working counts as John evidenced with his improved P/PA, and to add to that he's also swinging at less pitches (50.2 to 48.8). Imo he's just not seeing the ball well, but that should come as he starts to recognize pitches better and as he jumps on good ones he'll start to hit more line drives which will bring up his .ISO and .BA, cause right now his LD% is down a notch 18% from 20%.

  • In reply to Furiousjeff:

    Good stuff, Furious.

  • I think at worst Castro could still be a team leader with a great glove and a decent bat for the next decade. And who knows, he might surprise everyone and become this generation's Ryno.

    OPS in their first three seasons:
    Castro's: .755 (125 games); .773, .753
    Jeter's: .800, .775, .864
    Ryno's: .683, .667, .887

  • In reply to baseballet:

    Hmmm. Interesting comparison.

  • SoCal Cub fans who is anyone going tonight's game?

  • Great article and I'm always inclined to disagree with a Cub-hater/know-it-all like Bernstein. I am a little concerned that his numbers have dropped since the new regime took over. I know it's a new approach but didn't he start that new approach before 2012?

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    Thanks. Castro seemed to try and change his approach at some point last year -- at least that's how it looks statistically. He drew more walks in the second half and looked like he was working counts better. Could have started before then, but that's when the results began to show.

  • Nats DFA'd Henry Rodriguez today. Seems like a guy the Cubs might take a chance on. He throws hard, although he doesn't throw many strikes. Might he be the latest addition to the muscial chairs bullpen?

    Bonus: Do they still make Oh Henry bars?

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    Maybe they still have the old t-shirts.

  • I collected some SS data for 4 different SS thru age 23 season, in an effort to put Castro's career in some perspective. The other 3 SS in the group of 4 below are either retired or near the end of their career. Castro compared favorable until this year, which of course, is too early to deem a step backward in his development as he still has 2/3's to go in his age 23 season.

    4 SS (coded as Player A thru D) by season thru age 23 season

    Age BA,OBP,SLG,OPS,OPS+,TB
    19 .309,.358,.399,.757,103,172
    20 .277,.327,.340,.668, 80,210
    21 .282,.347,.342,.689, 88,177
    22 .275,.334,.400,.734, 84,234
    Player A

    20 .300,.347,.408,.755,100,189
    21 .307,.341,.432,.773,111, 291
    22 .283,.323,.430,.753,101,278
    Castro - Player B

    20 .291,.314,.362,.675, 91, 77
    21 .322,.336,.449,.786, 110,279
    22 .280,.303,.377,.680, 91, 244
    Player C

    21 .250,.294,.375,.669, 74, 18
    22 .314,.370,.430,.800,101,250
    Player D

    Age 23 for Players A thru D (162G s/l projection based on 54G for Castro thus far in 2013)

    Age BA,OBP,SLG,OPS,OPS+,TB
    23 .278,.346,.423,.770, 93, 238 Player A
    23 .261,.295,.361,.655 79 249 Castro (B)
    23 .314,.331,.458,.790,112, 308 Player C
    23 .291,.370,.405,.775,103, 265 Player D

    Player D is a lock for the HOF when he retires & becomes eligible.

    Player A played 16 years and collected over 2,300 hits, played on 2 WS winners & won 2 gold gloves.

    Player C played 16 years and collected nearly 2,100 hits and played in 1 WS.

    Prior to this season, Casto fit comfortably with this group. What we don't know is, will he recover over the final 110+ games or will he continue the slide seen so far in 2013?

    BTW, player A is Renteria, player C is Garry Templeton and player D is Jeter.

  • In reply to JK1969:

    Good stuff JK!

  • He was fine until Sveum got a hold of him.

  • For many casual fans, the terms "moneyball" or "quantitative analysis" becomes severely over simplified to mean an offensive player needs to walk more. Do players make the same interpretation, and does it affects their approach?
    I think Kenny Williams was the last GM with playing experience. I wonder if this will become an increasing area of conflict between players and field managers who did play the game, and their mathematician bosses. Recently Eric Wedge implied GM metrics affected Dustin Ackley. Castro must long for old school Pinella who used his experienced eye balls to determine the kid playing on the back lot can sure hit, as opposed to number analysts who find flaws in his approach

  • In reply to Rosemary:

    I think that's a good point. It's best for the Cubs if Castro masters the strike zone, but as someone mentioned earlier, if he hits .310...who cares? He'll have a .350 OBP with just a mediocre walk rate.

  • I think this is bigger than a slump. He's batted .277 or less 6 out of the last 7 months. (Before which he'd been a career .306 hitter through 1342 AB's.) He's struggled since they tinkered with his approach last summer. I was all for it at the time, add some power, but in retrospect I think it was a mistake. His bouncing back in September of 2012 (and with increased SLG%) made me think it had clicked for him but his numbers this year and some of his comments about taking walks makes me think not so much.

    2012
    April/March .333
    May .304
    June .264
    July .235
    August .252
    Sept/Oct .311

    2013
    April/March .277
    May .252

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Hoping it's a step back and then two steps forward. I don't think it's unusual to have some ups and downs right now, though.

  • fb_avatar

    I've made mu stance on this topic well known s I wont rehash on it but I will say kudos to you John. This was extremely well written and extremely needed. Maybe one day we can make a difference.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Thanks Marcel.

  • John. Bravo Bravo Bravo. A brilliant read. And yes you talked me off the ledge as well!!!

  • In reply to AtlantaScott:

    Haha! Thanks. Glad I could help!

  • Let me just say
    I really like how John takes the time to respond to many questions. I am sure it takes much time. But the ole saying, labor of love. Thank you John for making all posters feel special in our own way,.

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    My pleasure. You guys are great with a good knowledge of the game, so I enjoy it.

  • One of your best pieces John. I agree that analyzing/predicting Castro makes everyone a bit squeamish, since he's so young and his career has shown flashes of good and bad. I agree with the Hoyer quote, ultimately: Starlin's physical skills are too great to deny that he'll bounce back at some point. I appreciate you tempering the sentiments of his doubters.

  • In reply to Denim Dan:

    Thanks Dan. It's tough to watch Castro struggle, but he's too good a hitter not to break out of it.

  • I missed this post when i posted this, forgive me. I think building an offensive lineup is fluid at best when you plug in defensive expectations position wise. I don't think anyone minded Ernie banks hitting 4th as a SS. And Alfonso Lead off in his prime. Starlin is a 2x all star, on track for 3000 hits and 7th fastest to 500? I just think you don't take a core player and make him something he is not, especially when he's had success after the way he was rushed up to the majors. You build AROUND them. Obviously this year is still a rebuilding year, but the Cubs seem hellbent on making one of the best hitters ever at his age into something he's not because they have holes in the lineup? Tony Gwynn had a pretty good career without hardly ever walking. Starlin is no Tony, but the point is you have a 23 year old 300+ hitter at SS. What's the problem and why is Dale and THOYER hanging him out to dry?

  • Sometimes I wonder if it was the right move to tinker with him myself. Let him hit .300 and gradually grow into an average walk rate and you'll have your .350 OBP. I think it's easier to teach it at the minor league level, as we've seen with players like Alcantara, Contreras, etc., but the majors are a tough place to try and revamp your approach.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed and this may not be the end of my ongoing "rant" on this subject John. Kim Dejesus's husband is adequate in CF, but more suited to RF. Yet he leads off. I think it is safe to say that Andre Dawson was a prototypical RF'er. Dejesus is Not a core player and no one is asking him to bat 4th and hit 30+ HR's.

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