Thanks to More Mature Approach, Starlin Castro on Pace for Career Year

Thanks to More Mature Approach, Starlin Castro on Pace for Career Year

I've been as caught up as anyone in the exuberance over Starlin Castro's return to form as a hitting phenom, so much so that I hadn't really been paying much attention to anything beyond how much better he's been at putting the ball in play. But that's only a part of the game and doesn't tell the whole story.

Tommy Cook wrote a great breakdown of Starlin's approach a couple months ago, but I wanted to revisit a few things now that we're even deeper into the season. When he first came up, we saw a free-swinging kid who really didn't strike out or walk much. Then the front office coaxed him to see more pitches, which resulted in a sharp drop-off in productivity.

It reminded me of my Little League days, when my coaches drilled the "A walk's as good as a hit" mantra into my mind like a confidence-draining earworm from hell. I was so caught up in trying to take pitches that I wasn't prepared when I did get something to hit; Mo'ne David would've had a field day with me. That's what I saw from Starlin Castro last year.

From the looks of things now though, his maturation has included a little of the old with some of the new. And while his 2013 had many among the Cubs faithful begging for a trade, 2014 is making opposing teams and fans wish the Cubs would have cut bait on Castro last year.

If he can hit just 2 more home runs and collect 15 RBI in the remaining 38 games, Castro will set career highs in those categories. Likewise, he should be able to rope the required 6 doubles to set a high-water mark there as well. But also notable is how Castro has improved at the plate by not swinging.

With just 3 more free passes, Castro will set a career high in walks. And while 37 BB's might not be a very striking total, it's a nice sign of his improved approach. Interestingly enough, he's taken more walks while actually seeing fewer pitches per plate appearance this year (3.73) than last (3.85).

His BB% has increased to 6.4%, almost a 50% improvement over last year's figure. At the same time, however, Castro's strikeout % has dropped, from 18.3% last year to 17.8% in 2014. It would appear quite obvious from these number that Starlin is seeing the ball better than he ever has in his career.

And as an added bonus, he's also hitting the ball harder than ever before. His extra base hit % currently stands at 8.4, the first time it's ever been over 8.0. And Castro's AB/HR ratio is 38.0, easily the best it's ever been after previous years of 154.3, 67.4, 46.1, and 66.6.

That latter number is somewhat telling, no? Last year it certainly felt the Cubs shortstop was possessed, at least from the  fans' perspective. But it seems as though Starlin Castro has exorcised the demons and is now on pace for what could well be the best season in a very good young career.

Arismendy Alcantara has moved out to CF and Javier Baez has acquitted himself quite well in the move to the other side of the diamond. That leaves Addison Russell as the next young pivot man trying to unseat the incumbent Cubs shortstop. And he looked every bit the future star the Cubs were hoping for when they acquired him, blasting a big home run on Monday.

Of course, Starlin put on quite a show himself over the Cubs' 4-day engagement in New York...

Based on Castro's play, both at the plate and in the field, he seems bound and determined to hold onto his spot. It'll be interesting to see how the Cubs make things work between Castro, Russell, and Bryant in the coming years, a quandary every front office only wishes they had.

For now though, we can all just sit back and enjoy the new old Starlin Castro and his resurgent hitting. Or, better yet, his not hitting.

@DEvanAltman

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  • fb_avatar

    Castro is fantastc. 3 All-stars in his age 24 year. At the rate of improvement and maturity setting in, who's to say he is not Jeter? If Catro stays healthty and levels out in a couple of years as he setles into his prime years, no reason not to considrer him a future HOFer...some will say hold your horses, but it's playing out so far.

  • In reply to Randy Michelson:

    He is edgar Renteria. Almost the same stats. Not even close to a HOF.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to KGallo:

    He is definitely not edgar renteria. Renteria never had a 200 hit season. Castro did exactly that in his age 21 season.

  • In reply to Sahmed:

    He didn't have the AB Castro did at 21. His overall stats he is Edgar Renteria.

  • Real nice article. Thanks Evan.

    Yea, that is a nice problem to have. They are all keepers if you ask me. At least until they are all plugged in somewhere. No need to hurry into the trade market, but it is fun to speculate.

  • fb_avatar

    Love the article from an offensive standpoint! That is not what it should have been about. His defense has been outstanding.
    You like numbers Evan. Here are a few.
    Same fielding percentage as Juan Segura at .975, however Castro has played 131 more innings.
    Ruben Tejada, we'll all agree he's pretty good right? Even with only 5 errors, he has still played 325 fewer innings than Starlin.
    Zack Cozarts is ranked 2nd in fielding. Has anyone looked at his offense (Batting .225, 3hr, and 31 RBI's, not very good.
    Jimmy Rollins... yes I feel everyone wondering where im going with this! He is batting .236?? Huh... yes that is what hes got left at 37. He does have 15 HRs with 50 ribbies, but .236. Doesn't even sound right.
    Hanley Ramirez! Yes, I'm gonna go there. Yes Hanley's power numbers are stellar. What about the rest of his game? He has fewer HRs, fewer RBI's, and a lower batting average. His power numbers only jive cause of his 391 fewer innings played, which means he is not durable.
    Lets see, Castro plays more innings than any other shortstop, and has cut his errors in half in 2 years time. At 24 years old... not too shabby!
    MLB NETWORK didn't even rank him in the top 10 shortstops. What a shame!!

  • I'm sure the transition to being more selective has been tough for Castro considering he is a good bad ball hitter. He would still get hits swinging at the pitches out of the strike zone but obviously with no authority. It's been nice this year to see him more selective and making the pitcher come to the strike zone so he can hit the ball with more authority this year.

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