The final 46 games of the Chicago Cubs season have little meaning. Interchangeable parts and departing free agents litter the Cubs roster. However, baseball fans need to be paying a little more attention. Starlin Castro is beginning to show a power stroke with his fluid swing, and has Cubs fans salivating at what he could become.
Over the last 10 games, Starlin is hitting .422 with 3 home runs and 9 RBI's. On the season, these are Starlin Castro's numbers:
Castro's OPS is creeping up to the .800 level on the increase in his slugging percentage and power numbers. Castro still struggles with on base percentage, but his plate discipline has improved. In order to become an elite player, Castro will need to continue to show a power stroke and improve his on base percentage. Listed below is why I think, as long as his power numbers continue to improve, his on base percentage (more specifically his amount of walks) will improve as well.
Starlin Castro does a fantastic job of making contact with balls in the strike zone. His on base percentage is effected by how well he makes contact with pitches that are thrown inside the strike zone. This is called the Z-contact%. Starlin Castro is in the top 25 of all Major League baseball with a 93.3% Z-Contact percentage. That means that Castro makes contact with 93.3% of balls thrown in the strike zone.
Castro is also seeing a large amount of pitches inside the strike zone. It may be his low-end power numbers, or his position in the lineup, but for whatever reason pitchers throw a high amount of strikes in the zone to Starlin Castro. This statistic is represented by Zone%, and Castro currently has a 48.0 Zone%, and the league leaders see just a slightly higher amount at 51.8%.
More pitches inside the zone, and a higher than average contact with these pitches will have a causal relationship for dropping a players on base percentage. Castro simply walks less than he should because pitchers throw him strikes, and he makes a high percentage of contact with these strikes.
The good news is that Castro is in the middle of the pack in the league in swinging at pitches that are outside of the strike zone. He only swings at 32.0% of pitches outside of the strike zone, which is right at the league average for players. Need I remind you that he is 21 years old, as well.
A simple solution to Castro's walk numbers would be for him to see less pitches in the strike zone. By adding a power stroke, and hitting .313 on the year pitchers are going to begin to be more careful when pitching to Starlin Castro. By pitching more carefully, these pitchers are going to be throwing more pitches outside of the strike zone. It is going to be important to watch how Starlin Castro reacts to these changes. If he continues to swing rarely at pitches outside of the strike zone, and shows plate patience, there is little doubt that Castro's OBP numbers will continue to improve.
The last 46 games of the season will provide a great sample size. Over half of the remaining games for the Chicago Cubs are against teams vying for a playoff spot. These teams will be careful to pitch to Castro, the Cubs hottest hitter. We'll check in once the season has ended to see if the pitchers adjusted to pitch Castro more carefully, and if Castro's numbers improved due to the adjustment.