Even though Chicago Cubs All Star Short Stop Starlin Castro is a big part of the future of this franchise, the time has come for him to grab some bench. I do not know how much longer Cubs manager Dale Sveum can watch Castro flail away at the plate, and look lost doing so.
Over the course of his career, Castro has an impressive .290 batting average to go along with his mediocre .329 on base percentage. This year, however, Castro is going through the worst slump of his career, which has seen his average drop to an embarrassing .243, and is seeing him reach base at a .283 clip. Both of which are well below his career average. Castro’s decline started May 17 against the Mets, he was hitting .287 at that point, but has been struggling ever since.
Perhaps Castro is hiding an injury which is causing his struggles, sadly that would not be something new this year with the Cubs as Kenji Fujikawa hid an arm injury coming out of Spring Training. An injury to Castro would explain a lot, and give a possible explanation as to why he has struggled so much this year. Castro could very well be over compensating for his injury, thus leaving him more vulnerable in other areas. The problem with this idea is that he is not showing any signs of being injured. He looks completely healthy, so I do not think that there is an injury concern at all for the Cubs or Castro.
Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers had an interesting take a few days ago. Under the tutelage of former Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, Castro was hitting over .300 and looked every bit of the super star the Cubs and their fans thought he would be with the bat. While he still was struggling to draw walks, he was able to limit his strike outs and put up an impressive batting average. He was a career .305 hitter on the day he was fired. Since then he has hit .268 (at least as of last Saturday).
Why this makes sense, is a new hitting coach brings a new philosophy for the hitters, and a young hitter is what hitting coaches will work with more than the veteran ones. This is a very plausible reason as to why Castro has struggled so immensely this year. They worked too much with his swing, threw off his timing which has left him looking like a fish out of water.
Castro is striking out at alarming rates, and his average is creeping ever closer to the Mendoza line which could really kill a young players confidence. The time has come to bench Castro for at least a day, allow him to clear his head, watch some video of his swing and see if they can fix whatever is keeping him from reaching his potential. Not every player is capable of playing through the issues and righting the ship that way. Young players sometimes need a time out, and that time has come.
One of the biggest problems in benching Castro, is the lack of an ideal substitute for him at short stop. There are not many choices for Sveum to trot out to play short stop if Castro is indeed benched for a period of time. The ideal choice, is to move Darwin Barney over, put Luis Valbuena on second and have Cody Ransom start at the hot corner. That may not give many fans much faith, but there is not another legitimate option at this point in time.
Before you say “But what about….” stop, just stop. Javy Baez is not going to be called up to the majors to spell Castro for a game, and is not going to take his spot on the roster; at least not this year. Next year, maybe Castro gets traded to make room for Baez, or he gets pushed off of short stop, but his arrival is not coming this season, so stop wasting time thinking that has a chance of happening. Despite his four home run game on Monday night, Baez is still at least a year from making his major league debut.
Of course, this slump will give Castro’s detractors even more fuel for their fire of wanting him traded. He has lost several fans because of his lack of an elite glove, and this slump is costing him for fans. I, for one, do not want him traded. I see a very good player who is just in the midst of the worst slump of his career. He will figure out what is wrong with his swing, he will get on track. But he needs to catch some pine, hopefully today is the day he does.
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