Starlin Castro grows as player... and a teammate

The Cubs made plenty of progress this season and it’s no accident that it coincided with the growth of their shortstop, Starlin Castro.  It seems the Cubs are quite pleased with his maturation on and off the field.

“I think he’s grown up, obviously,” Renteria said. “He took a lot upon himself. I think as the season progressed, he was certainly more accountable to himself and his teammates. “

Renteria deserves a of credit here.  After a down season in which his focus and work ethic were questioned, Renteria entered the situation with an open mind.

“I didn’t and I don’t usually come into any situation with any preconceived idea,” he said. “I think I’ve learned over time that you can take all the things that people say about others, and there’s a danger of defining who they are before you get a chance to get to know them yourself.”

We tend to get frustrated and impatient with a player’s maturation process but there is no set timetable for growth.  The talented players from Latin America are brought here when they are 15-16.  They are given a lot of money and asked to grow up with the whole baseball world watching.  People are different.  Some, like Arismendy Alcantara, grow up quickly.  So much so that it was never really a question with him.  We’ve seen Jorge Soler grow up right before our eyes.  Other players, like Alfonso Soriano, gain wisdom over the course of their MLB career.

“He worked very, very hard to overcome a lot of real and/or perceived deficits in his game…. He (Castro) also became, as far as I could tell in my observations, a much better teammate. I think everybody did start gravitating to him. I think he ended up reacquainting himself with his teammates in a good way.”

Renteria’s words are revealing.  The words “perceived deficits” hints that there are things we have gotten wrong about Castro over the past couple of years, yet a “much better” teammate indicates there was at least some truth behind the concerns.  While we can’t know for certain what kind of teammate Castro was, we can at least imply that it was less than ideal.

What we can see is how he has evolved as a player to draw clues.

“He drove in key runs for us in the season. His approaches improved. I know people talked about the automatic swinging in 3-1 counts or automatic swinging in certain situations. I thought he really did improve upon those things and made himself a better hitter and was very conscientious about his approaches.”

Castro’s switch in focus from trying to be a 200 hit guy to a player who was more willing to work counts and be more of a situational hitter suggests an evolution from a player who cared more about his own numbers to one that cared more about how his performance affected the performance of his team.

While we aren’t big fans of the RBI statistic, it is a change in his mindset and it has been reflected in his numbers. Castro improved his walk rate from 4.3% to 6.2% and there is still room for growth there.  He is swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone, dropping from 35% to about 30% over the past 2 years.

It’s most interesting to me, however, that he became more patient when the game was on the line, walking 8.6% of the time in high leverage situations, suggesting perhaps that he is beginning to trust his teammates to come through if he doesn’t get pitches to hit.  He also hit .306 and slugged .500, which may tell us that he has focused more on waiting for pitches he can drive rather than settling for singles, or worse, getting himself out.  It’s a small sample size, of course, when we are talking about statistics but we can at least be happy with the more focused, mature approach in high leverage situations.

His manager noticed.

“(Castro) held his own hitting behind Rizzo this year,” Renteria said. “He did a nice job, but Soler slid in there pretty well in the fourth spot. You can see Starlin hitting anywhere from second through sixth, depending on who is in the lineup.”

It’s praise but it is also a strong hint that while they were pleased with Castro’s performance, his role may change as the Cubs bring in more talent.  I think there is a good possibility that he ends up at either extreme of that 2-6 slot rather than at 3, 4, or 5.  The old Castro may have balked and sulked about that.  The new Castro seems ready to go with the flow,

“Wherever they put me, I can show I can help the team and bring RBIs. Whatever spot (manager Rick Renteria) puts me, I’ll try to do my job.”

Still just 24, Castro is growing up.  That means being more accessible to his teammates.  It also mean sacrificing himself for the team.  Whether that means taking a walk or being willing to hit lower in the order; Castro is beginning to see the big picture and that he is but one part of it.

We see a lot of good things in here. Those kids, those guys we brought in here, we’re together, we have communication. We can show people next year we can fight, we can play baseball for winning. I think we’re pretty close.”

We, we, we instead of me, me, me.  That is no accident and it is more than just lip service.  Castro has begun to show it on the field.

Castro is right when he says, “we’re getting pretty close”.  He’s talking about the team, of course, but this time it would have been perfectly okay if he were referring to himself as well.

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  • Castro would be a really good 6 hitter but looking at the line up next year, i'm guessing he hits 2nd once Bryant comes up.

    1. hopefully high OBP LF
    2. Castro
    3. Rizzo
    4. Soler
    5. Bryant
    6. Baez
    7. Alcantara
    8. Castillo/free agent catcher

    Would love to have Castro hit 6th but they can't keep running Baez out there in the 2 hole. Alcantara would be great in the 2 hole as well but not with that OBP.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I could live with him hitting 2nd if he can stay around .300 and bump up his walk rate just one percentage point -- both very plausible scenarios. That would make him about a .350 OBP guy and that works fine in the 2nd spot.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    Can Coghlan repreat his .352 OBP? Is that good enough for him to lead off and play LF?

    I can't wait til next year and for some variant of that line up. But how 'bout Soler, Rizzo, Bryant batting 3-4-5 for that righty-lefty-righty thing?

  • In reply to TTP:

    I certainly wouldn't bank on Coghlan repeating what he did this year.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I wouldn't count on it but I would not be surprised if he did it again. He always seems calm when playing. The guys who don't get rattled tend to do well.

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    In reply to Ike03:

    The lower part of the order here looks a little brutal in the short term, especially in terms of contact and OBP. It would be nice to balance that out a little bit.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I think you're at least in the neighborhood w/your prospective lineup. I can see Coghlan in there at either #1 or #7, with Alcantara occupying the other spot.

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    Thanks, John. I know Castro takes a lot of heat and has been a player featured heavily as a future trade candidate. I see it the exact opposite. I see no logical reason to trade a homegrown 24 year old three time All-Star when the team is only going to get younger with the guys that have yet to come up. Unless of course the trade were to involve another veteran player in return. It's refreshing to see some positive news about the kid.

  • In reply to Matthew Whitaker:

    It was nice to read about what Renteria had to say considering he was looking at him with fresh eyes. We get some hints that Castro needed to grow up and we seemed to have seen him do that. Now we just have to hope he keeps maturing and doesn't take a step back. That maturity might get tested depending on what the Cubs decide to do over the next couple of years.

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    Nick Cafardo yesterday had a best/worst list from the regular season. Listed Colby Lewis as the worst pitcher, with T Wood mentioned. Not wanting our cubbies to be cheated out of top spots on any lists, I emailed him and reminded him about Edwin Jackson. His response: "Yeah I missed Jackson."

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Colby Lewis and Travis Wood are better than they showed. I am not sure about Jackson anymore.

  • Sadly I think the "walking 8.6% of the time in high leverage situations" was more a product of Castro getting pitched around. There was a good chunk of the season where Rizzo and Castro appeared to be the only people driving the offense. Valbuena came on strong the last couple of months around the time the rookies started forcing their way into the lineup, but earlier in the season, opposing pitchers just had to limit the damage of Rizzo and Castro.

    So I have some concern that Castro's improved patience is more a product of lacking protection, though it did seem to pass the eye test. We'll see next year when he's hopefully not batting in front of some automatic outs.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    That doesn't change anything. The point is he isn't chasing those pitches as he has in the past. He is more willing to take the walk than chase and get himself out.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It does mean something if the "balls" he's not offering at are even further from the strikezone. Ie. Last year hitting in front of Rizzo, he was still swinging at balls, but likely pitchers were willing to challenge him and throwing him something he can offer at. But with Scheirholtz behind him, its possible they were going way out of the strikezone, because they'd rather face Scheirholtz et al.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    As for lineup protection, there is simply no evidence that it is a factor, so I don't find that convincing as a reason. Besides, if he was getting himself with pitches just off the zone last year, why wouldn't they just continue to do that? Letting him get himself out is better than walking him no matter who is hitting behind him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Seems like Tom Tango has seen evidence of its impact to how pitchers approach unprotected players. With the caveat that this doesn't impact batted ball data.

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=14010

    As far as what Castro did last year. I don't think it was so much his chasing that was his issue, but more he seemed so out of sorts it looked like he'd decide whether to swing before the pitcher did anything. He seemed to chase and take arbitrarily, and his superior contact ability kept it to just a miserable season instead the mother of all terrible seasons. For me he's gone away from the terrible approach he used last year. Jury is still out if that's an improvement from his 2012 performance.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    That is interesting and it does make some sense. Thanks for posting. Though Rizzo (.225/.313/.412) was hardly a menacing threat out of that #3 hole last year. And the question remains, if it has nothing to do with Castro's approach, why would the pitcher change their own approach if pitching closer to the zone was getting him to chase last year? Getting him out is still better than walking him. He was awful in high leverage situations last year, why not continue what was working in 2013? Seems to me they probably would but had to abandon it because of improvement from Castro (and perhaps Rizzo as well)

    And I do agree he seemed to swing and take arbitrarily, but the bottom line is that he also chased more often last year than he did this year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think the thing about the "myth" of protection is both protection, and then its myth were blown way out of proportion.

    Ie. The old thought was that a player without protection would suffer greatly. But realistically, there aren't too many situations where protection comes into play. Early in a game. Less than 2 outs, no runners in scoring position. Usually you still need to face the batter. However, with a base available and runner in scoring position close and late you can choose your battles. But we're talking about a small sample of plate appearances. Maybe <50 in a season, where there's a good chance you could take the bat out of your best hitter's hands. The sample would be meaninglessly small. But I suspect it equates to a real amount of actual team wins, if the bat stays in your best hitters hands.

    We've obviously seen Miguel Cabrera is awesome with protection and without. But those cases it does matter does affect the actual team performance. So I think the SABR community took it too far, and has said. See Miguel Cabrera is awesome regardless QED, protection is a myth because for ~550 PA he'd be approached the same regardless of protection, but in ~50 PA in close late situations your best hitter might not get to swing his bat.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    That is an interesting way to look at it. Appreciate your thoughts on this. There are times when the sabermetric community gets it wrong, but for the most part they will correct it once they have evidence to support it -- as Tango did there in his "split decision" on it's impact. It probably did help Castro to some extent in that he had nobody behind him. Though I would say the 2014 5th hitter, Valbuena, had as good of numbers that Rizzo did last year hitting behind Castro. There is no doubt that the perception of both hitters are different, however, so perhaps that played a role in their approach. There is a lot of gray area, I suppose, which is something that makes it difficult to evaluate strictly from a statistical standpoint.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    I think the biggest take away is Castro rebounded from his miserable 2013. I agree with you about Valbeuna, but keep in mind he wasn't there all year. Scheirholtz spent a good chunk of time there. Also Valbuena got hot at the end of the year, where Castro missed a significant time.

    I'm not trying to belittle Castro's season. I liked the 2012, 2011 Castro. What I'm not sure of is did we just see that slight increase of BB% in high lev situations because of altered approach or because of lacking protection.

    In some ways I don't really care. I'm just glad the 2013 Castro is gone. Whether he's the 2011/12 version, or a slightly better version is only gravy.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    I don't think there is any question the approach is different. He started changing last year and we have seen a significant increase in pitches/plate appearance, the last two years over 2010-2012. The swings outside the zone have also decreased significantly the past two years. The difference is he is taking pitches with more of a purpose this year. As I always say, process changes first and then results come later. What we are seeing him is starting to reap some of the benefits of changing his approach, something that began last season.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    Good stuff between you and John.

    If I understand you Senator, I think a guy like John Smoltz would agree with you. He was on the MLB Network yesterday and was talking about the Wild Card game between the A's and Royals. He said that Lester should (and probably would) pitch around any right-handed hitter to get to Hosmer who has been awful against left-handed pitchers this year. Smoltz indicated it was something he regularly did.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    @agbat. Yes. The case that Smoltz was talking about is key. But once again, we're talking about a small number of situations where this really applies. And even in the case of pitching around someone, protection has a lot of things to take into account. Splits, bullpen options, score, its not necessarily is this guy, better than that guy. Often times we're talking about IBB. But there is a number of times where pitchers throw some junk with no intention of giving the batter anything he can actually hit, I presume in the hopes that the batter might chase and work himself into a hole.

    @John, you're right. P/PA is a good gauge. And as I said previously I did think this passed the eye test.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Sometimes you chase pitches you normally wouldn't because you feel the burden to make something happen. I think that was part of the problem last year. No one was there to get the big hit. Part of his maturation process is learning he can't hit for 8 other guys. He needs to focus on doing his part and letting others do theirs. Seems like Castro did a much better job of that this year.

    That said, the "old" Castro still surfaces from time to time. He sulks, still loses focus, and still fails to hustle. Perhaps those that are pushing trade see that as being a problem on a championship team. Given that the Cubs have a surplus of infielders, and Casto could yield the most in return, you can see why some could "perceive" him as expendable.

  • In reply to xhooper:

    Yep -- exactly what I was trying to convey. I think it will take some time and you're right, he is still not all the way there yet. I think he needs to keep growing and not fall back into those old habits.

    I worry, though, that the opposite is true regarding Castro's trade value. The vibe I keep getting is that he is worth more to the Cubs than he is on the trade market.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I guess this was part of the problem they had with Sveum, damaging Castro's reputation with his public comments.

    Or maybe it's because he is viewed as a nice complementary player who may get a little better but not having the potential to be an impact player.

    What may be overlooked is how valuable a player like Castro can be playing the middle infield and posting .800ish OPS marks, which adjusted for the era we are in now is nothing to sneeze at.

    He also, despite the end of this year, plays every day. I like that. If he can repeat this season with perhaps slight improvements offensively and defensively and the occasional spike, I like the thought of having him in the lineup the next six or seven years.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    I like that you have a known quantity with Castro. He's going to have a .750-.800 OPS. He has improved enough on D to where he is solid, if not spectacular. I think he can potentially be a better hitter but it's more likely that he remains a .280-.300 guy who can hit 15-20 HRs, which as you say, is nothing to sneeze at.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    Walking when being "pitched around" is pretty much the point. In past years, Castro would have swung at pitches (and making outs on pitches) that he took for a walk this year. He has never had a big problem with pitches in the zone, so if they stop pitching around him, he should continue his improvement.

  • John, all season long and even before that, I have appreciated that you have been one of Castro's biggest defenders/supporters. And you always backed it up with solid analysis. So it's nice to see how right you were. I really like Castro and hope he plays his entire career with the Cubs.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Thanks TTP. I do defend him -- but I think I do that mostly because the criticism is over the top, not that he doesn't deserve any, because he does deserve some. I guess my goal has been more to bring that criticism down to an appropriate level rather than to stop it altogether. I think it is getting there, but that has a lot more to do with Castro himself than it does with me.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Amen TTP. John backs him and he should...and isn't afraid to.

  • I wish this process with Castro had occurred last year, but in the end, I'll take it. For the first time in years, I feel like the Cubs are moving forward with some known quantities in the lineup and especially the bullpen so that we can actually have a decent start to a season. If we get the assets to push Castillo to bat 8th and Arietta and Hendricks as #3 and #4, this team is going to be fun.

  • In reply to DemonBerryhill:

    Wow - the Cubs would have to make some SERIOUS pitching acquisitions to move Arrieta to #3!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I second your opinion. I also don't think it is very likely to happen this off season.

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    In reply to John57:

    I have to admit, I'll be really bummed out if the Cubs don't make at least one impact signing this offseason. Two may be rushing it, but make one and see how things settle and add on if you need to next offseason.

    Along with a TOR pitcher - I'd even settle for Shields if the years were right (no more than four and preferably three with a higher dollar value) - I'd like to see one solid position player addition through trade.

    Right now, the Cubs have a five- or six-year window with the current group - why sacrifice another year? At least give yourself a chance to get that second wild card in 2015.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    I think they'll make one significant signing, and then see if any of the prospects step up in the first half of 2015. They can always make a deal or sign another FA prior to the 2016 season.

    I'd also like to see a position player - preferably a low strikeout / high OBP guy who can play a decent defense. John wrote a piece on this a week or two ago.

  • In reply to DemonBerryhill:

    Man! What does Arrieta have to do to get some props? 150 plus innings of excellent pitching and he's still no better than a #3 or #4? Lester and Arrieta would be an excellent 1-2 punch. They need to find a #3 in the future for the play-offs. The have their #1 or #1A.

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    I'm really torn here. I think there's a lot to what you're saying. As you point out, Renteria seems to like Castro, a lot, and Castro is responding.

    But I think the other side here is important. Some points on that:

    (a) Front office. The announcers consistently criticizing him suggests to me that someone in the Cubs front office is also criticizing him. That doesn't necessarily mean that Theo has soured on him but there is, at least, a healthy debate over his future going on.

    (b) Addison Russell. There's legitimate question over whether he can stick at short. And that should be a concern. However, when it comes to shortstop defense, a lot is being made of Castro "being into every play" now. For me, that should be the bare minimum for a shortstop. Above and beyond that, a shortstop needs to read plays well and understand where everyone on both teams is going to do when the ball is hit. This is something that Castro doesn't seem to be that good at. Russell is very good at it. If Russell is can play the position, I think you do the team a long term disservice by moving him off of shortstop.

    (c) Aggressive hitters. If Baez continues to scuffle, he may make this point unimportant. However, if Theo is serious about changing the Cubs "Hell no, we won't walk" culture -- and I believe he is -- they need fewer aggressive hitters in the lineup. Baez certainly looks to be one, as does Almora. If you have those two plus Castro in the lineup, that's three of eight guys that are going to be tough to walk. Suddenly you're asking a lot of the other five guys in the lineup.

    I don't mean this to say that I've given up on Castro. I think there's a lot to what you're saying and I believe that a team can win a World Series with Starlin Castro as their shortstop. I just think this is one of those situations where whatever road they take is a major decision and a case can be made for taking either road.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think you're on the money, Mike. This FO has stressed OBP and will, undoubtedly, consider it in future personnel decisions. Where Russell plays will depend, in part, on where the Cubs' lineup is weakest at OBP. If Baez doesn't show improvement in 2015, Russell could end up at 2B. If he DOES improve, the Cubs could end up choosing the better OBP between Castro and Russell at SS. In a perfect world, they ALL reach their projected ceilings and Bryant goes to LF to make room for everyone. But...

    Until the picture is clearer, it would be foolish to trade any of them. 2015 will be a very revealing year for Cubs prospects.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I am not writing so much here on Castro's future with the team. He could do everything right and still get traded if that is what yields the best value for the team and makes the most sense for their lineup going forward. It's more a statement on his growth as a player. Whether that means they will keep him long term is probably the subject of another article. I do think they will keep him for 2015 barring an unexpectedly high offer.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Rick Renteria did a smart thing by placing Castro in the cleanup spot. It put responsibility on him to focus and produce for the team. Knowing that this year was not a must win situation, he used the season as a situation to get the most out of this young man. Well played

  • In reply to Stevo1:

    That's an interesting point. Maybe it helped change this mentality a bit.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree. There are a ton of reasons to keep Russell in Iowa for all of 2015 and keep Castro at short. Very few, other than impatience, to push Russell to the big league team next year.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Wow, Mike. Do you really think that the announcers' consistent criticism is influenced by someone in the front office whispering in their ear? Is that what you mean with point (a)? So if everyone in the FO loves a guy, they wouldn't criticize? JD is a shill for the FO? I find that hard to believe. Please explain.

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    In reply to TTP:

    By putting in "shill" you're overstating the case to the point of silliness, but here's a quote from Len Kasper on exactly this issue: "narratives in media affected by what people hear from baseball people."

    https://twitter.com/LenKasper/status/509406614806220800

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That's why I asked for an explanation, because you wrote that the announcers criticism was the result of FO people criticizing him. That suggests the announcer being a shill and, yes, that may be overstating it to point of silliness but, but absent clarification, that's a reasonable inference from what you wrote. On the other hand, I don't think Kasper's tweet supports the inference you are drawing from it.

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    In reply to TTP:

    How would you interpret it? Bear in mind he was directly responding to the idea that media criticism of Castro shapes the FOs view of him.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I've been of the same mindset regarding having too many aggressive hitters for some time now, and you can add Alcantara to that list. If you're going to strike out as much as those guys do - even allowing for their inevitable improvement - then you have to be walking at a good clip as well.

    There is simply no way to field a lineup of tough outs that works pitchers into the ground with so many free swingers.

    It makes me wonder if Baez becomes trade bait. It's a gamble, but if you wait another year and he doesn't start to adjust, his trade value drops. It may have already, though I don't see him as any more of a gamble now than he was when the Cubs brought him up.

    Would the Cubs dare package Baez and Almora together and maybe throw in another mid-range prospect - say, Vogelbach - to get a good return?

    The thing with Baez that worries me is the suggestion that he may not be too excited about studying film and refining some things. That he wants to do it all on instinct. But then again, Castro made some comments like that last year that bugged me and he made adjustments. It just seems like you are at a big disadvantage if your opponent is breaking down everything you do and you are not countering by dissecting what they are doing.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    If Russell is a better defensive shortstop than Castro, (and I believe he is) then Russell should play shortstop when he comes up (and I believe he will). That does not mean that Castro is not a good shortstop. Merely that Russell is better.

    This front office has made a point of saying that they want grinders who take pitches and have high OBA and low strike out rates. But in practice, that does not seem to be their ONLY criteria. They drafted Bryant in spite of the likelihood that he will have a high strike out rate, because he makes up for it with prodigious power. They drafted Almora in spite of the fact that he has tended to be an aggressive hitter that does not wait around for a lot of walks, because he provides great defense, good leadership and great instincts. And they certainly could have gotten a boatload for Baez last winter after the year he had in 2013, but kept him because of his power potential and defense.

    I don't think this front office will sacrifice the good just because it isn't perfect.

  • I still think fans here focus too much on a what a player doesn't do, and not enough on what they do well. Soriano got a lot of this. Castro too. And Beef. We spend so much time focusing on their problems without going back and realizing they're actually pretty good players.

    Look at Beef. He's young, cheap, pretty decent power, generally handles the bat pretty well for a catcher, blocks well, works reasonably well with our SP. Note we've seen Samardzija, Hendricks and Arrieta all succeed with Castillo behind the plate. But he doesn't frame pitches well. So let's look at Saltamacchia and 33 year old Russell Martin.

    Castro doesn't walk enough and has lapses in concentration. Never mind that he's a decent defensive SS, with great contact skills, developing power, and only 24 years old. Let's clear the deck and take a look at some 20 year old.

    The grass isn't always greener.

  • The Cubs have the 9th pick in the draft and I am happy for the fans

  • I'd love to see the Cubs pursue a trade with the Phillies in order to pry Ben Revere.

    He gets on base (albeit at a 2% walk rate, though he struck out less than 8% of the time), is very capable of stealing bases (and as we know, Renteria stated that he wants players that could steal and he wants to improve that for next year), and he's still only 26 years old (last off-season was his first year of arbitration-eligibility).

    Not a great fielder, but the team could do worse.

    Revere - CF/LF
    Castro - SS
    Rizzo - 1B
    Bryant - 3B
    Soler - RF
    Baez - 2B
    Alcantara - CF/LF
    Castillo (Martin?) - C

    That is a much improved lineup heading into next season. It's a minor, reasonable (cheap) change to the lineup and of course, allows the money to be spent on starting pitchers.

  • In reply to Average Samaritan:

    Revere is exactly the type of player the old regime coveted, but if the need is for left handed speedster in the OF would much prefer Span.

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    "...It's most interesting to me, however, that he became more patient when the game was on the line, walking 8.6% of the time in high leverage situations, suggesting perhaps that he is beginning to trust his teammates to come through if he doesn't get pitches to hit..."

    Honestly, to me this is at least in part to the fact that he hit cleanup on a bad team with a bunch of crap hitting behind him. Pitchers simply pitched around him more in high leverage situations. I know I'd rather face Valb/Sween/Castillo/Olt/Lake/Mendy/Ruggs
    etc than Castro any day

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    Another great job John. I think we can all agree that Castro is a damn fine shortstop. But I think where I jump off the boat is where folks think that we are just going to keep everyone in the organization and all sing Kumbiya on our way to a World Series win.

    Everyone was so sure that we would acquire pitching when trading Shark and Hamell also. I also don't think it has fully sunk in that Russell is our best SS in the system. Now you combine the fact that we still need pitching and how right handed our line up and it just seems logical that somethings got to give.

    Is it Castro that goes? Who knows. But I just don't see a scenario where we keep all 3 SS and "find" spots for them in Chicago. I know this raises the lovable Cubbie blue fur in folks but that's all ok as long as the team is stronger than it was when we had all 3 guys in the first place. It seems fear sets in at the thought of trading a SS.

    I have no such fear. In my case you either trust team Theo or you hold onto the ghosts of past managements. I just want to watch my beloved Cubs win several World Series. Is that such a bad thing?

    Oh we win a World Series but we didn't have Castro, Baez or Russell when we did it so we better not celebrate......

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I agree that we are not likely to keep all four shortstops (I include Alcantara in the group). At some point, one of more are likely to be traded. But the Cubs are in a rather unique situation. Most shortstop prospects are not good enough hitting prospects to easily be moved to other positions without losing substantial value. But this is not true with this particular group. Baez loses some value by being moved to second base, but even at second base he (might should, could, insert your word here) hit better than most second base prospects. The same applies to Russell and a large extent Alcantara. What it will boil down to is if someone is desperate enough for a shortstop to offer someone who provides more value to the Cubs than Alcantara (for instance) offers to the Cubs in center field. Can we trade Alcantara (Baez - Castro) for someone that gives us more value at some position than Alcantara (Baez - Castro) does in center field (second base - shortstop). If so, we should trade any of them.

    Until then, I don't mind having the best hitting, great fielding second baseman in the league (if that is what Baez turns into.)

  • In reply to DaveP:

    I think this sums up the situation pretty nicely.

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    In reply to DaveP:

    I agree wholeheartedly!

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Well stated DaveP!

  • To me, Starlin's biggest improvement has been in his power. If he gets back to hitting .300, his slugging will be in the .450-.500 range, which is excellent for a shortstop. And he's still only 24. A guy who gives you 20-25 HRs and .450 slugging at the SS position is very valuable.

    But one area that needs improvement is his baserunning, which has regressed. He has become a station-to-station runner who rarely takes the extra base on a hit. There seem to be too many times where he's on second base, and the batter hits a single, where he jogs into third then looks almost surprised when the coach is waving him home, and only then does he run hard. And what happened to the SBs? I know he is not a burner, but he used to be good for 20 each year. He only had 4 this year. It looks like he needs a little bit more competitve fire on the basepaths, so that he can take advantage of those times when the extra base is there.

    But overall, he's improved, and is a valuable player on the team.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    He looks slower to me. Can't be age, so either he still was dealing with a leg issue or his strengthening program is negatively impacting his speed.

  • In reply to TheThinBlueLine:

    You may be right, maybe there were minor leg ailments slowing him down this year, or getting stronger has just made him a little slower. He is definitely getting stronger, so that's a big plus. Still, I would like to see less passivity on the base paths. But that's a nit, Starlin was a big asset for the Cubs this year.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    I've seen some commenters saying that he never recovered from his hamstring issue in ST. Not sure I buy that but maybe he was afraid to extend on every play. I think we would all like him to hustle more but you saw what happened in Cincy where he watched his home run turn into a single and the next day tried to turn a double into a triple and was out at third.
    I like the way Baez runs the bases and would like Castro and other cubs to run agressively but under control.

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