Starlin Castro’s struggles this year have been well-detailed, and it is not debatable that he’s been a below average bat on the year (92 OPS+). When you’re a rising star on a crappy offense, those struggles – and that below-averageness – will become magnified, perhaps unfairly. And everyone will try to piece together “the fix.”

A popular quick fix suggestion for a guy who’s struggling is to play with his spot in the lineup. Move him up so he’ll see better pitches. Move him down so there will be less pressure. That’s certainly been the case with Castro, who’s been described as everything from an ideal leadoff hitter, to a prototypical second hitter, to a middle-of-the-order type. But no one has yet suggested the spot where he probably makes the most sense right now: the bottom of the order.

Until, that is, Cubs manager Dale Sveum dropped some truth about Castro’s proper place right now, all things considered.

“The way his approach to hitting is, I don’t think he really knows where he’s hitting in the lineup, so that makes me a little more comfortable with [moving him],” Sveum said of Castro, per Carrie Muskat. “He’s kind of a ‘cut and slasher’ [type hitter] so no matter where he is in the lineup, it won’t change his approach anyway …. What makes sense, the way he hits, not really working counts and working walks, probably in a real world, in a prolific offense, it would probably be more the sixth or seventh spots really.”

Some folks saw those comments and took it as Sveum ripping on Castro, but I just don’t see it. The kid – whose future remains extremely bright – is an impatient, hacking swinger without a ton of power. His OBP is barely above .300 (it’s currently .304). In a lineup full of quality hitters, why on earth would he be hitting any higher than 6th or 7th? How is that even debatable?

To me, Sveum was simply stating the obvious, while couching it in a call to action. He was saying, “Starlin: there are some things you need to work on in your offensive game if you’re going to become a top third hitter.”

That all said, given that this year has become about learning and preparing for the future, this discussion – while interesting – is entirely beside the point. The question is not where does Castro hit in an optimized and prolific lineup. The question is where should Castro be hitting right now to best prepare him for the future.

Is that spot number 5? Number 3? Number 2? I can see a good argument for each of those spots.

  • Cheryl

    Castro needs to sit back and take a good look at himself. He does need a break and on that break he could take a look at some film to see how pitchers are pitching to him. I don’t know if this is ever done but could he just stand at the plate during live pitching and not swing at anything and just call piches balls or strikes, He needs to have a better sense of the strike zone.

  • Can’t think of a cool name

    I think Sveum is trying to protect himself. If Castro does not improve it’s Castro’s fault not Sveum’s fault. If he improves it’s because I (Sveum) moticated him. Unfortunately the fact remains that Castro has digressed on Sveum’s watch. Whether it was Jaramillo, trying to adjust to a new hitting approach, a season that all .300 career hitters have once in a while, the fact remains it is happening on Sveum’s watch. Why has Castro become his favorite whipping boy? If the front office does not believe Castro is their type of player (and its okay if they don’t) , it does no one any good to publically decrease Castro’s worth.

    • Jeremy

      How has Castro regressed? Certainly he BA has dropped but he took a major step forward defensively. We know he can hit but we didn’t know if he could stick at SS but has shown us this year that he can. He has all the tools to be a superstar SS, it’s just now a matter of putting them together.

      • Can’t think of a cool name

        Jeremy, I was referring to hitting only.

  • Jeremy

    In Castro’s last 40 some games

    8% BB rate 13% K rate which is a drastic improvement from the beginning of the year. His BABIP is just ridiculously low. To me the improvement in power which is starting to show is a big thing as well as his defense.

    I think he is making a definitive effort to be more patient at the plate and he is learning how to be selective on pitches he hits.

  • fester30

    I see a lot of talk about BABIP, and a lot of talk about bad, out-of-strike-zone contact. Seems to me they are related. His BABIP won’t magically come back up if he keeps making bad contact on pitcher’s pitches. He’s going to keep hitting the ball right to people, instead of effectively driving the ball where they aren’t.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      What makes this scenario unlikely is the fact that Castro is getting extra base hits at the same rate. XBH correlate strongly with how frequently a guy hits the ball well. It’s tough to maintain your XBH rate while increasing your poorly hit ball rate. If anything, then the singles rate of a fast guy like Castro might increase as the poorly hit ball rate increases: most infield hits and bloop hits are on poorly hit balls, after all.

      What we really want is information on Castro’s line drive, flyball and grounder rate. (Fangraphs has it for the entire season, but I cannot find it by month.) In particular, it would be nice if it separated popups from flyballs. That would give us the best idea of whether Castro is getting lucky with his extra base hits or unlucky with his singles.

  • ssckelley

    I agree Brett, Castro is a 6 or 7 hitter in the lineup. He does not take enough walks to be a leadoff hitter, he is not patient enough to be a #2 hitter (he only sees 3 pitches on average!), and does not have enough power to bat in the 4 or 5 spot. I think there is time for him to develop as a hitter as he is still young yet.

  • die hard

    should have bookmarked my comments last week or so where I said same thing…but you regulars will recall me saying that thats where he belongs UNLESS somebody like a Sandberg, who wont play with the kids head, will show him how to drive the ball like Sandberg learned to do with good coaching…I am so F*&^%$ng fed up with this new regime from top on down that I am ready to stop my DIE HARD membership…My friend Tidrow would have hired Sandberg and wed be in the hunt for a playoff berth…cant take it anymore

  • The Dude Abides

    Dale Sveum is a 3rd base coach or hitting coach on a good team…

    • Deer

      ahaha, that’s classic!

    • Brett

      I don’t necessarily agree, but that’s hilarious.

    • Can’t think of a cool name

      Ha ha, like the comment about Sveum.

  • bails17

    Now that is some funny shit Dude!!

  • jose cardinal’s krazy glue

    the next soriano…

  • fortyonenorth

    I think if we were making a run for the division lead, Castro’s play would be markedly better. He’s a competitor and, frankly, he’s bored out of his skull right now. He lacks the maturity and/or personal resolve to “bring it” every day for a team that’s fighting for the #2 draft pick.