Starlin Castro Remains a Frustrating Talent and Other Bullets

jed hoyer starlin castroToday’s the day: the $300 BN fantasy contest runs on today’s games, so that means you’ve got just a few hours left (by 1:20pm CT) to get your roster set. (And, for those of you who’ve not yet signed up, you can still do it – sign up here, and set your roster. It only takes a few minutes, but the sooner you do it, the more time you have to play around with the roster.)

  • He’s getting his hits, but Starlin Castro has no walks in 35 plate appearances, and flashed some frustrating “discipline” in the 9th yesterday when he whiffed on a Sergio Romo slider that started six inches outside, and ended up more than a foot outside. He also flashed a frustrating lack of focus in the field when he charged a routine grounder off the bat of pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, rather than taking the grounder normal, knowing that he had plenty of time to get Vogelsong. The ball skipped past him, and it was easily the turning point in the game. It’s early, and all of these things are mere anecdotal at this point. Castro’s also still very young. But I’d like to stop making these excuses at some point – however legitimate they may be – and instead start talking about how complete Castro’s game has become.
  • The Cubs’ 10 errors are the most in baseball, by the way. I can’t speak to the nine, but if Castro doesn’t make his yesterday, the Cubs probably win. (Which is slightly different from saying Castro cost the Cubs the game, which is not what I’m saying. They lost for any number of reasons. I’m just saying that, if you take away the Castro error and the four runs that followed it (how many of those do the Giants score the next inning?), the Cubs probably win.)
  • I got thinking when I saw this bit from Cubs.com: “When Kyuji Fujikawa is pitching, watch where Cubs catcher Welington Castillo sets up behind the plate. You’ll be able to tell when the right-hander is going to throw his fastball because Castillo holds his mitt high and centered.” I know it’s important to set a good target for your pitcher in a way that makes him comfortable, but let’s hope Castillo isn’t going to have to set too early, lest other teams get wise to the now very public targeting plan. It’s not particularly easy for a batter to sneak a look at the catcher so long as he doesn’t set up too early, but it’s a little dicier with a runner on second. If Castillo’s set up is very deliberate, you’re just asking for some sign stealing.
  • The Kane County Cougars are hosting a set of “Meet the Team” parties, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: you get a chance to hang out with the team after a home game, and proceeds from the $25 cost go to the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation. The first Meet the Team event is Saturday, April 20 (that’s a week from tomorrow), and you can get tickets and more details here.
  • More quotes from Theo Epstein on Jorge Soler and the bat incident from the other night. The short version: it seems like an isolated incident, the Cubs are doing their best to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Soler’s a good kid who’s been through a lot. Also, you probably shouldn’t talk about his family.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer points out one of the larger bummers about the Soler incident: he’s now going to be the subject of more baiting, more challenges, and more scrutiny. He already faced a lot of pressure, and it isn’t going to get any easier now.
  • BN’er Josh has a very in-depth deconstruction of the changes Brett Jackson is looking to make to his swing over at the Message Board.
  • Don’t forget to check out the latest episode of the BN Podcast, for those who missed it on Wednesday.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

48 responses to “Starlin Castro Remains a Frustrating Talent and Other Bullets”

  1. Die hard

    The light bulb hasn’t gone on yet– still time — too bad doesn’t have an Andre Dawson to take him under his wing

    1. FFP

      Well, Dawson IS available, at least since Kerry Wood found him in the ivy.
      http://www.propromotionsinc.com/dawson.html

  2. ETS

    “The Cubs’ 10 errors are the most in baseball, by the way.” – Didn’t Sveum say this spring that this team is the best, defensively, he has seen?

    I guess Clevenger’s bat is also slump proof.

  3. florida Al

    weve got some dusty bakerism growing…hey so whats the deal with soler did he get suspended and for how long??

    1. ETS

      5 games.

  4. Cub fan bob

    Look clisj

  5. Cub fan bob

    Edit fat fingers.

    Look closely, where Castillo sets up is never the place Fuji’s pitch ends up. Maybe it’s a Jedi mind trick ..

    1. Cubbie Blues

      Or, Kyuji isn’t hitting his spots.

      1. hansman1982

        Why do you hate on the team all the time? YOU AREN’T A TRUE CUBS FAN!!!!

        1. Cubbie Blues

          SHUT UP MORELAND HANS!!!

          1. Cubbie Blues

            guess my html editing didn’t work.

  6. Jed

    So how will all the people absolutely bashing Soler react to the Dodgers-Padres game last night. My guess is they’ll just say the all got caught up in the moment.

    1. baldtaxguy

      Quentin is not the sharpest tool. 3-2 pitch in a 1-run ballgame, and given how he crowds and dives, he is one of the most often hit players…and he charges the mound? His suspension will probably be on the high side given Grienke’s injury, probably 8-9 games, but he should get a month off for simply being stupid.

      1. JR

        Or maybe Quentin is an absolute genius. He just cost a division rival, that has stole all the press and news in southern california 2 months. I think being suspended 8 games was well worth it:)

    2. Mike

      Agreed.

      1. Kubphan82

        I love how they say Grienke has such “great control” but we’ve all seen him in pressure situations just lose that control. A 3-2 count to a power hitter in a one run game in the division? Yeah, that’s pressure and that pitch was not controlled. Grienke never was as good as his contract, or the hype surrounding his season from a couple years ago. His overall numbers paralleled players like EJax, not quite $100m man…

        1. DocPeterWimsey

          Not really. Quentin leaned into the pitch, and Greinke clearly is shooting for a very tight zone up and in on the strike zone. With the exception of 2005, Greinke’s HBP numbers are quite low. With the exception of 2011, his WP numbers always are quite low, too. And his walk numbers always are quite low.

          Given that Greinke has been facing pressure situations in most of his games given the teams for which he’s played, he clearly is not wilting under pressure at an unusually high rate.

        2. Dave

          While Grienke may not justify his contract he is a much better pitcher than EJax.
          His career ER is 3.75 compared to EJax’s 4 51.

  7. Spencer

    The amount of scrutiny that Starlin Castro has faced in his young career is amazing to me. And ridiculous. Theres no shame in striking out against Romo, by the way. If anything, Rizzos at bat was worse than Castro’s.

    1. JR

      Yeah Castro has taken a lot of heat. I think people see so much talent that it’s extra frustrating when there’s not much progress. Fans want to have the next superstar locked up longterm, I know I do… Maybe he was a guy that peaked real early, and is not going to progress much more. Even, if that’s the case he’s still a valuable player.

    2. hansman1982

      Very true, since he came in the league he has been expected to have the baseball mind of a grizzled veteran. While he may never possess a plus baseball mind, some of these things should get better as he enters his prime, especially when you consider his “peers” are in AA and AAA right now.

      I do wonder what kind of pressure he is placing on himself knowing that he is the “face of the franchise”, a member of the core Theo talks about and the extension. Hopefully Soriano keeps in his ear.

      With that being said, I am getting tired of some of his gaffe’s but worst case scenario we get a better than league average bat with overall good defense at SS. Can’t complain too much.

    3. Brian

      There may be no shame in striking out to Romo, but in that fashion, ball two feet of the plate was shameful, followed by Rizzo looking at two hittable pitches center cut, then getting peeved getting called out on an excellent pitch.

    4. joe

      I agree. I’d much rather see Castro aggressive and strike out in that situation then Rizzo strike out looking with the game on the line.

  8. JulioZuleta

    For those that saw the highlights for LAD-SD, Greinke was not trying to hit Quentin with a full count in a one run game, in fact if Quentin had bent his arm down he wouldn’t even have gotten hit. Quentin clearly overreacted. Because of his response, a man making about $25 million is going to miss 35-40% of his year.
    I know it’s probably a stretch, but any of the lawyers out there think LAD could have a claim against the Padres? I mean, they’re basically flushing $10M down the toilet because of Quentin. Doesn’t really seem right. Maybe there’s a waiver against those types of suits, I’m not really sure.

    1. JulioZuleta

      And no, I’m not saying Quentin should get 20 games or anything like that. These two had a history, he was pissed, made a mistake. But it’s a very costly mistake for the Dodgers.

    2. baldtaxguy

      No legal claim – all in the field of play. (Not a lawyer, but have heard this many times over the years)

      1. JulioZuleta

        Yeah, and now that I think about it, employers generally aren’t liable for the intentional torts of employees.
        (That “in the field of play” thing is the general rule, but it’s not alwaayyysss the case.)

        1. pete

          These days, the courts have been treating intentional causes of action in sports more liberally, i.e., allowing more to go forward. I do not think this incident is one that will expand that arena, as it would be difficult to establish Greinke’s action as “self-defense” in a civil court – he could have retreated (and the game was not in Texas).

    3. OCCubFan

      Many, many years ago, Billy Martin slugged Cubs pitcher Jim Brewer and broke his jaw. I vaguely recall the Cubs sued somebody but nothing came of it.

  9. Koyie Hill Sucks

    The Soler incident is way overblown.

    As for Castro, it seems a trend is emerging and it’s not a good one, all the talk in spring training was patience and taking walks yet early on we see Jackson striking out 1/3 of the time, Baez striking out a ton and everyone on the MLB team striking out alot or not being patience. I have seen Castro many time up in the count 2-1 3-1 and then get a pitch that does not look to be in the strike zone or at least no the ideal pitch to him and swing away, really frustrating…

  10. ssckelley

    Defensively Castro has been brutal so far this season and he has been making huge errors that has cost the Cubs a couple of games. There was 1 inning against the Braves where it looked like they were purposely hitting the ball at him. Officially he only has 2 errors so far but he has gotten the benefit on a number of other plays that they scored a hit.

    1. dob2812

      They were definitely not hitting the ball at him on purpose.

  11. baldtaxguy

    Castro is definitely the type of player that you consistently compare to your own idea of the perfect shortstop. You want below average errors and you want an average walk rate while you still want the hitting and great contact. But…he’s great and I’m so glad he is a Cub. As he matures and if his walk and error rates improves…great…but if they don’t, I’ll take him for what he is today, all day. There are many more players and things to be critical of and groan for more improvement – Castro is fine, focus should be elsewhere.

  12. preacherman86

    he also saved the game a few days ago against the brewers on a diving play up the middle….brutal I know. KID biffed a groundball, come on, it happens. If Feldman gets his butt to first on the next play then its no discussion, but he doesn’t. I would rather see guys make physical errors they can work on as opposed to mental errors where they just are playing the game the right way. And striking out on Romo…yeh it is frustrating, cuz you wanna win, but Romo is good and that slider is nasty. The pitcher wins 70% of the time with great hitters, so be it if he strikes out. He is still one of about 4 guys producing in our lineup!

    1. JR

      I get the feeling with Castro that he plays much better as the season goes on and it warms up. He usually makes way more errors early in the year, and starts making more solid contact once it warms up. Last year he was very good defensively after a couple months.

    2. ssckelley

      But Castro errors are mental! Yes there are times that he makes amazing plays but it is the routine stuff that still give him the most trouble, and that is mental.

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        I’ve never bought that. Physical errors are hand-eye-brain coordination errors. So, you can call them all “mental” as they all are due to the brain giving the hands incorrect information. Of course, in a lot of those situations the information that the brain is giving the hand is based on prior hops: and when those change, the brain does not decipher it quickly enough. But that gets to the same set of eye-brain tools that guys use to bat, and we know that Castro’s are not the best.

        Now, Brett argues that Castro should have stayed back given that the batter (Vogelsong) is slow. However, the conditions were pretty lousy yesterday: and one thing that I learned early in my playing days (19th century, I think) was that the worse the field was, the more important it was to charge the ball. Every hop is another chance for the ball to skip funny, so if you minimize the hops, then you minimize the chance of the last one following a different pattern from the prior couple of hops: and thus being someplace different from where my brain was telling my hands to find the ball.

        Indeed, given what I suspect to be Castro’s primary deficiency as a position player (less than average ability to know where a ball is going within a fraction of a second after it changes course), it would make most sense for him to charge things most of the time: he’ll have a better chance of having the ball be where his brain is telling his hands it will be.

        1. SirCub

          All due respect Doc, but that makes no sense. Every hop has the same chance of being a bad one, and the only hop that it matters on is the last one. The best thing that you can do as a fielder is to position yourself so that you can get “your hop” ie- a long hop or a short hop. Castro charged that ball into playing an in-between hop, and it screwed him. The mental part of the error comes in knowing the situation, how much time you have, and how to best position yourself to make the play.

          A perfect example of a player who always knew the situation and how much time he had was Cal Ripken Jr. It didn’t matter how fast the runner was, Cal’s throw was going to beat him by half a step every time, because he never rushed his footwork or his throw. A lot of that comes from experience, having fielded 1,000′s of ground balls, in many different situations and with different baserunners.

          1. DocPeterWimsey

            Nope. For one thing, let’s say that the chance of a ball taking a bad hop is 10% each time. That means the chance of a ball taking a bad hop after 2 skips is 1-(0.9^2) = 19%. After 3 hops, then it is 1-(0.9^3) = 27%. Ah, you say, but 2 times in three it will be before the 1st or 2nd hop. Well, the first hop is not so bad: but even taking a bad hop on the penulimate hop is going to throw you. The tactic that you recommend (waiting back) actually will leave you flat-foote and in much worse shape to throw.

            For the second thing, every hop the ball takes alters it’s spin and momentum. The more times it skips, the more shifts in spin and momentum: and what makes a bad hop is a big shift in momentum. So, the chances of getting the combination of alterations that produces a big skip is going to increase as the ball hops more.

            As for Ripken, I remember him frequently getting beat by fast runners because he did not charge balls well at all. Ripken was good at putting himself in the way, but anybody who could have mastered a high chop at the SS could have gotten a single every time against him. (The fairy tale that Ripken was a good fielder is entirely a legacy of Earl Weaver initiating good scouting reports on where guys hit grounders, so Ripken was positioning himself as well as late 1990′s SSs in the mid 1980′s.)

            1. SirCub

              Any major league short stop should have reaction time fast enough to deal with a bad hop on the penultimate hop, and definitely any of the hops before that. What matters is the last hop, which I am not aware of any relationship between the number of times that a ball skips and the probability that it’s spin will cause a big shift in momentum. Maybe you can educate me on that.

              I still maintain that the most important thing for a fielder to field a ground ball cleanly is to position themselves well with footwork. I do not endorse the tactic of standing flat-footed and waiting the ball to come to you. The player should move to where they have either a long hop or a short-hop, not in-between (which Castro did).

              And Ripken getting beat by fast runners doesn’t negate my point. He didn’t have the best tools to throw out speedsters who get a lot of infield hits, but he made the vast majority of the routine plays by showcasing superior timing and footwork. As the routine plays are the ones where Castro tends to struggle, especially with his timing and footwork, that’s why I suggested Ripken as a model.

            2. jt

              the change in momentum is really a change in velocity.
              you assume that the chance of a bad hop is not at all a function of velocity?
              you assume that the chance of a bad hop is independent of the surface. Is the chance of jumpy ball greater on grass or clay/sand?
              you assume the momentum of the player does not effect his ability to “scoop”. does the body “load” for action and become more efficient with rhythm’d movement.
              Seems a bunch of considerations are not being considered?

  13. RoughRider

    One thing that fans need to remember is that even though Castro has been in the Majors since 2010 and has 450 + games played, he is still younger than anyone on the 25 Man roster. There are so called prospects that haven’t made the 25 man roster that are older than he is. Lake is basically the same age.

  14. jt

    I buy the gestalt:
    “The whole is other than the sum of the parts”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestalt_psychology

  15. Dustin S

    I’ve believed for quite a while that the future infield will be Castro moving over to 3B with Baez, Lake, or maybe even Alcantara at short. They’ll have to talk him into it and I doubt he or his agent will be happy about it, but with another year or two of bulking up Castro will be a much better fit at third than short. I love his highlight plays but his errors are a killer for an offense that isn’t a powerhouse. And I have to admit in a few preseason games it was pretty nice at short having a stronger defender in there. If another 3B prospect like Christian Villanueva or even Vitters make the bigs that throws it out the window, but if I we’re a gambling man I’d predict Baez at short and Castro at 3B in 2015 or maybe late 2014.

  16. DarthHater

    “I’d like to stop making these excuses at some point”

    Feel free to go ahead and stop any time, man. ;-)

  17. DCF

    While I understand that watching Castro make seemingly stupid mistakes, the amount of criticism he’s got if just beyond comprehension.
    1. According to both fangraphs and BR, his defense has actually been ABOVE average in 2012. His main problem is that he looks stupid when he makes a mistake while other defensive defiencies (i.e oufielders with bad range) easily go unnoticed to the casual observer. His main improvemnet will be to look less stupid and to make lesser offical errors.
    2. If he keeps up doing what he did the last 2 years he will be the Cubs perennial AS for a decade to come. I for one am 1000% happy with that, without any improvement on his side at all.

  18. The Dude Abides

    I hope we have these exact complaints about Soler, Baez, Almora & any other prospect at age 23. Never mind it’s Castro’s fourth year in the majors. Give the guy time, the difference is you see his warts live on TV and with the prospects you see a video of a bomb they hit and never see the rest.

    Bottom line, keep hitting and they will find a spot when someone better comes along at shortstop, don’t hold your breath waiting.

  19. jt

    The school of thought of Gestalt suggests that perception is result of learned patterns of focus. Change of focus results in change of perception. Kyle mentioned it the other day when he posted of chess players seeing board as a recognized context rather than the position of individual pieces.
    Casinos make a lot of money on gamblers whose focus tires yet they bet anyway. We all have limits to concentration. A guy like Castro has a job in which he must max that limit. His manager has the job of recognizing that limit and …well, manage him.