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starlin-castro-batIf you’ve been holding off on getting a fancy schmancy Bleacher Nation shirt because of shipping costs, boy have I got good news for you! Today only, there is free shipping on BN apparel (no minimum order) if you use the code TDAY2013.

  • There’s been a bit of debate about whether Starlin Castro – whose slash line now reads .232/.266/.322 – has regressed this year. Dale Sveum told the media that “By his numbers alone, he’s regressed, there’s no question about it,” Sveum said Thursday, per Cubs.com. “You’re getting way, way down, as far as all the other shortstops in baseball – as far as the offensive part. He’s under .600 OPS. That would go without saying that he’s regressed.” Sounds pretty accurate to me. But it’s important to note that Sveum is not saying Castro’s abilities or skills have regressed. Just his numbers.
  • Theo Epstein spoke at length about Castro’s slump on ESPN radio, and you can see/hear his thoughts here. Among them: “Because [Castro] never failed, he never had to make adjustments as an offensive player and he’s going through that now; he’s struggling. He’s well below the high standards he has set for himself. That means it’s failure, it’s a slump and it’s incumbent on him to work his way out of it and for us to help put him in a position where he can get out of it and I think that he will, and he will be a better player in the long run because of it.” Hopefully that’s all this is: a young player dealing with his first, long slump. I think it’s growing harder to argue, though, that the genesis of the slump is unrelated to the reworking of Castro’s approach at the plate – which is not to say the Cubs were wrong to try and improve Castro’s power/discipline, especially in a season like 2013. What we don’t know is, if the Cubs told Castro today, “don’t worry about seeing more pitches or trying to work into hitters counts; just do what you do and swing at whatever you want,” could he immediately return to being a lower-upside .300/.330/.400 hitter? And, if you could do that … would you? Is it worth giving up now on the changes that are designed to try and make Castro a .300/.350/.500 hitter? Obviously we can see what the downside risk is.
  • Cardinals manager Mike Matheny may have inadvertently summed up everything we’re feeling/fearing/worrying about Castro’s lack of development this year. Per Cubs.com, speaking of the 5th inning, bases loaded Castro at bat: “[Castro] is a guy who doesn’t scare from those situations.”
  • I understand that it’s not easy to give Castro a day off, particularly with the construction of the roster right now. I get that it could hurt the performance of that day’s pitcher. I also get that a day off isn’t a panacea for a guy’s woes. But you reach a point where there is no other card in the deck. A day off gives Castro not only a little extra rest, but also an opportunity to sit back, watch the game, and reflect on what’s been going on. He can regroup the next day, and continue about the process of shaking loose the slump.
  • On the grief heaped on Dale Sveum for the Cubs’ poor performance – or a decision questioned by fans or media – Theo Epstein, in that same ESPN interview, offers the same defense he and Jed Hoyer have offered for a year and a half now. The roster isn’t talented enough to win, and that’s on Theo and Jed, not Dale. “Dale is in a position where he’s often left in a position to choose between imperfect options,” Epstein said. “Regardless of what option he chooses, there is a chance of failure. And then when failure occurs, people tend to look at the manager. I think Dale is in a tough spot because of the roster that he’s inherited. There is a lot of talent on the roster and he does a good job of putting the team in the position to succeed. But there is also a lot of evolution on that roster and a lot of players that are learning how to become successful big leaguers.”
  • Tommy Birch reports that Ian Stewart is expected back from suspension this weekend, and he’ll rejoin the Iowa Cubs. He may not play right away because his manager says he doesn’t know if Stewart has been staying in game shape while away.
  • In a midseason update on farm system progress, Baseball Prospect calls the Cubs’ system one of a handful “on the rise.” Of the system, BP says: “Not a balanced system as far as talent is concerned, but the Cubs can stand shoulder to shoulder with any team in the game when it comes to positional talent in the minors. With Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Kris Bryant (when he signs), the team can boast four prospects among the top 30 in the game, and when you add guys like Arismendy Alcantara and Dan Vogelbach – not to mention an arm like Pierce Johnson – the Cubs could have seven players on next season’s top 101. This could end up being a scary system.” I doubt we’ll actually see seven Cubs on a top 101 list, but the fact that it looks like it could be a consideration is impressive.
  • Patrick Mooney on Javier Baez’s continued development.
  • BN’er Rob interviewed Cubs 5th round pick Trey Masek.
  • A reminder: the BN Fantasy Contest runs tonight based on tonight’s games (the Cubs/Astros game isn’t included, but there really aren’t many players you’d want on your roster anyway), so you’re running out of time to sign up. The full details for the contest are here.

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