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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.
  • Kyle

    I dunno what’s going to happen, but I do agree that it’s clear that changing his approach has messed him up something fierce. He’s taking pitches he should hit early in the count and flailing at pitches he can’t late.

    He’s probably due a bit more BABIP luck, though I always wondered if the back-to-back .340s to start his career were unsustainable. The league is also throwing him more fastballs than ever and he’s having a really hard time hitting them (and he’s always been a slightly below-average fastball hitter).

    If this isn’t just a transition before the approach kicks him to a higher level, and if he can’t just go back to the way it was, then the damage they’ve done to their own rebuild by messing with him is quite severe. Especially with his contract extension.

    • dob2812

      Did the reworking now begin last year? Mid season? Or am I wrong about that?

      Because he hit pretty well last September and okay generally all through the second half of last year.

      He was also okay in April this year. Not great, by any means, but not the 0-4 guy we’re seeing now either.

      Blaming the (attempted) changes could be cause-and-effect thinking, is what I mean. It might have nothing to do with it. It could just be a really bad slump.

      I hope it doesn’t last much longer but I remain convinced that he ends up a better player because of this. He’s coming back. A guy with that much talent, that young, will come back.

    • jt

      non-stats guys will tell you that back-to-back 0.340’s BAbip is unsustainable without adjustments. Carlton Fisk would spend hours picking Ted Williams brain at banquets.
      The Jackson low and inside pitch to Molina was a good pitch. Somehow Molina knew how to adjust to that. Recall that a few years ago it would have been a swing and miss pitch to The Cards’ Catcher. Perhaps that is why Castillo wants to pal around with him in the off-season.
      *
      Players who want to work their craft? I like it!

    • CubFan Paul

      “The league is also throwing him more fastballs than ever and he’s having a really hard time hitting them”

      Kind of false. Castro has only swung at what seems like maybe 5(!) first pitches in all of his at bats. He’s obviously under orders not to swing at the 1st pitch aka this new approach. Most, almost all of the 1st pitches he’s seen has been fastballs.

      I would like to say ‘this’ (not swinging at 1st pitch fastballs) is what has Castro playing out of whack but i’m no scout or coach nor did I sleep in a Holiday Inn Express lastnite.

      • hansman1982

        69 first pitch swings on the season.

        His percentage of first pitch swinging is down, quite a bit (30% to 22%). What would be interesting, is to compare players with Castro’s batting profile to see what kind of slumps they went through.

      • Kyle

        His fastball percentage faced is at an all-time high and his RC/100 fastballs faced is at an all-time low. What’s kind of false about it?

  • Gretchen

    The Wife (popping in with a non-baseball comment) votes for a BN tank.

    :)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      (She’s referring to the shirts, not the mobile weapon.)

      • King Jeff

        Wait, there’s a Bleacher Nation tank?

      • Cubbie Blues

        But, that would be epically awesome.

        • hansman1982

          He did have the Army style lettering in the logo a while back…

        • King Jeff

          [img][URL=http://s622.photobucket.com/user/peaceknuckle/media/bleachernationtank_zps8398bdae.jpg.html][IMG]http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt310/peaceknuckle/bleachernationtank_zps8398bdae.jpg[/IMG][/URL][/img]

          • King Jeff

            I need some Darth assistance. Why is this so difficult to figure out?

          • King Jeff

            [img]http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt310/peaceknuckle/bleachernationtank_zps8398bdae.jpg[/img]

            • Internet Random

              There’s a whole lotta win there.

              • TWC

                Not for his employer though.

                • Internet Random

                  Heh.

            • Gretchen

              Holy amazing. MichiganGoat drew my attention to this. So much to … admire? Terrifying. Well done.

      • MichiganGoat

        We should so have a BN Tank toy for all the little ones, may I suggest that we have a goat popping out of the top?

        I’m also still waiting for the goat stashe shirts with the tag line “BleacherNation – This year we aren’t kidding around”

    • MichiganGoat

      I think G has just started a new BN reference that we will all use in definately and newcomers will wonder why we keep screaming “WHERE IN THE HELL IS MY TANK”

    • North Side Irish

      With all due respect, based on what we know of The Wife, she has truly awful taste. Not sure how much weight to put in that vote…

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Aw, is that a shot at me?

        • hansman1982

          No, of course not. Just no one has ever said “tall, dark, handsome” when referencing you without the inclusion of “most certainly NOT”

          BAZINGA

      • Internet Random

        [img]http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k230/XMLCTkd76eTb/h7483s.gif[/img]

        • Gretchen

          Looking good in the Jeep, Ace.

          • TWC

            Man, The Wife is throwing down on BN today. School’s out for the summer, eh?

  • Gretchen

    Both.

    • Internet Random

      Agreed. Any blog worth its salt should make at least one tastefully-branded military vehicle available to its supporters.

    • hansman1982

      HELLZ YES!!!!! WIFE OF THE CENTURY AWARD WINNER!

      • MichiganGoat

        For Halloween Brett so needs to go as tank… Well a miniature tank but still a tank.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You need an avatar, dear, or no one will take you seriously.

      • Edwin

        And a good avatar too, not something lame like a Simpson’s avatar. Nobody takes anybody seriously who uses a Simpson’s avatar. That’s almost as bad as using a fake name.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Exactly!

        • Internet Random

          “That’s almost as bad as using a fake name.”

          My given name is The Artist Formerly Known As Internet Random.

      • hansman1982

        You have one and it hasn’t stopped anyone…

        • Edwin

          People think I don’t have an avatar, but really I just have light skin, poor lighting, and a terrible camera.

      • Cyranojoe

        Also, her name on the site should be “The Wife”, not Gretchen. What kind of name is “Gretchen”???

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I think I told her the same thing.

          • Gretchen

            He really did.

        • TWC

          But if you rearrange the letters in “Gretchen Taylor” you get “Gentry Hole Cart” which is a pretty cool screen name. You also get “To Tangle Cherry” and “Gentler, Tho Racy”, FWIW.

          • Gretchen

            Is there a tank for that, too?

  • jj

    Do you mean it is growing harder to argue that it is not the reworking of his swing?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That was unclear. Yes. Thank you.

      • Bric

        Hey Brett, maybe you can translate for me- I was a little confused by Matheny’s statement. Is he trying to say that Castro is not afraid of batting in situations like bases loaded, or other pitchers and managers aren’t afraid to pitch to him in these situations. Two totally different meanings and I’m not sure which one is right. thx.

        • TWC

          The latter. The worse one.

          • Bric

            That’s what I thought but he had kind of a funky way of saying it.

            • TWC

              That’s because he’s a Cardinal and, thus, a jagload.

              • Bric

                His dreams are to be the next Miss Missouri contestant-
                “Yes, well, our children don’t have maps and thus, don’t know where Missouri is, and suchly that they try to spell the state name but end up with Mississippi, and so forthwith with all this in mind, yes I think that geography like knowing where Africa is is a good thing. Thank you!”

          • TonyP

            I’m pretty sure he meant it the 1st way, that Castro isn’t scared in those situation…..

            • TWC

              Yeah, reading it in context, I think you’re right.

              But, whatever, man; Cardinals suck. So screw them and their benefit of the doubt.

              • TonyP

                I agree with screw the Cardinals (and twice on Sunday). :-)

            • Scotti

              “I’m pretty sure he meant it the 1st way, that Castro isn’t scared in those situation…..”

              Correct. Just baseball-speak.

  • ChrisW

    I can’t remember if Brett has linked this before or not, but this is a Baseball Prospectus article about Starlin and his struggles this year.

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=20899

    • J Wilson

      Thanks for posting this article. I agree completely with the author’s statement about how Castro looks like a great hitter in some (few) ABs, but a horrible hack in other ABs.

  • J Wilson

    Finally people are talking about this! I thought Castro would have to go on the Interstate before people gave up on the “he’s still young” BS. I was beating this drum from Opening Day, and last year, along with a few others. Now, I hope like hell the institutional philosophies eventually do work for Castro, nothing we can really do except watch, grimace, and trust the FO/staff.

    • Die hard

      Oh no… I was on his case all last yr… Where were you?!… Last yr I called him out for being lazy.. Everyone beat me up.. Theo missed this train wreck a long time ago

      • DarthHater

        Crock of Crap of the Century Award.

        At one time or another, you’ve said every damn contradictory thing it’s possible to say about the guy.

        • Die hard

          Well I have been consistent about you

          • MichiganGoat

            60% of the time it works every time

            • Coop

              It burns the nostrils.

        • Edwin

          And eventually, he’s been right every time, most of the time.

    • hansman1982

      If you were pissed about Castro’s performance since Opening Day, offensively, you were dead wrong. Defensively, you were dead wrong. I challenge you to look up Barney’s fielding stats up to age 25.

      • Edwin

        Challenge accepted. Barney’s fielding runs above average up to 25 would be his 2010 season, where he was 4.6 fielding runs above average in 30 games. Scouting reports about Barney’s defense have always been positive.

        Castro so far is sitting at -7.4 for the 2013 season, in only 71 games. His career worst is -7.5 in 2011 in 158 games. He’s had 1 season in 2012 where he posted a positve rating (2.0). Scouting reports have mostly been skeptical of Castro’s fielding. He may have made some strides last season, but it’s hard not to argue that so far he’s been terrible defensively this year.

      • J Wilson

        How was I dead wrong? Consult your baseball-reference.com. At the end of April, his OBP was .296. That’s amazing, right? 1 BB in the entire month of April. At the end of May his BA was .264, OBP was .295. How is that dead wrong? That is offensive production right there.

  • cooter

    A huge part of it is mental too. He looked nervous as hell up there in the fifth. The kid is seriosly stressed in my opinion. I wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of days off.

    • Coop

      ^ this. I think 1 day off isn’t going to do much. I know it would be a blow to his ego, but I think taking a series off might do some good. Or a brief “DL” stint.

    • Eternal pessemist

      I wouldn’t mind someone giving him som valium! That may help castro as much as all the coacing out there!

  • Dustin S

    His slump and the Cubs comments hurt my head, but Len has actually had some decent analysis of Castro’s slump on the radio. His thoughts were his leg kick being larger than in the past causing him to be late a lot, along with taking too many good fastballs early in counts. Those are both symptoms of a hitter that’s over-thinking and/or having his swing be messed with too much. Len thought that Castro is doing better against harder throwers because it naturally speeds up and cuts down the leg kick.

    I really think Casto is in such a bad place now that it’s way too late for just 1 day off to fix this. He needs at least a few days off to clear his mind, or better yet a week with a phantom injury. With the roster and lack of a real backup shortstop, I’d almost like to see him go on the 15-day (call it a strain or w/e), and call up of take-your-pick Lake/Murphy/Maysonet to hold down short.

    PS finally catching Kane County in town tonight if anyone’s going. Can’t wait.

    • MDel

      I’ve heard these interviews and it’s an interesting assessment. His perception is the leg kick is delaying him from getting through the strike zone which have led to his struggles with good fastballs (thanks to previous posts from Hansman, he pointed out how Castro is seeing a higher % of fastballs this year.) In addition to his taking more fastballs early in the count, he hasn’t show an ability to make solid contact with them. It leads to weakly hit balls and him falling behind in the count, where he does expands the strike zone too much.

      The book on Castro right now is pound him with good fastballs early in the count, then throw breaking stuff off the plate once he is behind. While I’m sure they want him to be more ‘selectively aggressive’, his inability to make solid contact with a good fastball is his biggest enemy right now in my highly uneducated opinion.

      • Coop

        I am all for the philosophy of taking a few pitches, but sometimes you need to really punish that first pitch fastball. If you ALWAYS take the first pitch, they are just going to get you behind 0-1 every single time (once the scouting report is out there). Crush some piped first pitch fastballs, and then you can start to you the selective aggressiveness to your advantage.

        I don’t think the FO is all (or at least only) about taking walks – they want intelligent, selective hitting. Mainly – take bad/tough pitches, and smash the pitches in your happy zone. Make the pitcher come to you.

    • MDel

      Oh, and have fun at Kane County tonight!

    • Sven-Erik312

      Oh do I wish I could, but the airfare is too steep from here!

    • Rebuilding

      Castro’s stance and load up look completely different than when he first came up. He is so wide open now and has to move a ton toward the plate just for plate coverage. He constantly looks off balance and keeps rolling over on outside pitches because he’s reaching. Obviously there are people who get paid a lot more than me to work with him, but I don’t understand the strange, wide open stance and why he switched to it after so much success early on

      • willis

        I noticed that too. He looks pretty much ridiculous right now. Obviously he’s being taught a new approach to hitting, and obviously it isn’t working. Another guy they’ve been working on a new swing with…in AAA, is having his worst season also. Makes you go hmmmm…

        Hopefully there are better days coming and all this nonsense is worth it in end. Right now it’s looking rather bleak.

    • When the Music’s Over

      Yes, a phantom DL stint with a 10 day minor league rehab would probably be best at this point.

    • Cub Style

      I’ve agreed with Len because that’s a pretty common problem of guys with leg kicks. Hopefully he hops into the cage and starts working on a toe tap.

  • bryan

    why don’t they let him play in AAA for a few months? I mean maybe itll give him the confidence with his new approach… I no it wouldn’t be MLB pitching but it still would help alleviate some of the pressure he is under. Maybe a couple months of AAA can rejuvenate his season. Plus its a lost season anyways and I kinda want to lose a lot so we get a top 3 pick again and Rodon kid.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      If the issue is getting Castro to work on pitch recognition, then AAA will not help. He needs to be watching lots of MLB caliber pitching to do that.

      Again, if this is an experiment to get Castro to develop pitch recognition, then we have no time-table for expecting results. It’s only been recently that people have caught on that this is a fundamental tool, and not something that guys just naturally develop. There are no between-game drills that help here. Video is of very limited help: it’s not from the batter’s perspective, and without the true test of swinging/not swinging when the ball is 10′ from a pitcher’s hand, it’s closer to a drill for an umpire rather than a batter.

      • When the Music’s Over

        So there’s a chance nothing will help and he’s screwed forever.

        1) One day off won’t help (which I 100% agree with) – Kyle
        2) Some sort of minor league assignment won’t help (not sure I agree with that) – Doc
        3) Continuing on the current path won’t help – 50% of readers
        4) Letting him go back to his old swing won’t help – the other 50% of readers

        So at this point, really the best thing to do is just keep your fingers crossed. Sounds like a fantastic plan.

        • When the Music’s Over

          Sorry:

          0) Letting him marinate to death in the lineup won’t help – Brett

  • Jason

    This is his first slump that he’s ever had in the majors and what a slump it is. Hopefully he’s strong enough mentally to over come it. At home watching some well lately every at bat he looks so lost up at the plate. This hitting coach won’t be around for too long if the team keeps hitting like this.

  • Justin

    Personally, I am completely OK with Castro remaining the exact type of hitter he’s been since he came up with zero patience. I think his power would have continued to progress a little regardless of his approach. Clearly, this “new approach” is absolutely making him suck at the plate, and is hugely frustrating as a Castro fan to watch.

    • willis

      Bingo. He was fine who he was. A good hitter, decent but not great OBP and ok doubles and triples power. What’s wrong with that?

  • CM

    It’s pretty obvious every pitcher in baseball knows you can throw him a first ball fast ball and he’s simply not swinging. Next pitch is always something slightly out of the zone that he’s chasing and it’s 0-2 damn near everytime. I feel bad for him, no way you can hit even remotely successfully consistently in that count and he couldn’t look more uncomfortable at the plate. He looked like he was going to piss his pants with the bases loaded. I’d say thats a regression in his skills because the mental skill might be as important as any.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Actually, he’s taking a lot of 2nd pitches, too. Castro is not expanding his strike zone until he gets 2 strikes: and then he expands it hugely. And that’s the one problem with this experiment (if that is what it is): pitchers adapt quickly, and they are not obliging by pitching Castro as if he’ll chase pitches just outside the strike zone.

      Ultimately, until they come up with some batting analog of a heat-chart (and it would almost require a SciFi-level artificial reality, I suspect!), then trying to actually develop this critical tool is going to be tough.

      • Cubbie Blues

        Doc, you haven’t been around for a few days. Out on a dig?

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Actually, writing up three projects at once, which I heartily do not recommend to anybody’s patients who want to keep his or her hair!

          • Cubbie Blues

            A dig would have been a much better story. As far as hair goes, I don’t have to worry about that anymore.

      • gocatsgo2003

        I’m confused… “a batting analog of a heat-chart”? Would that not be this:

        http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/hotzones/_/id/30450/starlin-castro

        By the way… that’s a LOT of blue on there. Ouch.

      • jt

        It seems to me that Castro is not reaching as much as he did even a month ago.
        The above pic is mostly shoulders and waist.
        No doubt you are correct in that he has to learn to control the outside corner in a different way than he has previously. But the league is also now positioning its defenses and and pitching to him differently.
        I’m actually a bit fascinated by watching his AB’s as this process unfolds.
        You may be correct that there is a fairly high expectation of failure. Still, he is enough of an athlete to where I like his chances.

  • http://www.dccoffeeproducts.com John

    It is just not Castro- take a look at pitch selection on almost every hitter- when you are ahead in the count they swing like they are behind in the count and trying to protect. You see it over and over- it is frustrating to watch someone swing at a pitch out of their ZONE when they are in a hitters count. I do not think it is a team philosophy- they just do not have any type of plate discipline period- they are all trying to be the man instead of taking what the pitcher gives them and moving the line with a walk and let the next guy have a shot.

  • forlines

    This is the “perfect” year for this to happen, basically like you pointed out Brett. Obviously, it sucks to sit through and watch, and I even get a bit frustrated seeing him look like a minor leaguer, but he’ll work through this in due time. I would be a hell of a lot more pissed off if this was happening during a winning season, where we were actually contending for a playoff spot. On the plus, if Castro never regains his old form (w/ improvements), we have people on the farm that will be ready to take his spot in a couple/few years.

  • Die hard

    What do you mean “We all know” as if his defenders suddenly change sides… Give me a break . … My bet is BN was tipped off that something is going to be done so its ok to talk about it… Makes me want to throw up

    • hansman1982

      Jesus Herbert Christ…

      • Jared

        I always wondered what the H stood for…

    • gocatsgo2003

      Huh?

      • AB

        Another small, but frightening peak into Blow Hard’s fantasy world.

        • Die hard

          Just once would like to see BN get ahead of a story instead of leading from behind… This site has so much un realized potential to wake up the Cubs

          • Cubbie Blues

            Epstein’s day.
            Step one. Check Bleacher Nation.
            Step two. Get out of bed.
            Step three. Call Hoyer and tell him all the great ideas he just came up with.

            • Coop

              Obviously – how do you think they found the diamond in the rough that is TWC!

              BN, the source for your next HoFer.

              • (definitely not TWC)

                What I’m hearing is that TWC is headed to Tennessee to finish out the season at AA with an eye on making the roster out of Spring Training 2014.

          • gocatsgo2003

            Huh?

          • MichiganGoat

            Saucy morning for die hard, the belly fire within as come up spewing… Tidrow does not approve of those that keep the BellyFire in control.

  • mudge

    Castro should be given the take sign on 3-2 counts. Would get on base a lot more that way.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      I believe Castro has a 333/364/571 line on 3-2 counts.

  • cubchymyst

    Fangraphs actually has Castro swinging at less pitches outside the zone this year compared to last year even though his K% is up. As many have already said (I think someone linked the article above) he is being patient up till he gets to 2 strikes. This is when the mental side of the game comes in, learning to stay relax and not changing your approach with 2 strikes. As he matures he should hopefully get better, so I’m still not worried about him.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      It has nothing to do with being “relaxed.” (Well, it might: but being relaxed is a bad thing when you are batting!) It is simply a pitch-recognition issue: when Castro expands his zone (and most guys do with 2 strikes on them), it gets huge. That’s a big contributing reason to why MLB hitters do so poorly when they have 2 strikes against them.

      • gocatsgo2003

        Seems more to me like a guy who’s having trouble CONSISTENTLY applying the new approach at the plate. He can look like an all-star in one at-bat, then a complete scrub in the next, probably because he isn’t completely comfortable with it and somewhat fighting the urge to go back to his free-swinging days. The hope is that he can continue to become more comfortable with it over time and, quite frankly, this kind of season is the perfect time to go through the growing pains he probably should have experienced at AA or AAA.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          “Consistency” is a misconception here. Most of the variation in how Castro or any other batter looks from one PA to the next is due the pitches thrown. It’s not like guys bang hanging sliders on PA and then trip over the same pitch in the next PA.

          For example, people keep writing “he [Castro, Rizzo, Dunston, whomever] rolls his wrists over too often” as if he is “inconsistent” about keeping his top hand above the bottom one. However, batters do this because they swing at pitches that are sinking more than the “pitch” they saw 10′ from the pitcher’s hand. The wrists roll to lower the bat to adjust for the miscalculation. If the batter gives a “clean” swing, he doesn’t line the ball: he swings completely *over* the ball.

          (The best batters avoid this by either not swinging or swinging at a lower pitch in the first place.)

          So, what was different between the “good” swing and the “bad” swing? The pitches thrown. And it probably is not that Castro (or any other batter) was inconsistent about recognizing the pitch: instead, it’s much more probable and much more likely that the difference is down to the pitcher.

      • cubchymyst

        It is possible to be to relaxed but there is also possible to be to tense. I’m looking at fangraphs here, and Castro biggest difference in plate discipline is in contact on pitches in the zone which is down. That is probably the biggest reason he is striking out more this year because he is missing more pitches in the zone instead of putting the ball in play.

        However, as mentioned in the baseball prospectus article someone linked above his swing rate with 2 strikes is a lot higher so his approach has changed at that point. As you said he is expanding his zone to much with 2 strikes, but what if he didn’t expand his zone at all with 2 strikes. Approached a 2 strike count the same way he approached the first pitch. Unfortunately I can’t find a way to break up plate discipline by count so I have no way seeing is plate discipline in each count so I left with the few games I can watch as examples, and Starlin looks like he more will lay off a pitch out of the zone earlier in the count then later.

  • Rcleven

    Castro’s problems are the evolution of baseball. Adjust to the pitchers or be replaced.
    He needs some time off. Even if he was hitting .300 he would need some time off. A day here and there is not going to hurt this team.
    Being as weak a MLB as the Cubs are there is not a true short stop to give Castro a break without weakening second base. You can move Barney to SS Valbuana to second and let Ransom at third but that just another hole.
    The Cubs should be considering a 40 man roster move to shore up the infield. Alcantra will have to be added to 40 after the World Series anyway. Choose between Murphy or Alcantra to fill a bench roll.

  • http://vdcinc.biz 70’scub

    Find a new hitting coach the whole infield is not responding to this guy!

    • hansman1982

      YA!!!! Well, except Valbuena is performing well and Rizzo’s struggles this season have been greatly exaggerated…

      • gocatsgo2003

        But… but… TWO 23-YEAR OLD KIDS ARE HAVING SOME TROUBLE ADJUSTING TO A NEW APPROACH AT THE PLATE!!!!

        Other random thought I just had: In addition to the fact that 2013 was almost universally regarded as a “throwaway season,” given that both Castro and Rizzo were locked into long-term deals before this season, could management have decided that the long-term upside to their current struggles outweighs the growing pains to get there?

        • hansman1982

          Even Rizzo is a BABIP fluctuation away from having a season identical to last year.

          • gocatsgo2003

            But… but… SVEUM IS TERRIBLE!!!

  • BABIP (MichCubFan)

    The main source of his struggles right now are mechanical. He needs to get his foot down sooner and let the ball travel more before he swings. The landing of the front foot triggers the swing. He is getting his foot down too early, so then has to wait an extra split second to actually swing…or he has to kind of leak his hands forward a little while he waits for the ball to get there…which diminishes any power that his body has stored up.

    This causes a lot of weak contact. It shows how talented he is that he is actually making contact as much as he is. He needs to get his timing down so he can start to drive the ball like he used to do. Then they can keep working on his approach.

  • Dustin S

    I saw the ESPN report this morning that the Cubs have supposedly declared the team open for business as sellers. I mentioned a few weeks back that the late May Arizona series through the Cardinals series against some mostly good teams that just concluded was probably going to be the final chance to change the selling trajectory. It would have taken a huge streak in those 19 games, like 14-5 or something to change things. They finished the stretch 6-13. So that must have sealed things. It sounds like the FO must have been thinking along the same lines too.

  • King Jeff

    Bleacher Nation tank, the full version, hopefully
    [img]http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt310/peaceknuckle/bleachernationtank_zps15c45270.jpg[/img]

    • TWC

      Guffaw.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Oh my merry God.

    • Spencer

      This is the best, ever.

  • CubbieBubba

    I’m actually really surprised Castro hasn’t had a day off yet. Especially after he was punching himself in the head after his strikeouts the other day against Miller. But then again, Sveum usually doesn’t make moves until its beyond obvious that he should make a move.

  • Blake

    Here is the problem ….. It’s his third year in the league and pitchers have figured out they don’t have e to throw him strike because he swings at balls. He doesn’t stay back and refuses to change anything about him. Aka they called him up to quick before try could fine tune his raw talent. Cubs lose this one and are now stuck with a great talent that doesn’t understand the game. Here is what needs to happen, lose te high leg kick, stay back on the pitch and swing at strikes. Does he work hard? Prolly not he already has the big contract at 23 or so and will barely get by with his great talent but will never be a shortstop on a WINNING TEAM.!

    • gocatsgo2003

      Glad you’ve got all these insights that professional hitting coaches don’t have. Sign you up!

      PS — how in the world can a fan say that a player “doesn’t understand the game,” particularly from the comfort of their armchair? Always one of my favorite exclamations.

  • Blake

    On a side note…. Look who is catching Garza today…. Way to Stick to your Guns Dale.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      Day game after night game…pretty standard.

  • Bleeding Blue Forever

    I’ve felt for quite a while that the Cubs should have traded Castro last year around the deadline. I realize he is a young player and he has “potential” —but when I see the errors, both mental and physical, the utter lack of plate discipline, and the inability to have major league quality situational at-bats, I think the Cubs could have brought in some excellent prospects and/or major league ready position players. It is nice to have talent and upside, but I think this guy will never mentally be ready for the bigtime…that single-minded focus playing SS everyday. He will never hit for power (20-30 hrs) and his OBP will always be 300-330 because he refuses to walk—- I would be in love with Castro if he continued to hit .285+, hit 10-15hrs, drove in 60-80 runs, stole 25+ bases, scored 85+ runs IF he could play shortstop everyday without making 25+ errors a season— I realize he is a young man, but I think if we look back at Zambrano (No I’m not comparing Big Z’s violent outbursts)— I think we have the same warning signs: High upside/enormous potential…coupled with a nice level of success early in the career….but the lack of mental focus will never allow the player to get the most out of his physical talents.

    • BT

      So you think we should trade the 23 year old with 2000 major league plate appearances (and a couple of all star games under his belt), because you are not sure he will play up to his “potential”, and try to get some really good prospects, with zero major league experience, back.

      Makes sense.

      • Bleeding Blue Forever

        I realize it is difficult to read past the first few sentences of my post, but try to stay with me…. The minors/bigs are littered with upside/potential guys…..that often coincides with comments like, “If he puts it all together” or “A change of scenery might be best” …so when we see a young ballplayer who has nice upside, but something is off– consistent mental lapses, failing to make routine, everyday plays at SS, no idea at the plate, in year 4, having seen a larger percentage of the starting pitching and still cannot draw walks, yet we want to wait until everyone in baseball sees/believes that as well? That makes sense? Castro is not an everyday SS and he does not have the power for 3rd, so that makes him a strong-armed second baseman, who is a free-swinger that needs to hit 6th/7th in the national league lineup. The Cubs NEVER trade high—its always on the downside, so yes Castro may go on to have a nice career, but he will never be ARod (w/out Roids) or Derek Jeter, or insert any 10-12 year corner-piece SS here. Go get premium pitching talent, go get get picks, go get a major league position player…With that said, I have no problem with anyone wanting to keep him around, it’s just tiring watching our “franchise player” look so lost in the field and at the plate…after giving him the big contract, it looks as if he may be liability down the road.

        • BT

          Listen up Condescendo, I read your whole post. And it didn’t contain half of what you are saying now. Your initial post idea was to trade Castro for “prospects”, or “major league ready position players”. NOW you are suggesting we trade him for proven major league position players or premium pitching talent. Those are entirely different arguments.

          The first one makes no sense, which is why I mocked it for the specific reason that you are trading for someone just as young as Castro but not as proven as him. The percentage of prospects that end up evan as good as Castro is now is frighteningly small, and you run the risk of any prospect being much, much worse.

          The second idea is fine, if you can swing it, except of course that it probably won’t make sense in the time-frame that the Cubs will be competitive. If you can trade him for a proven 27 year old, grand, have at it. But if you are trading him for a proven 32 year old, it’s pretty stupid. And there is no reason for a team to trade a 23 year old for a 23 year old. I’m on board with the idea, but of course, that’s not what you suggested at all.

          So don’t get sanctimonious on me if you have to change your argument in order for it to make sense.

        • Scotti

          “Castro is not an everyday SS…”

          Yes, he is.

          • hansman1982

            Ya, he is very much an average defensive SS which, really, is a compliment once his bat gets back on track.

            • Kyle

              UZR has him at -15 runs for his career. In the vicinity of average, I guess.

  • StevenF

    It does not make rational sense to me as to why Barney cannot play short, and Valbeuna at 2B. Clearly, everyone now understands that Barney is the best defensive shortstop on this team. It’s not going to hurt anybody, and it’s still a team benefit.
    An argument could be made that Barney, Valbeuna, and Ransom is a better offensive and defensive combo right now, than Barney, Valbeuna, and Castro.

  • Blake

    Where does Castro hit on a good team? I think 8th and until he hits 8th for the cubs they won’t be a good offenesive team. He has had one good year and we locked him up and in 2 years we will hate him just like Alfonso. And hopefully someone will want him because we have young guys down on the farm that can hit .240 and not walk and play average D

    • Cub Style

      He’s a top of the order hitter depending on your mantra. If you’re of the old school, he’s a 1 or 2 hole hitter. If you’re in the correct, I mean, sabermetric crowd, he’s slots into the 3 hole nicely.

    • Dynastyin2017

      It’s hard to say where he would hit on a good team. A good team wouldn’t have changed his hitting approach, so he’d still be a .300/.330/.450 hitter. So maybe 2nd…maybe 6th?

  • Cub Style

    Every night, I sit at the side of my bed and pray that the Yankees fire Ken Long.

  • Justin

    I would love to know how many players who have had the success that Castro has had in the majors successfully completely changed their approach to be more patient?? The Cubs messing with one of the few good things in the organization and making it suck (Castro’s hitting) is really freaking frustrating. He looks so bad right now. Castro regressing is literally the worst thing that could happen to the 2013 Cubs. Excuse me, I am going to slam my head into a concrete wall over and over now..

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