Now What is Starlin Castro Being Criticized for? And Other Bullets

dale sveum starlin castroYesterday, we took the kiddos to a concert, a parade, a fair, and a dog frisbee catching competition. And then I had Taco Bell at 10pm. If that ain’t celebrating America’s birthday, I don’t know what is.

  • Starlin Castro is getting a lot of grief for failing to score on an Alfonso Soriano single yesterday, on which it looked like the kind of hit that would easily lead to a run.  If you missed the play, you can watch it here and jump into the whirlwind of educated opinions. To me, it looks like Castro got a bad jump, and wasn’t running all out on his way to third base. What’s not clear is why he was not running all out initially. His bad jump, and the location of the ball might have messed up his rhythm slightly, and then he was rounding third, so he necessarily slowed a bit. From there, he busted it. I’m really not sure I can look at that play and say that Castro wasn’t trying his hardest. I think he was. I just think there was some kind of rumblin’-bumblin’-stumblin’ going on at the beginning.
  • It seems like the whole thing was just the matter of a perfect play and throw by A’s left fielder Yoenis Cespedes. “It seemed like a no-brainer right off the bat. I don’t know what happened there,” Dale Sveum said of the play, per “It surprised me,” Castro said. “I ran hard right away. When I saw the ball hit, I went right away to home plate and he made a good throw …. The guy made a great throw. I thought I’d score easy. I never stopped, I never said to myself, ‘I’m out.’ I ran hard right away [from] second base. I was surprised I was out.” I’m not going to make much ado about nothing here. A bad jump, otherwise decent running, and a perfect throw. That’s probably all this is.
  • Carlos Villanueva is going to get the start on Sunday after all, in place of the departed Scott Feldman. Chris Rusin was just a one-game fill-in, and Villanueva will now move back into the rotation for the foreseeable future. I’d be surprised to see him throw too many pitches on Sunday, though.
  • Can you spot the saddest part of this Dale Sveum quote, from ESPN: “[Travis Wood has] been our All-Star, no question about it. He’s had some very unfortunate incidents, or his earned run average could be quite a bit better than it is. Sometimes a guy like Travis Wood might get overlooked, but he’s definitely been our All-Star.” Anybody see it? “Our All-Star.” Like, one. Like, as in, it’s been clear that the Cubs have just one All-Star, and it’s Travis Wood.
  • Another Cubs outfielder went down yesterday, as Brian Bogusevic left early with hamstring tightness. Hopefully it’s a minor thing, as he hasn’t been put on the DL just yet.
  • FanGraphs’ Eno Sarris has an additional explanation to heap onto the surprising 2013 success of Kevin Gregg: dude’s starting out with his feet slightly farther apart. Sometimes that’s all it takes, though I’d imagine there are some other differences (we’ve previously discussed his increasing reliance on a very nice sinker). Whatever the case, the change remains further evidence that Gregg’s sublime performance this year is legit.
  • This is absolutely, unequivocally unacceptable. If it wasn’t bad enough that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was stealing all of the national baseball attention, now he’s doing the unthinkable. He’s stealing Luis Valbuena’s bat flip.
  • In case you missed it yesterday with the holiday, I did some musing on the Cubs’ international spending proclivities this year, and expounded on a theory that could make the front office look like geniuses (as if they need my help).

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

137 responses to “Now What is Starlin Castro Being Criticized for? And Other Bullets”

  1. LER

    Rizzo failed to score last week, and his arrival at the plate looked a lot like Castro’s yesterday: too slow a jump and no real idea what to do when the ball got to the catcher before the runner did. Neither runner seemed to think about sliding around, or through, the tag attempt. Base-running when it counts seems to be a skill area that needs some focused attention somewhere in the system.

    1. Alb_daKID

      I agree, and it has seemed that way for countless years now.

  2. BigSmokeJ

    I think their are people who will hate on Castro no matter what he does, it’s sad but he has become the new Soriano to some.
    The throw by Cespedes was a great throw and he got Castro out at the plate. Hell I’ve seen guys make throws better the that and throw out guys. Go back and look at the Bo Throw or the one where Dave Parker threw out Downing in the All-Star game. It happens.

    1. mjhurdle

      i agree
      baseball is a game of split second decisions and 50/50 type plays.
      if you like someone then “the ball took a bad hop”; it you don’t “he can’t even play Little level defense”. Or “the ball was crushed, just right at someone” is something you hear for fan-favorites in a slump. but for others, they just cant hit and should be sent down.
      There are any number of plays whose interpretation depends heavily on how well you like the player/players involved.

  3. LER

    Dave Parker’s throw, and one other in that All-Star game that froze a runner at 3rd, earned him All-Star MVP that year, though he went hitless. Cespedes made that kind of throw, admittedly.

  4. Carew

    I really, really don’t understand the hate. Castro is only 23(!) and has shown flashes of brilliance (or his first two seasons). He’s going through an adjustment period, which every. single. player goes through.

    I’m a Starlin Castro fan all the way. I say he was chugging it yesterday, he’s just not as fast as some would like.

  5. Lou Brock

    Castro’s main problem and the problem from day one with him is his inability to THINK the game in the field and at the plate. He still has issues with knowing who the batter is and his speed as well as what the situation calls for from him.
    I’m not sure he will EVER get it. At the plate he still does not know how to move runners over with no outs and how to take advantage of 3 and 1 or 2 and 0 counts. We are going on 3 + years with him and see regression , not improvement.

    1. King Jeff

      He is hitting .417/.682 with a 3-1 count, his problem is that he struggles/presses when he gets behind or gets a 2 strike count.

      1. Alb_daKID

        You are right. A lot of times he’s behind in the count because he’s over thinking what ever mantra he’s being fed in the cages. Prime example yesterday on a 1-1 count he watched a fastball go right down the cock. Then very next pitch swings at a slider low and away for the strike out. He’s done that more than ever this year. IMO, he’s way overthinking and trying to hit for power by mastering pitch selection. I just think he’s not that type of player (YET, as some of you would say).

        1. King Jeff

          Agree completely. While I think it’s important that he learns patience, he is laying off of a lot of first and second pitch fastballs that he would have jumped all over previously. It’s frustrating watching him swing at balls out of the zone because he’s let two fastballs go by him because he’s worried about working the count. My hope is that he works his way through these struggles and becomes a better all around hitter for it. I do understand the frustration in the mean time though.

    2. Alb_daKID

      Exactly, but people still feel as if he’s growing. Physically he still maybe, but mentally and his understanding of the game has not taken the slightest leap forward. But God forbid you acknoledge that because that means your bashing him. At this point in his career he should know how to run the bases hard. He should know situtaions such as who’s batting, whos in left field, etc..etc..etc.. But know we must chalk that up to “HE’s STILL YOUNG GUYS”… and when he’s 25,26,27 what will the excuse be then? He’s till coming into his prime? Excuses..excuses..excuses…

  6. Alb_daKID

    I guess we’ll chalk up the fact he was jogging it through third base to the point even the broadcasters said “WHAT IS HE DOING” to an amazing Hercules throw by Cespedes. Some will bash Castro regardless and some will love him even if he has shit in his briefs. SMH.

  7. Kev

    What surprises me here is that nobody seems to be talking about what a TERRIBLE SEND that was by the third base coach. That ball was not hit that hard into the outfield, Cespedes has a very good arm, and (although I didn’t watch the game, I’m assuming that) the pitcher wasn’t up to bat next (probably the number five hitter was up next?).

    The bottom line is that the third base coach’s job in those situations is to assess everything and decide to send or put on the brakes. He clearly (a) saw the shallow single, (b) saw Castro stumbling and sent him anyway. Just a bad decision.

    1. Alb_daKID

      Thats a valid perspective to take but the was a scoring play. The ball was not hit on a rope to where it would have been a questionable send. If you watch the play Castro wasnt at a full sprint as he should have been. Like I’ve said probably 10x already even the broadcasters said he was jogging. But hey Cespedes is superman and made a supposed Herculian throw. Just watch it and you be the judge!?!!!

  8. Ivy Walls

    I realize this might be a somewhat late for a discussion but here is reality.

    Castro has not advanced as a ball player since his first year. His mental lapses are consistent be they defensively or be they at the plate and in part or mostly the reason he is now slumping. His base running has not advanced either. He has a long term contract that goes through 2019 which if his performance continues to be flat will become a liability.

    My guess is that Cubs are working hard to resurrect his former self and then will seek to trade him, esp if they have a pipeline.

    Personally what I see are mental lapses and I bet there are mental lapses in approaches.

  9. Deez

    Personally, I thought Castro was faster than that.
    Also, his slide at home was really shitty. I didn’t see (or just observe) anyone telling him to slide in his defense.
    Finally, all should stop rationalizing any of his actions. He is in his 4th year in the MLB. Plus, we all expect better of someone who got a 7yr/$60M contract extension. You expect your 23yr old Shortstop off a contract extension he got to improve anually, yet he seems to regress every year.
    Makes you question the Front Office because it’s not like he could’ve walked as a Free Agent.

    1. jeff.rey

      You say he’s a 23-year-old like it means he should have the maturity of a 35-year-old. How together were any of us at that age? Were any of us one of the best at our jobs at that age? How would any of us act to the insane amount of criticism Castro’s received at his age?

      1. TOOT

        It’s NOT a question of Castro’s maturity. It’s his apparent lack of focus and desire to be good that has me worried(and should have everbody worried).

        1. caryatid62

          You have no idea what his desire is. All we know is the results. The worst thing fans/media does is project personality/emotional attributes to people they’ve never met and only see on TV.

          He has regressed as a hitter, and that is concerning. Why he’s regressed may or may not have to do with anything emotional/personal/focus-based. It may not. We have no idea, and speculating about it is silly.

          1. TOOT

            No I don’t know Castro personally and am only commenting on what I see on the field. Starlin has brought all the attention on himself. One cannot deny a red flag should be put in regard to his play, offensively and defensivly.

            1. caryatid62

              He hasn’t played well. That’s pretty much all we know. Why is anyone’s guess, but attributing it to emotional/personal/focus issues based upon watching him play less than 10 minutes per day (and unless you’re at a game focusing only him specifically, that’s all you’re seeing, as it’s all the broadcast shows of one player) is unfair to the player.

  10. sven-erik312

    Well, looking at the play, I would have held Castro at third anyway if I was the third base coach. There were no outs, the game had evolved into a pitchers duel and there were probably not going to be a whole lot of runs scored. The hit was not really all that deep, Campy might have scored on that single, but I don’t think Castro could have. The Cubs had 2 outs to get that run home, I would have kept Castro at third. As far as his hustle or lack of hustle, I’m not going there.

    1. TOOT

      Castro should have scored. He has speed. This was clearly a lack of hustle on his part. The decision to send him was made by the very words in your comment. There was NOT going to be a whole lot of runs scored. Holding the third base coach or Sveum responsible is nonsense.

      1. sven-erik312

        I would agree with you on holding at third if it was the first or second inning. But by the 4 inning, the tempo of the game had been established and under those circumstrances, I would have played it safe.

        1. TOOT

          Yes, your point is well taken and respected. However, I think the Castro from last year scores. I’m not what has happened to the man. And he is a man now. I don’t buy into he a “kid” mantra anymore.

          1. sven-erik312

            This is why I like the new FO’s position that their players have to put in a certain number of at bats at AAA. (I forget how many). I though they brought him up too soon. He did great hsi first season, but now the league has learned how to pitch to him and he hasn’t learned to figure out what they are doing to him
            . Wheather a more methodical development period in the minors would have helped Castro over the long haul in the majors is certainly up for debate, I don’t know the answer to that, but this is what we have now.

          2. caryatid62

            Starlin Castro would be the fourth youngest player on the Tennessee Smokies (AA).

            He’d be the 14th youngest (out of 30) player on the Daytona Cubs (A+).

            I think he can have a little more time to learn.

            1. X the Cubs Fan

              Thank you for that. He’d also be third youngest in AAA only 3 days older than Lake and 7 months older than Ha.

            2. TOOT

              Not being smart, but shouldn’t he know the fundamentals by now? Something is relly wrong here and it seems like everybody if looking the other way with Castro.

              1. caryatid62

                It’s quite the opposite; NO ONE is looking the other way. If he were at AA (like most players his age), there wouldn’t be a single person complaining about errors or “hustle.”

                Because he’s an advanced talent, he’s developing on the major league stage.

                Aside from that, what do you mean by “fundamentals?” Be specific. And how can you prove that he doesn’t know them? Can you prove that the mistakes he makes are because he doesn’t know “fundamentals,” or could there be about 1,000 other possible reasons for those mistakes?

                There is no denying Castro is struggling this year; it’s not fair to him to try and extrapolate why unless you’re around the team on a daily basis.

                1. TOOT

                  Well all I can say is I have NEVER seen this out of a player for the Cubs since I was a kid, and that was many moons ago.

                  1. caryatid62

                    Seen what? A subjective set of examples of some nebulous idea of “hustle” and “focus” based entirely upon less than 10 single events, occuring sporadically and spaced out over 3 years?

                    And the stuff about “never having seen this” is both arbitrary and false. For chrissake, Ryan Theriot made more mental errors than any player in baseball, and that was like four years ago. Unless you’re three, you’re not thinking hard enough.

                    He’s playing poorly. Isn’t that enough? Do we have to do a pseudo-psychological analysis of him?

                    1. Turn Two

                      Haha, i love how this post tries to use big words to sound smart but then still uses an insult like, “you’re three”. Classic.

                    2. caryatid62

                      It’s called context, captain. Something happened FOUR years ago, so unless you’re under FOUR (i.e. THREE) you should know it happened.

                      Reading is a skill.

                    3. Turn Two

                      Your right i should know that your referring to for years ago that your made up stay of “most mental errors”was led by Ryan theriot. Thanks for the laughs son.

                    4. Carytid62

                      Once again, reading is a skill. Excellent effort on the condescension, though.

              2. sven-erik312

                Getting good fundamentals is part of the process. As I understand it, the new FO is really into process. Everyone has to put in their time. That is what makes teams like the Cardinals, Braves and Dodgers win through the years. No, they don’t always win, but they do better than we do. The question to ask is: Would this FO have brought him up that fast?

            3. TOOT

              After this I am not saying another word about Castro. He is no Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken, Lou Boureau, or Ozzie Smith. He is simply a maybe average short in my opinion. If the FO thought this guy was going to be an “impact” player, they must have been watching the screen through a smoke filled room.

              1. caryatid62

                Yeah, he’s probably not. But (a) he’s not paid like one, and (b) he’s 23 and has a lot of developing still to do.

                1. sven-erik312

                  Castro was a product of the prievious FO. The current O has embraced him, I hope they can get him on the right track. Enjoyed the disscussiob guys, but it’s about bedtime for us here in Sweden. On the road tomorrow heading to the southeast corner of Sweden to a town called Karlskrona. A Soviet sub went aground just 10 kilometers from town in 1981. The Swedish Navy has a large base there. There’s a story also that some sailors there were using their high powered searching equipment to check out sunbathing Swedihs babes instead of doing their drill work. After living here as long as I have, I can just say: Who could blame them!

                  1. Die hard

                    Maybe Theo will send Castro to you for R&R?

                    1. sven-erik312

                      Hey Diehard! Va kul att höra ifrån dig. Har det bra! Vi hörs om en vecka. You can run it through google translate!

              2. X the Cubs Fan

                Starlin Castro first four seasons: .287/.326/.409, 611 hits, 31 HRs, 211 RBIs, 333/114 K/BB, 64 SBs
                *Castro’s 4th season is still in progress.

                Derek Jeter first four season: .294/.354/.422, 588 hits, 39 HRs, 239 RBIs, 357/183 K/BB, 67 SBs

                GIVE HIM A CHANCE!!!

                1. TOOT

                  Jeter NEVER hit anywhere near the Mendoza line. I think Castro’s options are running out. The guy is not good.(And by the way, I NEVER would have said that a couple years ago). No more chances.

                  1. caryatid62

                    …Except that’s exactly what he did, for some of May and all of June during his 23 year old season. In fact, he hit .227 during that time.

                    Oddly enough, Castro’s issues were focused mostly in May and June of this year as well. He’s struggled for a longer time than Jeter did, but the issues happened at almost the exact same time.

  11. jeff.rey

    I timed it a few times and here’s what I got:

    I started the timing from the moment Soriano made contact with the ball to the approximate time he would have touched home plate.

    Second to Home: 7 s
    Second to Third: 3.5 s
    Third to Home: 3.5 s

    Even though Castro had a lead and should therefore make the first half of the trip faster than the second, keep in mind he has to 1) react to contact, 2) accelerate to full speed, and 3) make the turn at third. Most of his turning happens before he touches the base, so a fast third to home time isn’t surprising.

    Thus ends the most ridiculous over-analysis of the most ridiculous over-criticism of a player who already gets over-criticized for seemingly no reason.

  12. LER

    If Castro was critically behind when he reached third, then why was he sent at all? He needs a coach to think for him when a score is on the line (I still think that he’s coachable.) And, while coachable moments are under consideration, why does Soriano still waste two seconds admiring the arc of his deep shots?

  13. BigSmokeJ

    Wow I’m amazed and how many people now are saying he didn’t score because he didn’t hustle. It’s like listening to Brenly all over again. This guy looks like he’s hustling even though he sucks so give him the benefit of the doubt. But this guys looks like he’s doging it so he’s not hustling.
    He’s been in the league 3+ yrs and already he’s a bum. If you compare his stats for the first three yrs he’s right up there with some pretty good players.
    I don’t know why he’s struggling and either does anyone else. It could be the league has figured him out or maybe its the team telling him he needs to be a walk machine when that’s not his makeup. Not every player is good at taking walks and that’s fine if he hits the ball. But to throw him under the bus is crazy.

  14. Carew

    I think this was mentioned before, but Castro is a new father…maybe those of you who are fathers can relate

    1. Carew

      Meant that as a possible reason for the season as well as just developing

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