- Vine Line features an interview with Cubs GM Jed Hoyer this month, and you can see a portion of that interview here. It’s an interesting read. Among his responses, I found his thoughts on Starlin Castro’s struggles this year, as they relate the Cubs’ relatively well-publicized efforts to make him a more patient hitter, to be particularly interesting: “I personally think that line of thought is a little bit overblown. Every young player can improve. He had a great two seasons when he first came up, but I still think for the power that he has to come out, he’s going to have to be able to hit in better counts. To say, ‘Just keep your hands off him, and don’t try to improve him,’ we’re not going to be a championship organization if guys don’t continue to get better and better. Whether he tried to do some things that confused him during the course of the year or not—and he might have—we want all our guys to focus on getting a pitch in the strike zone and looking to drive it. That’s how you become a really good offense.” Hoyer’s right that there’s no sense in not trying to develop better overall hitters, and the possibility of making Castro into a more patient, more slugging version of his 2010-12 self was worth the risk that it wouldn’t take (as it seemed not to last year). The hope, I suppose, is that the only problem was one of messaging, and that can be fixed with a new staff this year.
- My concern is that Castro just isn’t going to be able to be that guy, and the Cubs might lose the aggressiveness that made him what he was before the approach changes. Castro saw more pitches last year than he ever has before, but he wasn’t able to consistently convert those deeper at bats into situations where he was in a hitter’s count and he forced the pitcher to come into the zone with something he could drive. That’s where a hefty slugging and OBP come from, but it didn’t happen for Castro last year for what was probably a variety of reasons. Historically, he’s been at his best when he simply did the old “see ball, hit ball” approach, which obviously had the byproduct of shortening a lot of his at bats (and making him something contrary to the Cubs’ current hitting philosophy). I won’t pretend to know what’s best for him going forward, but you’d hate to see so much natural talent squandered. Oh, and also, the Cubs kind of need him to be good.
- The Cubs have released Dave Sappelt (per Matt Eddy), who never got over the hump that held him back from being what it looked like he could have been: a quality right-handed half of an outfield platoon. Sappelt was derostered earlier this year, so the release is not a surprise.
- It’s been a long, productive year of baseball for Kris Bryant, and he’s going to do some well-deserved resting. Here’s a nice profile from his hometown paper.
- Patrick Mooney with a take on the Cubs’ radio and TV situations, noting, among many other things, that Doug Glanville is probably not a realistic candidate for the open radio gig.