starlin castro at the platePneumonia Watch, Day Four: The Little Boy was, knock on wood, pretty good yesterday. In fact, he was feeling so much better that I had to work hard to force him to rest much more than he wanted. Early signals suggest today will be similar. He’s currently sitting across the room from me, alternating between a churlish grin and sticking his tongue out to spit at me. And then he makes a quick dash for the stairs.

  • Everyone is saying how good and comfortable Starlin Castro looks right now (including Castro, himself). And, so far, he really does look like he’s got a little bit of … something … back. It’s obviously early, and it’s also obviously easy to read in false psycho-babble when a guy has decent numbers over a tiny stretch of games a year after a terrible season. But, hey, maybe Castro really did struggle last year because of the approach changes, because of coaching communication issues, and because of that lawsuit back in the Dominican Republic. With all of that largely behind him, perhaps he can just be himself again. And perhaps that’s a damn good baseball player. He looks the part so far this year.
  • (Castro has actually been worth more so far this year – 0.2 wins – than he was worth all of last year, according to FanGraphs, when he was a -0.1 WAR player.)
  • And now a word from our friends with revenue: With baseball season underway, and your local leagues starting up, you may be in the market for some pitching machines. If so, that there link will send you to the magical land of all kinds of pitching machines. There’s even one that can throw you curveballs, which is pretty fancy.
  • We may see the first non-platooned start of the year for Mike Olt and/or Junior Lake today against Gerrit Cole. That’s what Ricky Renteria hinted to the media after last night’s game (Tribune), which saw Olt rip a homer off of a left and add another hit off of a righty. I’ll dig more into it when the lineups come out, but, here’s the thing: the reason I’ve been pro-platoon for these guys all along is because I knew eventually, they would see time against righties. So, although I’m massively pro-platoon, I’m also totally fine with them getting in there against some righties.
  • Hector Rondon has a 13-inning scoreless streak, which is actually the fourth-longest in baseball right now (Tribune).
  • Stats, Inc. says that Emilio Bonifacio’s 17 hits over his team’s first 7 games is the most by a Cub since 1914. He had two more hits last night in game eight – what say you, Stats, Inc.?
  • Ricky Renteria won over Jose Veras a little bit when he was ejected arguing about a tight zone that Veras faced the other night. (Sun-Times)
  • According to a BP analysis, the Cubs are one of the most improved teams in baseball – at the big league level – in terms of projected output from core players (which is defined by an extremely complicated formula). I won’t get into all of the math, and I’m not sure how much I agree with the methodology, but any signal out there that the Cubs are improving at the big league level is a positive development.
  • Dr. James Andrews on why UCL injuries seem to be on the rise for pitchers (they pretty much are, and it’s largely because kids aren’t being properly protected when they’re in high school and playing in multiple leagues, playing year round, and playing up when scouts are in attendance).
  • About that, Keith Law makes a good point:

  • cjdubbya

    I feel like we need to get Brian Fantana on this… “PNEUMONIA WATCH!”

  • Edwin

    Technically, since Castro was worth negative WAR last season, he could have sat out all of 2014 and still been more valuable.

    • terencemann

      It always hurts when the answer, in hindsight, is “They should have acquired Nick Punto”.

  • terencemann

    I liked seeing Castro hit the ball hard in the at bats I saw last night (I didn’t catch them all) but there was at least one time where he hit an outside strike for a fly out that I think a more disciplined hitter would have either let go completely or let get deeper in the zone.

    I hate to nitpick over every pitch this early in the season but it’s early in the season and this is what’s naturally going to happen.

    • Rebuilding

      It sounds strange, but I loved that at bat. It was old Castro as his ++ ability has always been hitting balls very few other can get to (see his hit through the middle the other night). Plus, he went the other way where as last year he would have rolled over and grounded that one to SS. It just showed me that the old Castro mindset was back

  • FullCountTommy

    Castro looked good yesterday in person. Hit a couple ropes right at guys, made a couple nice plays up the middle including that ridiculous diving play on Marte.

    Also, I hate those freaking curveball machines. We had one in high school and our coach thought it was a bright idea to crank it all the way up. What kind of high school pitcher has a 90 mph curveball?!?

    • Brett

      I would love to try and hit that.

      • FullCountTommy

        It bring a whole new definition to the word flail

        • Brett

          I bet it would look so gloriously awful. I actually now seriously kinda want to do it, film it, and show it to you all. Now there’s a promotion opportunity!

          • FullCountTommy

            Just go into the slow cage at Sluggers, I’m sure it would produce the same result 😉

            • Brett

              I can actually hit the fast cage at Sluggers pretty well, thankyouverymuch.

          • hansman

            Now we know what the blogathon is going to raise money for this year.

            Include a post-season BN get-together in Cancun where we take turns against the machine. Brett invites folks that have been banned so we can all watch them get beaned by a 90 MPH curveball.

    • mjhurdle

      i like that the curveball machine in Brett’s link says that it throws up to 104 mph.

      a 104 mph curve?

  • hansman

    “Stats, Inc. says that Emilio Bonifacio’s 17 hits over his team’s first 7 games is the most by a Cub since 1914. He had two more hits last night in game eight – what say you, Stats, Inc.?”

    Based on Baseball-Reference, I think they might say…the same thing. BR doesn’t list any game logs for players prior to 1914. Looking at it (I’ve got too much time on my hands this morning), the 1914 leader through 7 games had a whopping 7 hits. I’ll let Spriggs tell everyone who it was.

    • Rebuilding

      The said on the telecast last night that Bonifacio is the only player since 1900 to have a 5 hit, 4 hit, 3 hit, 2 hit and 1 hit game through the first 7 games of a season

  • Head and Heart

    Nice to see Castro bouncing back so far although it is early. But what I have loved as much as the swing looking good, or maybe more, is the work with the glove.

  • nate1m

    If I’m reading it correctly Zips projected Castro to have a WAR of 1.8 to 2.5. At this pace he’d be around 4 for the year. A (not too huge) step forward from the good old days to 2012. Small sample size be damned. He’s back baby!

    • terencemann

      I am going to completely agree with this assessment because I need something to look forward to.

  • Myles

    My softball league’s first game was yesterday. I flew out to left my 1st and 2nd ABs, and then smashed a rope down the LF line for a double. If I had to spend $1500 foolishly (for me), it just might be on one of those jug machines.

    Also, at some point this season, an opposing team is going to do the reverse Rizzo shift on me.

    • terencemann

      I think competitive softball teams actually do use shifts aggressively. Most softball players just want to muscle up and pull the ball and don’t want to use their precious free time to slap base hits the other way.

      • Brett

        True story: in my softball days, I always went the other way. I have no power, so there was no sense in trying to wreck the ball. Instead, I found that I could pretty easily poke one into right every time if that’s all I was trying to do.

        • hansman

          It’s fun to do it in a beer league. RF is ALWAYS the person on the team that has no clue what they are doing. Although our RF was a pro at the “Sandlot Catch”.

          • ssckelley

            In our CoEd leagues it was always the hot chick that was forced into playing because of the 4 minimum requirements that got stuck in right field. So I rarely ever got more than a double on those pokes into right field since I spent too much time admiring my…uhh…hit as I went down the 1st base line.

            • Cizzle

              Our “hot chick in RF” couldn’t catch a cold. But at the end of the season, there was a line-driveish poke right at her that she was sure she was going to catch. She ran full speed at the ball with her glove in the air, but at that critical time where you need to watch the ball into the glove, she closed her eyes and took one dead center of her forehead. It bounced a solid 20′ back towards the infield, but the guy ended up with a home run because everyone was laughing so hard we couldn’t stand up to chase the ball down. She was fine, just had a 6″ red mark on her forehead for a few days.

            • Patrick W.

              Our hot chick is a killer player. Every year she hits a home run or triple the first time she faces a team because they bring the outfielders way in. It’s awesome.

            • Funn Dave

              I think “woman” might be the preferred nomenclature….

            • Patrick W.

              I agree. I was making that point inelegantly.

    • Patrick W.

      If other teams in my league were smart, when I come to bat they would have a pitcher, catcher, first baseman, then 7 people lined up from the short stop position straight back to the fence. I would guess in the 120 games I’ve played, minus the 25 or so over the fence, I’ve hit 350 balls along that line for 300 hits. I am genetically forbidden to hit anywhere else.

  • JulioZuleta

    While I’ve been rooting for Olt to get ABs against righties, I hope Renteria isn’t going away from the platoon today just because Olt had a good game last night. The HR he hit was really a lazy fly that got up in the wind and landed in the basket. It wasn’t crushed like Lake’s. I was at the game on the third base line and when Olt hit the ball I was saying “No way…too high,” like the fan from Major League.

    • Spoda17

      Actually they said during the game, at the beginning, that Olt and Lake were going to play [today]. Before either of them hit.

      Brett, also, on the platoon thing… and I know I said yesterday I was going to drop it… but… I favor platoons when the players involved support the use of a platoon (that means they aren’t really that good). But, I am not in favor (and it is not just Olt and Lake, I would feel the same way with other players that should be playing more), of platooning for the hopes of it working out.

      I called into MLB radio yesterday and gave my thoughts on the Olt/Lake platoon… and Jim Bowden (former GM) agreed with my view… so there [Spo sticks out tongue at BNers!!!]

      Okay, I am really dropping it now…

      • FullCountTommy

        Both sides definitely have their pros and cons but having Jim Bowden on your side, former GM or not, is not really a good thing (The guy seems to have gone off his rocker)

  • TK

    I’m dead serious . . . TRADE him (Castro) this July!

    Imagine the return we could get for him! With his age, talent, and contract . . . just trading him and extending Shark could give us our playoff caliber SP rotation (along with Wood) AND begin another “wave” of prospects along with this (and next) year’s draft pick! With so many IF in our system, and our timeline for The Plan being constantly pushed back, we may as well get SP for Castro and let Baez have SS.

  • Blackhawks1963

    With the plethora of pitching injuries around baseball to hi-end young pitchers I much prefer Theo/Jed/Jason stick with the strategy of picking the best positional talent available with the first pick in the June draft, then load up on pitching in the rest of the draft.

    Also, Samardzija’s trade value is zooming up. Why? Because he is becoming an increasingly rare commodity of a guy who throws electric stuff but has avoided injuries, is durable and still is a low mileage guy. He’s a “bull” in that regard. AND, he has two years of contract control left. The ultimate bidding for his services could go batshit crazy among the contenders.

  • Boys of Zimmer

    We have to remember Castro just turned 24. Having him and Baez as the middle infielders this year would be exciting. I do agree with the experts on the MLB network leave Castro alone. Put him in the 6th spot and leave him there. The only reason we are platooning guys is so they get AB’s to get flipped later. Play Olt, play Lake, play Kalish.

  • Indy57

    Agree that chasing the ball was bad. Go back and look at his body language after he swung, though. Looked like he said to himself, “Crap, I know better than that.” He seems to be locked in. Seems like he may have just been a little over confident and got out of his groove for a moment.

  • MightyBear

    Rondon’s scoreless streak is over.

  • Funn Dave

    What’s up with the pitching machine note? I thought advertisements were supposed to go over on the right….

    • Jon

      lol, with my sons Little League season up in full swing I was I bit intrigued, till I saw the price tags of ~2K

    • TWC

      “I thought advertisements were supposed to go over on the right….”

      Then you haven’t been reading BN long enough. They happen in the bullets, too, from time to time.

      • Funn Dave

        Yeah. It just bugs me when websites slip advertising into their standard content. It’s kinda like when a news magazine has a fake news article about some new drug that they’re sponsored by–although at least those have “advertisement” at the top of the page.

        • TWC

          Gotta keep the lights on…

        • Jon

          He has to fund the operational costs of this site, in addition to providing an income for himself. I don’t get why you are bitching.

          • Funn Dave

            I’m not bitching, and I have no problems with advertising on blogs. I just wish there were something to indicate that that particular bullet came from a paid sponsor, so that people don’t think it was just Brett saying, “hey, check out these sweet pitching machines I found.” Maybe Cubs fans are just a lot less gullible than I give them credit for.

        • Brett

          I’m sorry if your day was ruined. :)

          Truth be told, that’s my favorite kind of ad to do, because it’s actually related to baseball and I can say a little something about it. No apologies here.

          • Brett

            Added a preamble to ease your discomfort.

          • Funn Dave

            Hey, your site, your rules. I’m not complaining; I was just curious.

  • bnile1

    Here’s question for fan graphs. Has anyone else noticed that Barney is taking some walks this year? He’s currenlty got 5 walks to 2 SO, His OBP is 421 over 100 points higher than his career 294 or his career high 313. At his current pace he would set a new carreer high in walks(36) after just over 100 ab. Small sample size and all that, but my point is that the problem for Barney is not that he wasn’t a slugger, the issue has been that his OBP has been too low to be a regular. If his OBP can be over 340, then with his deffense, he suddenly becomes a solid regular. to me that’s the biggest “surprise” as I expected the young players to get better and Castro and Rizzo to rebound, but if Barney can fix his salient weakness, that would be a huge bonus, both in respect to team performance and potential trade value.

  • Jason Powers

    Baseball Prospectus article: Most visible thing I saw was that having Core Pitchers was most significant in the final ranking methodology. The low rated teams have none signed long-term. Risk-adverse? (Since 30-35+% are TJs on the clock….)

    The Cubs have no core pitching. The Max value for this metric is 7 pitchers and 8 hitters. Cardinals have 9 – Cubs 3.