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Among the things I find delightful to follow in a give season: huge days, and their impact on season stats. It’s kind of a silly exercise, especially in April, but it can also be a lot of fun. As someone who tries to find meaning in statistics, and to find reason in a morass of unsupported narratives, I like the idea that the “story” about a player can suddenly change because a ball went over the wall, instead of flying just two feet shorter and being caught.

starlin castro haters

The latest huge day for the Cubs came yesterday from Starlin Castro, who has, to my eye, looked like a much improved batter this year*, even if the numbers weren’t quite reflecting it. And, in one day, he turned so much of that on its head, going 3-4 with two homers.

  • Going into the game, Castro was hitting .272/.302/.370, with an OPS+ of 84 (the league average hitter was hitting 16% better than he was). The three hits lifted his batting average 20 points, and his OBP climbed 18 points.
  • The homers, though, really exploded his slugging percentage, which rose 78(!) points to .448. His line now reads .292/.320/.448, which looks damn good for a shortstop. And, hey, even after the error yesterday, he’s still showing positive defensive value.
  • His OPS+ climbed all the way up to 110 (league average is now 10% worse than Castro). By the way: Castro’s career best OPS+ is 111, in 2011.
  • Castro’s wOBA is up to .335 (league average, without pitchers included, is .314), and his wRC+ is up to 111.
  • Castro’s walk rate is down quite a bit at only 4.0%, but his strikeout rate is also down to 13.0%, the best mark of his career, and way down from last year’s 18.3%. His .156 ISO is also a career best.
  • *(And it isn’t just my eyes – Castro’s line drive rate this year is up to 25.3%, only 0.1% behind Anthony Rizzo for the team lead. That figure is up nearly 6 percentage points from last year, and is a full 5 points better than his career average. So far, Castro is hitting the ball with authority more frequently than he ever has before.)

(Thanks to Section 503 for grabbing the useful Castro screenshot for meme-ifying.)

  • Kansas Cubs Fan

    Is it just me or does Castro look like he’s put on some weight compared to last season?

    • hardtop

      i was seriously just typing this Kansas. he looks fat… like, bad weight. i get the idea of putting on pounds, we’ve discussed it for years with castro; but he kind of looks like a slob. haha.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        From what I’ve heard of folks who have seen him up close, he looks more fit this year than in the past.

        • Chicago4Life

          Agree Brett, he looks like he is getting stronger, not fatter.

        • hardtop

          good to know.

        • Joshua Edwards

          He looks more like Miguel Tejada or Neifi Perez than Omar Vizquel. More Shawon Dunston than Darwin Barney. But I think that bodes well for his power numbers. I’m glad he looks less like a light hitter. And his line drive numbers ate nice.

          And could be body style/type.

          But Mr. Cub moved to first base. And since we are back in the era of regular-sized people, I’m

          • Joshua Edwards

            Not concerned. I think this is the power weight baseball people have been talking about.

            • Joshua Edwards

              This is not Sosa ’96-98 lbs. That stuff was scary. Watch Sosa in a white sox uniform. Terrifying things happened to his body.

              • Joshua Edwards

                Not lbs, yrs. Good lord, this is a series of facepalms.

                Edit button?

    • bbmoney

      I really haven’t noticed. His range at SS seems just fine still.

    • terencemann

      Actually, his weight does concern me a little. He looks fine when he’s fielding or running full speed but, during his home run trot, it’s like he lacks finesse in his lower legs and is almost a little clod-footed. Maybe I’m just watching to closely but it’s something that stood out. I just hope that’s not an indicator of something to look out for.

  • fortyonenorth

    I’ve posted this before about Castro and it never seems to get any traction.

    At some point early last season Starlin quit eating sunflower seeds. The timing matches his negative regression at the plate. I went to several games and watched many more on TV and didn’t once see him chewing or spitting. We all know what a prolific habit this was for him previously. This year? Back to chewin’ and spittin’ again. Coincidence?

    • Funn Dave

      Yes.

    • Medicos

      Starlin—–As long as u keep spittin’—-you continue hittin’ HOF POSSIBILITES!!!!

    • JasonP

      Probably a coincidence, but I wouldn’t dismiss it outright.

      It’s not an idea without merit. If we qualify it as a superstition or think about it creating a sense of comfort and confidence, there is at least one piece of peer-reviewed literature that suggests superstitions can improve performance.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20511389

    • janfortytwo

      Are you trying to say that, if we’d trade Barney for a lifetime supply of sunflower seeds for Starlin, we could win the World Series?

  • Funn Dave

    That picture makes me think of Ronnie.

  • SenorGato

    There’s a handful of good things about the Cubs right now – that’s probably being extremely generous – and Castro is one of those things. Sadly the state of the franchise is such that this might make him trade bait, lol.

    • JM

      Not gonna happen.

      • Cubs_Questions

        Locked up through 2019 with an option for 2020, I wouldn’t bet on a Castro trade.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    Just to put a “hard” number on it, we’d expect Starlin to have 17 or 16 line drives by now; instead, he has 21. It’s not terribly significant (there’s about a 14% chance of him doing so well if he kept his career average of 20.0%), but, hey, at least it contradicts the assumption that last year’s experiment would permanently mess up his swing. (Of course, the fact that Castro hit 107 liners last year when we expected 108 should have put a stake through that vampire quickly: but, oddly, it didn’t.)

    • Fishin Phil

      You and your damn robot logic!

      ;)

    • Norm

      And B-Ref has him at 24 line drives.
      (Last year, B-Ref had him at 118 to FG’s 107)

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Ah, I used FanGraphs. There is some subjectivity in line drives: for example, I don’t think that FanGraphs tallies line drive HR as LD; instead, they are FB. I could see at least a couple of Castro’s HR being tallied as line drives.

        The more relevant point is that FanGraphs thinks that Castro’s LD rate (which has been remarkably constant) is up this year, and although it’s not quite significant, it’s still a good sign that last year didn’t ruin him somehow.

        • Cubs_Questions

          Last year he was going deeper into counts and putting himself into holes and it seemed like he was taking pitches for the sake of taking pitches. Getting behind in the count obviously changes one’s approach at the plate. By no longer being coached to be more patient, he’s seemingly being more aggressive and not getting behind into pitcher’s counts which is helping him get back into his game.

    • davidalanu

      I’m with you on the line drive %. But what about all of the ducks that he used to float over the 2bs head? I haven’t been able to watch much this year nor do I know how many of his hits in previous years were not of a ld variety as opposed to other batters. But it seems as though those hits are usually on balls that he “shouldn’t” be swinging at. Not trying to find something that isn’t there just curious.

  • GoCubs

    Castro is looking much better so far. It would be nice if can increase his defensive focus even more. He is just so close…

  • Section503

    Thanks for the shout-out Brett – my best/favorite grab so far this year! As for his size, I think he is following the current trend of snug clothes (check out his instagram = http://instagram.com/starlincastro1324) along with some extra muscle….

  • Darth Ivy

    I think the cherry on top is his BABIP. At .304, it’s his lowest rate other than last year. The guy has success when he gets the ball in play

    • Cubs_Questions

      And even with a .304 BABIP which is lower than his career rate, he’s hitting .292. Still a small-ish sample size, but encouraging.

  • tpstoner

    Gain weight!

    [img]http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.958782!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/alg-miguel-cabrera-2003-2011-jpg.jpg[/img]

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