Solving Starlin Castro’s Woes

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July 10, 2013 by Ryan S

It is very easy to say the Starlin Castro has regressed, or that pitchers have finally figured him out here in his fourth season in the majors.  But I’m left wondering if the blame all falls on Castro, and if it can be fixed.

Castro, the two-time All-Star who batted .300, .307, and .283 in his first three seasons is as cold as they come, batting .234 with a .609 OPS in the middle of July.

But when exactly did Castro’s decline begin?  Well, I have reason to believe that everything changed when the Cubs fired Rudy Jaramillo Jun. 12 of last season and hired James Rowson as the new Cubs hitting coach.  With Jaramillo as his hitting coach, Castro was hitting .302 in 2012, and .304 overall in 1389 career at-bats.

In 762 at-bats since, Castro is hitting a mere .253– .272 from Jun. 13 until the end of the 2012 season, and the ugly .234 that he has put up this season.

Now, part of the reason that Jaramillo was fired and Rowson was promoted was because of his patient approach at the plate, which the new Cubs regime has tried to embrace.

However, if you do not have the right personell, that approach might not work.  And sometimes, a free swinging player is best left, well, swinging freely.

Castro is seeing more pitches per plate appearances than he ever had done before in his career, and I can only help but wonder if restricting his aggressive approach has restricted his progress.  The problem, with being patient, is that Castro is not choosing the right pitches to hit.

Part of being a successful patient hitter is waiting on the mistake pitches, and Castro seems to wait just because that’s what he’s instructed to do.  Maybe settling into a patient approach will lead to eventually finding which pitches to wait for, but he does not seem to have that yet.

Here’s my evidence:

  1. Even as he sees more pitches per plate appearance (3.88) than in any other season, (3.63, 3.67, 3.46 in his first three seasons, respectively) his walk rate is down to a career low 3.9 percent.
  2. His two-strike counts are up from 43.35 percent in 2011 to 48.96 percent in 2013.
  3. His strikeout rate is up to a career high 18.1 percent.
  4. His isolated slugging percentage is a career low .101, and his batting average on balls in play is a low .276.

What does this mean?  Castro is getting deeper into counts than ever before, but he’s getting into more two strike counts.  He’s striking out more, he’s walking less, and when he hits the ball, he does not hit it nearly as well.  Now, the low BABIP may indicate some bad luck, but part of it may also be due to a failure to square the ball up like he has in the past.

Did hiring James Rowson ruin Starlin Castro?  No, I do not think he did.  But I do believe that Castro needs to revert back to his old aggressive and less stingy approach at the plate if he ever wants to get back to the success he had to start his career in the Windy City.

That’s it for now, and as always, go Cubs!

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