This post was written on the suggestion of @BullpenBrian Twitter follower Stan Croussett (@MindofStan). These are largely Stan’s opinions with a few of my own contributions included.
If Starlin Castro is such a good bad-ball hitter, then why is the Cubs’ All Star shortstop batting .279 this deep into the season?
Is it a sign he’s regressed since his rookie season of .300/.347/.408, which includes his rookie-record of six RBI in his major league debut?
Such early success paved the way for regression to be easily expected in his sophomore season. And the mere fact Geovany Soto, the 2008 Rookie of the Year, slumped considerably during his sophomore season made Cubs fans more weary Castro might stumble in year two, as well.
However, the young Dominican shined during his sophomore season producing better numbers than he had the year prior .307/.341/.432, in addition to becoming the youngest National League player ever to lead the league in hits (207).
STARLIN STILL A TOP NOTCH HITTER?
Major league scouts remain adamant Castro will soon compete for a batting title. Cubs broadcasters Len Kasper & Bob Brenly echo those predictions while continually noting Starlin is a legit .300-plus hitter, no matter where he hits in the batting order.
But the difference we’re seeing this year with Castro, his third season with the Cubs, is his self imposed learning curve of laying off pitches out of the strike zone.
The new approach has steadily decreased the number of hits Castro use to get poking bloop singles to right field. But curbing his overly-aggressive attack is well worth the plate discipline he’ll gain as his god-given hitting talents naturally decrease with age.
More specifically, it will also help Starlin cut down on his number of strikeouts and further appease the Cubs front office that prefers its hitters grind-out their at-bats.
HOW LONG BEFORE CASTRO BOUNCES BACK?
It’s not unthinkable Castro could rebound in the final two months to raise his average to .300 or above for a third consecutive season, but that’s beside the point.
What’s more important is Starlin taking one step back to take two forward beginning as soon as possible and beyond.
Any worry with Castro’s development shouldn’t rest on the shoulders of Cubs fans; with nearly 1,700 at-bats under his belt we know what kind of super-talented hitter Starlin already is at age 22.
Instead, leave the worries to the rest of the NL, for once Castro gains a greater understanding of the strike zone he’s sure to terrorize the rest of the league.
Starlin Castro is 1-for-17 on the homestand.
It’s not a frightening stretch by slump standards, but still very unusual for Castro.
Since making his MLB debut in 2010, Castro’s 423 hits are the most in the National League, including his NL leading 207 hits last season.
Castro also has the most multi-hit games (82) in the NL since the beginning of 2011, including (25) multi-hit efforts this season.
So it’s strange to see a guys who just hits, and then hits some more, struggle offensively.
But since the start of June Castro is hitting a paltry .203/.230/.339. He’s driven in but 2 runs and has 16 strikeouts vs. one walk. What gives?
David DeJesus has the tools to justify his move to the three-hole.
He’s arguably the Cubs most professional hitter. He works the count, has extra base power and understands the importance of being a situational hitter.
But that doesn’t mean DeJesus (or De-hay-zeus as Dick Stockton would say) benefits the club more from the third spot than his usual leadoff position.
If we’re judging strictly by wins and losses, the Cubs are no better off with DeJesus (3-5) batting third than Joe Mather (3-4).
Starlin Castro says he feels awful about his mental lapse during Monday’s loss at San Francisco when he lost awareness of how many outs the Cubs had in the fifth inning.
‘‘I want to say I’m sorry to my teammates and it will never happen again,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m real embarrassed. There’s no excuse for that. That can’t happen in a game. That will never happen again.’’
Here’s the troubling part. The above quote from Castro wasn’t from Monday’s post-game.
Dale Sveum wants more pop from his three-hole hitter.
He wasn’t getting it from Starlin Castro (2 HR in 179 at-bats), which is why Sveum moved Castro to second in the order in favor of Joe Mather.
Mather’s numbers thus far are underwhelming. He’s hit third during the last six games going 5-for-23 (.217), 1 R, 1 BB, 0 HR & 0 RBI.
On the bright side, two of his five hits went for extra bases, he’s struck out just twice and is seeing right at four pitches per plate appearances–advantageous for Castro to steal bases.
Mather still doesn’t compare well against Castro batting third: .313, 11 XBH & 25 RBI, but there’s no arguing Starlin’s individual success gradually stopped trickling through the rest of the lineup–the Cubs simply quit scoring behind him.
Sveum intends to juice-up the lineup, and Mather’s overall numbers suggest he’s the most capable option available (while serving as the latest example of the Cubs lack of talent).
Sunday marked the seventh time in Cubs franchise history the team has lost 12-straight games.
Six of the 12 losses on the current streak have been decided by 1-run.
Andrew McCutchen’s comments following the Pirates’ 10-4 win on Sunday speaks to my post regarding the Cubs energy hog.
The Cubs are on the brink of slumping to depths the 2011 team never sank to–losing nine straight games.
Mike Quade’s club lost a season-high eight straight in early June, but also had five more wins at this point last year.
Chicago’s 15 wins ties Minnesota & Colorado for the fewest in baseball. The Cubs .349 winning percentage, however, ranks dead last in the majors.
Granted the Cubs have a lengthy injury list, but the lack of overall talent has been exposed badly in May.
You could circle any number of games during this awful stretch as the season’s low point. But the lineup looked worse than ever Tuesday night.
Chris Volstad (0-4) continues to be consistently ineffective.
He was again haunted by the big inning on Saturday thanks to a two-run double by the opposing pitcher. I mean, that just can’t happen.
It’s been 17 consecutive starts since Volstad last won a big league outing. He’s taken a loss nine times with eight no decisions.
Travis Wood is replacing Garza on Sunday. If Wood pitches well, the Cubs might give some thought to replacing Volstad in the rotation.
It’s only been six starts, but Volstad hasn’t shown improvement. His ERA is above 6-runs and he’s yet to pitch past the sixth inning.
The Cubs haven’t had a true leadoff threat atop the order since Juan Pierre in 2006, which is exactly why the Cubs went after David DeJesus this offseason.
Thus far DeJesus’ production has been steady. He’s reached base safely in 8 of 11 games while posting a respectable on-base percentage of .439.
He’s seen more pitches than any other Cubs batter (173), which hasn’t been the norm for a team expected to adopt a grind-it-out mentality.
DeJesus’ seven walks also leads the team, as does his eight runs scored. But that’s not all.
He’s played a terrific right field with several highlight reel catches already under his belt. I’ve also been impressed with his throwing arm, both strong and accurate.
No reason not to be pleased with the early returns for DeJesus. About the only thing he hasn’t done is steal many bases, so far 0-for-1.