Starlin Castro Expected To Take Control Next Season


Cubs’ manager Dale Sveum has made the expectations for Starlin Castro perfectly clear:

It’s your time to shine – take control of your own destiny.

Sept. 30, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs base runner Starlin Castro (13) slides into second base in the fourth inning against Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-USA TODAY Sports

While Sveum himself cannot be directly quoted, Carrie Muskat (Chicago Cubs beat writer) has reported that this is the message being sent in the Cubs’ clubhouse.

Castro has been put on the spot considering he’s entering his fourth year of big league baseball, which is almost necessary at this point. His play has been brought in to question in the past even being caught looking away from the play while pitches were being delivered. Not exactly big league caliber habits, but Castro showed improvements last season. His all-star appearance in 2012 reinforces his potential new found successes.

Since Sveum wants Castro to make some changes next season, let’s take a quick gander at his metrics. Castro posted a .283/.323/.430 triple slash line in 646 AB. This is a very respectable stat line considering how many at bats Castro posted in 162 starts. Yes, Castro started every single game last season. I mean… wow… the kid has some serious aversion to injuries and stagnation.

Frankly, the Cubs are lucky Castro isn’t batting in the high 100’s with that many ABs. It’s a crazy amount of time spent looking at pitches.

Sure, last season wasn’t his best at the plate having posted career lows in AVG and OBP, but this isn’t relevant considering those metrics are only a few ticks lower than his career average. Castro consistently produced good numbers, even when he’s off his game. He actually showed more power at the plate in 2012 hitting the most HR and triples in his career and posted a career high 3.5 WAR.

So what is Sveum talking about? Why does he need Castro to “step up” when production isn’t the issue, especially for a 22 year old?

What’s being addressed is one of those little things that can’t really be quantified. Stats do a lot of good and I tend to live by them, but Sveum is looking for Castro to start producing in the clutch. This is called “situational hitting” and is one of those subtle part of the game that comes from experience and experience alone. It can’t be taught, but plate fundamentals help to achieve this higher understanding of hitting which Castro is entirely capable of. For example, Castro struggled slightly with runners in scoring position last season and a few key runs could have been the difference between being a 95 loss team and a 101 loss team.

Key RBI’s can make or break a team, and the bottom line is Castro is expected to produce, especially with his new contract still freshly inked.

Is it time to light the torches and turn in to an angry mob? Not yet at least, but the expectations have been made clear. Sveum is going to push young Castro to flourish in to the franchise player that he’s capable of becoming.

Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how Castro responds to this new pressure.