Are the Cubs to blame for Castro’s poor performance?


Sep 8, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs infielder

Starlin Castro

(13) throws for an out during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has not been the same player fans are used to seeing in 2013. Coming off consecutive National League All-Star bids, the 23-year old Dominican Republic native has seen his production plummet; and fans have taken notice, with some going so far as to suggest trading him this offseason.

Hitting just .241 this season – nearly 40 points lower than his career average – Castro has seemed frustrated, at times, while at other times, he seems locked in. What could explain the difference in his approach to at-bats? Well, apparently the Cubs played a significant role in the ‘tweaking’ of their young shortstop, according to a report from ESPN Chicago writer Jesse Rogers.

"Starlin is just somebody we just want to be himself,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said last week. “He’s a pretty unique hitter. I think we made efforts to introduce him to the concept of getting pitches he can really drive because in the long tun that will benefit him. But if that can’t be accomplished without him being himself as a hitter, then you just have to let time play its course and he’ll naturally evolved that way."

Castro has struggled mightily in 2013 in terms of making contact and driving in runs – two things Chicago desperately depends on him to do regularly. His on-base percentage has dropped roughly 40 points as well, from a career mark of .322 to a .281 mark this season, and his slugging percentage has also fallen.

If one looks at his numbers for the month of September, nothing jumps off the page. To be frank, it appears as if he is continuing his season-long pattern of below-average contact and a lack of timely hitting. He’s hitting .238 (20/84) this month, with two home runs and seven RBIs. He’s also drawn five walks and scored seven runs for a Cubs team that has hit a brick wall, and could still manage to lose 95 games this season – a feat many of our readers believed would not happen just over a month ago.

However, in the past seven days, the Cubs cornerstone shortstop has heated up – around the same time Cubs management said it was done interfering in his mechanics. He’s hit 8-for-29 (.276) with one home run and three RBIs. These numbers fall much closer to his career average of .282.

"With Starlin, if you try to throw too much at him – which maybe at times we’ve been guilty of – who knows, I think we’ve always been conscious of letting him be himself, said Epstein. In his case, he’s at his best if he’s single mindedly himself."

With the Cubs done adjusting the mechanics of Castro, odds are the shortstop we’ve come to expect – a hitter capable of 200-hit campaigns – will re-emerge next spring. As for this season? It’s too late to start considering the ‘what-ifs’ and time to look ahead to 2014.