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Entries in Starlin Castro (6)


Starlin Castro's Second-Half Pop

For most of his brief MLB career, Starlin Castro has hit atop the Cubs lineup or out of the two-hole. But new manager Dale Sveum said he's considering batting his soon-to-be 22-year-old shortstop third in 2012.

The three-spot in the lineup is usually the domain of power hitters who can drive in the guys hitting at the top -- NL players hitting third slugged .457 last year, the highest of any lineup spot. Castro, with a career .422 slugging percentage, might seem like an odd choice for a meat-of-the-order spot. But Sveum and the Cubs are likely betting that the 6-foot, 190 pound Castro grows into more of a power hitter and continues his second-half slugging from 2011.

Castro hit a grounder 53% of the time that he put the ball in play from April-June last year, well above the 44% league average. With all of those worm-burners, Castro hit just two home runs in 360 plate appearances. He hit choppers on pitches at the knees far more than most hitters. Check out his ground ball rate by pitch location, and then the league average:

Castro's ground ball rate by pitch location, April-June

Average ground ball rate by pitch location, 2011

Once the calendar turned to July, however, Castro's approach was more like that of a guy capable of driving in runs. His ground ball rate on low pitches in the zone decreased mightily:

Castro's ground ball rate by pitch location, July-September

Castro hit grounders 44% of the time from July through September. With more skyward contact, he hit eight home runs in 355 plate appearances. Overall, Castro added 10 feet of distance on his fly balls hit from April-June (261 feet) to July-September (271 feet).

While Castro wasn't a huge power threat in the minors (.421 slugging), either, his youth, size and change in approach mean he could emerge as a 15-20 homer guy as he matures. In placing Castro sixth on his "Top 50 MLB Players Age 25 or Under," ESPN's Keith Law went so far as to say, "He's likely to keep posting .300 averages and should end up with 20-plus homers and slugging percentages around .500, perhaps even better if he can work on getting into better counts." Castro might not be a middle-order masher yet, but he could be that guy one day.


The 2011 200-hitsters

I've been curious about the players who have picked up at least 200 hits this season, who I refer to as "200-hitsters."

Here's a look at them through action on Sept. 26.

Rk Player H Tm G HR RBI BA
1 Adrian Gonzalez 211 BOS 157 27 117 .338
2 Jacoby Ellsbury 210 BOS 156 31 103 .323
3 Michael Young 210 TEX 157 11 105 .338
4 Starlin Castro 204 CHC 156 10 65 .306
5 Melky Cabrera 201 KCR 155 18 87 .305
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/27/2011.

Interesting group, don't you think?

Adrian Gonzalez and Starlin Castro lead their leagues in hits. Matt Kemp of the Dodgers has 192 hits for second place in the NL.

Let's take a look at the heat maps for each of these players and see what we see.

Adrian Gonzalez

114 of Gonzo's hits have been off of fastballsGonzo strength has been on the outside of the plate where he has produced 74 hits. However, as his shoulder has weakened so has his ability to drive balls pitched to him on the outside. Since August 1, he has only 17 hits on outside pitches and only nine off of fastballs.

Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury has 109 hits off fastballsYou can see that Jacoby has loved the inside quadrant all season long, but since August 1st, he has expanded his zone.

Since August1, Ellsbury has 71 hits including 14 homers

Michael Young

106 of Michael's hits have come on fastballsMichael Young has been killer this season on every thing middle in. If the Rangers make the World Series, I will be fascinated watching Cliff Lee and Doc Halladay paint that low and outside corner where Young has only eight hits this season.

Starlin Castro

Castro has 85 hits on fastballs and 40 on slidersCastro has been remarkably consistent hitting .307 before the All-Star break and .305 since. it's not as obvious, but middle down has produced 161 of his hits

Melky Cabrera

The switch-hitting Melky has 63 hits from the right side of the plate, 34 off of fastballsCabrera has 138 hits as a lefty with 65 coming off fastballsThe Melk Man hit .293 before the All Star break and has hit .322 with 89 hits since. Cabrera never had more than 149 hits in a season prior to 2011.

The five 200-hitsters are the most since we had eight in 2006 and 2007.


Best Hitters on Inside Pitches

Top MLB Hitters on Inside Pitches
(Click to enlarge)

Interesting notes: Alex Rodriguez (NYY) is actually making less contact on inside pitches compared to his three previous seasons (72.2% to 80.9%.)  However, he's yet to strike out on an inside pitch this season.  In his three previous seasons, 19.3% of his plate appearances decided on an inside pitch were strike outs.
Stephen Drew's (ARZ) 2010 batting average on inside pitches ranked in the bottom half of the league; his .636 currently ranks second this season.
Ten of Matt Kemp's(LAD) thirty-one HRs since the beginning of 2010 have come on inside pitches.
Brandon Inge (DET) is swinging at 13.6% fewer inside pitches compared to last season; his .377 BAbip on inside pitches since 2008 is 7th best in all of baseball.
Of Starlin Castro's (CHC) 29 hits this season, 14 have come on inside pitches, including one HR, one triple, and three doubles.

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