Early in the season everybody jumped on the Starlin Castro bandwagon, as he started out the season hotter than any hitter in the MLB. Lately he has been struggling mightily to get on base. What has caused this slump for Castro in the past few weeks?
Manager Mike Quade claims that he is just not being patient. I am going to have to agree with Quade on this one. Young hitters tend to have the reputation of being free swingers. Castro is definitely no exception to this tendency. He pretty much swings at anything that is within reach of his bat. However, he does it well, as he hardly ever strikes out, and has one of the best contact ratios in the MLB.
Some people can make a living by being a free swinger. Look at Baltimore Orioles’ outfielder, Vladimir Guerrero. Vlad has always been, and will always be a free swinging hitter. Known for the ability to hit a pitch off the ground or in his eyes for a base hit. Castro seems like he is trying to be that type of player, but unless he learns how to hit pitches out of the strike zone for hits, he will continue to slump by hitting weak pop-ups and grounders.
Starlin was able to start the year off as hot as he did because pitchers were challenging him. They were throwing him strikes, and he was hitting them, and hitting them hard. Since then the pitchers have adjusted, and it looks like they are mainly throwing breaking balls out of the zone. With Castro being the hitter that he is, he has been swinging at the pitches and making contact, but they are weaker hits leading to many outs.
In order for Castro to be successful at the plate again, he needs to adjust in one of two ways. One way being better than the other, but both would work. The best way would be for Castro to be more patient, and wait for the count to get into his favor so that he can see more strikes. This will allow him to drive the ball hard again, leading to as many base hits as we saw earlier in the season.
The other way would be for Starlin to adjust his swing so that he can get the barrel of the bat on the ball more frequently. If you watch Guerrero hit, you can see the level of the bat change according to the location of the pitch. Most hitters, like Castro, try to keep their bats going through the strike zone for as long as possible. Vlad basically moves his strike zone up and down, where he still swings his bat to the location of the ball, which allows him to get the barrel of the bat on the ball more frequently.
Throughout his young career, Castro has proven that he has a hard work ethic and will do whatever he can to better his abilities. I have no doubt that he will adjust, in a game of adjustments, and break his way out of this slump very soon.