It has taken about 80 games, but Starlin Castro finally looks comfortable applying the new tools he has been given for sustained success.
Since new hitting coach James Rowson came on board June 12, after Rudy Jaramillo was fired, the Cubs have been preaching a patient approach at the plate and Castro needed the most work at it.
Old dogs might have an issue learning new tricks but at just 22, the Cubs knew that if Castro could marry his natural ability to hit with the ability to see pitches, his production might know no bounds.
Obviously the new approach has offered its challenges. Before the current series began, Castro had played 80 games after Rowson took over and was batting .259 with a .314 on-base percentage and a .409 slugging percentage.
There are signs that it is starting to come together, though. Over an eight-game stretch in late August, Castro worked five walks, or 17.2 percent of his walk total in barely over a week. Over the same stretch, he batted .310 with a .412 on-base percentage and a .448 slugging percentage.
Since September started, Castro’s walk total hasn’t been very high, but he continues to hit. He carried a .312 September batting average into play Monday at Houston and against the Astros his two late hits extended his current hitting streak to eight games. He also had a walk in the game.
There were doubts that Castro would ever have an on-base-percentage that was much different than his batting average. The low point might have been the Cubs’ six-game West Coast swing in early August when Castro had just one hit in 22 at-bats.
Since holding a .321 batting average on June 1, Castro has watched that number tumble considerably, bottoming out at .272 on a few occasions, the most recent on Aug. 14. He is now batting .282, which is, coincidentally, the highest it’s been since the end of the first game on that West Coast trip on Aug. 3
Yes, there are still lapses, especially on defense, like his rushed throw and error Saturday that nearly cost Jeff Samardzija a complete game, but Castro is showing that he can be teachable.
His midseason offensive slide might have been hard for fans, coaches and even Castro himself to take, but he seemed to be learning despite the disappointment and should ultimately be a better hitter because of it.