Monday, September 17, 2012
Cubs' Castro in search of a lineup home
By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- One of these seasons Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro figures to finally get that spot in the batting order that he can call his own, although it might not be for a while.
The versatile Castro has been used most often in the No. 2, 3 and 5 spots this season, with much of his recent success coming in the No. 5 hole.
His .291 batting average as a No. 5 hitter is his highest of any spot he has batted for more than two games this season. He is a .267 hitter in 53 games as two-hole hitter and is batting .287 in 55 games in the three spot.
More significantly, he drives in a run every 7.1 at-bats in the fifth spot as opposed to every 7.9 as a No. 3 hitter and every 9.5 in the No. 2 spot. Obviously that is a function of having the better Cubs hitters on base when he hits in the No. 5 spot, but it also shows that he has been taking advantage of opportunities.
So do the Cubs think Castro can handle the No. 5 spot when the 2013 season begins?
“If he hits with men in scoring position like he has in the fifth spot it’s something to think about, but we obviously don’t know what our personnel will look like on opening day next year,” manager Dale Sveum said. “That’s a long way away to think about lineups now.”
Perhaps that’s Sveum’s way of saying that he would like a traditional run producer with power in the five spot next season, which would make him free to utilize Castro’s talents elsewhere. But where would that be?
Despite leading the league with 207 hits last season, Castro still doesn’t identify completely with any of the top spots in the order. His lack of patience at the plate hurts him in the first two spots and he lacks the power that would be suitable at three, four and five.
But while also emerging from the No. 5 spot in the second half, Castro is seeing more pitches. It seems that his success in the five hole is showing that next season he will likely get another shot in the No. 2 spot, a place that better suits his talents.
“He’s the kind of hitter that really his approach won’t change much,” Sveum said. “Right now he has been seeing more pitches and doing a better job that way especially hitting behind (Alfonso) Soriano and he’s done a nice job. It’s been a nice combo there the last few weeks. It’s three, four, five like I talk about a lot. Most really good offensive teams, the three, four, five guys when the season is over have close to 600 runs produced (with runs scored and RBI).”