clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Starlin Castro’s slump comes at the right time for the Yankees

New, comments

The second baseman has struggled of late, but the rest of the offense has picked him up.

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees collected 15 hits during their blowout win against the Twins yesterday. Seven starters picked up hits, four of whom had multi-hit games. Starlin Castro, on the other hand, had none. He went 0 - 4, continuing a longterm slump that has plagued him for most of the month. It’s been a rough go for the Yankees second baseman, especially considering he opened the season doing a great Willie Mays impression.

Castro owns a .250/.276/.347 batting line on the month of September. When paired with his two home runs, the Yankees second baseman has managed a weak 62 wRC+. Part of this might be rust after missing an extend period of time with a leg injury. That said, he hit .320/.370/.440 during his first seven games back. It looked like he didn’t miss a beat. The fact that he has since fallen off suggests something more than shaking off cobwebs is at work.

Since September 1st, Castro has posted an absurd 51.8% groundball rate. He hits a lot of groundballs to begin with — his career average sits at 49.5% -- but this mark proves unusually high. He also has struck out 22.4% of the time. Castro has a reputation as a free swinger, but his career norms work out to a 16.4% strikeout rate. Something is clearly off with his swing. Thankfully, he seems to know where the problem resides.

“I don’t really trust my hands now,” Castro told the New York Post earlier this month. “I feel in between right now. I’m trying to hit the curveball and fastball at the same time and it doesn’t work. I need to look for one pitch and react to the other one.”

Pitchers have recognized this indecisiveness and have thrown him a steady diet of breaking pitches. Sliders look like the weapon of choice. During the month of September, Castro has seen sliders at a 27% rate.

Nearly a quarter of all pitches thrown to Castro on the month have been slide pieces. Compare that to the season up until September, when he only saw sliders at 19.5%. Naturally small sample sizes play a role here. That said, opposing pitchers appear to recognize Castro’s struggles and have capitalized.

It’s encouraging that Castro has identified the problem. That’s something he can build on. He could work with Alan Cockrell and Marcus Thames to correct the issue, whether it’s a timing or mechanical hiccup. Sometimes diagnostics prove the most difficult part. Recognizing the issue allows the team to develop a strategy to overcome it.

The other bright side has nothing to do with Castro directly. His slump comes exactly at the time when the Yankees erupted into an offensive bonanza. The team owns a 120 wRC+ during the month of September. That represents the third best mark in all of baseball. Castro has been the weak link in a lineup with a ton of firepower. The club has the luxury of working through his difficulties because the rest of the offense is tearing the cover off the ball.

It’s never fun to watch a player struggle. That’s especially the case when a team heads into the final week of a pennant race. Nonetheless, Castro has timed his slump perfectly. The rest of the offense has gone parading this month. The Yankees can take their time to straighten out his swing. When they do figure it out, expect a boost to an already imposing lineup. After all, he played an integral part during the early season run. A rejuvenated Castro would put the cherry on top.