As Fangraphs' Wendy Thrum notes, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has been thrown out on the bases more often this season (five caught stealings) than he has drawn ball four (four walks). Castro likely won't become the first full-time player to pull off the '"feat" since Ozzie Guillen in the late eighties and early nineties if he shows even slightly better plate discipline from here on out. But Thrum's tidbit highlights just how much of a free swinger the 22-year-old has been in 2012.
During his first two years in the majors, Castro swung at between 32 and 33 percent of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone (excluding those lobbed during intentional walks). In 2012, the Cubs' potential franchise player has gone after 43 percent of pitches thrown out of the zone. That makes him the game's biggest hacker this side of Josh Hamilton.
Most of those extra swings have come on pitches way in on his hands. Check out his swing rate by pitch location in 2010-11, and then this season:
Breaking it down by pitch type, Castro has chased considerably more fastballs/sinkers and changeups. And he's the undisputed slider chase king:
|Pitch||2010-11 Chase Rate||2012 Chase Rate|
With Castro lunging at so many would-be balls, his unintentional walk rate has dipped from 4.5 percent in 2010-11 to just 1.9 percent in 2012. The lack of free passes hasn't hurt so far, as his 108 OPS+ this season is a slight improvement over his 107 mark the previous two years.
Castro strikes out at a moderate clip (a career 14 percent K rate) and he seems to have established himself as a batter who gets more hits on balls in play than most (his career BABIP is .346). Those traits have allowed Castro to post the eighth-best OPS+ ever among shortstops getting at least 1,000 plate appearances through age 22, according to Baseball-Reference. There's plenty to like already, and years for him to add polish before he reaches his presumptive peak. He could be a Derek Jeter doppelganger. But you have to wonder: Can Castro become a truly elite player while taking this many cuts?