Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has been in a deep slump for more than a month, but at least he still had his consecutive-game streak to fall back on; until Tuesday, that is.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum decided to give Castro the night off against the Milwaukee Brewers, snapping his 269-game streak cold.
Fantasy owners likely didn't wait that long to park Castro on the bench. After all, the shortstop is hitting .153 (21-for-137) with zero homers, four RBI and a 32/5 K/BB in his last 33 games.
Castro was drafted with an ADP of 43.2 in Yahoo! leagues, third among shortstops after Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes, and it's not hard to see why. Castro increased both his homer and steal totals in each of the last three seasons from his rookie-year total of three home runs and 10 steals. He put up averages of .300, .307 and .283 in his first three seasons and hit 14 homers and stole 25 bases a year ago.
Castro has made an effort to be more selective at the plate this season, but all it has led to is an increased strikeout rate, from 14.5 percent to 18.7 percent, and a decreased walk rate, from 5.2 percent to 3.7 percent, from 2012.
The shortstop has swung at a career-low 22 percent of first pitches this season, up from 31 percent last year, and his chase rate also is down from 37.4 percent to 34.5 percent. However, his contact rate on pitches in the strike zone has decreased from 91.1 percent to 89.6 percent, and his foul-ball rate is up from 26 percent to 28 percent.
Castro's power has actually gone backwards, and that's not only evident in the home run department.
He hasn't exactly been a top-tier slugger in his career, but he had a career-high 8.0 percent HR/FB last year and batted .256 (44-for-172) with 35 extra-base hits on flyballs last season. This year, his HR/FB is 3.5 percent and he's batted just .174 (15-for-86) with 12 extra-base hits on flyballs.
Castro's flyball rate has skyrocketed to 40.3 percent in June, with 20 percent of those flyballs failing to get out of the infield and none leaving the park. As a result, his BABIP is just .177 for the month. Castro's strikeout percentage for the month is also his worst of the season at 24.7 percent.
The 23-year-old was better in April and May, but he still wasn't performing up to expectations. He batted .264 with three homers, a .661 OPS, a 16.5 percent strikeout rate and a 3.8 percent walk rate in the first two months. He had an 18.1 percent line-drive rate and a 32.4 percent flyball rate in that span.
There's really nothing to suggest Castro will return to form this year besides blind faith. Cubs fans should be used to that feeling by now -- after 105 years without a World Series title, blind faith is all they have left.
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