Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

The Future Is Now: Castro Arrives

Posted by dannmckeegan on May 7, 2010

He has arrived.  All of the Cubs’ problems have been solved.  He will  heal the cripples.  That would be Koyie Hill’s zombie hand, Xavier Nady’s rebuilt elbow, and Esmailin Caridad’s forearm, I suppose.

And he will also cure the ill: Lou Piniella’s heartburn and insomnia; the fans’ uneasy stomachs; Chad Tracy’s playing time.

Koyie Hill and his hand

Koyie Hill and his zombie hand pray in wait for the Cubs Baseball Savior, Starlin Castro. Now that he has risen through the farm system, Hill can safely return to the table saw. And how about that carpentry angle? Eerie, huh?

In fact, 1B/3B Chad Tracy has been optioned to Triple-A Iowa to make room for 20-year-old Starlin Castro on the roster.  Interestingly, it was Tracy who still does have options left.  I was under the impression that, like Baker and Fontenot, he was out of options and would have to clear waivers before being assigned.  Given Ramirez’s struggles and both the Ram’s and Derrek Lee’s recent injury issues, it’s good to know that he will get semi-regular at-bats in case he has to be called back up.

Ryan Theriot is now a second baseman.  He probably got a phone call in the hotel in Cincinnati this morning, and chances are he told GM Jim Hendry something along the lines of, “Mike, you do this every morning, and it isn’t funny,” assuming that Hendry was actually Fontenot making the call.

This is one of those moves that could easily have been made in March, really, and Theriot’s return to the keystone might mess with his current hot start.  I look forward to seeing the kid, but it’s probably best that he debuts on the road.

The big IF, of course, is what the team does under a pair of concurrent circumstances:

1) IF Castro succeeds and Colvin continues to excel,


2) IF the team as a whole remains around .500,


What will Jim Hendry do in July?  Four of the largest contracts on the team (Soriano, Zambrano, Ramirez, and Lee) are protected by full no-trade clauses and are unmovable based on performance, anyway.  Fukudome would draw interest if he can keep his average above .280 and continue to hit for some power and production, but the Cubs would still have to eat some of the $25mm or so still owed him through next year.  Another useful piece, Ted Lilly, is only movable for prospects as a rent-a-player IF he can be consistent back from injury.

Jim Hendry opened a can of worms this morning.  A whole lot of questions have just sprung out.

Added to this entry:

Dan Bernstein of WSCR-670AM Chicago read from Bryan Smith’s piece just published on FanGraphs.  Here’s a quick snippet of the piece:

There will be varied opinions on how this move will effect Castro’s development, there is also the factor of whether or not Castro will make the Cubs better. Castro is essentially replacing the duo of Fontenot and Baker, a second base team that has put up a cumulative .262/.310/.346 batting line this year[…]This .330 wOBA is Castro’s benchmark, a level he must hit at for Jim Hendry’s drastic move to hold any kind of water. There are also the defensive ramifications, as Baker and Fontenot both had 1.5 UZR through the last fielding update.

I do have to take issue with this tunnel vision that occasionally permeates sabermetric analysis.  The Castro move does a lot of other things.  It is NOT the same as betting on black rather than red at the roulette table, or changing from the Top Hat to the Boot in Monopoly.  Here are the immediate effects:

  1. Castro playing shortstop moves Theriot to second base, which affects both positions defensively.
  2. Both changes will affect how Ramirez at 3B and Lee at 1B look defensively based on comfort and familiarity.
  3. The removal of Chad Tracy from the roster makes Xavier Nady the “everyday backup” first baseman, which not only gets Nady more regular plate appearances, but ALSO helps solve the outfield log jam that has given Lou headaches.
  4. Likewise, Tracy’s removal makes Fontenot and Baker into the multi-positional super-subs who can fill in as needed, providing a pair of reliable bench bats from either side of the plate.
  5. By putting Castro into the lineup, the Cubs will be better able to survive Koyie Hill’s offensive offense.  Castro being a rookie, batting him 8th for a while will get him better stuff to hit.  Putting Hill seventh will give him the chance to bunt over the middle-of-the-lineup base-cloggers, while Castro will have more opportunities to take walks (ahead of the pitcher) and to produce runs.

That’s just an initial reaction.  Don’t be cowed by the saber stats.  They are descriptive and incredibly useful used as such, but they need to be appreciated historically but without succumbing to the narrative and ludic (below) fallacies as explained by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.  All you need is one – 1 – black swan to blow everything out of the water.  And everything is interconnected on the actual field.  Castro’s promotion to play shortstop makes Xavier Nady a better hitter in right field and at first.  Don’t lose that.

Definitions, from the glossary of Taleb’s The Black Swan: the Impact of the Highly Improbable

Ludic fallacy (or uncertainty of the nerd): Manifestation of the Platonic fallacy in the study of uncertainty; basing studies of chance on the narrow world of games and dice. APlatonic randomness has an additional layer of uncertainty concerning the rules of the game of real life. The Bell curve (Gaussian) or GIF, great intellectual fraud, is the  application of the ludic fallacy to randomness.

Narrative fallacy: our need to fit a story or pattern to a series of connected or disconnected facts.  The statistical application is data mining.


One Response to “The Future Is Now: Castro Arrives”

  1. Jerry Porzemsky said

    Very well written, but sometimes elusive punchlines which need elaboration. Good job – the second coming of Dan Bernstein.

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