Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Cubbie Gold"

April was a great month for the Cubs young middle infielders Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney. Castro was featured on this month’s cover of Sports Illustrated and Barney was named the NL Rookie of the Month. Not only are the number one and two hitters in the Cubs lineup having spectacular individual starts, but they are proving to be the best offensive duo of middle infielders in the NL Central.

The combination of Castro and Barney lead all NL Central combinations of middle infielders in runs, hits, average, and surprisingly runs batted in. These offensive numbers are extremely impressive considering the NL central contains many offensive powerhouse middle infielders, such as Rickie Weeks and Brandon Phillips.

Despite the fact that the Cubs as a team are at the bottom of the NL in runs scored, the duo have scored a combined 33 runs (Barney with 15 and Castro with 18 runs scored). The next closest duo would be a tie between the Brewers’ Weeks and Yunesky Betancourt and the Astros’ Angel Sanchez and Bill Hall with 29 runs scored. Castro actually leads all NL central shortstops in the category and only Weeks and Phillips have more with 21 and 22 runs scored.

Nobody comes close to the amount of hits the two “cubbies” have put up with 72 (Barney with 32 and Castro [above] with an amazing 40). Castro tied a major league record having 40 hits in the month of April by a player 21 years of age; Alex Rodriguez broke the record in 1997.

Castro ‘s tally of 40 hits is a division best with only three other players having more than Barney (Phillips has 34, while Weeks and Neil Walker from the Pirates have 33).

The amazing number of hits for both players have translated into a terrific start in their batting average as Castro is hitting .315 and Barney .317; combined they are hitting a division best .315. Only Brandon Phillips is hitting better than either of them at a .340 clip, and the only other middle infielder in the division that is at the .300 mark is Weeks, who is dead even at .300.

The surprising statistic is the fact that the duo is tops in combined runs batted in by middle infielders with 26. This is shocking because Castro and Barney are the number one and two hitters in the order. They are expected to get on base and score, which they have had no problem doing, but driving in runs has been an unexpected bonus, especially for a team that has been struggling to plate runs thus far this season. Barney and Castro are second and third on the Cubs in runs batted in; Alfonso Soriano leads the club with 21 largely due to his impressive 11 home runs he has batted in.

The Reds and Astros’s are very close behind the Cubs with 25 RBI’s between the middle infielders.

The only thing you would like to see Castro and Barney (above) do more of is take a walk. Both players do an excellent job making contact with the baseball, but Castro’s OBP is .341 and Barney’s is .340. These are respectable OBP but this is largely due to them getting hits; Barney has only taken 3 walks while Castro 4. You want to see your number one and two guys in the order work counts and draw lead off walks to rattle pitchers and throw them off their rhythms. However, both players do not strike out very much. Actually, they both have only struck out 10 times, so if they keep making contact and getting on base, why complain about their approach?

The first month of the season has been rough for the Cubs; however, Castro and Barney have given the Cubs some positive buzz with their hot starts. If Castro can continue to avoid the sophomore slump and Barney continues his impressive rookie campaign, the young infielders give the fans and organization hope for not only a competitive season but also a bright future.

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