Cubs' Castro continues to be hot-button issue

Has Starlin Castro regressed?

You be the judge.

Or let the numbers tell the story.

The struggling Cubs shortstop went 0-for-4 in Thursday night's 6-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

A National League all-star in 2011 and 2012, Castro has yet to find it this year at the plate, and he continues to be a work in progress in the field.

Entering the game, he had a hitting line of .235/.269/.327 with 3 home runs, 24 RBI, 11 walks and 55 strikeouts.

Here are his batting lines for the previous three seasons:

Ÿ2010: 300/.347/.408 with 3 homers and 41 RBI.

Ÿ2011: 307/.341/.432 with 10 homers and 66 RBI.

Ÿ2012: 283/.323/.430 with 14 homers and 78 RBI.

Clearly, Castro has not been productive this season, and if you believe in things such as wins above replacement (WAR), he is a negative-value player.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who has been critical of Castro's approach at the plate all season, indicated to reporters in St. Louis that he believes Castro has gone backward.

“By numbers alone, he's regressed, there's no question about it,” Sveum said. “He's getting way, way down as far as all the other shortstops in baseball right now, as far as the offensive part. He's under a .600 OPS. So that would go without saying that he's regressed.”

Those words may or may not endear Sveum to bosses Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, who are heavily invested in Castro not regressing. The former Cubs administration signed and developed Castro, but Epstein and Hoyer signed him to a seven-year, $60 million contract extension last year.

Speaking on ESPN 1000 radio Thursday, Epstein discussed Castro.

“Failure is innate in baseball; it's inevitable,” Epstein said on the Waddle and Silvy show, with Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman. “It's actually an important part in the development of the development process.

“Starlin is someone who went very quickly through the upper minor leagues. If you look at the number of at-bats he had at the Double-A and Triple-A level, there are not very many and he was in the big leagues instantly and had success.”

Castro's batting average fell to .232 with Thursday's 0-for-4, but he was hardly alone in getting little done against Cardinals starter Lance Lynn and the St. Louis bullpen.

Alfonso Soriano (.245) was 0-for-4. Luis Valbuena had 2 walks, but he was 0-for-2. Also going hitless was Nate Schierholtz, as the Cubs managed just 5 hits.

Cubs starting pitcher Scott Feldman took the loss, falling to 6-6 with a 3.39 ERA. Feldman, who has been dependable all year, ran his pitch count up to 105 over 513 innings, as he gave up 6 hits and 5 runs.

Cards top Cubs 6-1 as Lynn wins his 10th

Cubs scouting report

Cubs vs. Houston Astros at Wrigley Field

TV: Comcast SportsNet Friday and Sunday; WGN Saturday

Radio: WGN 720-AM

Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Matt Garza (1-1) vs. Dallas Keuchel (4-3) Friday at 1:20 p.m.; Travis Wood (5-6) vs. Bud Norris (5-7) Saturday at 3:05 p.m.; Jeff Samardzija (4-7) vs. Jordan Lyles (4-1) Sunday at 1:20 p.m.

At a glance: It will be hard getting used to the Astros being an interleague opponent, but they make their first visit to Wrigley Field as an American League team. Thursday, the Astros (28-46) beat Milwaukee on a walk-off, 3-run homer by former Cub Carlos Pena. Houston is last in the AL West but has played well lately. The Astros are last in the AL in team ERA (4.65) and 14th in on-base percentage (.298). Jose Altuve leads the Astros in batting average and hits, while Chris Carter's 14 homers lead the team. The pitching matchups should be good this weekend. Despite their records, Wood has an ERA of 2.74 and Samardzija 3.35 for the Cubs.

Next: Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park, Tuesday-Thursday

— Bruce Miles

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