Deep Impact: Cubs Cast Their Lot In The Nick Of Time

At the trade deadline the Cubs acquired Nicholas Castellanos. While I expected to see a bump in his production and counting stats, I did not foresee him going into the subway, transported to another dimension by a wizard (who strangely looks like Harry Caray), and due to the purity of his soul gets imbued with the power to become Ernie Banks. The Wisdom of Solomon also seems to have made him a philosopher, as seen HERE. Now he’s taking everyone deep. On the awful Tigers Castellanos was going nowhere this year; he was barely above MLB average value and through 100 games he only had 11 home runs. Since joining the Cubs, in 20 games he already has 8. Nick is crushing it and just in time for Cubbies trying maintain their lead on the NL Central pennant, so let’s dive in and take a look…

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BB% K% BABIP AVG OBP SLG ISO
Pre-trade 7.1% 21.9% .332 .273 .328 .462 .189
Post-trade 5.7% 19.5% .404 .378 .414 .756 .378

So we already knew he was hitting out of his freaking mind, this merely articulates (word of the day) it numerically and visually. His BABIP is up a tick or 2 but that can attributed to the HRs. BB/K is virtually the same even given the small sample size on the Cubs. Not only is he swinging a hot bat, he is crushing the ball. In this window of time he has essentially doubled his ISO. Holy Cow! That will clearly not continue. Lets take a look under the hood and see if he’s doing something different that might continue some of this magic through the rest of the season.

GB% LD% FB% HR/FB% Pull% Hard%
Pre-trade 38.2 23.3 38.5 9.2 41.1 42.7
Post-trade 38.5 26.2 35.4 34.8 41.5 40.0

Surprisingly, his batted ball profile looks nearly the same so far with the exception of more balls leaving the yard. HR/FB at nearly 35% is cray cray. That is not sustainable (obviously). His best season in 2017 it was all of 14.3% and that was less than half. One commenter shared an overlay of Nick’s batted balls at Wrigley Field to show there might be something in the tea leaves, HERE. If every game was in Wrigley it would equal roughly 30+ HRs. Cool story bro. So “Because Wrigley” could be an easy answer and move on; but, when you look at his game log, 5 of the 8 have been in away games (@CIN, @PHI, @PIT). Maybe there is a ballpark factor (just not Wrigley) and the quality of opponents scheduling window at play. Either way, it’s likely inflating numbers early on.

Fastballs Breaking Offspeed
Pre-trade 52.4% 36.7% 10.9%
Post-trade 62.2% 29.9% 7.9%

His batted balls look the same, his plate discipline looks the same (take my word for it), so this may be the explanation for his sudden surge. A combination of good luck and an increased diet of fastballs. And over the course of his career, he’s faired best against the heater. This year alone he is batting .341 with a .578 SLG against them. 4 of his Cubs homerunshave come at the expense of Fourseamers which he has been mashing at a .550 clip since heading to Chi-town.

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What does this mean in the end? Besides leaving a dead team and going to a contender that may have renewed his vigor for the season and seeing everyday as Opening Day, not a lot to be gleaned here. As far as the data is concerned, he doesn’t appear to be doing anything different besides jumping on higher frequency fastballs. Batted ball data is pretty neutral, discipline numbers is neutral, and performance against pitches is relatively neutral. Can the NL really be that lazy with their scouting reports? Homeboy likes fastballs. how about you throw him a curve more than 8% of the time, no?

If you were one of the lucky ones to snatch him up at the deadline or soon after continue to ride the lightning while he’s hot, as he’ll turn back into Billy Batson at some point. However, Nick is solid hitter when right with a pretty dependable hit tool good for around .280+ and 20-25 HRs across a full season, and hitting in the Cubs 2-hole should at least give him good counting stats the rest of the way. I just wouldn’t count on him being Ernie Banks.

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