Nick Castellanos' batting average (.232) - and WAR for that matter - have a problem.
It was mentioned a few weeks ago on one of the baseball intelligentsia sites, but I'll bring it up again because of the stats I peered over.
Castellanos is hitting the ball too hard.
Yea, nice problem we all wish we all had playing high school baseball.
Granted, Castellanos isn't doing his BA, OBP (.267), or OPS (.693) any good by striking out so much (20% of the time) or walking so little (4.4%). His WAR after a month is a flat 0.0. But keep in mind, WAR favors base stealers.
Unless opponents are willing and able to add defenders, such as going from 9 of them to 13 or 14 of them, there's not much reason to concern yourself about Castellanos' sour rookie season stats as a Tiger.
He's actually doing everything I expected of him. Scorching balls from down in the lineup, NOT stealing or running the bases with much merit, and playing just adequate enough defense for us to say the Tigers made a marginal upgrade there from Cabrera. Though that really may be a stretch. He's certainly not making plays like Colorado's fielding phenom, Nolan Arenado, is. MUST SEE VIDEO HERE.
We've briefly discussed these before, but to me, line drive percentage (LD%) is the best way to influence your batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Luck is a factor as well.
More anecdotally speaking, line drives are less likely to find gloves, with the exception of balls that leave the park.
From Fangraphs, line drives produce 1.26 runs per out, where as flyballs are .13 R/O and groundballs just .05 R/O.
League average LD% is around 20.
Let's create the context for Castellanos scorched glove policy.
For his career, Miguel Cabrera's LD% is 21.6. His last three years of batting titles, his LD% are 21.7, 24 and 23.3. It's difficult to say any player hits the ball more frequently and with more velocity than Cabrera.
Because of the tenacity with which the ball routinely leaves Cabrera's bat, his career BABIP is .346.
League average-ish BABIP is .290-.310.
Of hitters with at least 60 at bats so far in 2014, Castellanos has the third highest LD% in all of baseball at 34.3.
Meanwhile, his .234 BABIP is 26th among ALL qualified third basemen. The not so inimitable Kelly Johnson is 27th, and his LD% is a meek 9.1.
It's an improbable amount of bad luck that's quashing any chance at a shinier offensive numbers so far this year for the Tigers rookie third baseman.
It's extremely unlikely that he'll continue lace line drives in more than a third of the balls he puts play. You can expect that number to plummet, but not to levels below league average. You can also expect Castellanos to astutely learn the league as he did last year in Toledo - where he was torrid all summer - helping his BB% to rise and his K% to drop.
Since there's no law of averages, the law of large numbers tells us if Castellanos keeps lacing line drives 20 percent-or-more of the time, they will find places where they ain't. And if not...expect karmic justice to step in and aid a few Castellanos thousand hoppers past a litany of gloves. Or when some of his cans of corn fall harmlessly to the blades of grass in front of a trio of I GOT ITS.
If you (I, me...) surmised Castellanos would finish the season with 17 homers and 70 some RBIs, with a .260 average, have no fear at this point. They really can't catch everything.