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Cleveland — Analytics without context can distort the picture.

Tigers’ right fielder Nick Castellanos went into the game Sunday hitting .300, with a .346 on-base average and a .483 slugging percentage. His OPS was .829, and his weighted on-base average was .355, 22nd in the American League.

He has nine home runs and leads the Tigers with 41 RBIs. Good year, but not a great year, right?

How much better would he be, though, if some of these numbers were better:

■ 38.4 percent balls swung at outside the strike zone, 22nd most in the major leagues and his highest rate since 2013;

■ 16 percent whiff rate — total percentage of pitches he swings and misses at — fifth highest rate in the major leagues;

■ 54.6 percent swing rate, which is the percentage of all pitches swung at;

■ 5.3 walk rate, 24th lowest in the major leagues;

■ 22.4 percent strikeout rate;

■ 0.24 percentage of walks to strikeouts, 19th worst in the major leagues.

Compare those numbers to Victor Martinez’s career numbers: 27.3 percent swings outside the strike zone, 5.3 whiff rate, 44.3 percent swing percentage.

Certainly, Castellanos would benefit from better plate discipline. But, as often is the case, it’s not that cut-and-dry. There’s more to the equation than just having a better eye and more patience at the plate.

“He’s an aggressive hitter,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He will learn the strike zone. But some of the things that go into him as a hitter is he believes he needs to pick up the team, so he’s hacking.”

That is the reality for Castellanos. With Miguel Cabrera out for the season, with Martinez’s production numbers in decline, the burden is on him to produce runs, not traffic on the bases.

“We need him to drive in runs,” Gardenhire said. “He’s a doubles guy. We have a guy on first and he takes a walk — that’s great. Perfect. So he leaves it up to the next guy to drive in the run. When with one swing he can hit a double or a home run.”

There was a game recently where Gardenhire gave Castellanos the green light to swing away on a 3-0 pitch. Castellanos ended up swinging at a pitch out of the strike zone and ultimately made an out.

“He asked me about it and I’m like, ‘I’d rather see you do that than just stand there. Take a rip and see what happens,’” he said. “That ball was too high. But if I give you the green light, it means somewhere in there I am looking for you to cut the deficit.

“He’s a swinger. He can take his walks. He knows how to do that. But I think he’s a swinger and it’s hard to change those guys.”

Castellanos walked twice in the game Saturday. He was stranded on the bases both times. With the present construction of the Tigers’ lineup, there is not as much value in Castellanos taking a ton of walks.

“I like how he’s aggressive,” Gardenhire said. “He’s comfortably aggressive. He’s got great reach with his swing. He hits a lot of balls out of the zone because he’s got some length to his swing. I don’t want to force anything on that guy. Just let him keep developing.

“He’ll develop a strike zone the more he gets comfortable and the more he’s surrounded by protection. There’s not a lot of protection around him right now.”

Bottom line: Gardenhire wants Castellanos to stay on the attack at the plate, regardless of the secondary metrics.

“I worry about a lot of things in our lineup — he’s not one of them,” Gardenhire said. “I know that when he’s swinging better, we’re playing better.”

Back on the horse

Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario struck out four times Saturday and, given that Gardenhire has been looking for a way to give him a game off, you expected to see Niko Goodrum at third base Sunday.

Nope. Candelario was back in the No. 2 spot in the Tigers’ lineup.

“It wasn’t going to be today,” Gardenhire said. “We had a long conversation about it. I think if you sit out after four punch-outs, that’s not going to help you. It would just give him another day of going stir crazy. We’re going to let him hit.

“He will get his rest. We have this big stretch of games coming up (20 in 20 days), he’s going to get a day. But we’re just so thin right now with three bench players. But with all these games, everybody is going to get a chance to play.”

Around the horn

Tigers center fielder Leonys Martin had two outfield assists Saturday, giving him eight on the season. That is tied with Seattle’s Mitch Haniger for the major-league lead. Since 2013, Martin has 58 outfield assists, which is tied with former Tiger Yoenis Cespedes for second among active players — one behind leader Gerardo Parra (59).

… Gardenhire said pitcher Drew VerHagen (broken nose) won’t be able to resume baseball activities for two weeks.

Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias and Martin, both Cuban natives, will be sworn in as United States citizens in a naturalization ceremony prior to the game against the Athletics on Monday at Comerica Park.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/cmccosky

 

 


 

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