If four strikeouts in a game is the “golden sombrero,” what do you call three grounded into double plays in the same game? How about three in the first six innings of a game? How about three in the first six innings of a game on just four pitches?
The “tres dobles jugadas?” Nah, that’s not catching on.
Nick Castellanos pulled off that difficult feat in Tuesday’s ugly 8-0 loss to the Padres, but it should not overshadow what has been a solid bounce-back season for the right fielder. But the fact the first two came on the first pitch of an at-bat against San Diego starter Pedro Avila, who didn’t have good command of anything, was frustrating, but it’s not season-altering by any stretch.
To be sure, Castellanos is not the only reason the Phillies lost the second game of this three-game series with the Padres. Bryce Harper is mired in a baffling 0-for-19 slump and Michael Lorenzen’s string of disappointing outings since his no-hitter four starts ago continued, but Castellanos’ approach of late has been interesting to say the least.
In July, he hit the skids, batting .162 with a .497 OPS, but bounced back last month to the tune of a .293 average, eight home runs and an .860 OPS. He joined the month-long team-wide hit parade with some huge knocks and, generally speaking, has been a solid, middle-of-the-order bat throughout the season.
A 3-run shot by Nick Castellanos makes it an EIGHT RUN LEAD for the Phillies— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) August 27, 2023
The Phillies set a franchise record with 47 home runs hit this month
: FOX pic.twitter.com/XlAGdnxkNK
But something happened between the season’s first three months and what we’ve seen over the last 2+.
After posting solid walk rates and an acceptable strikeout rate from April to June, his walk rate has plummeted while his strikeout rate has jumped. And while his solid August seemed to render those plate discipline stats meaningless, perhaps that kind of success, while walking that infrequently and striking out that much, is unsustainable.
The numbers tell you Castellanos is also not taking the ball up the middle with any authority of late.
- Mar/Apr: 46.3% Pull, 31.7% Cent, 22.0% Oppo
- May: 46.6% Pull, 34.2% Cent, 19.2% Oppo
- June: 40.5% Pull, 33.8% Cent, 25.7% Oppo
- July: 42.2% Pull, 35.9% Cent, 21.9% Oppo
- August: 54.1% Pull, 20.0% Cent, 25.9% Oppo
- Sept: 76.9% Pull, 7.7% Cent, 15.4% Oppo
Now, it should be noted the Phillies have played only five games in September, so the sample size is extremely small, but going back to August, it sure looks like Castellanos was beginning to send more balls to his pull side, and fewer up the middle. His 53.8% ground ball rate so far this month is also elevated, but again, small sample size caveats abound.
To be clear, no one should be panicking over Nick Castellanos. It may only be a weird anomaly that he has walked only five times since the All Star Break, or it could be a change to his approach that allowed him to be more aggressive, put more balls in play and, last month at least, be a productive run producer. No one is going to care about how often he walks if he’s getting big hits, posts a solid slugging percentage and stays out of the double plays.
There’s no great right-handed hitting alternative for the No. 2 hole with Trea out, so the Phils will just have to hope he avoids “tres dobles jugadas” again in the series finale.