This just in: Starlin Castro is good at striking baseballs with his bat and having them land in fair territory and not in someone’s glove. Sometimes I feel that goes under-appreciated, though I’m certainly doing my best to turn the tide. Likewise, Castro’s play of late has been silencing his chorus of critics.
Since his debut in 2010, Castro has essentially been a hitting machine who has averaged 169 knocks in each of his first 5 seasons. When you consider that he missed the first month and change of his rookie year, not to mention the last month of 2014 to injury, that average becomes even more impressive.
One could easily argue that last season was Castro’s best offensive campaign yet, as he hit .292/.339/.438 with a career-high .777 OPS to go with 14 home runs and 65 RBI. He’s off to an even better start this year, slashing .329/.356/.429 with a .785 OPS and a 19-homer, 105-RBI pace.
With the exception of the sink-or-Sveum 2013 season, Starlin has been a stalwart in the Cubs’ lineup and has put up hit totals that compare very favorably with those of many of the greats of today’s game. Below is a chart of this decades hits leaders; I think you’ll find that Castro is pretty favorably ranked.
Given the age and/or health of the guys ahead of him, it’s entirely possible for Castro to do in the 2010’s what Mark Grace did with the Cubs in the 1990’s. And no, I’m not talking about slump-busters and public intox violations; Castro could very possibly end up as the decade’s hits leader.
While it’s possible that he’ll cool off and settle in a bit after this season’s hot start, there’s still no reason to doubt Castro’s ability to collect another 150+ hits over the next 145 games. Doing so would push him over the 1,000-hit mark and would put him in some pretty rarefied historical air when it comes to hit totals for shortstops.
The chart below was filtered to include totals from 1876 and beyond and to include those shortstops who had not yet turned 26. Castro’s current total is shown in bold and his theoretical year-end totals are in bold and italics. This relatively conservative estimate figured a total of 530 remaining ABs in 2015 (600 total minus 70 already) and a .285 average (his career mark).
I think that’s a list I’d be happy to be on at all, let alone in 6th place. I mean, to be 9 spots ahead of Jim Fregosi…woah. In all seriousness though, Castro continues to show himself to be a pretty elite talent, offensively speaking. And now that he appears to be more focused in the field, there’s potential for the “yeah, but his defense though” caveat to fade away as well.
And just think, this is a guy who has essentially been relegated to role player status and who could potentially be pushed even further from the limelight as young guys continue to develop. And I believe that might be in Castro’s best interest, truth be told. That’s not to say that he’s any less of a player, mind you, just that he’s not the guy receiving top billing.
With the focus on guys like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler, and Anthony Rizzo, Castro can just bring his lunchpail with him each day and keep putting in work and climbing up the charts in relative obscurity. I think more people will gain a greater appreciation for what the Cubs’ young shortstop has done and is doing when they’re able to view his work from a wider angle.
Put in the proper perspective, you can’t help but be impressed in looking over Castro’s exploits. What do you think about that, Starlin?