Cubs Report Cards: Starlin Castro’s Polarizing Season Hard to Judge

If the Cubs were in high school, Starlin Castro would be that underachieving smart kid, the one who frustrates teachers who know he should be getting better grades as they watch him struggle. Heck, he knows he should be doing better. I suppose this is where I cleverly insert a dig at a local beat writer who shall go unnamed (hint: it rhymes with Schmordon Schmittenschmyer) for suggesting — despite a lack of evidence — that Castro has ADD. Although, based on the context, wouldn’t that kinda be giving him credit?

The best thing about Starlin Castro has often been the worst, or is at least what has spawned the worst of the invective hurled his way over the years. People have said he’s lazy (not true), flighty (kinda true), and a detriment to the team (true at times). But if he was just some cup-of-coffe-and-done schlub, no one would care. When you burst onto the scene batting over .300 and leading the league in hits, well, folks tend to get expectationy.

And we all know what happens when folks get expectationy: they want those expectations met, dammit! Castro just isn’t a guy from whom consistent performance should be expected though; he’s always been on the streaky side. I mean, baseball is, by its very nature, a game of potential prolonged periods of failure. But over the last few years, those streaks seem to have become more prolonged for #13. I’m intentionally avoiding using any analytical data here because I don’t care in this situation.

As what looked like a forgettable season for Castro dragged on, the long-held perceptions became such a reality that the player actually appeared to be living out our worst fears for him. After a strong start, he regressed both at the plate and in the field and was eventually benched in favor of Addison Russell. The fire from all the hot takes had finally grown hot enough to consume a great deal of the logic of even Castro’s most staunch supporters.

But in a scene best likened to that of the Grinch pulling the Who’s Christmas back from the void as some form of magical cardiomyopathy causes his heart to grow so large it actually breaks Dr. Seuss’s heart-measuring device, Castro found a way to go from goat to great. He reinvented himself as a second baseman and, as such, became a sympathetic figure and a rallying point for the Cubs and their fans.

Think for a moment how crazy that is. Not that Castro regained favor, but that he did it at second without being a scrappy, grindy white guy. Now that, my friends, is an impressive feat in Cubdom. He wasn’t perfect, wasn’t completely set free from the bouts of where-am-Itis that have so plagued him throughout his career. But Castro found himself again after looking somewhat lost.

And now, just as he has done so, come the reports that the Cubs may be looking to shop him. While I’m all in favor of the team doing what it needs to do to really push into that next level, I just don’t want to see Castro elsewhere. While I’ve not always taken it easy on him, I think Starlin is the player about whom I feel the worst being critical of. He’s also the one I take the most joy from celebrating.

While the stats certainly play a role in this grade, I’m not using them here because I don’t think I need them to make my point. Besides, statistics alone don’t give the true measure of Castro’s season. And please don’t take that as some sort of anti-SABR crusader motto, because it’s not. It’s just, I don’t know, you can go look at Castro’s stats pre- and post-switch and compare them all you want. I’ve done enough of that already.

This mark could have been far worse had Castro not steadied himself after his benching. But from that point forward, he was a really solid member of a team that came 4 wins away from the World Series (I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I get it). The line wasn’t great in the end, but there was a time when even I was about ready to cut bait on the guy. Castro put in plenty of extra credit and wound up with what is, in my eyes at least, a pretty respectable effort.

Final grade: B-


Other grades:

Anthony Rizzo

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