Dear Yankee Fans: Starlin Castro is not as good as you think he is.
He is not.
For some fun I went to the annual Yankees “Keep ‘Em or Dump ‘Em” feature by the New York Daily News. When it came to Starlin Castro, I hit “DUMP HIM.”
As a general rule, I don’t care for second basemen who can’t get on base, and can’t make up for it with their glove. For the third time in four years, the free-swinging Castro failed to eclipse a .300 on base percentage, and I can never imagine him eclipsing fielding mediocrity.
As of today, 92% of Yankee fans disagreed and clicked “KEEP HIM”.
I’m not saying it’s the most scientific poll in sports history, but it sure seems like Yankee fans have high hopes for Castro. Only Masahiro Tanaka, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius logged higher “KEEP HIM” scores.
Some fans are seduced by Starlin’s past All-Star status, his youth (he’s only 26), his promise to return to glory, or his surprising power this year (21 HRs).
Starlin Castro is an illusion impersonating a really good ball player.
In 2016, that illusion came after his first three games, as Castro impersonated Robinson Cano, Joe Morgan and Jackie Robinson all rolled up into one. In that opening series, Castro went 7-for-12 (.583) with two home runs, two doubles and eight runs batted in.
Then came “The Starlin Slump.”
In the next 100 games, Castro’s slash line of batting average/OBP/OPS was .244/.282/.647
That’s one hundred games.
Here’s the crazy thing: Castro’s 100 game slumps are no anomaly.
In 2015, Castro came out blazing in his first 19 games (.342/.366/.796).
Then the next 102 Games: .219/.253/.545.
In 2013 Castro came out strong his first 14 games (.311/.333/.842)
Then he basically took the rest of the season off (145 games): .238/.279/.610.
The reason 2013 was Castro’s very worst season is because unlike most other years he didn’t bounce back with a strong August and September.
Castro is one of the most fascinating players in baseball, and there are at least three reasons fans have high hopes.
1. “MR. APRIL”
George Steinbrenner once called Yankee great Dave Winfield “Mr. May”. It was an unfair cheap shot, and considering that the Hall of Famer’s No. 31 is now worn by Aaron Hicks instead of retired next to Monument Park, the cheap shots continue from Steinbrenner’s sons.
Starlin Castro is “Mr. April’ — and he has earned it.
Castro through May 1st:
2016: .314/.352/.853; — Next 101: .249/.284/.685
2015: .333/.356/.769; — Next 100: .219/.253/.546
2014: .308./339/.811; — Next 81 (he was shut down in September with an ankle injury): .255/.315/.714
2013: .284/.303/.725; — Next 100: .224/.265/.574
A masher in April and May, Starlin Castro goes on vacation in the summer.
(Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports)
Castro had his third All-Star season in 2014 because he didn’t slump as bad or as long.
In the minds of fans, sequence is important. It is far better to be Mr. April than Mr. July.
Ask any Yankee fan if they believe Scott Brosius is a clutch playoff performer and most will say “yes” based on his unexpected 1998 postseason (.383 BA) that included a World Series MVP. We tend to remember 1998, his dramatic 9th-inning home run in the 2001 World Series, and images of Brosius’ arms pumped in the air.
Yet, Brosius also hit just .201 in nine playoff series after 1998. But that doesn’t matter. In fairness to Brosius, who was acquired for his defense, little was expected from his bat. It is not a commentary on Scott’s hitting, only our memory of his hitting.
First impressions matter.
The reverse is true for Alex Rodriguez who absolutely carried the Yankees on his back through the 2009 postseason (.365 BA/.500 OBP/1.307 OPS) on the way to a Yankees championship. A-Rod’s biggest flaw on the field was winning that Yankee title in 2009 instead of 2004.
Such re-sequencing would have avoided the dreaded narrative as a postseason loser — a sports media favorite that relies on villains.
Had A-Rod had the exact same Yankee postseason career with 2004 and 2009 reversed, he would’ve purchased himself immunity for future failure. It also could have produced a modicum of dignity from Yankee management by allowing him to finish his career with a proper ending and 700 home runs. But once media narratives are set — good or bad — they are almost impossible to override.
“Mr. April” leaves a great impression early which helps him garner him a 100 game line of credit. If Castro started out each season slumping for over three months, Yankee fans would call for his head before the All-Star break. The Starlin Seduction also includes leaving a strong last impression, too.
2) “THE CASTRO COMEBACK”
Starlin finishes strong. In his final 45 games in 2016, Castro came back and hit .306/.320/.858 including a power surge of 10 home runs and 28 RBI. Led by rookie phenom Gary Sanchez, Castro helped Yankees to a 28-17 record over that span.
Such a finish would understandably bring future hope to Yankee fans. Cubs fans have seen this movie before.
Courtesy of the always-indispensable Baseball-Reference.com, here’s Castro’s career split into months.
MONTH | BA | OBP | SLG | OPS
MARCH/APRIL – .316 | .342 | .447 | .789
MAY – .259 | .296 | .375 | .671
JUNE – .256 | .298 | .382 | .681
JULY – .256 | .297 | .369 | .666
AUGUST – .302 | .338 | .449 | .787
SEPT/OCT. – .299 | .346 | .441 | .787
Castro has been an All-Star in April, August and September, but a shell of himself in the three months in between.
He’s is the most consistent inconsistent player in major league baseball.
The chart above includes his first three stellar seasons with the Cubs where he won the Rookie of the Year followed by two All-Star seasons all by the young age of 22. When only counting the last four seasons (including 2014 All-Star season), it gets worse for Yankee fans:
2013-2016 Castro Stats
.308 BA; .335 OBP; .806 OPS — Thru May 1
Starlin Castro’s stats are empty, with solid Aprils, Mays and Septembers masking hollow Junes, Julys and Augusts.
(Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
.235 BA; .281 OBP; .622 OPS — May 2-July 31
In August and September Castro reverts back almost exactly to his April form — which always gives fans hope for next year.
Starlin Castro is a baseball riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma that defies conventional explanation. The goal here is not to explain Castro — only his future.
And it doesn’t look bright. It rarely does for a “former All-Star”.
3. “FORMER ALL-STAR”
Nothing has been more detrimental to the Yankees decline than the words “former All-Star.” The Yankee bosses and GM Brian Cashman truly believe that the Yankee uniform is an actual time machine that will transport players back to 2006 (see Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, Alfonso Soriano, Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkilis, Brian Roberts, Ichiro, etc.).
No Yankee decision this decade has been more devastating than investing $238 million in former All-Stars Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann instead of future homegrown Hall of Famer Robinson Cano. In letting their only star player go, the Yankees basically forfeited playoff appearances this year and in 2014, in favor of three years of mediocrity and future dead weight.
Beyond 3,000 hits and plaques in Monument Park, Cano won’t be around to mentor would-be double-play partner Didi Gregorius at shortstop or provide a new 1-2 power punch with Gary Sanchez.
When Cano wasn’t battling through a hernia injury (see first half of 2015), he has been stellar in his first three seasons with the Mariners. This year Cano hit .288/.350/.882 with 39 home runs, and 103 RBI, and carried his team down the stretch to the brink of the playoffs despite a season with an injured or ineffective Felix Hernandez.
In contrast, the Yankee “Post-Cano Era” at second base has been an “absolute disaster” as Donald Trump might say. But this time it’s true.
If Starlin Castro feels like a breath of fresh air, it’s because Yankee fans have had to suffer near Post Traumatic Second-Base Disorder after two years of Stephen Drew, Brian Roberts, and Brendan Ryan.
While nobody believes Castro could spell Cano, offensively or defensively, there is a sense that maybe the former All-Star might make up 50% of Cano’s loss. Instead Castro really makes up closer to 15%.
Cano’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 7.3 was 6th in all of baseball while Castro’s was only 1.2. In analytical terms, Cano is roughly six times more valuable than Starlin Castro.
Castro’s paltry WAR actually doubled his anemic WAR of 0.6 from 2015. This is precisely the type of data that might’ve made Cubs GM Theo Epstein practically give Castro away.
Castro will be paid more than $30 million over the next three years. After his fast start, many pronounced the Castro trade to be a Yankee steal, but others have called it the worst contract in baseball at second base.
If Castro’s overall 1.2 WAR is surprisingly low to you, then you maybe the latest victim of The Starlin Seduction.
When Starlin hits, he really makes a splash. He easily led the Yankees with four 4-hit games, and saves his best for Yankee Stadium eyewitnesses while hitting .310/.333/.840 at home including 15 of his 21 home runs.
It is all enough to make one forget his slash line of .230/.267/.624 away from home, his passable-at-best defense, and those pesky 100-game slumps.
Part of The Starlin Seduction is hope. Hope that the former shortstop continues to improve his fielding at his new position; hope that Castro will one day magically find plate discipline; or hope there is a cure to the 100-game blues.
During his dynamic opening Yankee series, Castro said: ”I just want to be the player that I used to be, to show everybody that I can be the player that I am.”
The player that Castro is quite literally depends on the month, and Yankee fans who want to “KEEP HIM” can’t be blamed too much if wanting to see if he can still be the player he used to be.
The Starlin Seduction has all the qualities of a really bad long-term relationship.
Every season, “Mr. April” reminds you of that great honeymoon of his first three years, then comes great disappointment of “The Starlin Slump”, and when you are convinced you will dump him, the “Castro Comeback” makes you believe you can bring back “that magic”.
Hmmmmm, maybe it canwork?
Rinse and repeat next year.
Not me. At the risk of eating these words next year — I’m selling like Theo Epstein.
And I suggest Brian Cashman do the same.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News