Take a seat, Starlin

It's no surprise to even the most casual Cubs fan that Starlin Castro is having a terrible year. By no measure is Castro even a replacement level player this season, and he's on pace for a blistering -2.4 WAR on the season.

Just how bad is Castro this year? It's pretty conceivable that Javier Baez would be a better option at SS this year. That sounds insane – and 99% of the time, it really is. Unfortunately, this might be the 1%.

Starlin Castro – 326 PA: .228/.264/.318, 3 HR, .257 wOBA

Javier Baez* – 290 PA: .218/.267/.410, 11 HR, .311 wOBA

*This is a minor league equivalency calculation, from this site.

We can take one of two things from this. First, MLE says that Baez could put up a .677 OPS in the majors right now (and this seems more-or-less accurate, if a little optimistic). Second, holy shit is Starlin Castro terrible this year. One would think that Baez' defense would close the gap between the two, and maybe it would; however, Castro already has 16 errors this year, leading the league once again. Perhaps Baez would have 26 in the bigs or some gaudy number that makes him unplayable; I freely concede that might be the case. However, the question becomes when does a .257 wOBA and poor defense become "unplayable" too?

Still, it's telling that you could even be having this discussion. I'm not sure I can recall a player with a season this bad after a start to his career like this. 

Arismendy Alcantara* - 302 PA: .236/.295/.378, 8 HR, .309 wOBA

*This is a minor league equivalency calculation, from this site.

Alcantara is a rising star and a lock for a spot in the global 80-100 range next year if he keeps this season up. He's in AA right now and will end the year probably with a last-month promotion to AAA (maybe earlier if they promote Baez to play SS everyday and want to keep Alcantara playing SS. He's probably a 2B in the majors). He's a poor defender at SS, but not awful. This year, Starlin has been awful. If Baez has a small chance of being the better MLB player than Castro this year, Alcantara has at least a medium-sized one. 

The one thing that Castro has going for him is his Ironman streak. He hasn't missed a game in over 2 years and is (I believe) the current streak holder in that department. Sveum has said repeatedly that it isn't a factor in giving him a day off, but clearly it is. Why should it be, though? If he was providing even replacement-level value, you can argue that even a reduced-effectiveness Castro gives you the best chance to win each day. I don't think that 2013 Starlin Castro gives you the best chance to win any given day, and certainly not every day. Give him a day or three off, Dale. It's time. 

In the short term, there aren't a ton of options to replace him. You can play Ransom at 3B, Valbuena at 2B, and Barney at SS. Ransom can be subbed out with Clevenger if/when he comes back to the 25. If you've given up hope on Barney as a long-term 2B option (and I almost have), I'd even consider calling up Watkins to play a mix of 2B and CF every day and give Barney the occasional start at SS (this has the added bonus of platoon advantage; Barney can't hit righties at all) that way.

All we know for sure is that whatever Starlin has going on right now isn't working. We need to go ahead and try something to get that started, and taking a day off now and again seems to be the best way to start. 

 

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