Chicago Cubs: Starlin Castro a head above his competition


The Chicago Cubs’ Starlin Castro has stepped up in a big way in the last two months or so, helping lead the team’s charge to a postseason berth.

To be blunt, he’s easy to get annoyed with sometimes.

Starlin Castro, that is.

His lackadaisical approach on defense and the way he chases pitches out of the zone has drawn criticism from Cubs fans for years – perhaps in no year more than 2015, with Chicago in the throes of legitimacy for the first time since 2008.

But since he lost the starting job mid-season, the 25-year-old infielder seems to have turned over a new leaf. The often frustrated, discouraged player who looked overmatched more often than not early in the year has been replaced by one of the best-hitting middle infielders in the game.

Since the calendar turned to September, Castro is batting a robust .407/.438/.712 with 18 runs batted in during the span of just 21 contests.

To put some perspective on those numbers, from May to July, he never batted above .250 and failed to drive in more than a dozen runs in every month prior to September.

And, in my mind, you have to give some credit to the man at the helm of it all, Joe Maddon.

"“How about Starlin? Starlin’s September has been a big part of our success right now,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Good at-bats in clutch situations. He’s been wonderful.”"

Maddon has repeatedly praised Castro, even having his back when the struggles were all anyone was talking about. Thanks to the support of the Cubs’ first-year skipper and an improved attitude and approach, the three-time All-Star seems poised to remain a major part of the organization’s plans moving forward.

The fact that Castro is pushing the .270 mark average-wise is astonishing in and of itself. He barely hit .250 in the first-half and was under the .225 mark on two separate occasions prior to the Midsummer Classic.

While the offensive exploits of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant have captured more than a few headlines as the Cubs near next week’s Wild Card contest, Castro has been a make-or-break piece for the Chicago offense this season.

As you can see above, when Castro hits, the Cubs win.

When he doesn’t… well, you get the idea. In his career, the same correlation exists. In Cubs wins over the past five seasons, he’s hitting almost 100 points higher than in losses. But that’s neither here nor there.

Starlin Castro has shown he has tremendous value – and for a playoff-bound Cubs’ team, this is fantastic news. Having a weapon like this near the bottom of the order ready to drive in clutch runs is something most teams don’t possess.

And if the trends are any indication, he’s peaking just in time for October baseball.

Next: Cubs' Rizzo is the true National League MVP