Let’s be frank: Starlin Castro had a disastrous game last night. His miserable defensive second inning largely cost the Cubs the game, and he went 0-5 with four left on base. It was probably the worst game of his young career. And you’d be right if you said his other games in the three hole haven’t gone much better.
Starlin Castro and batting third has been, to date, an ugly marriage where he’s done more to hurt the team than help it.
And there’s absolutely no reason to move him in the batting order.
I know what you’re thinking: Ace, you went on a Marlon Byrd three-hole tirade for lesser offenses. How can you possibly be advocating keep Castro there when he’s clearly unsuited?
Simple. There’s no where else to put him. For now.
Not what you usually hear about the guy you want hitting in the most important spot in the lineup. Usually, a guy is in the three hole because he’s *the* guy. Right now, Castro might very well be *the* guy, but I’m not convinced. And that’s not the reason he should continue hitting in the three hole for now.
The reason is simply lineup construction. First, for those clamoring to have Castro back in the leadoff spot: did you blink every time Kosuke Fukudome batted last night? Fukudome went 5-5, and we all know it was no fluke. Not only does he do this every single April/May, but this year, he’s off to his best start ever: he’s batting .478 with a .571 OBP. If that’s not the guy you want setting the table and getting the most at bats on your team, then we’ll just have to shake hands and part ways. Yes, Fukudome will cool – considerably. But, until he does, he’s got to be the guy leading off (against righties). For now.
How about putting Castro back in the second spot? Well, here’s the thing on that: Darwin Barney has been quite good there. He’s got a .320/.350/.440 slash line to go with the kind of situational approach (last night’s ill-advised swing-and-pop-up with men on first and second and no outs notwithstanding) that is well-suited for the two hole. And, while he’s succeeding in the job, he should remain there. For now.
After one and two, the only realistic options for Castro are somewhere around seven and eight, because he doesn’t yet have the power you’d like to see in the middle of your lineup (query whether Byrd or Carlos Pena have the power either right now, but whateves). Do you really want to see Castro bumped to the bottom of the lineup?
That’s why the spot that continues to make the most sense for Castro, and for this lineup, is third. He’s still one of the best hitters on this team, and whatever discomfort or additional pressure he might feel batting third will fade. Indeed, he might be feeling no such discomfort or pressure at all – his recent struggles could simply be the normal cool period following a scorching hot start.
And, of all the Cubs, when you consider whom you’d like to see getting the most at bats, isn’t that Starlin Castro? Then, if he’s not going to be batting one or two, it’s got to be three, right?
I’m not saying that Castro should be the number three hitter in perpetuity. In fact, I fully expect that Fukudome will cool, Barney will revert to his minor league career averages, and there will be two better choices for Castro in the lineup. But until those things happen, Castro should remain in the three hole.
And I’m definitely not saying that Castro is yet a prototypical three-hole hitter. But, when I look up and down the lineup, and think about how it all fits together, I’m not convinced that Castro shouldn’t just stay in the three hole.
Say it with me: for now.