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DiCaro: Cubs Fans Don't Give Starlin Castro Enough Credit

By Julie DiCaro--

(CBS) The "trade Starlin Castro" drumbeat that has steadily grown in volume since spring training continued across the Chicago Cubs fanbase this weekend, despite Castro's three-hit, two-RBI game on Saturday and a .300 average for the young MLB season.

Observe some of the recent feedback.

It's not just the national beat writers who are anxious to see Castro in something other than Cubbie blue. A fair portion of the fan base is also volunteering to drive Castro to the airport and leave him at the kiss and fly.

So what has Castro done to earn such ire from the Wrigley faithful? Your guess is as good as mine.

Since 2011, no shortstop in baseball has more hits (713) than Castro, who's a three-time All-Star with a career .284 average. In his first five years as a Cub (remember, he just turned 25 in March), Castro has 852 hits. It's hard to imagine, were Castro anyone else in the Cubs organization, that fans would be as quick to run him out of town.

Ryan Theriot, still beloved by bros and scrappy white males everywhere, had only 538 hits in the same amount of time. If Theriot had put up Castro's offensive numbers while on the North Side, he'd be permanently installed at Sluggers as a living memorial to the power of grit and the will to win.

Defensively, Castro has never been a standout on the field. And yes, he constantly spits sunflower seeds all over the infield. Sometimes, his back is turned to the plate when a batter is in the box. Bobby Valentine once tore into him on a Sunday Night Baseball broadcast for not paying attention.

But consider this: Last year, the best defensive shortstop in the game was Atlanta's Andrelton Simmons, who had a defensive wins above replacement (dWAR) of 3.9. That means that having Simmons' glove in the field earned the Braves almost four more wins than they would have had if an average player had been in the same position.

Castro's dWAR last season was -0.2. So while Castro's glove isn't winning the Cubs any games over a replacement player, it isn't really hurting much, either. The difference between Castro's glove and an average replacement player's is negligible. Even with Castro's dubious dWAR, he still ranked ahead of players like the Cardinals' Daniel Descalso (-0.3) and the Yankees' Derek Jeter, who was dead last in MLB with a -0.5 dWAR. Yeah, Jeets.

Here's where having Castro in the lineup does make a difference: In 2014, Castro's offensive wins above replacement (oWAR) was 2.9, down from his career-high oWAR of 4.0 in 2011. The only Cubs player with a higher oWAR than Castro in 2014 was Anthony Rizzo at 4.5.

So while Castro's defensive lapses cost the Cubs less than half of half a game, his offense is worth almost three wins compared to the average league player. Remember that next time Castro doesn't quite have the range to reach a screamer or fails to get the ball out of his glove in time to make a play at first. If meatballs want to use the "What if the Cubs miss out on the playoffs by one game?" ridiculousness to justify bringing up Kris Bryant, the same can be said for having an unknown quantity at shortstop instead of Starlin Castro.

Perhaps down the road Addison Russell will prove to be the next Troy Tulowitzki or Xander Bogaerts. He might even be better than Castro both offensively and defensively, but until Russell gets to the majors, no one really knows for sure.

Maybe Castro will be traded, and the Cubs will get a haul in return. Every fan Cubs wants that. But until that happens, Cubs fans should be more than satisfied with their current shortstop.

Plenty of other teams would be.

Julie DiCaro is a columnist for Follow Julie on Twitter @JulieDiCaro or on Facebook. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.

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