PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP
578 11 52 69 5 3.6 % 15.7 % .110 .298
AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
.265 .296 .375 .288 80 -2.1 -15.9 5.4 0.8
Sometimes the narrative is pretty easy. Everyone knows the story of Starlin’s season by this point. Basically tossed out as chum at the end of July, and no shark or fish was biting. Lost his job to Addison Russell, which certainly was permanent. The scope of his entire career was changed. And then he spent the last two months of the season turning the baseball into baby food, culminating with a homer against Michael Wacha in Game 3 that must’ve been as cathartic as anyone could have experienced. After all, Starlin has been here for all of the garbage years, starting with his debut in 2010. Five seasons where Starlin didn’t get to play a game that mattered. You couldn’t help but feel a gratification for him. Of course, that rebound might have just earned him a ticket out of town after no one would take him. Strange how these things work.
Everyone wants to find the angle that caused the light bulb to go off with two months to go. I’ve written at length that perhaps the pressure being lifted of being a fulcrum of the team to just a contributor might have helped. You could point to the fact he stopped swinging at pitches off the plate on his hands as much, which caused his pop-up rate to plummet might be an angle. Maybe it was a change in stance that had him quieter with less head movement and picking his spots for that leg kick better. Perhaps the switch of positions had him stop worrying about his defense so much. Maybe the charge from being on a contender for the first time. Maybe it was all of it.
We have six seasons of evidence on what Starlin is now, even if he is still only 25. He’s not going to walk. He makes a lot of contact. Not all of it is good. He’s probably good for 15 homers a season and if the wind blows out enough, he might blow on 20’s ear. I doubt it, though. He’s probably better placed at second where he’s got a little more time and doesn’t have to rush.
But here’s the thing. Even with that revival, Starlin was worth 0.8 WAR. Javy Baez, with just a month of work and not hitting all that much, was worth 0.5. Javy plays three positions to Starlin’s two, though I suppose they could try Starlin at 3rd some. Baez is going to be the superior defensive player. He has the potential to be the superior offensive player, though there’s a lot of marsh to trudge through before we find that out. The Cubs may wonder how many right-handed middle infielders they need, especially if there isn’t much room in the outfield to stuff Kris Bryant every so often.
Still, if we talk about Rizzo’s and Ross’s role in the clubhouse, Starlin probably has one too. Then again, it’s a business. Someone’s going to have to go for pitching it seems, that’s the chatter. Do you take the known floor of Starlin or the possible ceiling of Baez? Good thing they don’t pay me to come up without those answers.