When the Yankees traded stretch-run darling Shane Greene to the Detroit Tigers in a three-team trade that netted them Didi Gregorius from the Arizona Diamondbacks, initial impressions were mixed but largely positive. The trade occurred on December 5, 2014, and within hours (minutes?) ESPN's Mark Simon had published an article about Gregorius' hard-hit rate and what it could mean for his 2015. He had begun his career with mixed offensive results, but Gregorius' youth, and the fact that his 2014 hard-hit rate mirrored Mike Trout and Jose Bautista, meant reason for hope.
Instead, Gregorius began his year in disastrous fashion, recording a sub-.500 OPS through April, recording two runs in 63 at-bats. His struggles continued through May and into June, when his offense began to take off and eventually carry the Yankees through several 90-degree victories in July and August. After committing six fielding errors in two months, he committed only seven through the remainder of the season. Now, his recently acquired double play partner may require a similar patience.
Through the past three seasons, Starlin Castro has managed to spring to decent-to-great starts each year. His April numbers in the past three seasons are such:
2013 - .277/.297/.420
2014 - .317/.343/.485
2015 - .325/.349/.410
It goes without saying that if he starts the year with an OPS of .828 over a full month, Castro will have endeared himself to Yankees fans considerably. Remember what happened when Russell Martin hit six home runs in April 2011? While that cannot reasonably be expected from Castro, his three year splits from April instill a certain level of confidence that he will come out of the gate ready to hit.
Now for the bad news: Starlin Castro has historically cratered as spring progresses to summer, which has culminated in some truly bleak June and July performances:
June 2013 - .167/.204/.250
July 2014 - .221/.291/.260
July 2015 - .170/.194/.202
Laying context over those staggering numbers reveals no major injuries and no dip in plate appearances to justify such stark declines. Perhaps Castro has performed poorly in hot weather due to the Cubs' abnormally high quantity of day games? Although Castro has been a much better offensive player on the road the past three seasons with an OPS split of .717 away vs .654 at home, he has actually hit better during the day in the same span.
With so many factors in play during each pitch, at-bat, inning, and game, Major League Baseball's cluster luck may be the most responsible party for Castro's statistical discrepancies. Perhaps he has had the misfortune of matching up with concentrated stretches of excellent pitching. Maybe Castro adjusts more slowly to warm weather despite his upbringing in the Dominican Republic. Maybe Chicago's schedule plopped him into cavernous Petco Park, Safeco Field, and Comerica Park within the same month and it contributed to extended poor stretches.
Ultimately, Castro holds the key to his own consistent hitting. Good offensive players cannot make excuses for their failures, and it'll be up to the new Yankees second baseman to work twice as hard to buck his three-year slumping trend. However, from a fan perspective it helps to enter the season with proper context, a reasonable set of expectations, and patience to allow a young man to adjust to New York City. Didi Gregorius showed last season that fans can be rewarded handsomely for patience. It is up to Castro to continue the trend in 2016.
(Stats from ESPN, Fangraphs & Baseball-reference.com)