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Starlin Castro’s unlikely quest for 3000 hits and the Hall of Fame

If the improbable becomes a reality, Castro could become one of the most controversial Hall of Fame candidates... in more ways than one.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

While 300 wins may no longer be the absolute indicator of a Hall of Fame pitching career, 3000 hits may still be. Even though counting stats have as of late been eschewed because of the changing roles of ballplayers in the modern age, 3000 hits generally recognizes that you were an above-average hitter for about two decades, which is a pretty good proxy for a Hall of Fame career.

Coming into Sunday, Starlin Castro sits at 1442 hits. It’s been discussed in the past that he would have a difficult path to the milestone, but I find his arc interesting for the main reason that he, frankly, isn’t that great of a player. But, he got a new lease on life by being traded to the Marlins in the Giancarlo Stanton deal, essentially giving him a full-time job as his Yankees and Cubs starting jobs slipped away.

He was able to tally 162 hits and will likely hit something like 170 by year’s end, which would be his highest total since 2012. To figure out what his career arc would look like, I found every infielder since World War II who got more 1300 hits through age 28, which included: Bill Mazeroski, Roberto Alomar, Nellie Fox, Pete Rose, Jimmy Rollins, Jim Fregosi, Harvey Kuenn, Derek Jeter, Cal Ripkin Jr., Edgar Renteria, Alex Rodriguez, Robin Yount, Brooks Robinson, George Brett, Eddie Mathews, Buddy Bell, and Ron Santo. You’ll see quite a few players that are, obviously, much better ballplayers than Castro, yet he is right up there with them in hits.

I then mapped out their cumulative hits starting at their age 29 season, and it looks like this:

The only one who really stands out here is Rose, who accumulated hits all the way through his age-45 season. When you break it down into the average accumulation by year, as well as factoring in how one standard deviation above or below the mean (and two standard’s above, just for fun) adjusts the total, you can see what the range of performance is:

One standard deviation below actually decreases the hit total over time, and that’s really just because most players are retired by then, so accumulating zero’s brings down the overall average. Yet when you look at one standard deviation above, you can see the sweet spot where Castro would be able to acquire enough for 3000. If we tack this on to his existing hit total, you can see where it hits the threshold:

If he plays at one standard deviation better than his comp’s until above age 37, he could very well hit 3000 hits. That’s only the 68th percentile, so there’s a 23 chance he doesn’t get there even by that measure, and even to a greater degree when you consider that, again, he’s just not as good as these other players.

But in that 20-25% chance he does get there—let’s say he has an age-30 re-emergence, how do we weigh that? He has just 17.2 fWAR for nearly half of the 3000 hits, meaning that he would be one of the worst Hall of Fame candidates in modern history.

There’s also another factor that I’d be remiss to mention, and it’s that the character clause would also be a reason to decline, as well. As some know, Castro was alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman in 2012. Here is what was written in Bleed Cubbie Blue at the time:

It’s a telling account, despite the fact no charges were ultimately filed (that is common in most cases). In the face of the recent Addison Russell scandal that resulted in his administrative leave, it’s fair to wonder whether future Hall of Fame candidates, those who might actually have the statistical bona fides, will be held up to scrutiny when voting time comes. Or, will the policy basically be that if it was before #MeToo, then we don’t care? At least in terms of fan opinion since then, no one has really cared.

I’m hoping I don’t actually see this come to pass, because it’d be best for all parties if he missed 3000 hits and he faded into memory. But there’s that small chance he does it, and I guarantee we discuss it. How the voters will weigh past sexual assault allegations will likely be a function of the voting pool’s diversity, which doesn’t bode well, and how much attitudes change in that time, which, while encouraging, still has a long way to go.