When Pittsburgh Pirates OF Starling Marte stole second base in Sunday’s game at Wrigley field, he quietly became the National League steals leader.
Starling Marte has swiped 12 bases so far this season putting him one ahead of Milwaukee’s Jonathan Villar. The seventh inning steal in Sunday’s game proved pivotal in securing the Pirates’ first win of the year against the Cubs. After stealing second, he came around to score the game’s first run on a two-out double by Jung Ho Kang.
A closer look at Marte’s stolen base record this year indicates that he is even better than his statistics show.
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After studying Marte’s stolen base attempts so far this year, a few notes stood out. First, Marte is mainly making his attempts in textbook stealing situations. Eight out of 13 attempts have come when trying to get into scoring position with two outs. These are times the catcher will be on high alert so Marte’s ability to run is even more impressive. Second, Francisco Cervelli has hit behind Marte in many games and it is apparent that he is not making it easy for the catcher to make a good throw to second. He took a tremendous cut at a third strike during Marte’s steal in Sunday’s game, which seemed to make David Ross throw to second just a bit high. In the May 13th game against the Cubs, Marte stole second on two different occasions, both times with Cervelli up to bat.
The two Pirates appear to be working together to get Marte to second even if it means Cervelli has to give up a strike or two. Lastly, a close look at the three times Marte was caught stealing is quite revealing. Against the Reds, he was picked off second by pitcher Dan Straily and thrown out by backup catcher Tucker Barnhart. On the latter attempt, he was initially ruled safe but on replay as called out for oversliding the bag. He clearly beat the throw, however veteran second baseman Brandon Phillips spotted an opportunity to snatch an out by pushing Marte’s hand off the bag with his glove. The only time he was legitimately thrown out was by the Cub’s David Ross who threw high to Javier Baez who then defied the laws of physics to put a tag on Marte.
Given that Marte is hitting like crazy (.326 BA / .374 OBP through May 15, 2016), he should have plenty of opportunities to steal bases. In fact, he should have more opportunities if he starts attempting steals outside of traditional steal situations. If he continues at his current pace, he will have 54 stolen bases by the end of the year. This won’t come close to Omar Moreno’s Pirates record of 96, but it will be a career high for Marte and his best season swiping bags since 2013 when he stole 41. It will also help the Pirates offense generate more runs by turning singles into virtual doubles.
Photo Credit – Keith Allison – Flickr Commercial Use LIcense