The Pittsburgh Pirates had a disappointing 2016 season. As the off-season begins, it is time to grade out the club. Today we look at the most consistent offensive player last season, Starling Marte.
Not a lot went well for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, and their biggest issue was probably their inconsistency. They had an up-and-down season, as did many of the players on the team. But one player stood out above the rest as the most consistent performer all season long: Starling Marte. He started off hot and never cooled off. He consistently batted above .300, batted well against both righties and lefties, didn’t have a poor month until August, and was a true five-tool threat every night. He was the one player the Pirates could rely on to give quality at-bats night-in and night-out, as he continued to be one of the most underappreciated stars in all of baseball. If it weren’t for his late-season injury, he would have had an even more productive season.
Model of Consistency
Marte’s greatest strength this past season was that he was consistent over the course of the entire season. Jung Ho Kang and Francisco Cervelli battled injuries. Andrew McCutchen never really got hot at any point in the year. Josh Harrison also battled injuries but hasn’t returned to his 2014 form. Gregory Polanco looked like he was having a breakout year, but didn’t finish strong. And Josh Bell had many defensive issues at first. Only Marte was reliable almost every night.
[irp posts=”10438″ name=”Pittsburgh Pirates 2016 Gradeout – Gregory Polanco”]
For starters, from April 11th-on (the seventh game of the season for the Pirates), Marte’s average never dropped below .300. Not at any point. That was in part due to him getting hits almost every night. There were only three times in the season when Marte went more than two games in a row without a hit. That’s pretty remarkable.
He also batted .292/.337/.393 against lefties and .315/.367/.470 against righties. He batted at least .290 in every month except for August, his only poor month when he batted .252 with 20 strikeouts and just two walks. He also had a home run in every month, spreading those nine total homers throughout the season. He batted .301/.363/.416 at home and .319/.361/.490 on the road. His line pre-All Star break? .316/.363/.460. Post-All Star break? .301/.359/.449. He also batted above .300 both at night and during the day.
I could go on and on. The point is, at seemingly any point this past season, Marte was playing well. He truly was a model of consistency.
The one area that you could nitpick was Marte’s power. After a breakout year in 2015 when he had 19 home runs, Marte had just nine this past season. He was coming off three consecutive seasons with double-digit home runs. He may have gotten to ten, though, had he not had a late-season injury, but even if he had played a full season, he would likely still have been significantly off from his total from 2015.
However, this may have been a bit fluky. Marte finished with career-highs in both doubles (34) and triples (5) in the fewest games he’s played in since his rookie year. More doubles eventually translates into more home runs. And Marte did so many other things well that his dip in power shouldn’t be a concern.
It’s important for the Pirates to get home runs from somewhere in the lineup, but it doesn’t have to be from Marte. Sure, it’d be nice if Marte returned to close to the 19 home runs he had in 2015. But they could get this power from McCutchen or Polanco or Kang or Bell too. In fact, I expect it more from other players on the team than I do from Marte.
The only thing that kept Marte from having his fourth-consecutive five-plus WAR season was his late-season back injury that kept him out of the lineup for most of September. It’s important to note that while this injury may not seem serious, back injuries are always a concern. We saw first-hand how it affected Neil Walker‘s career. We won’t know until next season if this will turn into a recurring issue, but we certainly hope it doesn’t. I don’t think it will. Marte’s three years younger than Walker, and he hasn’t had back issues in his career before.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Marte finished with career-highs in both doubles (34) and triples (5)[/perfectpullquote]
You also wonder the impact this injury had on the relationship between Marte and the front office. We know the Pirates placed Marte on the disabled list on the last day of the season. It seemed like this was about sending a message in some way to Marte. For a player that has never had any off-the-field issues before, and seems to have a good relationship with his teammates, this was curious to say the least.
We’ll see how both this injury and Marte’s relationship with management play out over the course of the off-season.
Conclusion and Final Grade
We can say that Marte should have hit more home runs or that he was milking his injury in September, but that would be nitpicking an otherwise fantastic season.
He was the best, most consistent offensive player from start to finish last year, while playing great defense and stealing a career-high 47 bases. We know that the power is there, and he’s probably one of the best true five-tool players in all of baseball. While he may never enter the MVP discussion, he is criminally underrated on a national scale, and continues to put up great numbers year after year. If any position player deserves an ‘A’ for this past season, it is Starling Marte.
What Grade would you give Marte?
Agree with our grade? Disagree? Cast your vote below to let your voice be heard!