It’s been an interesting season to say the least for Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Starling Marte.
To say a lot was expected of Marte would be an understatement.
Needless to say Marte hasn’t delivered on those expectations as heading into 2019, Pirates fans are once again frustrated with the performance of their most talented all-around player.
When Marte’s been good, he’s been great like in the month of July when he put up a 1.006 OPS or the month of May when he posted a .946 OPS.
But when he’s been bad, Marte has been brutally bad. Like the .568 OPS in the month of June or the .652 mark in August or the .688 so far in September.
In all seriousness, how does a player will Marte’s talent put up a .568 OPS for an entire month? It’s almost unthinkable.
Consistency has long been Marte’s biggest issue and one of the biggest reasons why he has troubles putting up consistent numbers is his approach at the plate.
He hasn’t changed and at this point likely never will.
Where’s the walks?
Much was made early on in April about how Marte seemed to change his approach at the plate and started seeing more pitches.
He wasn’t chasing as much and was actually drawing walks.
Marte finished the month of April drawing 14 walks (counting the one walk in March) and that alone gave fans some hope that Marte was going to start to blossom into the superstar many have long projected him to be.
Drawing more walks and not chasing every slider in the dirt should have ultimately led to better pitches to hit and it did for a brief stint.
Naturally it didn’t last as Marte has walked just 14 times the rest of the season.
That included just one walk the entire month of May, followed by six in June, two in July, four in August and just one so far in September.
Marte’s overall line of .275/.320/.456 isn’t terrible, but it isn’t good enough either.
That’s especially true given the rest of the Pirates offense. They need more from Marte and he just hasn’t been able to deliver.
As a team the Pirates aren’t walking a lot, only drawing 418 free passes on the season, which ranks 12th in the NL, just eight more than the Miami Marlins, who are last in the NL.
What’s the problem?
By this point Marte’s not going to change. If he hasn’t done so by now, he’s not going to anytime soon, especially given he will be turning 30 already.
He’s streaky, you’re just going to have to live with that.
However on this team he has to be one of the better bats in the lineup and he’s not that on a consistent basis, which hurts the lineup.
When the pitcher is ahead in the count at any point in the at bat, Marte has posted a .192/.200/.311 line and not once all season did he battle back and work a walk.
That says a lot about him as a hitter.
When he’s ahead in the count he’s been great, posting a .341/.453/.620 line.
That’s the case with most hitters as they have much better numbers when they are ahead in the count, but the disparity isn’t so large like it is in Marte’s case.
The pitcher gets ahead with strike one and you can pretty much write off the rest of the at bat.
Stars aren’t built that way. They make it tough on pitchers, not easy.
You would think it’s simply a case of Marte needing to be more patient to see more fastballs, but that hasn’t worked in his favor for most of the season.
As you can see, Marte hasn’t been very good against the heater this season, hitting just .203 against the fourseam fastball.
Things get much worse with two strikes as Marte is hitting just .090 vs. the fourseam, .105 vs. the sinker and .111 against the cutter
The end result is that Marte is often getting blown away by heat and has no answers at the moment.
Another problem is the chasing.
Marte has swung at pitches outside the zone 36.8 percent of the time on the season. He’s made contact on pitches outside of the zone 60.4 percent of the time.
That has led to a lot more groundballs as he has posted a 49.7 percent groundball rate which is very high. He’s also pulling the ball a lot more, at a 40.0 percent clip.
By comparison, if you look at Gregory Polanco, he’s only swung at 28.5 percent of the pitches outside of the zone and has a 33.5 percent groundball rate.
We can sit here and debate Marte all day long, but the common theme is he’s not getting better.
Maybe it’s time to stop expecting Marte to be something that he’s not and just take him for what he is.
At this point he’s just another guy.