Starling Marte will NOT Become a Good Hitter

Starling Marte’s extraordinary good luck has run out.

His 2013 batting line .280/.343/.441 — .784 OPS was an illusion and – over the course of his career – will prove to be the outlier.

I warned, prior to this season, that his 2013 Batting Average on Balls in Play could almost certainly not be sustained and that his awful K/BB rate would be his undoing.

Marte had a .363 BABIP last year. Since 1950, 2,233 major league players have had at least 1,000 plate appearances. Three (3) of them – 0.13% – had career BABIPs over .360. (That’s not 13%. That is 0.13%) And only 79 – 3.5% – have had a BABIP over .330.

Marte’s BABIP has predictably taken a precipitous drop and his batting line has gone with it — all the way down to .237/.309/.365 — .674 OPS. But the news gets even worse for Marte. His BABIP is still a lucky .324 – 27 points above league average. If his BABIP were the league average for non-pitchers of .299, he would be hitting .220/.294/.341 — .635 OPS.

My pre-season projection for Marte was a .331 BABIP and a batting line that now looks a little ambitious:  .256/.310/.410 — .727 OPS

Marte’s walk rate has improved this year to 6.4%, but his strikeout rate has also gone up to 27.9%. That is not close to being good. Since 1950, there are 4 players with more than 1,000 plate appearance who had career walk rates below 7% and K rates above 27% – like Marte’s 2014 rate. Their batting lines are not pretty – and each of them had a significantly better home run percentage than Starling Marte.

Danny Espinosa:  .228/.299/.393 — .692 OPS

J.P. Arencibia:  .208/.255/.400  —  .655 OPS

Wily Mo Pena:  .250/.303/.445 —  .748 OPS

Brant Brown:  .247/.301/.445 — .746 OPS

Pena’s and Brown’s OPS would be acceptable for Marte, but those two players had HR rates that are about twice as good as Marte’s career rate.

Pena homered once every 22 plate appearances. Brown homered once every 25.6 plate appearances. Marte has reached the seats once every 46.7 plate appearances.

What you’re seeing from Starling Marte this season – at the plate – is about what you are going to get. Unless he can maintain a BABIP better than 96.5% of major league hitters since 1950.


20 thoughts on “Starling Marte will NOT Become a Good Hitter

  1. I now look at BAIP for hitters and pitchers, based on your research. I’m also now looking “inside the numbers” for xfip, so far it also appears a good statistic, but you have to look at career homeruns because that can inflate the numbers. Still confused on UZR even after reading the meaning.

    As for Marte, I’ve seen a lot of predictions about how the Pirates would have best OF once Polanco arrives. That will not be the case despite what Polanco may do. I think the Bucs would love to leave Polanco in the minors for a while longer and with Harrison they just may do it.

    The final question for Marte is; does his defense and speed offset his K rate and mental lapses? We’re getting production from CF so the drop off in Pirates in LF would maintain. I get to see the Bucs live tonight.

    • Enjoy the game in San Diego. I have heard they have a great park.

      I think BABIP can fluctuate a little more from year to year for hitters than for pitchers, but it is still a good stat for getting a handle on how lucky or unlucky a hitter may be.

      xFIP takes FIP and makes an adjustment for HR/FB% because that statistic seems to fluctuate randomly from year to year for most pitchers.

      Good to hear that this site has led you to look at the game a little differently. Whether people agree or disagree with me, I hope the information provided here helps to enhance their enjoyment of the game. Sabermetrics has done that for me.

    • No one is blocking Polanco from the majors. Only the super 2 is preventing him from coming up. I’m not sold the marte won’t improve upon his numbers this season up to date. Josh Harrison is a good utility player and to suggest he is blocking the number 3 ( updated) prospect in baseball is hilarious. The pirates don’t want him in triple A anymore than he wants to be there. He will help sell tickets and contribute to the team right away. He can easily be just as good or better than cutch one day or he can be an a solid outfielder with above average defense, speed, and base running.

    • His defense at SS is not good. But he would help in the OF and possibly in a 3B platoon, replacing Alvarez against left-handed pitchers. He is a switch-hitter who has good numbers against both left-handed and right-handed pitchers.

      He is in the last year of his contract, so, he would be a rental player and, as such, it would probably not take a lot to get him.

      He only has a .691 OPS this year, but I think that will improve. He has his usual very good BB and K rates this year and his BABIP is only .278. That tells me that his OPS will improve.

      • I thought he was under contract through 2015? I like him as a as with versatility and can add some needed pop.

  2. If he has a 650 OPS, and he pulls his head from his butt. How much does his speed, glove, and arm add? What would be the WAR of a 650 OPS guy with plus speed and defense?

  3. Marte’s BABIP will always be a little above average over long periods of time because of his ability to leg out the infield single. Otherwise, you are spot on. He will be a fine seven/eight hole hitter with his speed and defense making up most of his value. If Bell or Meadows needs a spot in the next few year on the big club, does Marte get moved? Will he still have value in a couple of years?

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