Starling Marte: A close look at a slow start


The Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans have high expectations for Starling Marte this season. Before the season, RumBunter writers were talking about his MVP chances this year. However, those calls have been quieted after the season’s first nine games as Marte has really struggled at the plate.

In eight games and 29 at-bats, Marte has just three hits for an average of .103. It’s not a bad luck average either as Marte has very rarely been making solid contact. He has 14 strikeouts in 29 at-bats, which has him tied for the National League lead in that category.

More from Pirates News

Now, I’m not here just to tell you things you already know, so let’s take a closer look. One thing I think can be rather telling is the count analysis for players. The wizards at baseball-reference have this analysis for every player in their splits page.

Here is Marte’s count analysis for this season (current as of 4/16), which shows the number of times Marte has seen every possible count:


Marte has finished at-bats (the final count before the at-bat ends) behind in counts 12 times, even in the count ten times, and ahead in the count just seven times. The most striking piece of data from the above chart is how often Marte has started his at-bat out 0-1. On 21 occasions, Marte has seen strike one first, while seeing ball one first just seven times. Marte has 13 of his strikeouts in those at-bats that start with 0-1 (which means he’s striking out 62% of the time when he sees a strike as the first pitch).

It’s not like Marte is seeing Cy Young-caliber pitches either. Here’s a graph of all the 0-0 pitches that Marte has swung at this year (all graphs compliments of Texas Big Leaguers and can be clicked to be enlarged):

Lots of hittable locations there, but Marte has only put five of those pitches in play. In terms of first pitches he’s watching, he’s honestly been getting favorable calls from umpires. Here’s a graph of all the 0-0 pitches he’s let go by and how they were called:

And here’s the graph of all pitches that Marte has offered at this year:

You shouldn’t be surprised to see the chases there with how often Marte has been behind in the count (as well as his reputation for swinging at any ball with stitches on it).

You could look at that last graph and suggest that Marte should shrink the area of pitches that he swings at. However, you could counter that argument by looking at his graph from the second half of last season in which he was putting up MVP caliber numbers:

This guy is going to swing a ton, and I’m sure the Pirates have accepted that, for the most part. Last year, Marte swung at 36.6% of pitches that were outside of the strike zone, which is high. This year he’s raised that to 44.3%, which is alarmingly high. His overall swing percentage has also shot up to 55.4% from 50.3% last year. That will drop as the year goes on; he’s clearly not seeing the ball very well right now. He’s too talented to stay down for long, and a solid hot streak should even a lot of this out, but you can’t have much success when you offer at that many poor pitches (especially when you’re not having success early in the count).

For now, optimistic Pirate fans have to hope that Starling Marte gathers himself quickly and starts taking advantage of the few good pitches he’s seeing. Right now pitchers are not hesitating to deliver strike one and then taking advantage when Marte fails to do anything with it.

Next: Pittsburgh Pirates look to bounce back against Milwaukee