Pittsburgh Pirates left-fielder Starling Marte has bounced around in the order quite a bit thus far in 2015. Spending time predominantly at either the second, fourth, or fifth spots in the order, Marte saw a recent slump get busted when Clint Hurdle gave him extended time in the two-spot, presumably to enjoy the warm and fuzzy protection of Andrew McCutchen. Ideally, Marte would get himself right and then go back down lower into the order. And why not – Marte still leads the team in home runs and RBI – though his lead in the latter category has dwindled to one ahead of McCutchen.
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So when the news came down that Neil Walker would bat second – again, presumably to cure him of his slump – Marte slid back into the fourth position. He has responded very well, going a combined 4-for-8 in the two games since being bumped down in the lineup. One might think that it’s a short sample size – and you would be absolutely right – but it was still very encouraging to see Marte with only one strikeout in those two games – a sizable improvement for the free-swinger.
I believe – as many do – that the Pittsburgh Pirates periodical offensive struggles will be resolved in time. Finding the right guys in the right spots sooner rather than later would help immensely. If Starling Marte can prove that he can thrive as he did in the two-hole without having McCutchen behind him, the Pittsburgh Pirates offense would be halfway to realizing its potential.
Now, the ball firmly lands in Neil Walker’s court. Can he use McCutchen batting behind him to finally find his way in 2015?