It was hard to make the argument a few weeks ago that Starling Marte needed more time. Marte was in the middle of a pretty amazing hot streak. On June 22nd, Marte had a .754 OPS on the year. Over his next nine games he would put up a .450 average and a 1.376 OPS in 40 at-bats.
All throughout the hot streak, people were calling for him to be promoted. On June 27th, after Marte went 2-for-5 with a triple, I wrote that he needed to show consistency before a promotion. On July 1st (the end of the above nine game stretch), after Marte went 2-for-4 with a double and a homer, I asked when he should be called up, and said I wanted to see him down in Triple-A for a few more weeks before getting the call, just to prove that this was legit.
That was a difficult argument to make. Marte was tearing the cover off the ball. It was easy to point to his stats and say he was ready. It was hard to preach patience, and bring up the possibility that Marte could go back to slumping, just like he had after every hot streak this year.
Marte homered tonight, his tenth of the year. That’s bound to get some #FreeStarlingMarte chants. But what about what he has been doing over his last ten games? Marte currently has a .243/.349/.432 line in 37 at-bats over his last ten games. Prior to his home run tonight, he had a .706 OPS in his previous nine games, with his homer boosting his OPS to .781.
We can dismiss all of this with two phrases: small sample size, and arbitrary end points. But if a nine game hot streak was all people needed to see to call Marte up, then why shouldn’t this recent streak bring some concerns that he’s not quite ready?
It’s not really about the main numbers as much as it is about the secondary numbers. Marte has a 30% strikeout rate in his last ten games. He’s also got a really impressive 12% walk rate, which raises some questions. Marte doesn’t walk that much. So either one of two things are happening.
1. He’s being pitched around, and he’s not being patient. That leads to the high walks, the high strikeouts, and the low average.
2. He’s swinging for the fences, and waiting on a pitch to drive. That approach usually leads to that triple combo (low average, high walks, high strikeouts, good power numbers).
My concern would be the second possibility. Marte wouldn’t be the first young player to go on a hot streak, then start swinging for the fences and change the approach that got him to that hot streak. If that is going on, then that’s something he needs to focus on. And if he’s being pitched around, and that’s leading to the strikeouts and low average, then he also needs work on those issues.
This all might just be a small blip in the radar. Hitters have bad weeks and they have great weeks. This could just be nothing more than a bad week. But you can’t ignore this and then call for Marte to be promoted because of his success over an equally sized sample a few weeks earlier. That’s why the Pirates need to give Marte time. He needs to show which version is the real deal. Is it the player who has struggled over the last ten games? Or the player who was on fire the previous ten games?
I think Pirates fans want to believe it’s the latter. Marte went 1-for-6 with four strikeouts in a double-header on Thursday. He went 1-for-5 with a homer tonight. Mentioning his double-header performance didn’t get a good reaction on Twitter. Mentioning his home run got a few #FreeStarlingMarte mentions. Pirates fans want to believe Marte is ready, because if he is ready, he can potentially step in to the majors and help the team to contend.
The problem here is that we don’t know which version of Marte is the real deal. That’s why he needs more time, to show which version was the fluke, and which was legit. He could very well be legit. But I don’t think anyone can say for certain, especially after he’s cooled from his recent hot streak.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates beat the Brewers 6-4.
**Prospect Watch: Cole, Taillon, and Wilson Struggle; Marte and Sanchez Homer.