|Starling Marte facing Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday. Photo by Jason Schott.
Entering Sunday, one could look at the Major League Baseball offensive rankings, and one name pops up all over the page: Starling Marte.
The Mets right fielder was one of their big offseason acquisitions, and he has performed as expected, as he is a steady presence in the lineup, with plenty of clutch hits all year, most famously his walk-off against the Yankees on July 27; and he has played a solid defense in right field.
Marte, who consistently hits second in the Mets order between Brandon Nimmo and Francisco Lindor, played in 116 games through Saturday, has 136 hits, with a .294 batting avergae, a .348 on-base percentage and a .47 slugging percentage, and 16 home runs and 63 RBI. To show how clutch he is, he was hitting .714, with five hits in seven at-bats, and 11 RBI, with the bases loaded.
Here's where Marte stood entering Sunday among in the Top 10 in the following offensive categories: Average: .294, 8th; triples, 5, 3rd; stolen bases: 18, 5th; hit-by-pitches, 12, 7th.
The question is, why has he not gotten more attention? How has a guy who hits second in the lineup of a team that has been in first place in their division for nearly the entire season gone so under the radar?
Mets Manager Buck Showalter was asked that very question on Sunday morning, and he replied, "Frankly, because he doesn't speak English all the time, you want to really cut to the chase, and he doesn't go around looking for notoriety, he doesn't seek it. Let's face it, this guy's having, I guess under the radar to some people, but you know how many big hits he's had for us, and just played the heck out of right field. He's just not a guy that's not comfortable letting people in real deep, even though he's very cooperative with everything.
"He likes to go play the outfield, hit second, and be a good teammate, and listen to music, big family, I know he's looking forward to going back to Pittsburgh, he's got a lot of family in that area, good trip for him. (the Mets start a three-game set there with the Pirates on Labor Day Monday afternoon and he played for the Pirates from 2012-19)
Showalter then was asked what part of Marte's skill set impressed him the most, and he said, "Just the different gears that he can go to. You know, you think he's at a full gear, you've got another one. He's a guy that's kind of fought his way through some stuff physically. He's still in the midst of it, but sometimes he picks his spots.
"Keep in mind, it's kind of like taking a third baseman and making him a second baseman. This guy's going to a position he never played before this year. That's something for our outfield to work, we hoped and thought he could do, and he has; he applied himself. We always look at 90 feet as, did he get a hit, well he's gotten 90 feet once or twice a game by guys not running on him in the outfield. They stop at second, they stop at third, it's just like getting a base hit.
"The game's played in 90-foot increments when it's all said and done - the game within the game. Home runs happen, but when you can stop 90 feet and you can gain 90 feet, the game gets a lot easier."
On giving Marte the consistency of playing the same position and hitting in the same spot in the order every day, Showalter said, "You know, it's one of those, the relationship, try to build trust with players, you know, Joey (Cora, third base coach), I could tell in the spring that I wanted to know what worked for him. When a guy's been successful, you don't try to make him adjust to, I mean, you go, okay, 'let's try to find out what has worked for you and see if we can, in a lot of ways, copy that,' and it was apparent to me that consistency of position and consistency of a spot in the order meant a lot to him, and it's allowed him to have success in the past, so I wasn't going to pigeonhole him into something else, and I think when we left him alone in right field and left him alone in the two-spot, he kind of seemed to say, 'yeah, this is what I'm talking about.' He's been very communicative through Joey and through me. You know, he'll walk up and a lot of things, obviously, I don't broadcast, like I know some things about tomorrow and today and about yesterday, a day and a half ago, we talked about this whole series, and how we and he wanted to attack it. We do that with all our players; we do it with Lindor, we do it with Nimmo, all the guys that are playing a lot."