Starling Marte was one of my favorite sleepers last year, Grey’s too.  He looked really good during his 2012 rookie trial, hitting six triples and five homers in under fifty games, while also stealing twelve bags.  The following year, Marte’s first full season, he basically tore it up.  He posted an 83/12/35/.280/41 slash.  Not too shabby.  He is looking to repeat that success, much like Weekend At Bernie’s II improved on the clearly flawed original.

I’m going to run an experiment on how I write these articles, and if it works out, I’ll continue doing it throughout the season.  I’m going to grade players in several areas, and give each area a score.  Scoring 50% of the points in a category is my baseline for repeating the previous year’s performance.  I will combine the scores at the end using a fancy algorithm (I call it, “addition”) to compute a final score.  This score will be standardized out of 100%.  Scores above 100% mean the player does better than the previous year, whereas scores below 100% mean the player regresses.  Please give me your feedback, so I can make your experience on Razzball Airlines as pleasurable as possible.  Shall we begin?

## Category One: Injury Risk

This category assesses the injury risk of a player… who would’ve guessed?  I’m weighting this category less than the following ones because I believe it is a smaller factor than the story a player’s numbers tell.  You can’t project injuries, just talk to Aroldis Chapman.

If Marte can get enough PAs, he is going to give Craig Biggio a run for his money on top of the HBP charts.  Okay, so Biggio is second all-time, but the leader played in the late 1800s, so I’m gonna give Biggio the honor here.  Marte got hit by 24 pitches last year.  That is second only to Shin-Soo Choo’s 26.  Marte is notorious for getting hit by pitches; he was hit by 49 pitches in the minors.  Marte’s number is more impressive than Choo’s though.  It took Marte 146 fewer PAs to almost match Choo’s total.   Here is the top ten for HBP rates in 2013 (minimum of 8 HBP):

Name

G

PA

HBP

HBP/G

HBP/PA

Starling Marte 135 566 24 17.78% 4.24%
Kevin Frandsen 119 278 11 9.24% 3.96%
Shin-Soo Choo 154 712 26 16.88% 3.65%
Shane Victorino 122 532 18 14.75% 3.38%
Josh Willingham 111 471 14 12.61% 2.97%
Jose Iglesias 109 382 11 10.09% 2.88%
Carlos Quentin 82 320 9 10.98% 2.81%
Daniel Nava 134 536 15 11.19% 2.80%
Craig Gentry 106 287 8 7.55% 2.79%
Neil Walker 133 551 15 11.28% 2.72%

Marte is the leader in both HBP/G and HBP/PA.  Last year, Marte was hit by more than one pitch every six games.  If you want to know how detrimental a HBP can be, talk to Curtis Granderson.  For those of you who don’t know, the Grandy Man was hit by a pitch in spring training last February and was out until mid-May.  Marte went day-to-day last August after he got hit by a pitch.  A week later, he was on the DL with a contusion.  This makes you ask yourself: Can Marte stave off the DL bug when he is such a ball magnet?  He should really try being a chick magnet instead…that new contract will probably help him there.

Other than Marte’s affinity for getting hit by pitches, he is a minor injury risk: he strained his oblique in 2012 and missed sixteen games.  Overall, Marte is a fairly safe option in terms of injuries, but he has that HBP black cloud hanging over his head.

Score: 2 out of 5

## Category Two: Skill vs. Luck

This category tries to quantify how skilled a player is, against how lucky they were getting.

The first topic I want to cover is Marte’s walk and strikeout rates.  Among qualified batters last year (140 total), Marte had the seventeenth worst K rate, and the twelfth worst walk rate.  His BB/K rate was .18, which was tied for second worst overall with Adam Jones.  There is nothing appetizing about that.  Most batters who strike out as often as Marte are walking at least twice as often as him.  I compiled some batters that had similar walk and strikeout rates as Marte:

Name

BB%

K%

AVG

OBP

BABIP

Marlon Byrd

5.4%

24.9%

0.291

0.336

0.353

Alfonso Soriano

5.8%

24.9%

0.255

0.302

0.289

Carlos Gomez

6.3%

24.7%

0.284

0.338

0.344

Starling Marte

4.4%

24.4%

0.280

0.343

0.363

Jedd Gyorko

6.3%

23.4%

0.249

0.301

0.287

Will Venable

5.6%

22.9%

0.268

0.312

0.313

I don’t like Marte by the looks of this.  Marte does have the highest OBP here, but that’s an inflated value when you factor in Marte getting plunked 24 times.  In the future, I see Marte’s average and OBP falling more in line with Will Venable’s line…not exactly what a leadoff hitter should be producing.

His BABIP is a huge factor for me in determining his regression.  Marte’s 2013 BABIP was the twenty-fifth highest among qualified batters since 2010…only five of those seasons with higher BABIPs had averages below .300, and only one of those was below .290.  Marte was only able to hit .280 with his BABIP.  He has always been a high BABIP player, like most speedy guys are.  But I don’t think his .363 mark is sustainable.  I’ll knock his average and OBP because of this.

Score: 4.5 out of 10

## Category Three: Other Trends/Stuff I Noticed

Okay, so I don’t have fancy names for these categories.  I might expand into more categories next time around, but I’ve got three for now.

One reason Marte is so valuable is because he steals a ton of bases.  I think this is where I am supposed to mention SAGNOF, even though I don’t play that way.  Since 2012, Marte has stolen 53 bags, and was caught 20 times.  This gives him a 72.6% stolen base rate.  Fifty-eight players have stolen more than 30 bases since 2012.  Out of these players, Marte ranks forty-ninth in SB%.  If you play in any leagues that count net stolen bases, you have been warned: his 40 steals look more like 25.

I think this is also a good place to mention Marte’s first and second half splits.  In the past year or so, there are many players who started out hot, only to fizzle in the second half.  Jean Segura, Jason Kipnis, and Chris Davis are good examples of this.  It turns out that Marte can join this part-ay.  Here are his first/second half splits:

Half

PA

2B

HR

R

RBI

SO

SB

CS

AVG

1st Half 401 20 9 59 28 89 28 10 0.291
2nd Half 165 6 3 24 7 49 13 5 0.254

His DL stint, and the longer first half, make this data look skewed.  Here is what happens when you standardize his second half to 401 PA:

Half

PA

2B

HR

R

RBI

SO

SB

CS

AVG

1st Half 401 20 9 59 28 89 28 10 0.291
2nd Half 401 15 7 58 17 119 32 12 0.254

Okay, no one gets 801 PA in a season, but that’s not the point of the exercise.  The real point is that he is down almost across the board in the second half.  Here is another question to ask yourself: Is his second half going to carry over into 2014?  I think he ends up somewhere in between the two halves.

Hang in there, I’m down to my last point.  The table below shows all the pitches Marte saw in 2013:

Pitch Type

Count

K

AVG

SLG

Fourseam

740

43

0.269

0.532

Sinker

480

17

0.287

0.444

Slider

324

27

0.265

0.325

Curve

290

22

0.222

0.319

Change

188

17

0.222

0.244

Cutter

143

8

0.325

0.625

Split

27

3

0.250

0.375

Slow Curve

2

0

0.000

0.000

Marte saw 2194 pitches last year.  Over half of these pitches were fastballs or sinkers, two of his best hit pitches.  Marte had a lot of Trouble with the Curve and changeup.  Once pitchers figure out his weak pitches, they’re likely to exploit them.

Score: 4 out of 10

Overall Score: 10.5 out of 25

Weighted Score: 84%

Starling Marte?  More like Starling Farte.

Jeremy is a contributor for Razzball Baseball. He had a last name, but he lost it in ‘Nam.  You can follow the soldier of misfortune on twitter @Jeremy_Razzball, just don’t trigger his flashbacks.