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Starling Marte: leadoff-hitting strikeout machine

Apr 26, 2014, 4:47 PM EDT

Starling Marte AP

Before fanning yet again to open Saturday’s game against the Cardinals, Starling Marte had amassed a major league-high 35 strikeouts in 24 games this season. He led the majors by two strikeouts over American League rookies Abraham Almonte and Marcus Semien and the NL by three over Justin Upton.

That put him on pace for 236 strikeouts for the season, which would easily outdistance the major league record of 223 set by Mark Reynolds in 2009. He’s probably not going to stay in that territory, but perhaps he could join Reynolds, Adam Dunn, Chris Carter and Drew Stubbs as the only players to fan 200 times in a season.

If not, there’s another record he could reach. One of the few strikeout records not set in the last 10 years is Bobby Bonds’ 184 from the leadoff spot in 1970. It’s been approached several times since, with Rickie Weeks finishing at 179 in 2010 and Austin Jackson racking up 169 and 178 in back-to-back years in 2010-11.

Of course, the Pirates could relieve Marte of leadoff duties, but they really don’t want to. Even with his struggles so far this year, he’s scored 14 runs in 24 games. He doesn’t walk much at all, but he does get hit by pitches, which has allowed him to amass a respectable .331 OBP in 206 career games. He’s also 7-for-8 stealing bases this year after going 41-for-56 last year.

So, the Pirates will simply hope Marte cuts back on the strikeouts a bit and gets his OBP back up. As is, they still have bigger concerns about the second spot in the lineup, which has yet to be secured by either Travis Snider or Jose Tabata and was actually manned by Josh Harrison and his career .279 OBP on Saturday.

  1. sumerduckman - Apr 26, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    Even with all those strikeouts, he’s putting up better numbers .245 avg, .321 obp than Denard Span
    .235 avg, .303 obp.

  2. shawnuel - Apr 26, 2014 at 5:18 PM

    Almonte is also a lead-off hitter.

    • psunick - Apr 26, 2014 at 5:48 PM

      Until today. They must have read this blog post.

  3. apkyletexas - Apr 26, 2014 at 10:44 PM

    Marte was never a leadoff before he got to the big leagues. The only reason he’s been batted there is because they don’t have anyone better for the spot.

    It’s a big failure of management that one of their only good on-base guys, McCutchen, is desperately needed in the three hole.

    The good news is that Gregory Palonco is absolutely tearing up the AAA level this year with a .417 average and a 1.146 OPS. Hopefully he’ll arrive in the big leagues sometime this year and give the club a few more options for their batting order. Eventually I see Marte working his way into the middle of the order.

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