Why isn't Starling Marte playing?

US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Starling Marte continues to sit even as the Pirates play meaningless games in September.

There has been some discussion in the comments about Starling Marte sitting out more and more frequently lately, which, as WTM points out, is just bizarre:

Really, the one position player we have in the upper minors who has a chance to be an above average player and he’s sitting on the bench. I doubt another team in the majors would be doing this, especially one that was out of the playoff race. This is Lloyd McClendon ... type stuff.

Well, right. Marte was out on Friday and only got one at-bat Saturday. Before that, he didn't get any at-bats Sunday through Tuesday.

So what gives? Here's Clint Hurdle's answer:

"There’s a bunch of things that we’re working with, with Starling. Absolutely," Hurdle said. "Base running, leads and breaks. Path, barrel to the ball, bunting — all three of those are probably at the top of the list. Just angles, paths, leads and breaks on the base."

"He’s showed the defensive part of it. He can make it look easy. He made a throw at Citi Field the other day that took your breath away. He’s closed in on some balls that just make you go, ['wow']. When him and Andrew [McCutchen] are in left and center field, it’s like, ‘wow’. We cover a lot of ground on that side of the field…He’s still working to tighten some things up and improve things."

That's only part of Hurdle's response. There's more rambling to be found if you click over to the link, but I think the above is supposed to be the important part. If that's the case, I can only say: What?

"Baserunning, leads and breaks. Path, barrel to the ball, bunting -- all three of those are probably at the top of the list." This is a player with considerable promise who's sitting as the Pirates play their meaningless last few games of the season, and this is the best Hurdle can come up with? That he needs to work on "path" and his baserunning and bunting?

Of course it's possible that Hurdle is just doing a really poor job explaining what's going on. But this sure sounds like he just doesn't have good answers for the questions he's getting. Unless there's something very strange going on or Marte is injured (in which case he shouldn't be playing at all), Marte should be playing every day.

By the way, the narrative here seems to be that Marte has struggled enough to deserve being benched. See here, for example:

Was the promotion of Starling Marte among those that missed the mark?

Implications are that perception could be accurate. Marte's recent benching and "remedial" workouts suggest he may not have been quite ready for the step to the Major after a half-season in Triple-A.

The irony is that for a long time, the club resisted fans' outcries for Marte's promotion from Indianapolis, until finally relenting on July 26.

Until, of course, the Pirates eventually decided the fans were right. And you know what? They probably were right. I just don't understand the idea that, of all the struggling hitters the Pirates have used this year, Marte is the one who deserves to be benched. This is a team that started Josh Harrison tonight. This is a team that continues to start Gaby Sanchez against righties. This is a team that started Rod Barajas just yesterday (a day after he got two big hits against the Mets, but still). The idea that an outfielder who provides lots of value on defense and has an OPS (barely, admittedly) north of .700 in his first exposure to big-league pitching is the one who's the problem doesn't really hold water.

Marte isn't perfect. His strike-zone judgment needs a lot of work. His bunting and baserunning probably need work, or whatever. He's raw. That's exactly why he needs to play. That the Pirates continue to sit him as they play out the string doesn't appear to make much sense.

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