Mets see positive indicators with struggling right fielder Starling Marte: ‘ I think there are better times ahead’

18 July 2023

Starling Marte was so crucial to the Mets’ success last season that when he went on the injured list with a broken finger last September, the team went 14-10 without him. He was an All-Star for the second time in his career and he received NL MVP votes.

But this season, it’s a different story. In the second year of a four-year contract, the Mets’ right fielder has looked like a different player. He’s hitting .254 with an OPS of .640 and an OPS+ of only 80, 20 points below average.

His sprint speed is down in the outfield. His four outs above average is considered poor by Statcast’s metrics and he’s cost the Mets seven runs in the outfield this season, according to Fangraphs, after saving four last season.

“Some good. Some flashes of the level he spoiled us with last year,” manager Buck Showalter said. “There’s still a lot of time left. You go through a period where you really think he is going to get it going for an extended period of time but then there’s a little hiccup there. It’s not that he doesn’t want to.”

Marte does want to right the ship and get back to playing how he did last season, but the 34-year-old is still dealing with lingering pain and soreness from his offseason double groin surgery.

“It’s affecting me more in my hitting,” Marte told the Daily News through translator Alan Suriel. “I can’t lie and say it’s affecting my running, because that’s not how I feel at the very moment, but at the same time, we’re working every day and we’re doing everything we need to do to make it better.”

The groin has been keeping him from getting the rotation he needs at the plate. It’s made it more difficult to fully use his hips and access his power. The Mets haven’t necessarily said outright that the groin has been an issue this season but Showalter has, at times, hinted at it. Scouts have noticed as well.

However, the groin has improved throughout the season. Marte has a strength routine he has to perform before he does any other training and he’s seen positive results from it.

“In the beginning of the season it was bothering me, it was a little bit tight,” Marte said. “But once we started working on making it stronger and more flexible, little by little it’s gotten better.”

Last season, he hit .289 with runners in scoring position and struck out only 20 times. This season, he’s hitting just .232 and has already struck out 19 times with runners in scoring position.

Never was this more obvious than last month when the Mets loaded the bases on the Milwaukee Brewers. Down 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Marte faced closer Devin Williams and struck out on three pitches. A woman in the Citi Field stands went viral when she was caught on camera screaming, “Stop swinging at everything!”

The Dominican is well aware that his 2023 numbers are well below his career averages. However, the Mets are confident that they see signs of improvement, though Showalter declined to elaborate on any specific trends.

“We look at things from each month and things that improve with the ebb and flow,” the manager said. “[Analyst Natalie Maurice] gave me the June stuff and there were some things that he improved on. I think there are better times ahead.”

The Mets are 6-4 over their last 10 games and Marte is 8-for-30 with a home run, four RBI and three stolen bases. Marte is still a threat to steal every time he’s on base and his 24 swipes are the sixth-most in baseball.

Marte’s struggles could be the result of age and injury and the Mets have to figure out why some key players have regressed this season. But right now, the groin seems to be under control. After sitting out Saturday with a migraine, he returned to go 1-for-4 with a stolen base in the Mets’ walk-off win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday.

If Marte gets on a roll, so too could the Mets.

“There aren’t any excuses,” Marte said. “At the end of the day, we have to go out there and continue to work.”


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