Pirates' Starling Marte using his 'gift' of speed more via stolen bases and bunts
Five-decade baseball junkie Clint Hurdle mused Monday that Starling Marte “has a gift of closing speed like few men I have ever seen play the game.”
“Sometimes he gets jumps (on stolen-base attempts), and I’ll be like ‘(Oh no!),’ and then I’ll watch everything transpire and (Marte is) safe… I’ve watched some pretty good guys steal bases. This guy steals them with ease sometimes. Enough other guys get thrown out to know it’s not that easy. He’s got a gift, and he’s trying to use his gift in more intentional fashion.”
Marte entered Monday’s game tied for third in MLB with 22 steals. Perhaps more impressively, none of the players in the top six has been thrown out more than the four times Marte has been caught. Hurdle lauded the increased film work Marte has done this season because it’s made him a more cerebral base stealer.
Sunday’s game showed Marte’s blazing speed both by way of a steal and via two bunt singles. Those gave Marte 15 infield hits this season, tied for the fourth most in the National League. In each of the past five seasons, Marte has finished among the top 11 in the NL in infield hits.
According to fangraphs.com, Marte getting a bunt down is a 50 percent proposition for a base hit: he’s 3 for 6 this season and 36 for 72 in his career.
Though Sunday’s two bunt singles were just the second and third for Marte in 2018, Hurdle noted that in his estimation Marte squares to bunt at least once per game.
“He’s well aware of the bunt being a weapon for him….He understands the value of it,” Hurdle said.
“I think he uses it appropriately and I think he uses it in a smart fashion.”