On the Mets‘ most recent road trip, they did one of two things: they either fell flat against lesser opponents or completely pummeled them. With a homestand starting on Monday at Citi Field against similar teams, the Mets went for Option A against the Cubs, losing 5-2. The offense has been very inconsistent in recent weeks, and Starling Marte getting hurt isn’t helping.
Marte has been on the injured list since September 10th with a partial non-displaced fracture of his right middle finger. It happened when the outfielder was hit by a pitch in Pittsburgh. The swelling has gone down and Marte is feeling a lot better, but it’s obvious that his presence is greatly missed.
Another All-Star performance
Marte signed a four-year, $78 million contract with the Mets this past winter on the heels of what was a career season. Between the Marlins and Athletics, Marte posted a career-high 5.5 fWAR, as well as tying career-high marks in stolen bases (47) and wRC+ (134).
That could’ve been the set-up for a season of Marte falling short of high expectations in Queens, but he’s done the exact opposite. He was selected to his second career All-Star Game (first since 2016) and has slashed .292/.347/.468 with 16 home runs, 63 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 18 steals in 505 plate appearances.
This performance has produced a 134 wRC+ to go along with 2.9 fWAR.
Mets’ lineup is much less dynamic
Having Marte slotted into the two-hole of manager Buck Showalter’s lineup has made the Mets’ offense look much deeper and more dynamic than in years past. Of course, with him injured, this lineup is not as deep and not nearly as dynamic.
Let’s take New York’s starting lineup from Monday night as a prime example. Here’s the group Showalter deployed against the Cubs:
- Brandon Nimmo
- Francisco Lindor
- Jeff McNeil
- Pete Alonso
- Daniel Vogelbach
- Mark Canha
- Eduardo Escobar
- Tyler Naquin
- James McCann
It’s hard to argue with that top four because it looks great — especially when they’re firing on all cylinders. But without Marte, this comes at the expense of the bottom of the order.
When the Mets signed Marte, I was immediately excited about having him and Nimmo in the top two spots. It lets Lindor settle into the three-hole and gives Alonso plenty of RBI opportunities as the clean-up hitter (which he’s taken advantage of). It also allows McNeil to hit behind Alonso instead of in front of him.
With a hit machine like McNeil taking up residence in the lower half of the order, it makes the Mets’ offense look much more dangerous. It becomes that much easier to sustain rallies, too.
Missing those first-inning Marte parties
One of the Mets’ best traits as the 2022 squad distinguishes itself among others in franchise history is scoring early in games. As of September 13th, New York has scored an average of 0.57 runs per game in the first inning. That ranks as the seventh-best number in baseball.
It’s been a different story for the Amazins since Marte has been sidelined, though. He last appeared in a game on September 6th. In the six games the outfielder has missed thus far, the Mets have scored just one first-inning run. Sure, they’ve still won their fair share of games during this time, but jumping on the opposing pitcher in the first inning has been a welcome sight all year.
Marte has been a huge part of that. He’s accumulated 110 plate appearances in the first inning this season. With that opportunity, the outfielder is slashing .350/.409/.600 with 10 extra-base hits (seven homers, two doubles, one triple), 11 RBI, 23 runs scored, and six stolen bases.
As important as Marte is to New York’s lineup, the Mets are more than capable of remaining consistent at the dish without him present. They’ve put together some huge games since he went on the IL and are still scoring early (just not in the first). But still, there are days when New York’s bats are setting the world on fire, and others when literally nothing happens.
There are some bigger issues that need to get sorted out. But either way, the offense will get a huge boost once Marte is healthy enough to settle back into his customary second spot in the lineup.