Despite heading into this season with gigantic expectations, the Mets completely underwhelmed in 2023. There were letdowns across the board, but the lack of performance from outfielder Starling Marte was possibly the biggest blow to New York’s offense.
Marte was slow to ramp up his activity during Spring Training because of offseason core surgery that occurred on both groins. He played through pain in the first half before hitting the injured list with a strained groin. The outfielder’s plan was to return before the season finished this weekend. However, manager Buck Showalter announced on Wednesday that Marte wouldn’t return because there wasn’t enough of a runway to get him ready.
Since his arrival in Queens, we’ve seen plenty of examples to display how important Marte has been to the Mets.
The outfielder was an All-Star last year, hitting .292/.347/.468 with 16 home runs, 63 RBI, 78 runs scored, and 18 steals in 118 games played. New York played like one of baseball’s best teams when he was healthy and in the lineup between April and August. But, as we all know, things went south in September and October.
It seemed to coincide with him hitting the injured list after getting hit by a pitch and fracturing his finger. Never getting healthy enough in 2023 might be the biggest reason why the Mets’ offense struggled so much.
The blame isn’t solely on Marte. The first half included prolonged slumps from several important contributors, like Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, and Jeff McNeil. But could it have been different if Marte was healthy and producing similarly to his 2022 numbers?
Of his 505 plate appearances from last year, 428 of them came in the second spot of the lineup. He and Brandon Nimmo proved to be a terrific duo of table setters. Marte’s struggles forced Showalter to move him down in the lineup.
That just had to be a big contributor to the Mets’ first-inning struggles.
During the 2022 season, Marte absolutely raked in the first inning. Across 110 plate appearances, he slashed .350/.409/.600. That included 10 extra-base hits (two doubles, one triple, seven homers), 11 RBI, and 23 runs scored. During the first inning of games in 2023, he hit .156/.225/.244 with two extra-base hits (one double, one homer), one RBI, and three runs scored in 49 plate appearances.
New York was among the top 10 in baseball with 0.60 runs scored per game in the first inning last year. The Mets rank dead-last in first-inning runs scored this season, with 0.35. (They also allowed lots of runs in the first inning, which didn’t help.)
That doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me. Having a Nimmo-Marte one-two punch at the top of the order was excellent for this offense in 2022. Only getting one-half of that combination in 2023 really put New York’s lineup behind the eight-ball.
We can hope next year will be better for both the Mets and Marte. But at the same time, New York shouldn’t be depending on him, as SNY’s Danny Abriano said. The veteran outfielder is under contract for two more seasons, so you hope he does bounce back. But then again, 2024 will be Marte’s age-35 season. His production and health will certainly be more of a wild card than when he first signed with New York.
You’d have to think that David Stearns, Billy Eppler, and Co. are aware of that and will act accordingly with offseason moves this winter.