Starling Marte: leadoff-hitting strikeout machine

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Before fanning yet again to open Saturday’s game against the Cardinals, Starling Marte had amassed a major league-high 35 strikeouts in 24 games this season. He led the majors by two strikeouts over American League rookies Abraham Almonte and Marcus Semien and the NL by three over Justin Upton.

That put him on pace for 236 strikeouts for the season, which would easily outdistance the major league record of 223 set by Mark Reynolds in 2009. He’s probably not going to stay in that territory, but perhaps he could join Reynolds, Adam Dunn, Chris Carter and Drew Stubbs as the only players to fan 200 times in a season.

If not, there’s another record he could reach. One of the few strikeout records not set in the last 10 years is Bobby Bonds’ 184 from the leadoff spot in 1970. It’s been approached several times since, with Rickie Weeks finishing at 179 in 2010 and Austin Jackson racking up 169 and 178 in back-to-back years in 2010-11.

Of course, the Pirates could relieve Marte of leadoff duties, but they really don’t want to. Even with his struggles so far this year, he’s scored 14 runs in 24 games. He doesn’t walk much at all, but he does get hit by pitches, which has allowed him to amass a respectable .331 OBP in 206 career games. He’s also 7-for-8 stealing bases this year after going 41-for-56 last year.

So, the Pirates will simply hope Marte cuts back on the strikeouts a bit and gets his OBP back up. As is, they still have bigger concerns about the second spot in the lineup, which has yet to be secured by either Travis Snider or Jose Tabata and was actually manned by Josh Harrison and his career .279 OBP on Saturday.

Mets sign Matt Purke to minors deal

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The Mets signed left-hander Matt Purke to a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Purke will also receive an invitation to spring training, where he could presumably beef up the club’s left-handed relief options alongside Jerry Blevins and Josh Smoker.

Purke has not appeared in the majors since 2016, when he was used in a dozen relief appearances by the White Sox. The 27-year-old racked up a 5.50 ERA, 6.0 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 in his first 18 innings with the team, and was demoted to Triple-A Charlotte in June to finish out the season. He spent the entire 2017 season in Triple-A as well, showing more promise with a 3.84 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 11.0 SO/9 in 48 appearances.

While Purke may not amount to much more than a depth piece in New York’s ‘pen, the veteran lefty figures to be part of the Mets’ new bullpen-first strategy next year. Reports from MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo indicate that the club will be focusing on improving their relief options in order to ease the workload of their starting pitchers, and will likely add a few more arms before the offseason comes to a close.