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.

Nationals to reinstate Max Scherzer on Thursday

Max Scherzer
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Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.

It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.

While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.

If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.