This will be my final unsurprised face of 2019. Ketel Marte took a super-majority of the votes in the final ‘Pittie of 2019, getting 72% of the selections. At time of writing anyone else needed to be rounded up to get into double-digits. It’s not a shock: I could probably have started writing this article the moment the poll opened, without much risk of my efforts going to waste. In terms of dominance, it’s right up there with Paul Goldschmidt’s most dominant results (he won with 75% in 2017 and 80% in 2015). Hard to argue otherwise, and that’s no knock on the other four candidates who all had seasons which were worthy of praise as well.
But Marte’s performance overall is made all the more remarkable by the fact he did it while transitioning to an entirely new area of the game. There are not many players who can move from the infield to the outfield and do it so well. That’s especially true for those who, like Marte, came into this season with less than a hundred innings of outfield experience in his entire professional career. Simply being willing to consider such a radical change, for the benefit of the team, is something for which Ketel deserves kudos. That he had the skills and put in the effort to make it work so well across the board, is almost unprecedented in this history of the team. [See: Conor Jackson, Chad Tracy, Chris Owings]
I’m almost tempted just to embed Sean’s excellent piece which capped off our 2019 reviews, with a deep dig into Ketel’s season. That highlights Marte’s performance on both sides of the ball, in a way which I could only echo in a largely redundant fashion. But I will instead honor him by lobbing out a few select statistics and quotes which hopefully show just how good Ketel was this season. [A hat-tip to Jeremy Frank of diamond-digest.com, a.k.a. on Twitter as @MLBRandomStats, who pointed me in the direction of a couple]
- “Based on the season I’ve had, I’m really happy with my numbers, with the way I’ve performed, and I really couldn’t have asked anything more of what 2019 has been for me.” — Ketel Marte
- Over the past sixty years, only four qualified switch-hitters aged 25 or younger have had a higher OPS+ than Marte’s 149. Eddie Murray (156, 1981), Tim Raines (151, 1985), Lance Berkman (161, 2001) and Jose Ramirez (150, 2018).
- “His evolution has been remarkable... As soon as it became the new normal, he has stayed in the same slot and had the same approach all year long. It’s a quality adjustment he made.” — Torey Lovullo
- Of hitters to play 10 games at 2B, SS and CF in a season, Marte’s OPS+ is far and away the best in the modern era. You have to go all the way back to 1888 when something called a Hub Collins had a 159 OPS+ in the American Association. Collins did have a better ‘stache though.
- “He continued to get big hit after big hit for us and made things happen.” — Torey Lovullo
- Speaking to that, in 2019 Marte was worth +382% in Win Probability. The next best was David Peralta at +151%. Outside of the ever-amazing Goldschmidt, Ketel’s season was the highest figure by a Diamondback since Tony Clark in 2005 (+439%).
- “I wouldn’t say that we think of anyone as a defensive linchpin, but for him to do it so well just allows us so much more flexibility.” — Assistant GM Jared Porter
- Five players did the 10 game 2B/SS/CF trifecta in baseball in 2019. Marte’s OPS+ was forty-one points better than the second-best, the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor.
- “Even without reaching the heights of 2019, Marte projects as a legitimate All-Star for the entirety of his contract. And with his deal maxing out at five years and $34 million with Arizona’s two club options, if Escobar’s contract is grand larceny, Marte’s contract may be the Lufthansa Heist.” — Dan Szymborski
- Marte is the only player in franchise history to demonstrate such positional flexibility. The nearest approach was in 1999, when Tony Womack did play at all three spots, but only managed six games in center. [He was mostly a right fielder that year, something I’d all but forgotten] His OPS+? 77, barely half that of Marte.
- “Dynamic, exciting, those are single words that I can use. He’s a mature baseball player today compared to when we first met him. ... He’s matured in a way where he feels he’s one of the top players, and you can tell by looking at him. But he’s still humble and would never outwardly say that.” — Torey Lovullo
And now, he is the 2019 AZ SnakePit Most Valuable Player. And a well-deserved honor it is, too.