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The Ketel Marte malware conspiracy

With help from @MLBRandomStats, Marte’s too-good-to-be-true numbers are exposed.

Arizona Diamondbacks v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: The WAR leaderboards are broken! Yes, all of them. Do not use for risk of being misled. I’m not sure what is causing the glitch, but it’s likely some sort of malware intended to display Ketel Marte as an elite baseball player. There can be no other explanation for why he ranks so highly.

Yes, you read that correctly. Ketel Marte is apparently very high on every WAR leaderboard. The same Ketel Marte who began the year slashing .263/.324/.389 with 22 home runs over parts of four seasons is now purported as one of the best players in baseball. Here are his WARs through Monday:

Ketel Marte WAR Ranks

Type of WAR Marte's WAR NL Rank
Type of WAR Marte's WAR NL Rank
bWAR 6.5 3rd
fWAR 6.8 T-3rd
WARP 4.3 14th

Baseball Prospectus seems a little less broken than the others, but these are still absurd numbers for a player who entered the year with 7.0 bWAR, 4.7 fWAR, and 5.8 WARP for his career. The Diamondbacks super-utility man simply cannot have suddenly become this good.

Ketel Marte Fun Facts

Regrettably, the conspiracy runs deeper than just WAR. His underlying stats have all been similarly altered to support his allegedly majestic season, especially in the second half.

To illustrate the insanity of his numbers, I’ve brought in an expert witness: Jeremy Frank of diamond-digest.com, better known on Twitter as @MLBRandomStats. He’s a must-follow if you like baseball fun facts, and what kind of depraved person doesn’t? Few people can suss out absurd stats better than him, so I’ve called on his help to expose Marte’s too-good-to-be-true numbers.

The following stats are all courtesy of Jeremy Frank:

#1- Switch-hitters 25 and under with .300 batting average and 30 home runs:

  • Mickey Mantle- 1955, 1956, and 1957
  • Eddie Murray- 1980
  • Chipper Jones- 1996
  • Lance Berkman- 2001
  • Mark Teixeira- 2005
  • Ketel Marte- 2019

#2- 64 players have played at least 10 games at second base, shortstop, and center field in a season. Marte has the highest batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, and hits.

#3- Through Sunday, Marte’s last 132 games: .337/.398/.612

  • last 112 games: .349/.414/.633
  • last 87 games: .371/.430/.669
  • last 72 games: .385/.449/.682
  • last 29 games: .393/.450/.726
  • last 15 games: .429/.475/.857
  • last 10 games: .459/.487/.973

Whole New Ketel

This insidious pro-Ketel malware has swept across the baseball Internet, now infecting Statcast. The clever black hat masterminds must have figured they need batted ball data to back up their claim that Marte is indeed one of the best players in the game.

Statcast shows that he’s putting up better numbers because he’s hitting the ball hard more consistently. Here is his rolling hard hit percentage:

For most of his young career, he produced exit velocities of at least 95 mph far less than the MLB average. Now he’s well above the MLB average line. From 2015-17, he managed only eight barrels. Last year, that ticked up to 22, and this year it’s 43.

He also joined the ever-popular launch angle revolution. In three of his first four seasons, his ground ball rate was above 50 percent. This year, it’s 43.3, which is improved from 51.2 last season. Correspondingly, his line drive rate of 22.6 percent is a career high. His 44.0 percent pull rate is also a personal best.

Defense is another major contributor to his increased value. From 2015-17, he played shortstop almost exclusively, and frankly not that well. His shortstop play was worth -7.1 UZR during that stretch. Last year, he shifted to second base, where he was fairly average (0.6 UZR). In 2019, he’s predominantly manned center field, where his speed has really played up. He’s been worth 6.7 UZR in center this season (though he’s dragged down by -1.3 UZR in the infield). Going from a negative or neutral defender to a positive one provides a nice WAR boost.

Swing Change

The malware is so thorough that it even doctored video. Here is a clip of Marte in 2018 batting left-handed. He gets a middle-middle fastball from Erasmo Ramírez...

...and pops out to left field. This is the Ketel Marte we recognize— the real thing.

Here is an alleged clip of Marte this season, again batting left-handed against a middle-middle fastball, this time from Jeff Samardzija...

...and visits a part of Oracle Park where very few baseballs travel.

I’m no scout, but the differences are pretty clear. His timing mechanism leading up to the pitch is different. In 2018, he sort of bounced on his heels, whereas in 2019 he lightly taps his straightened front leg. He also appears to be standing a little more forward in the box. His swing opens up more quickly in 2019 as well.

It’s probably best to stay off the stat sites for a while. You’ll see Ketel Marte’s name on a whole bunch of leaderboards until we can sort out this malware. Unless you actually believe he transformed himself into one of the best baseball players in the world, in which case he might stay among the WAR leaders for several more years.


Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. Tweets @depstein1983.