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The season that was: Russell Martin

A look at Russell Martin's 2015 season

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

I think it is fair to say that we were pretty surprised when the Jays signed Russell Martin. A year before, Alex had signed Dioner Navarro to the biggest free agent contract, up to that point, in his time as a GM. Dioner had a pretty good year with the bat and we figured that, on the Jays list of needs, a new catcher was a good ways down on the list.

But Alex thought that Russell Martin's pitch framing, leadership and defensive play made worth giving him a 5-year $82 million contract. As much as we were kind of worried about having to pay A catcher $20 million a year for his age 34, 35, and 36 season, we were pretty excited. Our poll on the signing had 66% liking it, 15% hating and 20% neutral.

Being at the games in Montreal, you did get to see how much people love the home town boy. He got standing ovations over and over. And his dad was great playing the national anthems on the saxophone.

He had a pretty good season.

Year   Age   G  AB  R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2015    32 129 441 76 106 23  2 23  77  4  5 53 106 .240 .329 .458 .787

Provided by "":

Baseball Reference has him at a 3.3 WAR. Fangraphs liked him a little better at 3.5, giving him a value of $27.7 million to the Jays. Since he was paid $7 million, he has a fair surplus in value to take into the rest of his backloaded contract.

He didn't have a great playoff. He hit .200/.333/.333 with 1 RBI in the ALDS and .091/.333/.091 with no RBI in the ALCS.

Russell had a .340 wOBA and a 114 wRC+.

Compared to 2014, his walk rate was down (10.5% from 12.8) and his strikeout rate was up (20.9% from 17.0%).

Martin's line drive rate was down (16.4% from 19.3), ground balls up a bit (50.6 from 49.0) and fly balls up (33.0% from 31.7). A lot more of his fly balls left the park (20.7% from 11.3)

His BABIP was .262, way down from .336 last year (but then 2014 was a bit of an outlier for Martin.

He hit LHP (.278/.414/.522) much better than RHP (.231/.306/.442).

Martin hit a little better at home (.243/.331/.477) than on the road (.238/.328/.439).

He was very good with RISP (.284/.376/.510).

His first half (.251/.339/.457) was a little better than his second (.224/.315/.460).

Martin by month:

  • April: .197/.367/.410 with 3 home runs and 13 RBI in 20 games.
  • May: .327/.362/.541 with 4 home runs and 11 RBI in 26 games.
  • June: .239/.329/.479 with 4 home runs and 13 RBI in 21 games.
  • July: .256/.322/.474 with 4 home runs and 12 RBI in 22 games.
  • August: .138/.263/.231 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI in 18 games.
  • Sept/Oct: .235/.321/.559 with 6 home runs and 21 RBI in 22 games.
Take August out of there and it is a really good season.

Behind the plate, he looked good. More athletic than Navarro did the year before. He left the league in throwing out 44% of the players silly enough to try to steal against him. He also led the way in passed balls with 19, part of price you pay for trying to catch a knuckle ball.

His framing stats didn't look quite as good as past years, but he's still 10th in baseball in Baseball Prospectus rankingStat Corner has him more in the middle of the pack. I think there is still a fair bit of noise in those numbers yet, but, after watching him, he seemed much better than Navarro. I do think that some of framing is on the pitcher. A pitch that hits the target is much easier to frame than pitches that ones that miss.

Nick Ashbourne wondered which Jays pitcher would be most helped by throwing to Martin, back a year ago today. A year later, I'm not sure what the answer is.

Fangraphs has him 4.6 runs worse than average base runner. He was 4 out of 9 on stole base attempts, a 'success rate' that makes you wish he wouldn't. He seems reasonably fast for a catcher.

His longest hitting streak was 7 games. And longest on base streak was 11 games. The longest he went without hitting a home run was 23 games.

Russell's favorite team to face? He hit .300/.362/.660 with 5 home runs and 18 RBI in 16 games against the Yankees. Least favorite? He hit just .167/.211/.167 (3 singles in 18 at bats in 7 games) against the White Sox.

I very much enjoyed watching Martin this year.

I'm not a huge believer in 'leadership'. I think guys on winning teams get called leaders. I tend to think that guys on winning teams play on good teams. But....the team maybe it was leadership that got us to the playoffs.

He did seem to wear down in the middle of the season and the team said that catching R.A. Dickey took a lot of out him. I can understand that, but it does worry me about how well he'll age. In the middle of his age 32 season we were told that he was as 'beat up more than any catcher' that the speaker could remember. Will be be up to catching in his age 36 season.

Maybe the team will have to be more careful with him, in the future. Someone else will have to catch RA, but he'll also have to have some other days off. Or maybe be willing to use the DL to give him a couple of weeks of rest mid-season. It would be good if we could keep a decent backup catcher. But, Thole's out of options (though, would any team take him if he was put on waivers), and he's going to be needed to catch Dickey. But, would we be happy giving him 60 games behind the plate this year?

The backloaded contract, as it turns out, won't end up biting Alex Anthopoulos. I think that if I was a GM, I'd try to backload all contracts. What are the chances you will still be around when it starts looking like a bad deal? And, if you are, chances are things went so well that no one is ever going to complain about anything you've done.

I had never seen a catcher do something like this before, though had he not jumped on the rail he could have made the catch.