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The season that was: Russell Martin

Looking at Martin’s 2018 season.

Washington Nationals v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Going into the 2017 season, Russell Martin came into camp lighter, feeling less weight would make it easier on his knees and he could play more and not wear down so much as the season went on.

It seemed a bit of a curious decision, considering he played 137 games in 2016. He was second in the AL in innings caught. But we figured he knew what he was doing.

Then he played a career low 91 games at catcher.

So, come spring in 2018, comes to camp with more muscle, feeling that if he was stronger he could handle the stress of catching better.

It didn’t work:

Standard Batting
90 352 289 37 56 8 0 10 25 0 3 56 82 .194 .338 .325 .663 86 7 7
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/30/2018.

Baseball Reference has him at a 1.3 WAR. FanGraphs 0.6, giving him a value of $5.1 million to the Blue Jays.

Russell had a .305 wOBA and a 91 wRC+.

Compared to 2017, Russell walked more (15.9%, from 13.7) and struck out more (23.3%, from 22.7).

His line drive rate was way down (14.0%, from 23.7), ground balls up (51.2%, from 48.2) and fly balls up (34.8%, from 28.1). Far fewer of his fly balls left the park (13.9%, from 20.6).

His hard contact rate was about the same (30.0%, from 30.2) and soft contact was up (22.7%, from 16.4).

His BABIP was way down (.234, from .261 last year and .291 the year before).

Russell hit LHP (.222/.364/.319) about the same as RHP (.184/.330/.327). The last couple of years he hit RHP much better than LHP.

He hit far better on the road (.236/.375/.389) than at home (.152/.301/.262), a reverse from the last couple of years.

He wasn’t great with RISP (.200/.351/.250).

Martin’s second half was much better (.232/.364/.427) than the first half (.179/.328/.285). Of course he played a lot more in the first half.

Martin by month:

  • April: .156/.299/.328 with 3 home runs in 19 games.
  • May: .175/.297/.302 with 2 home runs in 19 games.
  • June: .188/.400/.250 with 1 home run in 16 games.
  • July: .226/.328/.377 with 2 home runs in 16 games.
  • August: .250/.391/.393 with 2 home runs in 18 games.
  • September: .000/.167/.000 in 2 games.

Defensely? Stat Corner had him at 5.0 runs better than the average catcher at framing pitches, a big improvement over last year. He gained half a strike a game. Last year they said he lost .82 strikes per game.

He threw out 22% of basestealers. (league average is 28%) up from 20% last year. He had 3 passed balls and 28 wild pitches while behind the plate.

He made 5 errors behind the plate, 4 throwing.

As you know, Martin played a fair bit of third base, 147 innings. He made 2 errors at the position. FanGraphs has him at a -6.8 UZR/150, but then there wasn’t enough innings for a good reading.

He also played 10 innings at short and 8 innings in left.

FanGraphs has him at -4.5 runs as a base runner.

His longest hitting streak was 7 games. Longest on base steak was 16 game.

The Jays were 42-47 in his starts.

Martin in games he started hit:

  • First: 1 time.
  • Second: 1 time.
  • Fifth: 11 times.
  • Sixth: 57 times.
  • Seventh: 19 times.

Favorite team to play? Martin hit .308/.400/.846 in 5 games vs. the White Sox.

Least favorite? He hit .111/.256/.139 in 11 games against the Yankees.

Matt wrote about Russell and the future here.

To me, the best of all worlds would be to find a way to trade him. I’m not sure it’s likely. The team would have to send a fair chunk of change with him, if they found someone who wanted him.

Veteran leadership behind the plate might be a draw for some team.

I’m not excited about the idea of him being a utility player. We have several players I would rather see at third base or shortstop.

$20 million seems like a lot of money for a backup catcher/utility player. I get that he would be a great mentor to Danny Jansen, but then I also think that Luke Maile would be a great mentor to Danny and he makes a lot less money.

Likewise, Martin has value as a kind of player coach, but not $20 million worth of value. If he is with the team, use him as an unofficial player coach, but it would be much better to move him.

None of that should make you think I’m not a fan of Russell. It’s been great getting to watch him play. I really enjoyed going to the Jays games in Montreal and seeing the love the Montreal fans had for him. I’ve enjoyed watching him and getting to see the kind of person he is.

I think he would make a good manager (and he’s already managed his first game), but he has a lot of money in the bank, I don’t see any reason he’d want to leave his child to work so hard for so, relatively, little money. I can’t imagine him starting managing in the minors and working his way up and I’m not a fan of managers learning on the job in the majors.

36 isn’t young for a catcher, and Martin has caught 1519 MLB games. That’s not easy on a set of knees. He might have a bounce back season in him, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Martin made a number of spectacular looking plays at third base and short, but let’s pick this one with him at catcher.