Wow. Someone "connected with the Dodgers" actually believes that Martin was "just another catcher?" Man, I just love it when morons get jobs in MLB front offices.PROS
* There's a lot to love about this kid. Inside Edge
rates his plate discipline, 2-strike tendency and clutch tendency with straight "A"s. In contrast, the grades for our resident gritty Captain
would get him expelled.
* In an extreme pitcher's park he's put up a .281/.376/.426/.803 line, and each of his three seasons at Dodger Stadium have been pretty consistent. His power fell off a bit this year but nothing so dramatic as to elicit the comments of the buffoon quoted above -- .280/.385/.396/.781.
* His numbers would be much better if Torre hadn't tried to get cute with his batting slot. Martin was used in every place in the order this year, including an inexplicable 93 PA in 20 games as the leadoff hitter. He went 2-for-17 as LA's game-opening batter and had an overall .219/.376/.301/.678 line in the #1 spot. Otherwise his line was .290/386/.410/.796.
* Another example of his misuse is that he's caught 294 games the past two seasons -- 281 as a starter. Predictably, he's worn down in the second half with a .268/.373/.388/.761 line after putting up an aggregate first half of .300/.384/.463/.847. Hell, even the Global Grand Marshall of Leaving Players In Too Long agrees completely with this
Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Grady Little used to fret about relying so much on catcher Russell Martin, knowing the rigors of the position were bound to wear down his young star.
Sure enough, Martin's batting average declined 31 points from the first half of 2007 to the second, and his power numbers also went down as he caught 145 games.
* From that same article, Martin clearly understands that it's not always about making bone-crushing contact with the ball:
Once Manny Ramirez arrived in a July 31 trade, Martin's role became less run producer and more table-setter. And while he's not a big believer in one hitter's presence helping others get better pitches to hit, Martin realizes how the task changes depending on the spot in the batting order.
"Hitting in front of him (Ramirez), my job is just to get on base," Martin said. "My main goal there is to create opportunities. I kind of force myself to take some pitches, because I'm not afraid to hit with two strikes."
* A converted third baseman, Martin played 11 games there last year. Of course, he also made 3 errors so he needs some work. Still, that flexibility is a nice plus.
* One of the few head-scratchers with his offense was the reversal this year of his L/R splits. Prior to this season, his career lines were .270/.342/.423/.765 vs RHP and .360/.455/.573/1.029 vs LHP. His 2008 numbers: .291/.392/.393/.786 vs RHP, .253/.365/.403/.767 vs LHP.
Well, his improvement vs righties doesn't seem to be a fluke produced by hitting a few guys especially well. Of the 161 RHPs he faced, 46 of them were one-shot deals. Against them he went 14-for-34 with 11 walks. In fact, his worst struggles came against 6 righties: Matt Cain, Dan Haren, Aaron Cook, Kevin Correia, Bronson Arroyo and Cha Seung Baek. Against these guys he was 5-for-49 with a double and 8 walks. Versus the other 155 RHPs, his line was .317/.415/.431/.846 in 412 PA. That's a fantastic indicator of his progress.
FWIW, here are all the NL RHH who had a higher OPS than .846 with at least 150 PA vs RHP:
RHH PA OPS
Manny 160 1.316
Pujols 446 1.063
Ludwick 409 .985
Hanley 531 .983
Holliday 476 .963
Uggla 464 .955
Aramis 492 .954
Bay 354 .953
C. Lee 366 .930
Nady 277 .907
Braun 478 .894
Dukes 237 .892
Glaus 456 .891
Tatis 182 .890
Iannetta 308 .878
Spilborghs 176 .854
Soto 451 .852
That's some pretty good company. Yes, this is shameless cherry-picking to a degree, but the comparison has some value because Manny was the only one to play in as crappy a hitter's park. The two catchers on the list, Soto and Iannetta, played in relative bandboxes. CONS
* Since I'm not the Iraqi Information Minister, there's definitely a downside to Martin's plate approach. He crushes fastballs, but has been woefully inept against breaking stuff. As I noted above, he hit righties much better this season. Unfortunately there's a clip side to that.
So what happened against LPHs? My guess is that it comes full-circle to his problems with breaking balls. He faced 55 lefties this year. He teed off on Jeff Francis, Wade LeBlanc, Doug Davis, Paul Maholm, Joe Saunders, Jonathan Sanchez, Scott Olsen and Wandy Rodriguez. Against these 8 southpaws he went 22-for-48 with a dozen walks and 3 homers for a .458/.567/.792/1.359 line. Versus the other 46 LHPs he was 17-for-106 with 14 walks and 2 HR -- a line of .160/.258/.255/.513. So based on this assessment from Inside Edge, I'm assuming the word spread that sweeping curves and low sliders are his Achilles heel:
* According to the Philadelphia Inquirer
, Phils scouts were able to exploit Martin's tendencies in the NLCS:
In the first inning of that game, the Dodgers' Manny Ramirez drew a two-out walk. The next batter, Russell Martin, worked a 2-2 count against Cole Hamels. The Phillies' scouting report on Martin, a righthanded hitter, said that he became very aggressive with two strikes and often tried to hook the ball to the left. Aware of the report, Phillies coaches moved third baseman Pedro Feliz a half-step toward the line. Martin pounded a ground ball to third, and Feliz threw to second to force out Ramirez.
* There are apparently concerns over his work behind the plate
John (Boston): Buster - maybe it's my east coast ignorance here, but why would the Dodgers consider moving Martin? I've only read great things about him, and his numbers last year were very good. He's gotta still be at least a top 5 catcher in mlb - was it a lack of consistency this year? Please enlighten me...thanks.
Buster Olney: John: There are those within that organization that would like to see him make a greater commitment to his defense. I'll leave it at that.
* After Chad Billingsley's NLCS loss, the pitcher seemed to call out Martin's game plan
But after the game, Billingsley was awkward when answering questions and unable to provide any details other than saying that catcher Russell Martin calls the games behind the plate and that "pitch selection" was most likely the culprit.
"I felt good; I felt I had good stuff," said Billingsley, who added that a lot of the hits went the other way or found holes. "I didn't do well [Friday]and I didn't get the job done and I think pitch selection was kind of what the problem was."
He also said that when he's not feeling comfortable with what Martin's calling behind the plate, he'll shake him off. When Martin was asked whether Billingsley was shaking him off, he said, "Not necessarily. Not that I noticed. Not more than usual."
It was an awkward moment because the next question for Martin was about what Billingsley had said.
"When you're not throwing the ball like you want to, it's easy to second-guess yourself," Martin said in a very mature, politically correct response. "If it works, it works; if it doesn't, it doesn't. We're going to have to make adjustments."
* According to SI.com's Tom Verducci
, Martin let his frustrations get the better of him:
Dodgers catcher Russ Martin is 25 and also may have a bright future, but he showed in the NLCS that he has some maturing to do as a big league ballplayer. Martin was overly emotional throughout the series -- an especially bad trait for a catcher -- and made no adjustments at the plate, continuing to chase pitches with an anxious pull mentality. Martin was not equipped for the important job of hitting fourth behind Manny Ramirez. Batting behind Ramirez in four games, Martin hit with 18 runners on, including Ramirez 12 times. He went 0 for 10 and drove in only one of those 18 runners, that with a groundball out. The more cool-headed James Loney would have been the much better choice by manager Joe Torre to hit behind Ramirez.
* I'm betting his road performance this year added to the alarm voiced by the Dodgers' informant. Not that it was horrible, mind you, but after a .329/.394/.538/.932 line in 2007, his .284/.383/.404/.786 this season doesn't look quite so hot. Bear in mind that while Martin had to play in a couple of other pitchers' parks occupied by NL West foes (SD and SF), those were pretty much neutralized by the offensive stimulus gained in ARI and COL.
* For those thinking that Fenway would be a boon for his numbers, turning would-be fly-outs at Dodger Stadium into smashes off the Monster, not so fast. According to his MLB.com hit chart
, in three seasons he's only hit 10 fly ball outs to left or left-center deeper than 300 feet at Chavez Ravine.
So do we want him? Well, just imagine what playing in a better run-scoring environment, in a deeper lineup, will do for him. And if he can tame his breaking ball weaknesses, we might be looking at Mike Piazza redux.
I can understand the concerns over his defensive commitment, game-calling, maturity, and bad habits. But he's only 25, and I believe the Sox' clubhouse and leadership could help turn some of those perceived shortcomings around.
I agree the Dodgers would prefer MLB-ready talent, since they stand to lose up to 12 players to free agency this winter. But I really believe that if the Sox take on Jones' contract, they won't have to up the ante substantially to land Martin. If the Sox include Youkilis, that's a sure sign Teixeira will be wearing a Boston uniform in Fort Myers four months from now.
But here's where it gets interesting: if the Sox included Youks and some combination of Buchholz, Argenis Diaz and cash, would the Dodgers take Lugo to play short for the next couple of years?
Of all the Hot Stove scenarios, I find this one the most interesting.
Edited by mabrowndog, 25 October 2008 - 06:41 PM.