A portrait of Russell Martin’s season

The Jesus Montero SNAFU
Austin Romine headed to Futures Game for second straight year
(From Flickr user spablab via Creative Commons license.)

It’s been a while since we said, “Thanks Ned!” with any real enthusiasm. We, at least most of us, still appreciate Russell Martin‘s contributions t the team, but once he tapered off after a hot start we slowed our thanks to the GM who let Martin walk. Even with his performance for the past five or six weeks he ranks sixth among catchers with a .344 wOBA, and fifth with 1.8 WAR. But some of that luster has worn off, and it’s easy to see why when we look at how his numbers have trended.

There’s a noticeable drop-off in the past month, thanks to Martin going 9 for 60 with just one extra base hit, a homer (.150/.278/.200). This is also right around the time that Martin started getting a bit banged up. Since then — June 8th was the first day he sat out with the back injury — he’s gone 5 for 25 with no extra base hits and five walks. While can’t necessarily connect the injury and the performance, it does seem to have affected his numbers. This is both good and bad. Good, in that if he recovers physically so should his numbers. Bad, because back injuries are no joke and we’re not sure if he will make a full recovery this season.

Really, this post should have come first, followed by Mike’s Jesus Montero post. Montero can benefit the Yankees in a number of ways right this moment. He can take on the right-side DH duties (when Girardi doesn’t feel that A-Rod needs a half day) and he can take over Cervelli’s spot as the backup catcher. More importantly, he can play more often than Cervelli, both to the effect of getting his bat in the lineup and spelling Martin a bit more frequently. He might not get the at-bats of a full-time player, but it will be somewhere close. And those at-bats at the majors could aid his development more than continuing to spin his wheels in AAA.

Even with his recent slump, Martin has been an excellent addition to the Yankees. He produced early in the season with some unexpected power, and even after that dropped off he’s helped at the plate by taking tons of pitches and drawing more than his share of walks (14.9 percent walk rate since his two-homer game in Baltimore). He figures to help the Yankees the rest of the way, and perhaps into next season. If he’s hurt then Montero can come up and help keep him rested, and if he’s just regressed then Montero can help increase production from the catcher spot. Either way, we can still appreciate Martin while appreciating the team’s top prospect at the same time.

The Jesus Montero SNAFU
Austin Romine headed to Futures Game for second straight year
  • http://facebook.com/andrewjcalagna Drew

    I was promised an RAB radio show on Thursday, where is it?


    • CC’s third leg

      Become a day trader its very simple and makes you succesful

  • first time lawng time

    Well, didn’t people expect Martin to be that much of an offensive contribution? He’s been nice defensively. I think he’s been a good acquisiion thus far.

    • first time lawng time

      Not that much of an offensive contribution. My bad

      • 28 this year

        i dont think there’s an argument as to whether its a good acquisition, it definitely was. I think the premise of today is that the situation can improve and be better with the addition on Montero so that Montero can take his lumps and Martin can rest without playing the woefully inadequate useless baseball player by the name of Francisco Cervelli. His time is up, he is pretty bad at all facets of the game.

        • first time lawng time


  • Monteroisdinero

    Martin’s been an excellent addition. He’s tough and deserves some credit for the pitching staff performance so far. He is a bit of a gidp liability but overall a good pickup by Cash.

    • The BIG 3

      I’d say he deserves a lot of credit for the pitching.

      What’s more likely, that Colon, Garcia, and that stench emanating from the bullpen are all this good or that there are good reasons why catchers such as AJ, Suzuki, Mathis, Varitek and Kendall remain gainfully employed?

      Just because we or the saber crown don’t understand the dynamic relationship between a pitcher and catcher, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or should be discounted. So I don’t understand it, but I’ll still say that Martin has done a great job at it, anyway.

      • Incitatus

        I really agree that he deserves credit for the pitching, and that’s why I’m not in favor of bringing Montero up to do any catching.

        Specifically, I think Martin has made a huge difference this year by blocking balls thrown in the dirt. Two of our pitchers (AJ and Garcia) get outs on their curveballs, and with Posada/Cervelli/whomever behind the plate, there is real potential for short breaking balls to get by the catcher and allow runners to advance. Seems to me like AJ is a lot more confident throwing his curveball in the dirt this year, and while I have no point of comparison for Garcia, he’s definitely thrown his share this year, too. Martin has been blocking those balls like a pro, and I think if he weren’t, our pitchers would be reluctant to throw the breaking ball with runners on, which would make them a lot less effective.

        Someone smarter than me could probably run some PitchFX comparisons on AJ to see if he is going to his breaking ball more often in 2-strike counts with runners on this year. (Although I really think PitchFX does a mediocre job of labeling pitch types, which makes the data pretty suspect. That’s a rant for another day though.)

        • The BIG 3

          I was referring more to Martin’s handling on the pitchers, than his ability to defend balls in the dirt – although that helps a pitcher as well. If a catcher studies and realizes a pitchers strengths and batters weaknesses, and knows what pitches may work best, and can relate that with confidence to the pitcher, those pitchers will have less to worry about, giving them more confidence to just throw the damn ball.

  • mike_h

    Montero is nothing more than a trade chip to Cashman. He will get traded no question about it. He knows it, all the GMs around the league know it. The Yankees need pitching and they have a talented salary controlled kid down in the minors.

    They are not bringing him up because:
    1. they dont want him to lose trade value by adding service time
    2. Afraid he’ll lose trade value when he’s putting up .211/.244/.278 adjusting to ML pitching

    • Slugger27

      What could 30 days of service time possibly do to his trade value?

    • Jericho Spade

      Please cite even one real fact supporting your post.

    • CP

      1. they dont want him to lose trade value by adding service time

      He’s already past the super-2 deadline (which may not exist next year anyway), so this is a non-issue.

      2. Afraid he’ll lose trade value when he’s putting up .211/.244/.278 adjusting to ML pitching

      That won’t happen. Justin Smoak hit .209/.316/.353/.670 as a 23 year old in the majors and was still the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee trade. GMs are smart enough to not put too much stock in small sample sizes.

      • The BIG 3

        It could happen. Reports out of ST indicate that some scouts were unimpressed by his work. If he were called up and performed the same, his value would take a greater hit.

        • CP

          If scouts don’t like his work ethic/attitude/etc, then that could impact his trade value. A bad first month (or two) in the majors won’t.

          • The BIG 3

            That makes sense, yet we hear all the time about scouts being excited about so-and-so being called up so they can watch how he does at the ML level.

            I don’t know why that is, but it is.

    • J.J

      You hit the spot just perfectly, mike_h. I doubt Montero will ever play in pinstripes. I’m pretty sure that for next season, Martin will be signed for the next 2-3 years. He’s still young, and his talents behind the plate (despite his batting average) have been impressive-so long as he is healthy. I wouldn’t let a catcher like that go. Sure, he isn’t a Posada or a Yogi or Munsen, but the dude gets the job done! No complaints here.

  • Dan

    While I agree with the fact that Montero could replace Cervelli as the backup DH and get regular work to the point that it would be beneficial to his development as a hitter and better than the current option (Cervelli). I am not completely sold in his catching ability yet and would like to see him get more work in AAA even if he is “bored”. He is currently at 17% CS and it is likely that it will only get worse in the majors. Martin has been great defensively, but I would rather not give up that much defense with the back-up so I would prefer Gus Molina as the back-up because Cervelli has been horrible defensively and I have gotten tired of seeing him throw half his throws into centerfield. There are too many teams, especially in the AL East that will take advantage of a bad defensive catcher.

    Do we really want Montero to come up and fail as a catcher at the major league level, and have to get sent back down, hurting his trade value and possible development? Why not let him continue to try to improve defensively to the point that he can be an at least average ML catcher defensively?

    • dave

      Because nothing says he will ever become an average defensive player.

    • Monteroisdinero

      So a rotation of Colon/Garcia/Nova/CC/Burnett is good at keeping/holding runners at 1B? I don’t think so.

      As long as Montero doesn’t throw it into CF I don’t think we will mind his throws as much as folks think. It would be nice to have a few more Andy’s in the rotation to hold runners on but it is what it is. Pitching factors into SB’s and we tend to ignore this.

      I thought this was a Martin thread but…it’s all good.

  • Greg

    Why can’t he improve defensively at the major league level?

    • Greg

      Meant to be a reply to all people saying not to bring Montero up because it stops his defensive growth.

      • CP

        Because players immediately stop improving once they are in the majors.

        • Guest

          It’s science!

    • Monteroisdinero

      With Girardi/Pena/Posada/Martin around, it can’t be for lack of coaching.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    I feel very comfortable with Russell Martin behind the plate. He gives it his all and makes the pitchers comfortable with his pitch calling. Offensively, he has the ability to bat a solid .260 with some power numbers but getting a bit more rest may help his numbers on the offensive side of the coin.

    As far as Montero I agree bring him up. If he can get 2/3 games a week behind the plate and some DH against righties this playing time IMO would assist in his development. Cervelli looks hopelessly lost at the plate and behind the plate.

  • YankeesJunkie

    While he may not be an elite catcher. Martin is a cost controlled player that can give the Yankees 3 WAR this and next year. Also at some point his .230 BABIP will have to regress back to somewhere near .280. Martin is not a big problem if any for the Yankees.

  • Ted Nelson

    I give Martin a lot of credit for staying in the game and playing the next day after taking a bat to the head… but I think it was stupid of both him and Girardi. Guy is already struggling and he just got hit in the head with a bat. IIRC he looked totally lost in his PAs for the rest of that game.

    I don’t buy that Jesus is spinning his wheels in AAA. Being bored is not an excuse for sucking. A. Great players perform even if their attitude sucks or they’re unhappy… look at the likes of Manny. B. Why is he going to be any less bored in MLB? If the argument is that he’s settled in as a strong performer at the AAA level, and at the same time we expect him to perform well at the MLB level… it stands to reason that he’s just going to get bored up here and start to suck here too. That kind of attitude issue needs to be cleaned up in the minors, in my opinion. Rewarding that kind of crap doesn’t teach the player anything.

  • MikeD

    I haven’t looked at Martin’s career overall, but I wonder if he is a highly streaky hitter. He obviously wasn’t going to hit .320 with 36 HRs, so a correction was coming. He’s now trending below some of his career averages, so perhaps there’s a hot streak coming.

    He had a reputation of being a bit pull-happy, and that does seem to be the case right now, leading to quite a few DPs. We don’t need two DP machines in the line-up.