Apr
17

Resting Russell Martin

By

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The season is a mere ten games old, and aside from generally underwhelming starting pitching performances (sans Hiroki Kuroda, of course), all ten games have one thing in common: Russell Martin has been behind the plate. Well, that’s cheating a bit. He did not start the third game of the Rays series, but he did catch the final two innings after Chris Stewart was lifted for a pinch-hitter. Martin has started six straight games behind the plate, including four games in the last four days.

Coming into the season, it appeared as though one the team’s goals was to reduce the workload on their starting backstop. Martin started last season like a mad man, hitting .255/.356/.510 in the team’s first 36 games before slumping to .192/.298/.285 in the next 52 games. The All-Star break seemed to rejuvenate Russ — .288/.348/.517 in the next 40 games — before he had to drag himself across the finish line — .209/.284/.299 in the final 32 games, not counting playoffs. Yes, though endpoints are arbitrary, but anecdotally it did appeared that Martin’s best offensive performances came when he was rested.

Perhaps part of the reason why the Yankees haven’t given Martin much rest so far is because they lack a quality backup. That’s somewhat self-inflicted, since Frankie Cervelli is one of the better backup catchers in the game — at least offensively — and he’s toiling in Triple-A. Frankie was pushed out in a numbers game after Stewart was acquired in the wake of Austin Romine‘s latest back problem. He had minor league options, Stewart did not. It’s as simple as that. Stewart is a defense-first guy who absolutely can’t hit, and maybe Joe Girardi doesn’t want to stick a total zero into the lineup when the rest of the offense has been inconsistent so far. I dunno, just a cracked theory.

Martin’s batting line early on this year is quite hilarious: .160/.417/.160 though the ten games. His nine walks not only lead the Yankees, they lead the entire American League. Martin has also been beating the ball into the ground this month, going into yesterday’s game with a 75% ground ball rate and only adding to it with an 0-for-3, two strikeout, one ground ball performance. If Girardi doesn’t want to play Stewart because of his offense, then he shouldn’t be on the roster. Giving Martin some more time off this season — especially in the first half — should be a major item on the Yankees’ agenda.

Categories : Players
  • CS Yankee

    100% agree.

    Have Martin spend a few days with Long (ala Grandy 2010), revamp the swing and roll him out in beantown.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Or let him go on the DL with a minor calf injury and come back like Jeter.

  • David Ortizs Dealer

    What happened to Gus Molina? Empire State’s Back Up? I still don’t fully grasp trading Kontos for Stewart.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      As I’ve said before, never underestimate the allure of a defensive-minded, no-hit catcher to a former defensive-minded, no-hit catcher.

      • thenamestsam

        I know people keep spouting this line, but if it were true that Girardi really believed in the value of defensive catchers and so was dramatically overvaluing Stewart, wouldn’t you expect him to play Stewart every now and then?

        • jjyank

          This.

          Stewart only started 1 game and he didn’t even finish it. So let’s not pretend that Girardi told Cashman to trade for Stewart so he could play a defense-first catcher.

      • Havok9120

        Which is why we’ve seen Stewart play so mu….

        Oh. Damn.

  • Typical MIT Nerd

    “Giving Martin some more time off this season — especially in the first half — should be a major item on the Yankees’ agenda.”

    Is it even on their top ten? They seem to think Martin is a 130-150 game starter because that’s how Torre used him. Of course, how Torre used him is what led to his breakdown – all Dodgers fans seems to agree on that point.

    Here are also Martin’s career splits:
    Apr: .269 .384 .413 .796
    May: .280 .376 .393 .768
    Jun: .256 .340 .381 .721
    Jul: .277 .355 .394 .749
    Aug: .264 .347 .424 .771
    Sep: .244 .352 .370 .722

    Same story.

    More importantly, do we all remember how Martin was a big nothing in the playoffs last year?

    His career line in the playoffs is: .214/.347/.310 = .657

    They’re going to wear him down all season long then when the games matter the most, the best he’ll contribute is the ability to take a walk.

    I’d love to see a study of catcher defense by monthly splits. If he’s that affected, likely because his legs get tired, I has to affect him on both sides of the ball.

  • Zack

    Indeed..we’re going to have to rest Martin at some point here or he and the team will pay the price.

  • MannyGeee

    I would take advantage of the Twins series and give him 1.5 days off. maybe off tonight, catch tomorrow and DH thursday? thats the point of rotation DH, isnt it?

    Sure, it opens you up for some risk if Stewart get hurt mid game and then you have to do the funky DH for pitcher switch thing, but i think it has to be done.

    • Typical MIT Nerd

      Why ever would you DH Martin? A designated *hitter* is supposed to hit.

    • I Live In My Mom’s Basement

      I assume the DH idea was supposed to be a joke, right?

      • MannyGeee

        nah, I was being serious. he would not hit much, but would you let him sit twice in a week?

        well I guess I would sit him. never mind me.

        original point still stands, sit him now and rest him for the Boston series.

  • JohnC

    What is Romine’s status? Is he even close to returning to game action?

  • viridiana

    You mention Martin “breating the ball into the ground.” Seems like many Yanks have been hitting tons of hard hit balls directly at infielders. Am I imagining this? Are teams using improved positioning? May just be random SSS but from what I’ve seen Yankee rivals are doing better job positioning than Yankee infielders. (Not intended to revive issues of jeter defense). Just saying.

  • Johnny O

    Maybe the Yanks have already determined that they won’t go after Martin as a FA and so they’re not worried about long term effects of riding him like Seabiscuit this year?

    • JohnnyC

      Considering they have Cervelli, Romine (if he can get healthy), JR Murphy, Sanchez, and even Jose Gil in their system, it’d be foolish to pay a premium for Martin’s services. He is not anything special as an offensive player and his defense, pitch-framing regardless, is not elite (he’s above average).

    • David Ortizs Dealer

      I think there is the impression that Russ will want Yaddi Molina money and thus be thanked on his way out.

    • Dan

      I agree, based on how the Yankees are playing him it seems like they are intent to let him go to free agency and I wonder with the 2014 budget plan if this means that they plan to have a catching tandem next season of Cervelli and Romine and part of why they want Cervelli in the minors now is to allow him to play everyday while Romine is out so that he can get regular work.

      • Tim

        It’s inexcusable to have Cervelli as a regular catcher. His defensive weakness isn’t nearly balanced out by his singles hitting offensive talent. He’s a fan favorite because of his stupid fist pump instead of actual production. I’m glad he is showing his true colors now that he’s pouting in AAA.

    • Slugger27

      but they will have him the remainder of the season, and if there are noticeable repercussions later THIS SEASON as a result of overworking him in the spring, then they should very much be worried about it.

      • Dan

        My guess would be that once Romine comes back, either him or Cervelli will come up and share time with Martin. Maybe a 60-40 split, not sure if they will assign personal catchers, but maybe give Martin 3 pitchers and the other will work predominantly with the other 2 pitchers. The other catcher will stay in AAA to get regular playing time.

    • MannyGeee

      all of this. if Martin isnt going to hit like Yadier Molina, he shouldnt get paid like Yadier Molina. I agree the plan might be to swing away for Miguel Montero, and if that fails roll the dice on Romine.

      Sidebar, I like Doumit as a fall-back plan. he OK for a catcher (.360 wOBA), not horrible on behind the dish, and makes NOTHING. like Cervelli nothing… career 24.4% CS%. Also, plays a little OF and a little 1B

  • LiterallyFigurative

    I like Russell Martin to a certain point. I thought his defense and pitch-framing last year were excellent. This year he hasn’t been as good early on, but it’s early.

    The biggest issue I have is his offense, particularly with his impending free agency. He’s not a good offensive player. He takes pitches, which is valuable, but when he swings the bat, it’s not much to write home about. At $5 or $6 million, you can live with it. But if he’s looking for Yadier Molina cash, you just thank him for his two years and move on.

    With the austerity budget looming, we can’t pay a sometime-hit, all glove catcher top dollar.

    Besides, most reports say that Romine can defend. If he can be an ok hitter, which most think he can be, you’d be better off paying him the minimum and letting he and Cervelli share the job come 2013. Spend the $8 or $9 mil saved on other things like a new RF or Cole Hamels.

  • the Other Steve S.

    Anybody missing Posada yet?

    • http://www.twitter.com/WashngtonYankee Alex C.

      Nope.

    • Steve (different one)

      Yes, I miss 2007 Jorge Posada very very much. Am I missing 2012 Posada? No. Should I?

  • jjyank

    I agree that we need to find a way to rest Russ more. Maybe they’re riding him hard now and hoping that Romine comes back soon, which could push Cervelli back up to the majors. In any case, I hope we see Stewart tonight. I know our offense hasn’t been great, but with CC on the mound against the Twins, that’s as good a time as any to roll out the defense-first catcher, no?

    (and yes, I know CC has struggled so far, but we all know that won’t last either)

  • RyanM

    Totally agree with resting Martin more.

    However, considering the recent history of concussion related career meltdowns (Morneau, Matheny, etc.) and his current batting line at AAA (I know, I know SSS), I’m not so confident that Cervelli is “one of the better backup catchers in the game.”

    • jjyank

      Maybe because you’re looking at a SSS 2012 AAA batting line, and not what he has done at the MLB level for a non-SSS several year sample. He is one of the better BUCs in the game offensively, for sure. But certainly not defensively.

      I miss Jose Molina.

  • NYYROC

    Somebody tell Martin it’s his walk year!

    • DM

      He knows. Hence all his walks.

  • Boomer’s Boy

    What is this Love Affair with Cervelli? Sure he may provide a few more hits than Stewart, but his inability to be an effective back-up CATCHER overshadows that. His ability to throw out basestealers is horrible, he can’t block a basketball in the dirt much less a baseball. But because he gets a few more singles than Stewart would and his Santino from the WWE antics of fist pumping and rable rousing, everyone loves him. I don’t get it…

    • Tim

      I agree 100%. I’m glad he is gone.

  • DannyC

    What’s the story with romines injury, and do u guys think martin is back next year, I hope not