For Russell Martin, it doesn’t get better

Phil Hughes' Last Stand
Yanks-Red Sox will play doubleheader on July 7th
The way Martin's year has gone I bet the bat went further than the ball (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The last time we checked in with Russell Martin he was enjoying an oddly productive start to the season. While he had just four hits, none for extra bases, in his first 10 games, he walked nine times and owned a .417 OBP. That is, while he wasn’t knocking in runners he was helping the offense by not making outs and putting himself in a position to score when the top of the lineup came up. Considering Derek Jeter‘s early season surge, that was no small consolation.

The idea then was that Martin’s walks helped him remain productive until his bat came around. Unfortunately, that has yet to happen. Even worse, Martin’s production at the plate has dipped significantly in the last two weeks. Since the start of the Twins series Martin has come to the plate 35 times and has gone 5 for 32 (.156) with just two walks (.229 OBP). He did pick up a few extra base hits, including an important home run in Friday’s win over the Tigers. But it’s hard to hang your hat on those extra base hits when Martin’s overall production has been so poor.

Might there be a hitch in Martin’s swing? It’s hard to say without first hand experience working with him, but some of the evidence points to this. He’s walking at a greater clip than ever, so perhaps he’s still seeing the ball well. But he’s striking out more often than previously in his career — 22.1 percent of his PA this year, compared to 14.3 percent for his career. That’s five points higher than his 17 percent strikeout rate last year, the highest of his career.

Martin is also beating the ball into the ground: 59 percent of his 48 balls in play have been hit on the ground. That’s a bit better than the 75 percent ground ball rate he had through 10 games, but it’s still way too high. To complicate matters, it appears that he’s not even hitting hard ground balls; his .202 batting average on ground balls is 25 points below the AL average. He’s simply not making good contact, which could suggest an issue with his swing.

Last year was quite the opposite for Martin in terms of batted balls. In his first season with the Yankees he actually hit the ball in the air more frequently than he had in the past. That helped him rediscover his power stroke, hitting double-digit homers for the first time since 2008 and falling just one homer shy of his career best 19. He also walked frequently enough, giving him perfectly average numbers — a 100 wRC+, which is very good for a catcher. His average was a bit low, but at least he’d found a way to contribute.

This year, however, he seems like a complete wreck at the plate. Drawing walks early helped him, but lately he hasn’t even been able to add that. Maybe this is one of those instances where, like many medical conditions, it gets worse before it gets better. Maybe he’s actively working on something at the plate and it’s rounding into form. For the at-home observer, though, it’s hard to see. Unfortunately, the Yankees really have few avenues to pursue here. Martin is the man for 2011. He has a lot of work to do if he’s going to turn things around after a rough April.

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Phil Hughes' Last Stand
Yanks-Red Sox will play doubleheader on July 7th
  • Robinson Tilapia

    This sounds like a new series of uplifting YouTube videos from Dan Savage: “It Gets Better…..except for you, Russell.”

    My video would be called “It’s April. A ton can still happen.”

    • jjyank

      Actually, it’s May now. So we’re doomed.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Did someone say “May?”

        Love,
        Mark Teixeira

        • Jason K

          Lmao!

  • CountryClub

    He’s the DH today. Yup, you read that correctly.

    • forensic

      It’s absurd, but at least Matusz does have a huge platoon split.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      The primary plan for the DH spot has been to give regulars a half-day off. Russell Martin is a regular. He may not be doing well, but that’s not going to stop Girardi from rotating giving a half-day off to the lineup.

      Yes, I am aware Russell gets a day off already when Stewart catches CC. I’m not quite sure that matters, but I guess that would be a valid counterpoint to what I’m saying.

      • forensic

        Eh, I think it’s just because Matusz has a big platoon split and the only other two available players are lefties. Then you’re playing both Stewart and Martin, so you might as well DH Martin then since it’s even crazier to do it with Stewart. If not for the injuries, you’d never see Martin DH’d just to give him a half day off.

      • CountryClub

        The revolving DH is being used to keep the aging bats in the lineup. Martin doesn’t have a bat.

        In all seriousness, I understand they are shorthanded right now. So they’re doing what they have to do. But DHing the 2nd worst bat on the team would be laughable under normal circumstances.

      • radnom

        The half day only makes sense when you want to keep the player’s bat in the lineup (Arod, Jeter, Swisher). I would prefer several of the bench bats (Nunez, Jones) in general over Martin these days – he is only a starter because he plays a specialized position. When he rests, there is no imperative to keep his bat in the lineup.

        Not that I’m complaining, its just one game, who cares. But the explanation you just gave doesn’t justify it, for the reasons I’ve given above.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Fair enough.

    • Manny’s BanWagon

      They should have made a run at Big Papi for DH.

      • Now Batting

        He accepted arbitration and was never really available

  • forensic

    Was that asterisk supposed to be referring to something later in the post?

    • JoeyA

      I think Joe is suggesting Russel is juicing :)

  • bil

    He just sucks, get over it

  • Bonnie Parker

    And this Stewart guy has been a good player for us so Martin better straighten up or I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stewart get more starts. Right now Stewart is CC’s personal catcher and he’s done a really good job. I suspect CC doesn’t like Martin as he has preferred Cervelli and now Stewart to Martin.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Chris Stewart becomes the starting catcher when the Yankees move to Bridgeport.

      • mustang

        More like move to Hell.

        I just can’t his comment seriously.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Hell and Bridgeport are often mistaken for one another.

          My apologies to anyone in Bridgeport. At least you’re not Hartford.

          • mustang

            Ever drive through Hartford to get to Boston now that’s Hell.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              There are few towns I’ve been to, especially at night, more depressing than Hartford, CT. All dressed up and no place to go.

              Again, apologies to anyone in Hartford. There’s no other cities I can bring up in comparison, though, to make you feel better.

              • mustang

                Never had the displeasure, but once I was stuck in that intersection in Harford for 2 hours on my way to Boston. I had to stay an extra day in Boston just to recover from the experience.

    • RetroRob

      The Yankees told Cervelli that he would be recalled to be the starting catcher if something happened to Martin.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Don’t forget as well that the concept of a “personal catcher” is something many teams have employed with their frontline pitchers. It’s not as much a damning of Russell Martin as its about certain pitchers wanting an almost-caddy-like experience. Wasn’t Greg Maddux infamous for this in particular, or am I just singling him out?

      • Thomas

        Maddux always had Eddie Perez catch him over Javy Lopez, but Perez was much better defensively than Lopez (mainly because Lopez sucked on defense).

    • Need Pitching

      I don’t recall ever hearing that CC preferred Cervelli
      I think it was more that he was stuck with Cervelli, since he needed the least help from the catcher.
      Maybe things changed since, but I recall a start where CC seemed very angry and annoyed with Cervelli early last season (or maybe the season before), telling him to get the f*** back behind the plate when Cervelli started to come out for a mound visit.

  • #28 in 2012

    Na-Po-Li
    Na-Po-Li
    Na-Po-Li

    • Robinson Tilapia

      That is my preferred style of pizza.

      • #28 in 2012

        I hope to see your favorite style of pizza in the boogie down in 2013. Russ should have signed when Cash was waving that 27mil deal. Its Napoli time now.. Hopefully Randy Levine is licking his chops…

        • Robinson Tilapia

          I hope to see anything but Famiglia in the Bronx in 2013.

          As for Napoli, we’ll see. I wouldn’t be contacting Tim Dierkes just yet.

          • forensic

            It’d be fine, but I find it hard to believe that, after the evidence we’ve seen so far, Girardi would agree to having a catcher with his defensive abilities and reputation. No, he doesn’t get final say, but they wouldn’t just ambush him like that, I don’t think.

            • forensic

              Sorry, this was supposed to reply to #28 in 2012.

            • jjyank

              I’m sure they’ll consult Girardi with a decision, but like you said, he doesn’t have the final say. I guess it all comes down to how they want to allocate their resources. Signing Napoli means the likely loss of Swisher and definite loss of Martin.

        • jjyank

          I’m not saying this is the case, but perhaps this is Cashman’s plan? He passed on trading for Santana because he planned on going hard after Sabathia the following year. Anyone think maybe he traded away Montero to get pitching in part because he planned on going for Napoli next year?

          Just throwing that out there. It’s a possibility. A guy like Napoli or Miguel Montero would be expensive, but probably cheaper than a Cole Hamels. The idea has some merit to it. Sign Napoli or Miguel (I hate how I can’t just use his last time or people will get confused) Montero and trade for a cheap pitcher and come out ahead financially instead of keeping (Jesus) Montero and signing Hamels.

          With Pineda’s injury that hasn’t worked out so far, but I wonder if this might be Cash’s strategy.

          • #28 in 2012

            Maybe its a hyperbole, but Napoli is looking like a bigger priority than Swisher. Would it not be more productive with Napoli catching and a Swisher replacement than keeping Russ and Swisher? Not sure how long Napoli can hit like this, but he has been beasting for a few years now. His D is weak, but his O compensates for his D and then some.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              I think you’re a little fixated on Mike Napoli, but it seems like you are aware of this as well.

              • #28 in 2012

                You are not disagreeing with me though.
                Getting stuck with Russ for the next 4 or 5 could be a nightmare. At least Tex and Arod were hitting when they signed. Signing a catcher who is not hitting now for the next 4-5 would be crazier than any of the other silly contracts Cash has handed out recently.

                • Robinson Tilapia

                  Oh, I don’t think Russell Martin’s going to be the catcher for the next four years. Not a chance. I’m just not putting all my eggs in the Napoli basket either.

                  No, I’m not outright disagreeing with you. I’m just not a “get this guy on another team or bust” kind of person.

                  • #28 in 2012

                    I hear you. My thought is if Russ to be replaced, might as well replace him with the best available.
                    I am also in favor of M.Montero, but why bring him from the NL when Napoli is mashing Al just fine.
                    I dont see how the Rangers can afford him, but if Yanks can shell out for Soriano they can bring the best hitting catcher in AL to the Bronx.
                    I wonder who gets more money, Swish or Napoli?

                    • Robinson Tilapia

                      If they can make it all work moneywise for 2014, sure, sign the best guy you can.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            It wouldn’t surprise me if the team is playing some massive catch-up with its long-term plan at catcher. Even with Montero gone, the idea was that Romine could be an average bat/above-average (I know that’s debatable) defensive guy. With injury concerns now, the MiLB catching depth is now limited to two guys in A ball.

            And, yes, I am starting the letter-writing campaign for JR Murphy in the HOF now.

    • CountryClub

      Jon Heyman ? @JonHeymanCBS
      no recent napoli/tex or montero/az talks. montero seeks vmart $ (52M/4), napoli eyes vmart-plus. napoli deal more likely

      • Reggie C.

        NAH.

        I think Rangers GM Daniels gets cowed into pursuing Josh Hamilton and it’ll cost the team Napoli. Too much guaranteed money is heading Hamilton’s way.

        Or at least that’s how I HOPE it plays out.

        • Havok9120

          I don’t see Ryan and Daniels getting “cowed” into anything.

  • RetroRob

    I don’t know what happened to the Russell Martin who could hit .270-.290 when he first arrived in the Majors, but the more recent version is a very streaky hitter. He’ll have his moments, but he is painful to watch right now.

    • jjyank

      He had lots of injury problems I thought.

      • Havok9120

        Tons, at least in terms of giant flashing red lights.

  • KL

    “He has a lot of work to do if he’s going to turn things around after a rough April.”

    Yeah, cause you never hear of a player having a good season after a tough April. Especially when he was a good player last year. It’s all about April.

    I am really getting tired of this blog having personal “whipping boys.”

    • jjyank

      I actually think RAB is generally a fan of Martin. Your response does not match the quote. Having a terrible month of a season means that you need to have a monster month to come out somewhere around even. That’s not bashing Martin, it’s just stating a fact. Nobody said that Martin can’t end up having a good season, and I personally think he will, at least relative to other catchers.

    • #28 in 2012

      relax, Russ has been sucking for a while.
      And if you dont know – Jeter is the “whipping boy” round here – now you know.

      • Bo Knows

        Nova, Logan, Nunez all say hi

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Our asses are always bright red around here.

          Love,
          Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman

    • forensic

      I don’t think he’s even close to a whipping boy for them. They seem to go out of their way to quote every article that supports anything somebody thinks he does well that isn’t part of stats.

      If he was their whipping boy, they would’ve mentioned that it’s basically a continuation of last year, and the years before, other than maybe a 3 week hot streak at the start of the year while teams may have been working out their own scouting reports on him. That and a one week span in August was his whole offense on the season.

    • Dummies Playing With Balls (formerly Rainbow Connection)

      Just be quiet and vote 10 in the next poll.

  • Robert

    Pressure of a new contract getting to Martin, Thought he was gonna get a big Molina contract.If Romine was healthy he would be # 1 by now. Oh well Just 2 years till Sanchez JR Murphy are ready!One year ago 5 cant miss prospects Killer B’s Montero and Romine. Nothing to show from this group…..

    • jjyank

      I think Montero was the only one people considered “can’t miss”, at least with the bat. I guess Banuelos would have been next, but he’s only 21, you couldn’t have reasonably expected him to be up by now.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      “Can’t miss prospects?”

      Let’s calm down a bit there.

    • Havok9120

      Romine was can’t miss? When was this?

  • http://twitter/TheRealJeromeS Jerome S.

    Martin DH’ing tonight
    What whaaaaaat

    • #28 in 2012

      Where do you go to see the line-ups this early?
      thanks

      • sangreal

        There are several places, and probably an official source, but I always find lohud to have it up right away: http://yankees.lhblogs.com/

        Derek Jeter SS
        Curtis Granderson CF
        Alex Rodriguez 3B
        Robinson Cano 2B
        Mark Teixeira 1B
        Andruw Jones RF
        Russell Martin DH
        Eduardo Nunez LF
        Chris Stewart C

      • Havok9120

        LoHud is good for quick lineups and quick postgames.

  • forensic

    April 19th: Granderson had 14 total bases
    All season: Martin has 16 total bases

    Yikes.

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    For all those people who bitched about Posada for the last few years my only question is:

    Do you miss him yet??????

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Do I get to pick what model Posada I get to miss?

      • Manny’s BanWagon

        How about 2009 Posada.

        Pretty much any version other than the 2011 Posada was far superior to Martin.

        • jjyank

          What does that mean though? Do I miss the 2012 version of Posada as a player? Not really.

          Sure, I’d love to have 2009 Posada. Doesn’t work that way though. I’d like to have 2007 A-Rod back as well.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Not 2008 or 2010 Posada.

          1954 Yogi would also work for me. Yes, I did just look up his stats.

    • forensic

      Posada wouldn’t be allowed to catch anyway, so what does it matter?

  • BigLoving

    Perhaps Cervelli is in the minors playing full time because Cashman wanted to keep him in form in case Martin fell off a cliff??? Cervelli is the only viable option to start outside of Martin unless Romine comes back (which looks months away). Everybody was going bonkers a month ago when Cervelli got sent down but is Cashman that much of a ninja to possibly engineer a move like this?

  • LiterallyFigurative

    Get well soon, Austin Romine.

    Sincerely,

    LitFig

    I’d rather Cervelli play than watch Martin struggle offensively and defensively.

  • Fin

    With a full year of time under his belt after dealing with all those injuries, I think alot of us thought he would have a better year at the plate. Unfortunately, so far he is looking about the same as he has looked since his torrid start last year. He might be in a little slump but when you start out from such a low point, a slump can look really ugly.

  • Dummies Playing With Balls (formerly Rainbow Connection)

    Is this some sort of gay joke? Are you saying he’s gay?

  • DannyC

    Cervelli please