Girardi asks for, and receives, better work from Martin


(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Russell Martin knew it would be a big year. Not only was he set to hit free agency after the season, but a fellow catcher had just set the market with a five-year, $75 million contract. While Martin isn’t held in the same regard as Yadier Molina, it seemed clear that with a repeat of 2011 he’d be in line for a bit more than the three years and $20 million the Yankees reportedly offered him.

A rough start has certainly changed the situation, at least temporarily. At the end of May he had just a .187 average. While his .333 OBP did help matters a bit, he still wasn’t hitting with much power. Those issues were clearly visible, though. What might not have been so apparent to us was Martin’s work with the pitching staff. As it turns out, that might have been a problem equal to his one at the plate.

As David Waldstein of the New York Times recently reported, Joe Girardi called Martin into his office before the game on June 2nd in Detroit. The gist: Martin wasn’t doing a great job of calling pitches. Girardi said that he could do better, and Martin agreed. Despite the wealth of talent, both in the rotation and the bullpen, the staff sported a 4.13 ERA at the end of May. Being above league average just isn’t acceptable for a team with the Yankees’ aspirations.

That talk seems to have been the turning point for the staff. Since then they’ve pitched 89.2 innings to a 2.11 ERA. It looks even better for Martin, too. He doesn’t catch CC Sabathia, and Sabathia has turned in two poor starts since then. In fact, if you subtract the 14 innings and seven earned runs Sabathia has allowed in his last two starts, the staff, under Martin, has thrown 75.2 innings to a 1.67 ERA. Might it be time for Girardi to give up on the personal catcher thing and have Martin start catching the team’s most important pitcher?

As Waldstein notes, neither Girardi nor Martin has been very forthcoming with the specifics of the talk. But Martin did let one tidbit slip. “He said, ‘I think you need to start doing a couple of things; I think you need to start throwing inside more.'” As the old baseball adage goes, if you can’t establish your fastball inside you can’t get major leaguers out. Why Martin neglected this earlier in the season I’m not sure, but his adjustments have shown in the results.

The talk might have done more than boosted Martin’s performance behind the plate. Before the talk Martin was hitting .187/.333/.333. Since then, in the admittedly small sample of 34 PA, he has gone 9 for 31 with two doubles and four homers, for a slash line of .290/.353/.742.

Of course, we can’t be 100 percent sure that the pitching staff has improved because of Martin’s adjustments. Correlation, causation, and that whole thing. But there’s no denying the correlation. Girardi gave Martin something to think about, and he has seemingly responded in kind. The pitching staff is now pitching to its capabilities and then some — and that’s without Sabathia pitching like an ace. Just imagine how they’ll look once he gets back on track. Perhaps a run with Martin behind the plate would cure what ails him.

Categories : Players
  • Paul VuvuZuvella

    Give Stew Kuroda and switch CC to Russell.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/Paddock9652 Stratman9652

      I’d keep Hiroki with Russ. They have a pretty long history together.

    • Havok9120

      That’s the last guy I’d switch over. Hiroki and Martin have a long and successful history; they know each other very well.

      • Paul VuvuZuvella

        True. I was thinking veteran and glossed over that fact. How about AP?

        • Havok9120

          That is the guy I’d prefer to see. He and Martin have no rapport beyond this season and I’d rather give Andy the special catcher than Hughes/Nova, especially since the two of them just seem to be figuring it out.

  • CJ

    Didn’t Martin catch CC’s start last week?? CC still had those early inning blues.

    • sangreal

      No, Stewart caught CC against the Rays, and the Tigers before that.

  • dkidd

    a note to the girardi bashers:

    the man brings more than a binder

    • Jim Is Bored

      I think what people wish is that his binder were full of more meaningful data and relied less on “He’s had a good history against (pitcher/hitter)” in 6 at bats.

      • Jim Is Bored

        Of course, even that is based on hearsay and guesswork. And quotes after the game, which aren’t always meaningful.

        • jjyank

          Yeah, a lot of the post game stuff is just an easy way to defend a decision that doesn’t work out. I’m sure there is a variety of statistical information in the binder.

          • Jim Is Bored

            The responses are just funny. If I wanted to defend a decision that worked out, I’d probably want a better reason than “I based my decision on a sample size of 5″. By using that reply he gets flak from the pro and anti sabr crowd. No win situation.

            • Jim Is Bored

              defend a decision that DIDN’T work out*

            • Ted Nelson

              Whatever information is in that binder is basically proprietary. Any advanced stats they are using that are not in the mainstream (and even ones that are), they don’t want to let people know. Their decision making process, they don’t want to let people know. If they think they do it better than other teams, they wouldn’t want other teams turning around and copying it. I wouldn’t take any more from those press conferences than I would from public statements by a General about an offensive that’s about to start. They don’t want you to know their strategy.

              And even if they did… say they have some random stat they use an acronym RFAK for… if no one in the media or fan base has any clue what that stat is, what good would it do Girardi to say he looked at the RFAK? None. He’d not only expose a trade secret, but also confuse everyone.

      • RetroRob

        Do any of us actually know what’s in the binder? Seems like many assumptions are being made.

        • Havok9120

          No, we don’t. See Nelson’s comment above.

    • jjyank

      In addition, I’m pretty sure all managers have a binder, I’m not sure why Girardi gets crap for that.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      The whole binder thing is probably the silliest meme I’ve come across. Instant scroll-over material.

  • Joe R

    Martin changed his batting stance. He moved back in the box to be able to get around on pitches inside and see the ball better overall.

  • Dan

    With the fact that CC has struggled with Stewart catching him, should there be a discussion to bring back up Cervelli? CC seemed to pitch well with him last year. It seems like Joe is determined to have one guy that his backup catcher will always catch to give the starter some rest, so if CC is going to be the guy that gets the backup catcher why not give him someone he appeared more comfortable with.

  • yoo-boo

    Sabby is the one to blame on. His slider and change up hanged too much. What catcher has a responsibility for his hanging balls?

    Since Martin improves at plate, I can see he will be behind plate for Sabby soon.

    • jjyank

      Your comment lost me at “Sabby”. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

      • Jim Is Bored

        It’s the second time he’s used that nickname. I vote we shun him until he stops.

        • jjyank


        • Havok9120

          I’m down.

        • Robinson Tilapia


          • Kosmo

            I´m still chuckling over the “hanging balls“ statement.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              I think every catcher should be responsible for his hanging balls, especially when they’re in the line of fire of a 95 MPH fastball.


    • Betty Lizard

      What catcher has a responsibility for his hanging balls?

      Oh, no problem. I’ll take responsibility for Russell’s hanging balls any day . . .

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Comment of the day.

      • yoo-boo

        His = Sabby’s

  • Bubba

    Doesn’t matter who’s calling/catching the game if CC is having difficulty hitting his spots.

    • Sarah

      Yeah this. The images in the previous post suggest the issue isn’t with Stewart’s game calling, but with CC’s inability to command the pitch(es). Also, that run of great starts by CC were all called by Stew.

      On the other hand, it’s good to switch things up, and Russ and Stew should have familiarity with all pitchers.

      • Jim Is Bored

        I agree that they should be comfy with all the pitchers. I don’t want Stewart starting game 1 of the ALDS.

        • JohnC

          ALot of people got down on Martin after his 1st and third 1 out pop up in game 5 of the ALDS last year.that killed a big rally chance. May have even carried it with him into this season. Good to see him start hitting though again

          • Jim Is Bored

            I’ll still take my chances with Russ in that situation over Stewart.

            Our whole team did a good job of killing rally chances in the ALDS last year.

          • Havok9120

            There’s a difference between being down on Martin and people convincing themselves that Chris Stewart is somehow a better option. :P

  • 28 in 2012

    So does this mean he is now worth 5/75? I think signing Russ long term is a bad idea. 3/20 i think is cheap and short enough, but anything longer than 3 for more dough is silly. Adding Martin to the list of “Players the Yankees are stuck with for another 5 years” would be terrible.
    Glad to see the turn around, props to Girardi for calling him out.

    • Jim Is Bored

      Props to Girardi for calling him out in private instead of in the media. Glad the Yanks still do things the right way for the most part.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Agreed. Nothing would make me turn quicker against a manager than someone who calls out his players in the press. Bush league when Jerry Manuel did it with the Mets. Bush league when Bobby V does it. Bush league when any coach in any sport does it. That’s just shit management.

        • 28 in 2012

          Bobby V is despicable for the most part. His latest rant regarding the umpiring rules was hysterical though and lifted him in my eyes slightly. The man is not afraid to open his mouth, that’s for sure…

      • 28 in 2012

        No doubt. As frustrating as Joe can be with bunting and IBB, the way he handles his team is nothing short of admirable.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Yet we get on him for speaking in cliches. I’d rather hear very cliche in the book and shared accountability than what we get from other managers. Girardi is a class act all the way.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I don’t think anyone is advocating a long term deal here. The question will be is he the best option compared to both internal options and what else is out there for the next few years.

      Austin Romine’s back looms large here. This could have been the year in which we saw whether he had what it takes to either be the long-term answer, or serve as a cheaper bridge while the team figured out what’s to be of Gary Sanchez (and, to a lesser extent, JR Murphy and, now, Pete O’Brien.)

      If what you’ve got at the end of the season, again, is a guy who offers solid production with a low batting average and decent skills behind the plate, then he may still be the best option for the next 2-3 years.

    • Ted Nelson

      There’s a lot of room between 5/75 and 3/20. One is 15 million per and the other is 6.7… At the very least I have to assume he’s going to get his arb salary of $8 million as an AAV if he has a solid year.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    According to Jim Kaat, it’s the pitcher’s responsibility to put the the ball where it is called at. Catchers are given too much credit for good games and are discredited when things go bad. All in all I’d rather have a good hitting catcher than a defensive first one, especially in the post-season.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Depends on how good a hitter, though. It’s real easy when they hit like Mike Piazza.

    • Havok9120

      Okay, like who?

      Seriously. We mostly all agree that we’d rather have a great offensive catcher with below average defensive/behind the plate skills, as long as he isn’t a total butcher. Fine. Who? There’s a reason that Martin’s crappy offensive season (for him and in general) is still a cut above the average at that position this season, and it isn’t because there are tons of big offensive producers at catcher in the MLB. So who, in practice, are we talking about here?

      • Jose M. Vazquez..

        I just said I prefer an offense first catcher. None are available at the moment. However, all the teams that went to the playoffs except for Tampa and the Yankees had good hitting catchers. This does not mean I dislike Martin in any way but Cashman made a mistake by comparing him to Munson and thereby possibly raising his asking price.

        • Steve (different one)

          Martin will get more money on the open market because Cashman once compared him to Munson? This is some …interesting logic.

        • RetroRob

          The Munson comparison makes no differnce. Martin will be paid based on what the market determines his value. The Munson comparison had nothing to do with the overall skill, but general toughness. The media eats stuff like that up, but it won’t add a single dollar to his deal.

  • StanfordBen

    “He said, ‘I think you need to start doing a couple of things; I think you need to start throwing inside more.’”

    Can anyone verify that they’ve actually thrown inside more since then?

  • Neil

    For years Yankee pitchers even before Girardi and regardless of who the pitching coach has been simply don’t set up their pitches by throwing inside to set up a breaking ball away or going high to set up a sinker. I’m sure all of us here watch enough Yankee baseball to see our pitchers make some terrible 0-2 and 1-2 pitches. Maybae they are trying to waste one high or in the dirt and they can’t do it? Hughes is a major violator and lately CC as well.