Trouble with the curve
Wasn’t much of a baseball movie but it could be the title of Russell Martin’s 2018 season.
Eddy Almaguer of a http://www.propsectslive reviewed the trade last week that brought Russell Martin back to Los Angeles in exchange for Ronny Brito and Andrew Sopko. Eddy broke down the Martin 2018 season and found that the reason for such a horrible season was that Martin had trouble with the curve.
While his defense is still passable, it’s the bat that really drags down Martin’s profile. He slashed .194/.338/.325 last year over 352 plate appearances. He was much more passive, swinging less inside and outside of the zone. The biggest culprit, however, became Martin’s complete inability to hit a breaking ball. He had a .076 AVG and .114 SLG against breaking pitches, which were 31 percent of the pitches he saw . While he wasn’t a darling against fastballs, either, it was a more respectable .249 AVG and .438 SLG. Martin’s saving grace remains his 12 percent walk rate which bumped up to 15 percent last season thanks to his increased passivity.
Well, to be honest, it wasn’t just the curve, it was every type of breaking ball.
I have no idea how Martin will perform in 2019, but Jeff Sullivan points out that Martin wasn’t nearly as bad as his offensive line suggests which is good because in a vacuum that triple stat line is repugnant (194/.338/.325). Catchers were an offensive drag on baseball last year so compared to his peers, Martin is still an average catcher.
Offensively, Martin has ranked 17th out of 44. Defensively, he’s ranked 15th out of 44. Martin has been one of eight catchers to rank in the upper half in each statistic. He can still hit a little bit, and he can still receive a little bit. Everything’s getting worse, but he’s declining from a very high bar.
Even an average offensive catcher is still a huge downgrade at the position when you consider that Grandal had been one of the top five offensive catchers in baseball since becoming the Dodgers everyday catcher.
The Dodger now have two catchers who do two things very well. They can both take a walk which allows their OBA to make up for their extremely low batting averages. Barnes and Martin are also still considered good framers, but again, Grandal was one of the best framers in baseball. As noted in the links above, Martin has not caught more than eighty games in the past two years so I’d expect that Martin/Barnes will be more of a tandem than either being asked to catch 100 plus games. In 2017, Austin Barnes was what Russell Martin had been when he was a Dodger, an athletic fleet-footed catcher with good power, great on-base skills, and a solid reputation as a catcher. In 2018 they converged to be the same catcher but that wasn’t a good thing.
Without a trade for Realmuto or Cervelli, this is the stop-gap move that will need to be the bridge to either Will Smith or Keibert Ruiz. It won’t make the Dodgers better in 2019 unless Austin Barnes finds his 2017 mojo and turns back into one of the bright young catchers which earn him the starting job and puts the arrival of the prospects on hold. If Barnes shows he is more 2018 Barnes instead of 2017 Barnes it doesn’t clog up the position for when either or both of the prospects are ready.