Can Russell Martin bounce back in 2013 for the Pittsburgh Pirates?

Throwing a Dart at 2013 Production of Pittsburgh Pirates Catcher Russell Martin

The Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager and Senior Vice President stated signing Russell Martin would be the big move the Bucs made this offseason.  We have read some positive things about Martins’ defense, specifically the new metric– pitch framing.

Going into the 2012 season, the question was Can Martin Be Trusted?   The answer in 2012 was a resounding no.

The article was written after the power resurgence Martin displayed in the 2011 season.   Martin showed some numbers better than the league average, but looking a bit deeper at Martins’ offense is downright frightful.

Combine that with Martins’ increasing strikeout rate which was a solid 12.8 percent in 2008 but then he struckout more, and more…and more as it climbed each year until it reached a career high 19.6 percent last year–which was Andrew McCutchen/Neil Walker/Alex Presley territory.

So what is going on with Martin?  Was it the overuse, the nastiness of American League pitching, or is Martin just a player declining as he ages?

On the surface, Martin looks like an offensive ghost of his former self.  The Batting Average on Balls in Play has dropped from .317 in 2007 to a career low .222 last year, hence leaving that laughingly awful batting average that everyone keeps tweeting about recently.

Martin chases pitches, is making less and less contact, which in turn has spiked his swinging strike percentage.  Let’s face it, the offensive numbers show a hitter that might just head to the Smithfield Bridge by the time the All-Star break rolls around in 2013 should this decline continue.  Light a candle damnit, this looks bad.

Sep 27, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin (55) bats against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays beat the Yankees 6-0. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The one standout for Martin has been his power numbers.  Even though it has shown to be streaky power low-lighted by his streak that would make Will Ferrel blush from his 2010 season.  Martin got off to a wicked start in 2010, with a .293 in March and April, but dropped to below .150 in May and just .056 in June which he matched in July before a great August followed by a pathetic September and October.

In 2012, Martins’ ISO number was a career best .192, but he simply hit the ball less.  The Yankees catcher improved his plate discipline, but still swung and missed at an awful rate.   A great late season tear against suspect opposition salavaged his offensive season.

The triple slash as a Yankee isn’t too impressive, it was just a .224/.317/.405.  No wonder some baseball experts were surprised to see him land a two-year deal.

When we look at Russell Martin it’s hard not to see a catcher in decline.

So, we looked at Bill James projections for 2013.  Perhaps, Bill James has nailed the Martin freefall.  We thought by looking at James past predictions, maybe we could throw a dart at what we can expect from the new Buccos catcher in 2013.

Ummm….not quite.

In 2011, James predicted a .266/.267/.379 along with a .334 wOBA for Martin.  So what did Martin produce?

In 2011, Martin produced a .237/.324/.408 along with a .325 wOBA.

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In 2012, James predicted a .256/.355/.400 along with a .355 wOBA.

In 2012, Martin produced a .211/.311/.403 along with a .316 wOBA.

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So…in 2013, James predicts a .242/.340/.394 along with a .322 wOBA.

Gulp.

James missed batting average by 30 points in 2011, and then 40 points in 2012, could 2013 mean a miss of 50 points?

James missed OBP by 60 points in 2011, and then over 40 points in 2012, we have no idea what happens in 2013.

James has been closest in predicting Martins’ slugging.  God, that sucks becase a .394 in 2012 Pirates final season statistics  would mean that Martin would have ranked tenth on the Bucs, just three points behind Gaby Sanchez.   Martin hit 13 of his 21 bombs at Yankee Stadium in 2012, James pegs Martin for 16 homers in 2013.

Looking at the recent production by Martin, and Michael McKenry‘s 26 percent strikeout rate as Martin’s backup, we can’t help but think new Pirates hitting coach Jay Bell has his hands full in 2013.

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