2014 Russell Martin
Russell Martin’s 2014 season might be one of the most underappreciated seasons in the franchise’s history. Martin’s second season in Black And Gold was outstanding. He provided superb offense to go with top of the line defense. But despite a career year from the veteran backstop, Martin didn’t even receive a call to the Mid-Summer Classic.
During the 2014 season, Martin posted an outstanding .290/.402/.430 slash line. His 12.8% walk rate was the second-best of his career at the time, and he also had a solid 17% strikeout rate. Martin’s OBP over .400 was elite, and one of the best marks ever for a backstop. Only 35 catchers have put up an OBP over .400 in 400+ PAs. Martin’s OBP is tied with Carlton Fisk in 1977, Joe Robinson in 1949, and Joe Mauer in 2010. He wasn’t a super-powerful hitter, but he had 11 home runs in 460 plate appearances and his .140 isolated slugging percentage was slightly better than the league average. Overall, he had a .370 wOBA and 140 wRC+.
But Martin’s season happened right when Buster Posey had another outstanding season. Posey batted .311/.364/.490 with a .371 wOBA, and 142 wRC+. Both Martin and Posey had almost identical marks in wOBA and wRC+. Martin had the higher on-base percentage and Posey was better for power. He hit 22 home runs with a .179 isolated slugging percentage. You could have made the argument either way, but it was one of the better offensive seasons not to get the award.
Defensively, Martin turned in yet another outstanding year. He racked up +21 defensive runs saved with +11.6 framing runs. Again, like with his hitting, while he was outstanding as a defender, he was eclipsed by other career years. Jonathan Lucroy led the National League in defensive runs saved and Posey had +19.2 framing runs. Though none of Martin, Lucory or Posey would take the award home, as Yadier Molina captured the National League catcher Gold Glove with +8 defensive runs saved and +4.6 framing runs.
Overall, Martin’s 2014 is the best season from a Pirate catcher in the franchise’s history. Since integration in 1947, Martin’s wRC+ of 140 is the best among any Pirate backstop in at least 300 plate appearances. His wOBA ranked 6th while his OPS was only 10th, but combined with his defense, no Bucco catcher ever posted a higher single-season fWAR than Martin did in 2014.