Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pirates Sign Russell Martin

It seems like I haven't written much about the Pirates in a while and that is because I haven't there hasn't been much to talk about and the stuff that people are talking about is meaningless and overblown. Well, today they made a significant splash in the free agent market signing Russell Martin to a two year, $17 million deal.

Martin played the 2011 season with the New York Yankees when he hit for a .211/.311/.403 with 21 home runs and 50 runs scored.

Here are Martin's career numbers:


Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2006 23 LAD 121 468 415 65 117 26 4 10 65 10 5 45 57 .282 .355 .436 .792 101 181
2007 24 LAD 151 620 540 87 158 32 3 19 87 21 9 67 89 .293 .374 .469 .843 116 253
2008 25 LAD 155 650 553 87 155 25 0 13 69 18 6 90 83 .280 .385 .396 .781 108 219
2009 26 LAD 143 588 505 63 126 19 0 7 53 11 6 69 80 .250 .352 .329 .680 86 166
2010 27 LAD 97 387 331 45 82 13 0 5 26 6 2 48 61 .248 .347 .332 .679 88 110
2011 28 NYY 125 476 417 57 99 17 0 18 65 8 2 50 81 .237 .324 .408 .732 95 170
2012 29 NYY 133 485 422 50 89 18 0 21 53 6 1 53 95 .211 .311 .403 .713 92 170
7 Yrs 925 3674 3183 454 826 150 7 93 418 80 31 422 546 .260 .352 .399 .751 99 1269
162 Game Avg. 162 643 557 80 145 26 1 16 73 14 5 74 96 .260 .352 .399 .751 99 222
LAD (5 yrs) 667 2713 2344 347 638 115 7 54 300 66 28 319 370 .272 .365 .396 .761 101 929
NYY (2 yrs) 258 961 839 107 188 35 0 39 118 14 3 103 176 .224 .317 .405 .723 94 340
NL (5 yrs) 667 2713 2344 347 638 115 7 54 300 66 28 319 370 .272 .365 .396 .761 101 929
AL (2 yrs) 258 961 839 107 188 35 0 39 118 14 3 103 176 .224 .317 .405 .723 94 340
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/29/2012.

Martin was regarded as one of the best free agent catchers on the market this season and while he had a pretty bad year at the plate last season he has a pretty good career line with a little bit of pop and some pretty good OBP. The one thing that the Pirates team struggles with is OBP and Martin is a guy that will take a walk. His walk rate over his career is 11.8% and while that was a little lower last year (10.9%) it still would have been the best on the Pirates team. Add in a little pop to the bat and it brings some value despite a low average.

All-in-all I am pretty neutral on Martin. While he has had some really good success in the past his play has taken a dip over the past three years on the offensive end despite him setting a career high in home runs during the 2012 season.

Obviously this is an upgrade over Rod Barajas, but to be truthful you or I behind the plate would have been an improvement. Martin is a nice improvement and one of the best on the market and while I don't think that he will replicate his 21 home run season (as a right handed hitter at PNC Park) I do think that he will be a little closer to Bill James' projections of .242/.340/.394 that he has set for Martin next season. While Martin had a bad year at the plate he was still over a two win player and has been for the past three seasons.

I do like that this is only a two year deal. When people were talking about Martin being a Pirate they were in the three year range around $22-25M but to get him at only two years is a plus in my eyes. They obviously had to pay a little more to get only two years but that is something that the Pirates front office thought it was the right move to make. Is he worth the $8.5M over two years? Probably not, but he absolutely makes the team better at a position they were just awful at last season. Not saying that is the right way to do business but right now the only catcher the Pirates have on the big club is Michael McKenry and in my humble opinion I really don't think Tony Sanchez is ready to move up.

The other thing to remember is that this will only be Martin's age 30 season. I am not going to lie when I was thinking about Martin I thought he was a little older than that but you are talking about one of the younger guys on the market with some previously talent.

Some are obviously going to point to the fact that Martin has thrown about about an average of 30% of runners at this point in his career and last season the Pirates were around about 8%. He is a pretty good guy to have behind the plate but lets not pretend like he is going to solve the problem of teams running against the Pirates. Most of the problems with stealing base stealers is that Clint Hurdle just flat refuses to have his pitchers hold runners on. Until that changes the struggles against base runners will not improve. Bottom line. One place that will be improved is framing pitchers where Martin did a pretty good job last year and in a Baseball Prospectus article they had him as the second-best pitch receiver in the league.

While I know a lot of people are going to bang on Martin for his bad year at the plate last year I would be remised if I didn't mention that in the second half of the year Martin hit .242/.321/.456. I would take that in a second.

Like I said before I am pretty neutral on the deal. I see the reasons why the Pirates shouldn't have signed him and I laid out a few reason why maybe this isn't the worst signing in the world as most people think it is. Bottom line is that right now, today, the Pirates are better at a position they were really bad at. Other than that I will wait to see what Martin brings when the season starts.

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