Story of a Season: Russell Martin

When the Yankees announced they were signing Russell Martin after he was non-tendered by the Dodgers, I was thinking one thing: He’s a placeholder for Jesus Montero. Once Montero was ready–maybe around May or June–Martin would shift to the backup role, Montero would catch, Cervelli would go…somewhere. Well, it didn’t happen that way, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Martin caught fire coming out of the gate and ended up as a pretty valuable player for the Yankees. He added good offense for a catcher, he played good defense, and the pitching staff seemed to like working with him.

At the plate, Martin had two phenomenal months. April featured a .420 wOBA/164 wRC+ and August saw Martin hit to .391/144 marks. Russell was just about average in May (.320/96), but was sub replacement level in June (.241/42), July (.264/58), and September (.289/75). Overall, this added up to a .325 wOBA and a 100 wRC+. Compared to the league, then (w/o adjusting for position), Martin was exactly average with the bat.

fWAR pegged Martin at 3.0 wins above a replacement player and valued his performance at $13.7. With all his contract incentives (performance bonuses based on games as catcher: $50,000 each for 30, 35; $75,000 for 40 and each additional 5 games through 120 via Cot’s), Martin will be paid a total of $5.375M in 2011. Subtracting his salary from the fWAR dollar value, the Yankees got a surplus of $8.325M from Russ this season.

If the Yankees were to let Martin go right now, I think we could all be pretty satisfied with what they got out of him. However, I don’t think we’re going to see that happen. His salary is likely to go up, whether through arbitration or a contract, but 2011 proved that Martin can still be productive over the course of an entire season. He may not catch 120 games next year like he did this year, but I think we’ll be seeing Russell Martin in pinstripes for at least one more season.

A native and resident of the Mean Streets of Southwestern Connecticut, Matt is a narcissistic, misanthropic 20something English teacher who lives by a simple creed: Yankees Only.

6 thoughts on “Story of a Season: Russell Martin

  1. The great series of posts (I think it was two or three) here and elsewhere on developments in catcher metrics (e.g., framing pitches) has made me think that Martin’s role in the success of Yankee’s pitching this year has been greatly undervalued, and he is in fact a STEAL at the price we’ve been playing.

    I would be fascinated to see an analysis of how Yankees pitching has fared in 2011 with Martin behind the plate vs. “other than Martin” from an xFIP perspective. I hypothesize that, all else being equal, we pitched a lot better with Martin behind the plate.

  2. T.O. Chris

    I think it would be a pretty big mistake to let Martin go after the season. His ability as a defensive catcher alone is worth bringing back in arbitration, and he seems to have one of those personalities that fits in great as well. He’s a vastly better catcher than Montero, and with no Posada next year Jesus can be the starting DH and backup catcher. His work behind the plate was extremely refreshing after dealing with Posada for all this time, and I agree that I don’t see the Yankees letting him go.

    • Professor Longnose

      Hey, T.O., how’s it going?

      • T.O. Chris

        I would say great but my freaking power just went out about 5 minutes ago! It’s not raining, so I have no idea why but it looks like I’m missing at least some of the game.

        How are things with you?

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