Again, we are only talking about nine games (eight as a starter). And in the grand scheme of things, it will matter very little how well Martin does at the plate. Well, it may matter with what kind of contract he gets after this season. But in the Yankees’ lineup, his contribution offensively is somewhat of an afterthought. What the Yankees need from him is world class defense–which he is providing–and handling the pitchers–which he seems to do well.
It still seems curious that Martin has not been able to return to the kind of hitting he did with the Dodgers earlier in his career. In his first three seasons with that team, he compiled OPS totals of .782, .843 and .781. But since 2009, his OPS figures have slipped with seasons of .680, .679, .732 and this year at .636 thus far. His ground ball rates and other batted ball figures have remained all in the same ballpark throughout his career. But his BABIP figures tumbled.
This season, his ground ball rate is at a stupendous 75 percent and that is not going to get you many base hits or extra base hits. And of his minuscule 12.5 percent fly ball rate, 50 percent of them have been to the infield. But again, it is way too early and those figures should go back to his career norms of a 49.7 percent ground ball rate and 12.3 percent infield pop up rate. Russell Martin will have some offensive moments this season.
While it would be lovely if he could hit like he did in his early Dodger days, the Yankees would be satisfied with the kind of offensive season he had last year. For a catcher, offense is just one small part of the total package. The other things that Martin does like framing pitches, blocking balls in the dirt and fielding his position led him to be the fifth most valuable catcher in baseball last season.
Russell Martin’s offensive season is off to an extremely odd start. The walks are nice. Everything else isn’t.
**Update** For a wonderful take on what Russell Martin brings to the Yankees as catcher, check out this article.