Exit Interview: Carlos Martinez

For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is STL CardGals.  Laura and Holly recap most every series and usually bring a very positive approach to whatever is going on with the Birds.  Find them on iTunes and check out their website for some totally biased baseball.

Player: Carlos Martinez

Season stats: 16-9, 3.04 ERA, 31 games, 195.1 IP, 169 H, 70 BB, 174 K, 1.224 WHIP, 3.61 FIP, 5.4 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 10, Goat 3

Overall grade: A

Positives: Led the team in WAR, which is a pretty good indication of how the year went….limited right-handers to .207/.269/.540….went 9-2 with a 2.45 ERA away from St. Louis….fairly consistent, as he allowed a .602 OPS in the first half and a .691 OPS in the second half….allowed just a .484 OPS in April….had a 1.31 ERA in June….had a 1.93 ERA in his 16 wins….batters hit just .208 when they swung at the first pitch….the first batter of his 31 games hit .115/.258/.154….batters hit .231 when runners were on base….they hit .206 when the game was tied….in 138 high-leverage PA, batters had a .565 OPS….held batters to a .473 OPS the first time through the order….in 28 PA after he reached 100 pitches, he allowed a .192/.250/.192 line….was 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA against the Brewers and 2-2 with a 1.75 ERA against the Pirates.

Negatives: Had a rough three-game stretch in May where he allowed 14 ER in 15 IP….had another end of July/beginning of August where he gave up 13 ER in 18 IP….had a .500 record and a 3.60 ERA at Busch Stadium….batters hit .278 against him in September….had a 6.24 ERA in his nine losses….batters had a .912 OPS on the first pitch….only 19 PA, but batters had a .263/.263/.421 line in late and close situations….batters hit .294 between pitches 50 and 75….went 1-3 with a 4.80 ERA against the Cubs.

Overview: For some time, the talk has been that Carlos Martinez is going to develop into one of the best pitchers out there.  2016 was just another data point for that argument, as he took over as de facto (if not maybe named) ace of the rotation and made his case that he is going to be a force for years to come.  Martinez was the most consistent of the Cardinal hurlers this year, allowing three runs or fewer in 24 of his 31 outings.  It got to the point that, if there was a tiebreaker game with the Giants or if the Cards had gotten to the Wild Card Game, Martinez was the obvious choice.  So obvious that there was nobody that expected Mike Matheny would go with Adam Wainwright–which is huge given Matheny’s history (and the regard that he’s held with some online).

What’s remarkable that, save for a few more innings and a few fewer strikeouts (something that may be related), Martinez’s 2016 resembles strongly his 2015.  This may be his baseline going forward and he’s just 25 years old.  Pairing him with Alex Reyes at the top of the rotation for a number of years should be a great thing for Cardinal fans.

Outlook: Martinez is arbitration eligible this offseason, but it would be almost more surprising if he didn’t sign a long-term extension this winter than if he did.  The club knows what they have with him and there’s no way they want to deal with his arbitration years, which are only going to get more and more costly.  Martinez, with a little luck and perhaps another step in development, could easily be the next Cardinal to challenge for the Cy Young Award.

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