For the sixth straight year, we’re taking a look back at everyone that played for the St. Louis Cardinals this season. Whether they were a major contributor or a bit player, here all year or for just a little while, we’ll look at their season and talk about what went right and what went wrong. The stat line listed is just their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers in the discussion may be for the entire year. Imagine this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a little review on their way home for the winter. As always when you see incredible artistry in the blogs, all credit for the header work goes to @cardinalsgifs.
Player: Carlos Martinez
Season stats: 12-11, 3.64 ERA, 32 games, 205 IP, 179 H, 71 BB, 217 K, 1.220 WHIP, 3.91 FIP, 2.9 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Hero 8, Goat 8
Overall grade: B
Positives: Threw the first two shutouts of his career….reached the 200 strikeout plateau for the first time ever….made the All-Star Game for the second time….signed a five-year deal in spring training….threw 200 innings for the first time….righties hit .204 against him….batters hit .219 against him at Busch, where he had a 3.23 ERA….batters had a .662 OPS against him in the first half….batters hit .170 against him in May….had a combined 2.20 ERA in May and June….batters slashed .095/.112/.190 on a 2-2 count….had a .456 OPS against with two strikes….had a .205 BAA with runners in scoring position….batters had a .652 OPS in high leverage situations….had a 2.62 ERA on six or more days of rest….allowed one run in eight innings in his start against the Dodgers.
Negatives: His ERA was .60 higher than it was in 2016….his HR/9 rate was the highest of his career….had a 7.31 ERA in his last three starts, two against the Cubs….had a 4.02 ERA on the road….had a 3.96 ERA in the second half…had a 5.90 ERA in July….had a 6.49 ERA in games he took the loss….batters in the three hole had a .916 OPS….batters hit .296 on the first pitch….batters slashed .455/.455/.659 with a 2-1 count….when the batter ended the plate appearance ahead, he had a 1.060 OPS….had a 4.08 ERA on five days’ rest….had a 6.62 ERA in three games against the Reds….actually had people talking about the connection between hair color and performance.
Overview: We expected a lot from Carlos Martinez this past season. We expected him to be the ace of the staff. We expected him to take that step into the upper echelon of MLB pitchers. And while Martinez was still quite good, while he could be amazing on certain days, while he was truly the best overall pitcher the Cardinals had, he didn’t quite match up with the ideal we had formed before the season. The first two starts of the year illustrated that inconsistency. He went 7.1 scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts Opening Night against the Cubs, only to turn around five days later and give up six runs (five earned) in five innings against Cincinnati. A pitcher that has the ability and the stuff to be mentioned with Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer needs to be more dependable, more regular.
That doesn’t mean that Martinez isn’t currently the ace of the staff nor that he can’t be that pitcher we all expected. After all, this was just his Age 25 season. At Age 25 Scherzer was putting up similar numbers before developing into that dominating pitcher we all know now. There is plenty of room for Martinez to grow as well as time for us to temper our expectations a little more until he comes out and shows that consistency.
Outlook: Martinez will be the Opening Day starter for the Cardinals when they open up in New York on March 29. He’ll be the ace of the staff again in 2018, barring some amazing trade that nobody could ever see coming to bring in another top level starter. It won’t matter what color his hair is or how many cups he stacks, what will matter is if he can put a run of very good starts together early to bring some confidence to those days when he’s on the mound. When he starts doing that, then we’ll be watching something really special.