Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat. Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them. The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable. Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.
If we’re talking about 2019, we’ve got to highlight the brand that made the most impact this season: Primos and their partnership with Jose Martinez. Throughout the span of these interviews (today through Dec. 5) you can get 10% off your order of that sweet, sweet Cafecito coffee (well, I guess you probably have to doctor it to make it sweet) or anything else at their site. My wife is a coffee snob and we’ve bought multiple bags of the medium roast. It’s a great stocking stuff or Christmas gift as well, especially when you expand your order to pick up the Jose Martinez coffee mug. So use code C70SAVE10 at checkout and show your support of their ties to the Cardinal fanbase!
Player: Carlos Martinez
Season stats: 4-2, 24 SV, 3.17 ERA, 48 G, 48.1 IP, 39 H, 2 HR, 18 BB, 53 K, 2.86 FIP, 1.179 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, 0.9 bWAR
Statcast: 6.3% barrel %, 86.3 exit velocity, 31.2% hard hit %, .289 xwOBA
Hero/Goat: Goat 5
Overall grade: A-
Positives: Stepped in when Jordan Hicks went down with Tommy John surgery and converted 22 of 23 opportunities….only allowed runs in one September game, going scoreless in his last five appearances (though he allowed an inherited runner to score)….righties had a .543 OPS against him….at Busch Stadium, he had a 1.82 ERA and allowed a .180 BAA….had a 2.37 ERA in the first half….had a 1.54 ERA in June and a 2.31 mark in September….third place hitters went .067/.167/.067 against him….combined, three through six in the lineup had a .191 average against him….if batters swung at the first pitch they hit .177….they had a .636 OPS if they hit the first pitch….limited hitters to a .420 OPS if he was ahead in the count….batters hit .094 to lead off an inning….they had a .549 OPS with nobody out….kept batters to a .477 OPS in tie games….hitters managed a .196 average in low leverage situations….had a 2.76 ERA with no days of rest….American League batters only had a .433 OPS against him….allowed just a .181 average in day games.
Negatives: Wasn’t healthy to start the season, not making his major league debut until May 18….Had a 4.56 ERA away from the home confines in one less inning….had a 1.437 WHIP on the road….had a 3.68 ERA in the second half, even as his K/9 ticked up over 10….had a 4.91 ERA in July and gave up a .762 OPS that month….both of his homers came from fifth place hitters….leadoff hitters hit .333/.455/.333….if batters took the first pitch, his K/BB rate dropped from 6.00 to 2.33….gave up a .653 OPS with two outs….with runners in scoring position, batters hit .341….had his worst OPS allowed (.615) in high leverage situations….batters hit .333 after he reached 25 pitches….had a 4.32 ERA with one day of rest….had a 16.20 ERA in the NLDS and blew the lead in Game 3.
Overview: When we put the grade on these things, it’s always factoring in expectations. That’s a little hard to do with Martinez, because going into the season we expected him to be anchoring the rotation, being the guy leading off the games rather than the guy finishing them off. Sure, he finished 2018 in the bullpen, but that was, at least officially, because he couldn’t build up strength fast enough to return before the season would be done. That was supposed to be an aberration, but when the winter didn’t go the way everyone wanted, Martinez wound up back in the bullpen and, when Hicks went down, that looked like a really good thing. If it hadn’t been for that injury, John Mozeliak said the plan was to start transitioning him back to starter innings, which would have been helpful as well.
There’s a lot of uncertainty and questions surrounding Martinez’s health and pitching desires. He says he wants to be a starter. The Cardinals say they want him to be a starter. Yet somehow Martinez keeps winding up in the bullpen. There were reports that Martinez had wanted to move to the bullpen because he didn’t think he could handle the starter workload, but that never was seemingly confirmed. Just like when Martinez was on the mound, things could be murky and frustrating. (And heaven knows there were a good number of ninth innings that caused much breath to be held.)
Outlook: Martinez threw less than 50 innings this season, but the Cardinals again say he’ll be in the rotation. Given the fact that the Cards are unlikely to go out and get a big starter to shore up the rotation, if he’s unable to handle that responsibility, things could get dicey quickly in 2020. As always, there will be those clamoring for the front office to move him in a deal, but it’s hard to believe the club could get enough for him now to make it worth it. There may be more what ifs and could have beens in Martinez’s career than any Cardinal not named Rick Ankiel in the last 25 years.