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.
Player: Carlos Martinez
Season stats: 8-6, 5 SV, 3.11 ERA, 33 G, 118.2 IP, 100 H, 5 HR, 60 BB, 117 K, 3.53 FIP, 1.348 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, 1.5 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Hero 5, Goat 4
Overall grade: B
Positives: It’s been a long time since we’ve seen someone have success as a starter and as a closer in the same season….after his return in August as a reliever, allowed just three earned runs in 18.1 innings (1.47 ERA) and struck out 19….batters hit .177 against him as a reliever….pitched seven or more innings four times in 18 starts….righties hit just .216 against him….had a home ERA of 2.66….limited batters to a .599 OPS in the second half….had a 1.43 ERA in April and allowed a .176 BAA….had a 0.99 ERA in the eight games where he got a win….pitched best with run support, posting a 2.84 ERA when he got six or more runs of support….batters hit .197 when they took the first pitch….allowed a .534 OPS with runners in scoring position….limited batters to a .204 batting average between pitches 26 and 75….had a 2.66 ERA in four games against the Brewers.
Negatives: Had two different stints on the DL….gave up five runs in 4.1 innings in the Opening Day matchup against the Mets….four times gave up five or more runs as a starter….struck out less than twice as many as he walked….had a 1.85 K/BB ratio in the first half of the season….had a 6.75 ERA in June and walked almost a batter an inning….in the six games he took a loss, posted an 8.00 ERA….second-place hitters had an OPS of .929 against him and had two of the five home runs he allowed….if batters swung at the first pitch they hit .292….if they put the first pitch in play, they had a .888 OPS….he walked more than half of the batters that reached a three-ball count….three of his home runs allowed led off an inning….the first batter he faced hit .296….batters had a .719 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position….had a 7.07 ERA in the fifth inning….batters hit pitches 76-100 at a .301 clip….had a 6.55 ERA in 11 innings against the Cubs.
Overview: Like Matt Carpenter, Carlos Martinez can be a polarizing figure at times. Very few argue that he has excellent talent, but there’s a section of the fan base that wonders if he’ll ever really put everything together and be the ace he’s expected to be. This leads to them somewhat undervaluing what his talent and his contract (which has three guaranteed more years at $11.5 million, then two option years at $17 and $18 million) are worth. The idea of trading him off for a free-agent-to-be is fairly ludicrous, but has made the rounds quite a bit this winter.
That said, you do wonder, as good as he’s been, if he’ll take that next step. Just as one measure (not one that has all sorts of meaning), his ERA as a starter this year was 3.41. That would have placed him 13th in the National League, right behind Jon Lester and right about Kyle Hendricks. Which is a very nice place to be, but for some reason, because we’ve seen how great he can be, we expect more out of him. I also am not completely convinced that the front office is 100% behind him either, in part because of off the field items (such as the strip club fight that he and Marcell Ozuna got legally wrapped up in this year) or in motivational items (such as the fact that, at least once this year, he was so late to the park they had to start getting an emergency replacement starter going). My general feeling is that the club is not going to give Martinez away, but if they could get an excellent return for him, they’d definitely listen.
Outlook: Martinez will return to the rotation next year and, while he may wind up ceding the Opening Day start to Miles Mikolas for 2019, he’s still going to be considered the ace of the staff and nobody (unless Jack Flaherty gets more consistent or Alex Reyes is healthy and dominant) is really in his class when he’s going right. Martinez and Yadier Molina both said before last year that Martinez needs to focus more. If he can ever really click and get into that groove for a long period of time, it’s going to be incredible to watch.