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 this man, 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: Jose Martinez
Season stats: 128 G, 373 PA, 45 R, 90 H, 13 2B, 2 3B, 10 HR, 42 RBI, 3 SB, 35 BB, 82 K, .269/.340/.410, 97 OPS+, -0.3 bWAR
Statcast: 7.1% barrel %, 88.6 exit velocity, 39.3% hard hit %, .343 xwOBA
Hero/Goat: Hero 7, Goat 4
Overall grade: B-
Positives: Hit .538 in 13 postseason plate appearances….hit .308 with a 1.000 OPS the last two weeks of the season….his two triples came in the last two weeks as well….had much fewer PA against lefties but hit them at a .329/.397/.600 clip and his home runs were evenly split between righties and lefties….seven of his home runs came away from Busch….hit .285 with eight homers in the first half….had an .858 OPS in April….hit five home runs in July….had an .805 OPS playing right field….slashed .304/.366/.424 hitting fifth….had a 1.114 OPS on the first pitch….managed a 1.100 OPS if he was ahead in the count and hit .295 with a .703 OPS if the count was even….hit .304 with one out in an inning….hit .278 with runners in scoring position….was best in medium leverage situations (.854 OPS)….posted a .390 average in the second inning….had a .863 OPS against starters and seven of his home runs came off of them….held his own against power pitchers, putting up an .850 OPS….three of his home runs came in interleague play….partnered up with Primos to provide this season’s food tie-in….broke up Anibal Sanchez‘s no-hitter in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the NLCS.
Negatives: Did not hit a home run after July 23….hit .243/.312/.343 from that point forward….missed the second half of August to injury….had a .685 OPS against righties….had the highest K rate of his career….hit .228 in the second half overall….hit just .143 in August before going on the IL….slashed .211/.286/.368 as a pinch-hitter….hit .194 when batting in the nine slot….put up a .483 OPS when the pitcher was ahead in the count….hit .221 when there were two outs….had a .133 average when there were two outs and runners in scoring position….posted a .486 OPS in late and close situations….hit .208 in high leverage situations….had an OPS under .500 in the seventh and eighth innings….managed a .609 OPS against relievers….hit .216 against the Cubs.
Overview: Overall, it was a drop off year for Jose Martinez. Mike Shildt recognized his defensive limitations and kept him away from first base all season long. Playing in fewer games shouldn’t have been an issue, as he did that in 2017 and had a solid offensive season. And let’s be clear, Martinez wasn’t a huge liability either in the outfield when he played there or at the plate. It just wasn’t quite up to the standards that we’ve come to expect from Martinez. If nothing else, he could always hit. That’s what got him to the big leagues after so many years wandering the minor leagues.
The defense issue did keep him out of more games, as Shildt tended to use Harrison Bader in center and Dexter Fowler in right to improve the chances of balls being caught. However, when the team was almost no-hit twice in the NLCS, Shildt turned to Martinez to provide an offensive boost and he went 3-8 over the last two games of the postseason, driving in two runs in Game 4. It seems unlikely the series would have changed had Shildt made the switch sooner, but nobody had as good of a postseason as Martinez did playing in his first ever October.
Outlook: There’s always going to be talk about sending Martinez off to the American League so he can DH and play regularly. That’s a possibility, especially given the outfield log jam that is in St. Louis. However, I think it’s likely they’ll try to keep him around as a bench bat and occasional outfielder. Of course, as you’ve seen above, coming off the bench wasn’t exactly Martinez’s strong suit this year but overall in his career he’s got a .322 average as a pinch-hitter. I don’t think the Cards just ship him off for minimal return–if they wanted to do that, the market was probably stronger last year–and most likely we’ll see Martinez dancing in the batter’s box again in 2020.