An email to a friend…
Subject: JOSE MARTINEZ
Hey, pal. Hope you are doing well.
Let’s chat about the Cardinals’ Jose Martinez. I know he isn’t an every-day player, a lineup fixture or an established hitting monster that’s been chewing up big-league pitchers for year. And we’re not talking about defense or base running here. Yeah, I know that Martinez labors defensively, whether it be at a corner outfield spot, or first base. But the metrics show that Martinez is an above-average base runner.
This email is about Martinez’ offense.
And in 2017 Martinez is probably having the best offensive season in the land that no one really talks about.
Well, I guess some people talk about it.
You do, and I do. And I’m sure a lot of Cardinals fans are on it. But outside of that, I don’t think there’s much buzz. Martinez has crazily exceeded the rather modest expectations set for him going into 2017.
This is a guy, after all, who didn’t even take his first big-league swing until September of last season at age 28. This tall, affable and patient dude spent 11 years in the minors, compiling over 3,600 plate appearances in the bushes.
Martinez posted a .294 average, .355 onbase percentage and .411 slugging percentage during his life in the shrubs. Martinez could hit minor-league pitching; he even won a PCL batting title. But he didn’t show much power, having never hit more than 11 homers in a minor-league season.
And then 2017 happened. Wow.
At age 29, in his first real opportunity in the big leagues, Martinez is hitting for average (.310). He’s drawing walks (9.6%) to fuel a fine .374 OBP. He has a reasonable strikeout rate of 20.6%. And if his power was missing in the minors, Martinez found it and plugged it in just in time for his first major-league trial.
Is it this about “launch angle” ??? Gee, I don’t know.
But I do know that Martinez has launched his MLB career at age 29.
In 2017 Martinez has already surpassed his career high (at any level) by homering 13 times for the Cardinals. In 228 plate appearances this season Martinez is slugging a rugged .567, has a burly .256 ISO, and is launching a homer every 15.6 at-bats. His .941 OPS is an item of baseball beauty.
It doesn’t make sense to compare Martinez’ baseball-card stats to the profiles of hitters who have the opportunity to play more frequently. With only 228 PA, Martinez can’t match home-run counts, RBI counts, extra-base hit counts of players that have taken nearly twice as many at-bats.
So let’s use park-adjusted runs created (wRC+) a valuable rate stat that offers an instant diagnosis of a hit man’s quality. As you know, 100 wRC+ is considered league average.
Below 100: below average hitter.
Above 100: above average hitter.
And so on.
Among MLB hitters with at least 225 PA this season, Martinez is tied for 19th overall with a wRC+ of 144. Among the Cardinals, only Tommy Pham has done better, with a wRC+ of 146.
In the National League Martinez’ 144 wRC+ ranks 11th among hitters with a minimum 225 plate appearances. That puts him above many a “name” hitter including Cody Bellinger (143), Anthony Rendon (142), Anthony Rizzo (140), Marcel Ozuna (140), Corey Seager (137), Ryan Zimmerman (136), Daniel Murphy (135) and Yoenis Cespedes (131.)
Sure, we’re talking about a smallish sample here. But that’s all we have to go on with Martinez. He hasn’t received as much playing time as he’s deserved, with Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny giving more at-bats to Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, who aren’t as good as Martinez offensively in ‘17.
Martinez has really cranked it up since the All-Star break. Wait until I drop this one on you.
(And remember, a 100 wRC+ is league average.
Martinez has only 93 plate appearances (shame, shame) in the second half. But for whatever it’s worth, here’s the wRC+ leader board since the All-Star break among players with a minimum 90 plate appearances:
Jose Martinez 203 wRC+
Rhys Hopkins 202
Giancarlo Stanton 198
Yeah, I think that’s pretty good — Martinez putting up a second-half hitting performance that’s 103 points above the league average. Solid. Decent. Not bad at all for a 29-year-old major-league rookie. Way to go, “kid.”
(Pardon my sarcasm.)
That’s why I say that we’re seeing the best offensive season that no one — or almost no one — is talking about.
So pass this email around to your friends.
More people need to know about Jose Martinez.
Including the St. Louis Cardinals, who seem a helluva lot more smitten with other outfielders.