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Let’s Keep Reminding the Cardinals: Jose Martinez Is Good. Really, Really Good.

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.

–Bernie

More: Miklasz – Can the Cardinals Catch the Rockies and Brewers and Snatch a Wild-Card Ticket? Yes.

  • rightthinker4

    Bernie, hope the Cardinals beloved leader of men, reads your email, because he’s the reason Martinez is not getting enough playing time. Asset management is one of the many things Matheny is not good at. That’s what happens when you manage by the good old boy system. The best players sometimes suffer, and so does the team.

  • LawrenceKScardsfan

    Totally agree Bernie. And you were on the Martinez bandwagon before there was a bandwagon.

    This guy can hit. I could see him at 1B next season FULL-TIME. I know that means we might have to part company with Matt Carpenter, but at this point, Martinez bat brings a lot to the table. I can think of a batting lineup of Fowler, Pham, DeJong and Martinez. Or how about Wong, Fowler, Pham, Dejong, Martinez…. That’s a pretty darn good fivesome. You could put Gyorko in the sixth spot, followed by Bader/Sierra, and Molina. That’s some nice lumber.

    But I’m getting ahead of myself. Hopefully Jose will continue to get his shots at plate appearances this season!

    • James Berry

      Sticking Yadi in the 8 spot is a sure fire way to get him thrown out a lot at 2nd when the pitcher bunts. Yadi’s best spot is the 7 hole.

      I just don’t see DeJong as a 3 hole hitter, at this time, with his reluctance to walk. He’d fit much nicer in the 5 spot. The FO has to get a big bat. Preferably a LH bat. We are so righty heavy that opposing managers can limit their need to change pitchers.

      • LawrenceKScardsfan

        I’m hoping for Stanton – but he’s a RHer.

        • frxere

          As much as I’d like to see Stanton a Cardinal I just don’t think it will happen, He’s from CA and he will probably only OK a trade to a team there. Ozuna wold be a great fit with the Cardinals and probably be easier to get.

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            Yep agree with that. But those 50 plus HRs would look great in Busch.

          • frxere

            Sure would! I just think it will cost more than it would be worth to get him.

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            Gotta rely on DeWitt and MO to justify the trade. They have a very conservative algorithm (when it comes to risk), so I’m not overly worried that they will give up too much.

          • frxere

            They have pulled off a few great trades! It should be a interesting off season.

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            They’ve also pulled off some stinkers. Their algorithm needs recalibrating IMO. Too risk averse. Sometimes you have to take risks to win.

          • frxere

            Bull pen and a middle of the line up hitter will be the priorities!

          • James Berry

            Ozuna is much more likely, but his season to season stats are pretty volatile. Ozuna isn’t a great defender and his best option in the OF is LF. That would mean that Fowler would remain in CF or be pushed to RF and neither of those options are great. There have also been more than one report of Ozuna not being a great clubhouse influence and he’s had at least 2 run ins with coaches/managers in Miami. That’s not exactly what our FO looks for in personalities.

            The good points for acquiring him are he’ll be much cheaper to get than Stanton, he’s a year younger, he’s controllable through arb for the next 3 years and he has legitimate power.

            One of our biggest problems is we foolishly signed Fowler to a big contract and he can’t stay on the field it seems. Also, Matheny won’t put him in the lineup were he belongs, lead off, because Carpenter can’t hit anywhere but lead off.

            Lots of fans don’t like reading/hearing this, but Carpenter is an anchor of the wrong sort on this team.

        • James Berry

          There are a lot of obstacles and reasons why Stanton won’t or maybe even shouldn’t be the bat we chase.

          1. His full no-trade clause. Of course, as we’ve seen with Leake, that can be overcome, but it’s still a hurdle.
          2. He is, by leaps & bounds, Miami’s biggest draw. It’s gonna be tough for the new owners to give him up at any cost. They’ll be looked upon as just a new Loria.
          3. There are whispers, whether they be genuine or not, that Stanton doesn’t want to play in flyover country.
          4. The cost to acquire him. We have a good farm system that is loaded with OFers and pitching. I would suspect that at least 3 and maybe 4 of these names, Weaver, Flaherty, Alcantara, Sierra, Bader, Kelly, Perez, Fernandez, Reyes or Sosa will be asked for and required in any deal.
          5. Stanton can opt out after 2020. If he finishes this season strong, has comparable seasons for at least 2 of the next 3 and stays healthy, he’ll opt out. The money Harper and probably Machado get through free agency after next season will top what he gets now on his contract and he’ll want that.
          6. If he does opt out, we’ll have given up a very large chunk of the future for 3 seasons service. Those prospects won’t be all Miami gets either.

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            I always think about WS rings. Do we get there with Stanton batting in the 3 hole? My thinking is yes. Granted it may only be for 3 seasons – but it’d sure be nice to see more rings!!!

          • frxere

            Unless the Cardinals win 3 straight WS it wouldn’t be worth it to get him!

      • Taylor

        He’s going to get thrown out at second base regardless. Who cares?

        • James Berry

          With him hitting 7th, there would be a lot less need to bunt him over. Pay attention.

    • Taylor

      I like your enthusiasm, but there’s no need to discard Carpenter after a season where he’s been fighting a shoulder issue. I like Martinez. I hope the Cards keep him around. There’s room for both.

  • “Including the St. Louis Cardinals, who seem a helluva lot more smitten with other outfielders.” There are two issues here. The first is the players made available to the Maestro. The second is how the Maestro plays these players. Moze is getting a lot of heat, and so is Matheny. But what happens if you have some good young talent and the manager keeps “rotating personnel?” I see Pham got to “rest” again last night. Molina? Of course not. They won, so nobody cares. Matheny will get fired when the heat on DeWitt and Moze gets high enough. This is a young man’s game with a lot of real good players making the major league minimum and blocked by high-paid veterans.

    • LawrenceKScardsfan

      I see your point. Pham needs to play as much as possible. I liked the substitution of Bader. I’d move Fowler to LF and play Bader in CF. But I can see room for Grichuk and Piscotty on a rotational basis.

      The problem with Martinez at 1st is you deprive MCarp and Voit of PAs. Should he get preference over MCarp? That is the big question at this point. Bernie sidestepped it. Thoughts?

    • wandszy

      Pham sat out last night with a shoulder injury.

  • flood21

    He better hit because his hitting is horrendous

    • rightthinker4

      Assume you mean his fielding. Don’t agree its horrendous, but 1B is his best position.

      • LawrenceKScardsfan

        Correct. It’s the only position for him. But the big question is does he deserve playing time over MCarp? Bernie sidesteps this. My thinking is he does. But I don’t like Martinez or MCarp in the OF.

        • Terry Ryno

          I think his best position is AL DH. At his age, sell high

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            Yep – that’s the current thinking. One wonders just who will be on the trading block. Pham? Martinez? Grichuk? Piscotty? It may be a very interesting off season.

          • Terry Ryno

            I’d say any or all and I’d add Matt Carp, Diaz, Fowler, maybe Jedd and even Wong (and pitchers) to the list for the right deals. About the only “untouchables” for me would be Carson K, Carlos, Reyes, DeJong (maybe), Molina and Waino. I know Molina and Waino are not the best players but I’d like to see the two retire as Cardinals.

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            Certainly lots of possibilities. I agree on the keepers, although I’d probably add a couple of other players to the list, you’ve outlined a nice core group.

          • Terry Ryno

            Lawrence, I agree there are probably a couple more names could be added. I don’t know the minor leaguers as well as you and some others.

          • Taylor

            No team is going to trade for Martinez. He has more value to the Cardinals than everyone else.

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            What about his value as a DH in the AL?

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            Good point. Martinez may be on the trading block.

        • Taylor

          If everyone is healthy, then the outfield should be Martinez-Fowler-Pham.

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            Again, Martinez’s skills in the OF are lacking. Bader sure looks good in CF. Fowler to LF and Pham in RF make a strong outfield. Martinez is a 1Bman IMO.

          • Taylor

            Martinez isn’t a first baseman. He’s even admitted as such. So if everyone is healthy, he needs to be playing left field.

      • flood21

        Thanks. It is much like Pisotti’s base running in that I cringe every time they are tested.

  • Anti ruling class

    They have too many of the wrong pieces all over the place on a daily basis with endless variation. What hath the organization wrought.

  • Jim Lahey

    He should have also gotten many of Marps at bats. If Marp was hurt and that is what was causing his subpar average and had him looking for all the walks, shame on him and Matheny.

  • James Berry

    I’m gonna hold back on any “Jitterbug is great and needs to play every day” thoughts. Diaz burned me and the team and i’m not ready to get burned again.

  • keith walker

    Martinez is just fine at Ib, has made some good plays because he is so long and has dove for balls and got outs and streched out couple of times and saved errors. he is a professional solid hitter with pop.