Is it just me, or is anyone else getting really sick of Russell Martin? I don’t know about you, but I’m extremely tired of his steady diet of strikeouts and feeble at-bats in which he looks completely clueless, as well as his inability to hit with runners in scoring position. He looks like me circa 4th grade when I basically refused to swing the bat, instead just looking for a walk to get on base. But at least I looked like Juan Pierre on the base paths and improved at the plate each year. Aside from his ridiculous months of April and August last season in which he hit .289, clubbed 13 home runs, and drove in 38 runs combined, Martin has been nothing short of woeful with the lumber in his tenure in pinstripes. I am not known to turn on players quickly, in fact I’m often the last one holding out hope for a player’s success (see: Chamberlain, Joba) but Russell The Muscle is about to go the way of Eduardo Nunez in my mind. It’s getting to the point where I would like to see Chris Stewart’s name on the lineup card much more often.
Before I go into Martin’s pitiful offensive numbers, I will concede that he is an above average defensive backstop with a wonderful grip on how to work with a pitching staff. He really comes off as a guy almost every hurler would love to see crouching 60 feet, six inches away. That is something that, while unquantifiable in a stat sheet, is incredibly valuable to a team and shouldn’t be overlooked. Neither should the ability to throw out potential base stealers as well as block balls in the dirt, two things Martin is quite successful at. His caught stealing percentage is consistently a few points above league average, and in (an albeit, shortened) 2010, he threw out 39 percent of potential base stealers, well above the league average mark of 29 percent. All of these aspects of his game are fine and dandy, but this is New York. We’ve been spoiled by the offensive prowess of Jorge Posada for the last fifteen years and teased by the potential of former catching prodigy turned Mariner Opening Day clean-up hitter Jesus Montero. We would like our catchers to be able to hit a little bit, something Martin clearly hasn’t been able to do.
Russell Martin, on Wednesday night, shocked us with another 0-fer, and what would and 0-4 night be without striking out and grounding into a double play? After that joke of a performance, Martin is currently the owner of a beautiful .173/.321/.318 slash line (I hope you caught the sarcasm there). In addition, he has had seven multi-strikeout games this season. His 27 strikeouts in just 110 at bats this year means he has fanned an incredible 25 percent of the time, up from 18 percent at this point last year. In April, Martin’s low batting average was tolerated because of his over .400 on base percentage, due to his seemingly nightly two walks per game. But even his walk totals, the one thing that keeps him from becoming officially terrible at the plate; have decreased since the start of the month. He has worked just one walk in his last 17 at bats, a mere six walks since May 2, and only seven free passes dating back to April 25. That alone is enough to make you question Martin’s offensive abilities, but it goes from bad to worse with men on base.
I hate to get on Martin for something the entire team has made a habit of doing lately, but Montreal’s native son left seven men on base on Wednesday night. Seven. In my column last week, I posed the question “which Yankee has the highest average with runners in scoring position” with the answer being Chris Stewart. Well this week, I’ll ask you for the Yankee starter with the lowest average with runners in scoring position. If you’re good with the literary element of foreshadowing, you will probably figure out the answer without referring to Baseball-Reference.com. The answer is Russell Martin, who has just three hits in 22 at-bats in such situations, good for a heinous .136 average and over 100 points lower than his .248 mark in 2011. Those numbers are purely not acceptable from anyone donning a major league baseball uniform, not even a Pirates or a Padres one. Martin has to be embarrassed by his ineffectiveness at the dish this year. It must be terrible knowing that you are getting paid $7.5 million to be an automatic out.
How much longer will he have to flounder before the Yankees decide to do something about his anemic bat? His struggles are rarely talked about on the YES broadcasts as well as the beat writing and blogging circuits, but I feel like it’s something that simply must be addressed soon. By no means am I calling for Martin’s head, as I don’t want to see him traded or sent down to join his former backup Francisco Cervelli on the constantly travelling circus known as the Empire State Yankees. But if Joe Girardi wants to switch things up a little to maybe inject some life into the lineup, he’ll give Martin a few days off to clear his head and Stewart a chance to prove his worth. (I can’t believe I just used “inject life” and Chris Stewart’s name in the same sentence, shows you how bad our offense has been) After all, Stewart’s bat has shown a little bit of life in his short time in pinstripes and he has one of the most ridiculously fast releases on throws to second base I’ve ever seen. I don’t see the harm in this strategy at all. Martin’s confidence at the plate is clearly low, so a change of pace may help. With the way the Yankees offense has been performing lately, it definitely can’t hurt.