Russell Martin is off to one hell of a start. He’s slugging .600 and has a wOBA of .412. He’s knocked four balls into the people already, after hitting just five homers last year. He’s even chipped in two steals and has played solid defense behind the plate. This is awesome and a half. I’m totally loving Russell Martin and I’m going to enjoy this hot streak while it lasts. But, since I must, I’m going to play a bit of a wet blanket here.
How’s he done it? He definitely hasn’t done it by hitting fastballs. Martin is at 4.1 runs BELOW average on fastballs at this point in the season. However, he’s mauled non-four seamers. He’s in the red (barely, -0.1) on changeups, but he’s hitting everything else well. He’s 1.4 runs above average on sliders, 2.4 runs above averages on cutters, and 1.3 runs above average on curveballs. That’s what he’s hit, now let’s see what he’s done once he’s made contact.
Looking at his batted ball profile, there’s some normal stuff, but one big spike. Let’s start with the normal stuff. Martin’s line drive percentage is currently sitting at 22.2%. That’s above his career rate of 19.5%, but it’s no a huge spike and his LD% has been slowly climbing for the last few years. His Infield Fly Ball Percentage has also dropping consistently, and is down to 8.3%, his lowest since 7.5% in 2006. His groundball rate is down to 44.4%, while he’s hit the ball on the ground 49.8% of the time in his career. That swing isn’t wild, but it’s significant. Russell has also seen more fly balls so far in 2011–33.3%, 30.7% career. Here’s the huge spike: Martin’s HR/FB% is 33.3% right now. That is not going to last. At all. His career rate is 9.3 and he was below 7% in 2010 and 2009. We’re probably not going to see many more home runs from Russell for a bit. It wouldn’t surprise me if his total only doubled or increased a little more than double by season’s end.
It’s worth noting, though, that Martin’s BABIP, .281, is twenty points below his career mark of .301. Obviously, this is a result of the homers he’s hit. So, as those homers fall off, we will probably see some more singles from Russell. His walk rate right now is also super low at 2.1%. There’s no way in hell it stays that low. The power is certainly going to drop for Russell, but we’re going to see more singles and we’re going to see more walks.
Let’s enjoy this hot streak while it lasts, but let’s not think this version of Martin is here to stay and it’s okay to trade Jesus Montero now. Russell Martin is a formerly great player who is reclaiming a small bit of past glory. He probably won’t be his 2007 self again, but if he can just give the Yankees a .340 OBP and good defense, everyone’s going to be happy. He’s more than capable of doing that.
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