For now I’m going to ignore the contract that Russell Martin was handed. I don’t like the contract but I love the signing. Russell Martin brings intangibles to the diamond that most players strive for but can rarely achieve. Let’s take a look at some of the qualities that I think will make a positive impact to the Blue Jays.
Russell Martin joined the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 2013 season. The season prior to his arrival the team ERA was 3.86. After his first season behind the plate that ERA dropped to a very nice 3.26 and followed by another decent 3.49 last season. The Blue Jays had a team ERA of 4.00, that number needs to go down to compete in the AL East.
There are many things that affect the pitchers ERA and total runs scored. Many of which are unrelated to the catcher, but here are some that do help. The following is not meant to put down Dioner Navarro as much as it is just used to illustrate how much of an upgrade Russell Martin is behind the plate.
Russell has an A+ arm. He has consistently been top 5 in assists from the catcher slot. Including 4 years ranked 1st in the majors. Russell was able to catch 37 would be base stealers last season. That is good for a nice 38.5% of base stealers caught. Fangraphs also lists a nice stat rSB (Stolen base runs saved above average) that shows Russell last year with a nice +6. Compare those stats to Dioner who had 15/ 21%/-1 respectively.
An old school method of measuring defence is fielding percentage. Russell has finished 3rd and 1st in the last 3 years with a FLD% of .994% and .998%. Using a newer method of measuring defence Russell was able to achieve a DRS (Total Defensive Runs Saved above average) of 12. Compare that to the Blue Jays catchers last year who had a combined DRS of -2.
Last year it felt like a lot of the Blue Jays pitching staff were just not getting the called strike. There have always been catchers who seem to be able to just plain get all the calls. The Molina brothers all seem to have the knack. We got to see that first hand when Jose Molina and Bengie Molina were Jays.
Now, take these numbers with a grain of salt. They aren’t perfect but they are decent. Matthew Carruth at statcorner.com has a nice sortable chart in his catcher report. He has a break down of all the stats and a very detailed explanation of it all. I will avoid boring you by going into details. The key here is comparing the stat +Calls, indicating the total called strikes that would otherwise have been called a ball. Russell Martin came in at a respectable +88, whereas, Dioner Navarro rolled in 3rd last with -150. That is a swing of an extra 238 strikes over the course of the year. That is not to be taken lightly. If added all up that stops 59 extra BB over the year. It of course doesn’t work that way but still, that is a lot of extra strikes going our way. But more realistically, 2.37 extra strikes per game is the number to look at.
I am really excited to see the #55 jersey sitting behind home plate next year. With the rumours swirling around I have a feeling there are going to be more reasons to be excited for spring training.