Too early to worry about Russell Martin’s offensive struggles


The Toronto Blue Jays signed Russell Martin to a lucrative deal this past offseason, primarily for what general manager Alex Anthopolous called Martin’s “game-changing defense.” Lesser but still important reasons the Jays likely inked Martin was for the offensive upgrade over Dioner Navarro, and I’m sure a Canadian face to sell to the country didn’t hurt.

Defensively, Martin has been solid. He’s already thrown out five runners in eight games and currently has a range factor of .913, well above his career norms.

But it’s his bat that has been a disappointment early in the season. His stat line isn’t pretty:

A closer look at his numbers in the early going paints an even more bleak picture. Martin’s only hit came on Opening Day almost two weeks ago. He has struck out 34.4 per cent of his at bats in 2015, more than double the rate in 2014 (17.0 per cent). His line drive percentage is seven per cent. His career average is 19 per cent. Simply put, he’s not having good at bats.  Although the season is just 10 games old, the Blue Jays’ Twitterverse is already largely critical of Martin. There are tweets like this:

And this:

Alright, people. Stop freaking out. You shouldn’t worry about Martin’s slow start. It’s not an abnormality for him.

In 2014, April was Martin’s worst month of the season offensively (.241/.348/.362/.710). In 2012, it was even worse (.167/.338/.296/.635). 2009 was another slow start. That year, he didn’t even homer in 20 games (.205/.330/.256/.560). He also had a slow start to his first full season in the majors in 2006.

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My point is, of Martin’s 10 MLB seasons, he has struggled offensively to open the year in almost half of them.

And it’s worth considering that Martin provides more value to a team than the stats alone will suggest. This is a subject talked about in an earlier edition of the Jays’ Nest Podcast.  In that podcast, Jason Rollison of a sister site, Rum Bunter, provided his analysis on what Martin brings to Toronto.

Martin is already providing good defense by erasing baserunners, he has better pitch-framing skills than we saw last season and he works well with the pitching staff. Most of all, as we’ve heard repeatedly, Martin is a winner and he brings a winning mentality to the team. These things are all important and all things Martin brings to the table regardless of his bat.

But Martin’s bat will heat up. It has every season up until now and this season will be no exception. It’s far too early to be legitimately concerned.

Editor Update: As if knowing this piece was scheduled to be published on Saturday, Russell Martin came out and went  2 for 3 with his first two home runs of the season on Friday night. Perhaps that was what Martin needed to get his bat going for the rest of the season.

Next: Blue Jays Weekly Round-up: Devon Travis is WAY up!

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