Blue Jays Roster: Russell Martin’s Playing Time


The Toronto Blue Jays are on some kind of roll, aren’t they? Their shiny new acquisitions seem to have sparked them. And, they’re going to need them down the stretch if we are going to see playoff baseball in Canada. But, what about an acquisition they made months ago? What about Russell Martin? Is his playing time a concern? Should they be saving him for the playoffs? OR, should they be getting as much out of him as they can to help ensure a playoff spot?

Now, before you write this discussion off, let me explain where this is coming from. Way back in the winter, we had Jason Rollison from FanSided’s Pirates site,, on our podcast to discuss the Martin signing. One of the comments we heard was that the Pirates used Martin in a fairly regimented way. Jason quipped that if it was Sunday at PNC Park, you could bet that it would be an off day for the catcher. There have been several discussion on our podcast throughout about the idea of controlling the amount of playing time Martin may get. It certainly worked in Pittsburgh where he put up a .290/.402/.430 line with 11 HR and 67 RBI and 5 WAR season, which he parlayed into a 5yr/$85M deal with the Blue Jays.

Because of the idea that more rest means better production from Martin, should the Blue Jays look to rest him more? Now, there are approximately 6 weeks left in the 2015 season and the club likely had this type of conversation already. But, with such a short amount of time left and such importance on that time, it might be good to discuss it now.

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays /

Toronto Blue Jays

Thus far, Martin is putting up .251/.333/.455 with 15 HR, 50 RBI, 59 runs and a 2.9 WAR. All of this comes in 96 games. Last season, he saw 111 contests. He might be on pace to pass that this season. His power is up to the highest of his career (.204 ISO) but his average is just below his career mark of .258. His walk rate is at an all time low of 9.4%. As well, he is making the least amount of hard contact (27.9%) he has since 2011. So, what? Does this mean he’s getting tired. Not necessarily.

But, over his last 10 games, he’s hitting just .162 with a home run, 3 RBI and 8 strike outs. Over his last 30, he’s hitting .217 and just .115 in August. So, if you’re the manager, what do you do? I know that batting average is not exactly the best indicator of fatigue. But, consider this: In August, Martin walk rate has declined to 3.9% while his strike out rate has climbed to 25% and he’s making hard contact at just 10.5%. His infield hit % has risen to 18.2%. He’s pulling the ball less often in August than he has all year. All of this tells me that there isn’t as much “oomph” in his swing.

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  • That said, the Blue Jays are doing a reasonable job of controlling hi splaying time already. Of his 96 games, 5 have been as DH, 5 as a pinch hitter and 2 have been at second base. He;s only caught 85 games all year. That sounds like efforts are being made to provide him the rest he needs. But, is it enough? The previous numbers suggest that it might not be.

    But, there is a dilemma that will surely have its loud proponents on each side. In order to get the most of your #1 catcher, what do you do? Do you play him as much as possible? Or, do you stick to a regimented program of rest? You have a back up in Dioner Navarro that is perfectly capable. Why not give Martin a set day off every 3 or 4 games? Or, rest him every day game that follows a night game. There are ways to do it. Of course, the other side of this is that the Blue Jays are in a pennant race.

    The other side says, wouldn’t they want their best options playing as much as possible? Clearly, with his defensive skills and what he can bring with the bat, he is the best option behind the dish. He gives the club the best chance to win. So, the Blue Jays should run him out there as much as possible. And, here is where that might make sense. In about two weeks, the rosters expand and Josh Thole will most certainly be brought up. That will provide more catching depth for the team (such as it is), thus more opportunity to rest Martin. By then, perhaps the club might even have a lead in the division. Fingers crossed.

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    For my money, I am betting that the Blue Jays have been thinking of this all along and have used him somewhat sparingly. They’ll continue to give him the lion’s share of the work and perhaps provide him rest in September. Or, they could very easily take another approach: We’re in a playoff run and trying to win a championship. There is plenty of time to rest in the offseason.

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