The Blue Jays have enjoyed an uncharacteristically problem-free season in 2015, relatively speaking. With this, situations like Russell Martin‘s extended slump at the plate become magnified. This week has been a revelation for Martin, however, leaving the Blue Jays optimistic that he’ll return to being a consistent offensive force in time for the playoffs.
Battling a leg injury along with the standard aches and pains of being a Major League catcher, Martin dragged his feet at the plate throughout July and August. Stretching back from Canada Day until September 9th, prior to the Yankees series, Martin posted a line of just .195 / .283 / .340 across 43 starts.
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In August, things really took a nosedive. From the first of August until September 9th, Martin’s average plummeted to .136 with 20 strikeouts in 22 starts. Oh, the fond memories of Moises Sierra. Thankfully for the Blue Jays, the team still managed a 17-6 record over that stretch with Martin throwing out 5-of-8 would-be base stealers. Similar to Troy Tulowitzki‘s pedestrian start in blue and white, defense and team success overshadowed any panic at the plate.
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Finally, though, Martin has turned the corner. Looking healthier after receiving some increased rest over recent weeks, Martin’s bat has clicked since landing in New York and turned him into a monster run producer. Over the five games since, Martin has gone 6-for-18 (.333 AVG) with two doubles, three home runs and 11 RBI. There he is!
This is pivotal for the Blue Jays, especially with Martin regularly hitting sixth in the order ahead of Kevin Pillar, Ryan Goins and Cliff Pennington. Having Martin’s spot continue on as an offensive dead zone could not be covered by defense, pitching and an explosive top-five forever.
With the relieving news that Josh Thole will not be used to catch R.A. Dickey in the playoffs, this leaves Martin aligned to start every game come October. As he should, obviously. If this recent stretch can continue, Martin will remove any worry from Blue Jays fans that he will be broken down when it matters most.
Look for John Gibbons to sneak in some days of rest for Martin where he can, but he’ll need to be creative. Martin will need to work with Dickey whenever possible to recapture his comfort with the knuckleball, so perhaps Dioner Navarro could see some time with Mark Buehrle and Marco Estrada. This would also leave Martin to establish a stronger rapport with Marcus Stroman.
Past the small sample of success this week, Martin simply looks right again. Well, as much as a veteran catcher can in mid-September.