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Blue Jays: Why does Russell Martin get off the hook?

TORONTO, ON - MAY 9: Russell Martin #55 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a double in the eighth inning during MLB game action against the Seattle Mariners at Rogers Centre on May 9, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 9: Russell Martin #55 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a double in the eighth inning during MLB game action against the Seattle Mariners at Rogers Centre on May 9, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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The Blue Jays have had several hitters that have been heavily criticized like Kendrys Morales, Randal Grichuk and others. Whether it’s being talked about much or not, Russell Martin has been just as bad on offence.

For as well as the Blue Jays offence has performed this season, there have been several individual disappointments. It’s been more than well documented that guys like Kendrys Morales, Randal Grichuk, and Devon Travis have struggled, but they’re not the only ones, even if they’ve taken most of the negative limelight.

Regardless of what he does over this season and next, Russell Martin has been a good signing for the Toronto Blue Jays, and I’d argue with anyone about that for sure. I still think he’s capable of being an asset for the Blue Jays in the immediate term as well, but the 2018 season has been a struggle, and I haven’t been hearing a whole lot of chatter about it.

Perhaps it’s because of the epic struggles of the names I’ve listed above, or that Martin is a great team leader, or even the defensive contributes he brings to the team, behind the plate and occasionally in the infield. He’s a great veteran voice to have in the clubhouse, especially as it’s infused with more youth all the time because of injuries.

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All of that said, he’s been pretty lousy at the plate this season.

The 35 year old got the night off on Friday, and will hopefully thrive against the Red Sox for the remainder of the weekend series. He has collected a few extra base hits in the last couple games, but his slash line still sits at an ugly .151/.277/.360 with five home runs and 11 RBI in 86 at bats. He’s been worth a +0.5 bWAR so far this season, but that’s pretty much all come on the defensive side of the game.

The system doesn’t just work as simply as adding the oWAR and dWAR together for the bWAR (still with me?), but right now Martin has been worth +0.5 on defence, and +0.2 on offence. The positive numbers with the bat are almost exclusively a result of having five home runs in those 86 at bats, but overall he’s struggled at the plate this season.

While it seems like everyone and their Grandma would like to see the Blue Jays give Kendrys Morales the boot, I’ve heard next to no criticism of Martin, at least comparatively. I realize Martin brings a lot to the table defensively, but that didn’t seem to keep fans from picking on Grichuk before he hit the DL.

I’m not even writing this to pick on Martin either, as I’m confident he’ll turn things around and continue to be on the positive side of the WAR systems, even if he can’t quite live up to a 20 million dollar salary. I’m okay with that because that’s what happens at the back half of these bigger veterans contracts, and we’ve seen a lot of great things from the Canadian backstop since he landed in Toronto. In addition, he still continues to bring a positive WAR, even while struggling at the plate. It’s just that, it’s getting weird that Luke Maile is nearly doubling his offensive output, and we’re into mid-May now.

For the moment I think you just continue to ride things out with Martin, knowing that the veteran will find ways to contribute even if he’s struggling at the plate. He’s been relatively streaky since becoming a Blue Jay as well, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he got hot at any time either. I also wonder if playing a little more, rather than resting every third day, would help him get his bat going, but at this stage it’s hard to take Maile’s out of the lineup either.

For now I think Martin should be selfishly thankful that others have taken the heat off of him, and hopefully he’s confident in turning things around at the plate as well. It seems like the fan base has faith that he will, otherwise we’d be hearing about it a lot more, based on his numbers so far anyway.

Next: Marcus Stroman heads to the 10 day DL

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