The Toronto Blue Jays are enjoying the benefits of having Russell Martin‘s bat return to its form in the second half of the season.
Because we’re all friends, here, I’m going to admit something to you. I dropped Russell Martin from my fantasy team. I had to. This year, we’re playing for money and I can’t afford to carry dead weight. Now, when I cut him, I wrestled with the move for a while. See, I’m one of those fantasy players who also plays with his heart. I try and get guys I like. It’s why I make ridiculous trades for Devon Travis in his rookie season. So, I wanted to keep Martin. He’s one of the good guys.
But, with a first half like his, and my team sinking further in the standings, I had to make a tough decision. So, a while back, I looked at his performance. The first half of the season was brutal. And, you felt for the guy; you knew what he can do, but you couldn’t justify keeping him and losing more ground. His first half of 2016 was enough to cut him loose. See for yourself:
It was pretty clear that the 33 yr old Canadian was struggling. In 76 games, Martin was not his usual self. He was not hitting, he was not getting on base. For a guy with a career OBP of .351, it was confusing how he was well below what you’d expect. You can understand if a guy is seeing some bad luck. It happens. Timing issues are understandable. But, he wasn’t even walking or leaning into a pitch or paying a pitcher off to get on base. Perhaps, the best example of his struggles are the 84 strikeouts in 284 plate appearances.
And, what’s worse is that there was no sign of it coming around. If there were, I might have kept him. But, frustration got the better of me. I dropped him.
Then a funny thing happened. Someone even lower in the standings scooped him up. Since then, things have turned around completely. Martin has returned to the form that caused me to draft him in the first place. Buoyed by a fantastic August, he is looking more and more like the guy the Blue Jays signed for 5yrs/ $82M.
The second half of the season has been quite the turn-around for Martin. His average is up to .283, he has 9 HR, 26 RBI, scored 23 runs and always seems to be in the mix of good things happening for the Blue Jays. He had the late, tie breaking home run in Tampa Bay that was a ‘no-doubter’ when it left his bat. It is reminiscent of the big blast he hit against the Yankees in 2015.
Perhaps, the best part of his second half success is the dramatic reduction in strikeouts. He’s recorded just 38 whiffs. Now, the mathematically inclined will point out that that is still (basically) a strike out per game. And, that is true. But, it is more palatable when you combine it with the rest of the production. The Blue Jays are very clear about their acceptance of the strike out, when it it is partnered with big production. It’s how their team is built. They’ll sacrifice some Ks for some big hits.
As Russell Martin has turned his season around, the Blue Jays find themselves at the top of the division. With a star studded lineup such as Toronto has, it would be silly to say that their fortunes are directly linked to those of their catcher. After all, his job is to call the pitching game and play defense. If he chips in with the bat, it is even better. The thing is that, with Martin, the club kind of does see direct dividends when he is hitting.
Having a struggling bat in the order shortens the attack. That is why teams want to have as few struggling bats as possible. You want to have as many hot bats in a row as possible. It’s simple. Thanks to a hot August, Russell Martin is asserting himself as one of those hot bats that extend the threat, that chip in, that lead to winning baseball.
The Toronto Blue Jays are in first place. Russell Martin turning his season around is one of the reasons for that. They say that, over a season, numbers even out. Perhaps, it was a matter of time before his did. Now, with 17 HR and 53 RBI, a .247 average and an OBP of .342 (and the rest of September remaining), Martin is returning to form; returning to the catcher I’d drafted. If only I had had the patience to wait.
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.