Toronto Blue Jays catcher, Russell Martin is off to a great start in 2018, which may come as a surprise since that isn’t always the case
The Toronto Blue Jays are off to a good start this season. That is especially good news since they absolutely cannot afford to repeat their April of 2017, not with the Yankees and Red Sox supposedly primed to own the division. Wins are important, even in April. And, they’re getting them. After beating the Texas Rangers on Friday night, Toronto sits at 5-3 and 1.5 games back of the Red Sox in the AL East. Before I go further, I will address the “it’s early” crowd. Ahem…I KNOW! There isn’t a point to watching the standings and all that. I understand that 8 games is not much of a sample size to make real, meaningful conclusions. But, the point remains that the Blue Jays are off to a good start.
Justin Smoak is following up his 2017 showing with a good start. Roberto Osuna already has 3 saves, the new guys are all contributing right away. There is lots to like thus far. Perhaps, one of the more likeable situations is that of Russell Martin. The 35 year old Canadian is off to a start that has some people surprised. In particular, his last three games have yielded two, one and three RBI respectively. He’s collected 4 hits over that time, including two home runs. So far, he’s slashing .263/.364/.579 with 2 HR and 6 RBI in eight games.
The reason this came to me is that someone said to me that they were surprised since Martin is a notoriously slow starter to seasons. I had to stop and think about this. I seem to recall having to drop him late in May a couple years ago after waiting for his bat to come around. But, a gut feeling isn’t enough to really prove whether this is true or not. So, I went looking to see how his 2018 start compares to the rest of his career.
For his career, April and March seem to provide his lowest batting average, but his OBP stays steady. The power totals don’t really falter, it seems to be the overall total of hits that have been off in the early goings. But, I wanted to check the individual seasons to find how he performed in April. I went back all the way to 2008.
2017: .219/.367/.391, 3 HR, 5 RBI
2016: .150/.224/.167, 0 HR, 4 RBI
2015: .197/.367/.410, 3 HR, 13 RBI
2014: .242/.342/.355, 3 HR, 11 RBI
2013: .274/.344/.560, 6 HR, 10 RBI
2012: .167/.338/.296, 2 HR, 6 RBI
2011: .293/.376/.587, 6 HR, 19 RBI
2010: .268/.369/.380, 2 HR, 5 RBI
2009: .205/.303/.256, 0 HR, 11 RBI
2008: .292/.439/.449, 3 HR, 11 RBI
There are some exceptions to the idea that Martin is a slow starter. His All Star 2011 season with New York saw his off to a rather hot start. 2008 was a nice showing also. But, there is certainly a case to be made that, overall, there are more slow starts than not. I’d actually forgotten just how bad his start to 2016 was. I dropped him from my fantasy team and blocked it out, I guess.
So, where does this 2018 season fit in with the previous 10? Obviously, it is difficult to say where Martin’s numbers will end up at the end of this month. We’re only 8 games in. He could go on a hot streak, or quite the opposite. And, history might suggest that he is already hotter than we would expect. Will it continue? It’s unreasonable to expect that a wRC+ of 168 will stick. It is also interesting to note that he is performing like he is with a BABIP of just .250. According to Fangraphs, he is making harder contact (35.7%) than he has at any point in his career. And, his squaring up the ball at a career rate also (Cent%: 50%).
Early numbers show that Russell Martin very well could be having one of his better starts to a season. But, history could also suggest that it may not last and when the month is over, his numbers could fall more in line with what we’re used to. Obviously, there is no way to know for certain. But, I’m enjoying it while it lasts.
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