2010 Player Profile: Russell Martin, Backstop Bounceback?

Bounceback, rebound, comeback, return to form: these are the sort of terms in use when people discuss Russell Martin following a 2009 that was offensively disappointing, to the tune of a .680 OPS (the table below totals to a .681 OPS, but that is due to rounding errors), including an incredibly low .329 slugging percentage.  To put that slugging percentage in perspective, David Eckstein and former Dodger Juan Pierre each had full-season slugging percentages that low, once, just once.

This power loss started in the second half of 2008, when the man with three middle names (Nathan Coltrane Jeanson) slugged a similarly low .336.  In the off-season that followed, the answer was supposed to be yoga, but as stated above, the power outage continued.  This off-season, the answer became muscle mass, along with a diet change.  For a catcher being pummeled by foul tips, pitches in the dirt, and the occasional runner barreling home, building your body to be "like a linebacker" might not be a bad idea.  The jury is still out, however.  The groin injury that Martin suffered at the beginning of spring training has kept his bat mostly hidden from obvious view, so there have been limited reports on how he has looked hitting.

A glance at some of Martin's statistics suggests that strength may have played a part in his 2009 slump; his home run to fly ball ratio was a low 5.4% after posting ratios between 9.3% and 12.2% during his career.  There may also have been some bad luck involved as he had a career-low .284 BABIP - his BABIP through 2008 was .311 - despite a career-high line-drive percentage of 20.5%.

Russell Martin has been a fan favorite since he was the first of the Jacksonville 5ive - check out that roster - to seize an everyday job at the major-league level and not let go.  The fans are probably still firmly in Martin's corner, but they would surely like to see at least some offensive rebound from him in 2010.

Trivia

Did you know that before the Dodgers drafted Russell Martin in the 17th round of the 2002 draft as an infielder, the Montreal Expos of his native Quebec also drafted him as an infielder in the 35th round of the 2000 draft?

Contract Status

Martin signed a one-year contract this off-season for $5.05 million, plus $50,000 incentives for reaching 550 and 600 plate appearances.  He has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining.

2010 Outlook

Year Age PA BB% K% Runs RBI BA OBP SLG wOBA
2006 23 468 9.6% 13.7% 65 65 .282 .355 .436 .339
2007 24 620 10.8% 16.5% 87 87 .293 .374 .469 .368
2008 25 650 13.8% 15.0% 87 69 .280 .385 .396 .351
2009 26 588 11.7% 15.8% 63 53 .250 .352 .329 .307
2010 Projections - Age 27 Season
Bill James 611 12.8% 15.6% 80 71 .272 .372 .396 .341
CHONE 596 11.4% 15.4% 77 70 .273 .364 .407 .345
Marcel 559 12.2% 16.5% 70 61 .273 .369 .400 .343
ZiPS 573 11.9% 15.5% 74 76 .272 .367 .392 .343
Baseball HQ 578 11.9% - 72 63 .266 .354 .375 -

 

Russell Martin is furiously trying to be ready for Opening Day and not open the season on the disabled list.  From the reports I've seen, he's going to make it.  A lot of folks have used Jason Kendall's two year power outage - from a higher peak - as a comparison point for Martin, but I would note that he did bounce back some for two seasons with OPSs at .815 and .789, before the rigors of catching seemed to take their final toll.  For Kendall, his slump also started with his age-27 season, which Martin is just now entering.  I'll predict 133 starts at catcher - given that the backup is 41-year old Brad Ausmus, I can't see Martin getting more rest, which he probably needs after leading the major in games and innings caught since he's been with the Dodgers - for 575 PAs, .280 / .380 / .405.

What are your predictions for Russell Martin (BA/OBP/SLG and Plate Appearances)?  Also guess the number of starts at catcher for Martin.

(Statistics courtesy of baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com)

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