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Will Russell Martin Pull A LoDuca?

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In a year of unexpected heroes, Russell Martin's rise to fame is possibly the most surprising. At the beginning of the year, catcher looked to be one of the Dodgers biggest holes with Dioner Navarro putting up a decent on base percentage, but not contributing much power. After Navarro was injured Martin was pressed into duty a year before he was expected to be ready. I didn't expect much from the man, but he has exceeded expectations, putting up the 8th highest VORP rate amongst catchers with 250 plate appearances while playing stellar defense. However, he might have hit a bump in what has been a dream season. Martin's numbers have taken a huge dive in August. This month, Martin put up a .658 OPS 66 at bats, and he's currently in a one for 20 slump. Neither of these numbers are any kind of real sample size, so you can't draw any conclusions, however, warning signs abound.

Between the Dodgers and the 51s, Martin has started 105 games at catcher, second in baseball behind only Jason Kendall. I can't find stats for games started in the minors prior to 2006, but Martin has 378 at bats this year, while compiling no more than 416 in any of his professional seasons. Since Martin has hit eighth most of the year while hitting higher in the order in the minors, I have to believe that Martin has already caught a career high amount of games.

As I said before, you can't draw any conclusions based on a bad August, but the warning signs are there. As the pennant race draws to a close, Martin is likely going to be asked to catch more games, not less. It's entirely possible that like Paul LoDuca, Martin will get shoved into the lineup every day as he limps his way to the finish. Of course, even a bad Russell Martin is probably equivalent to Toby Hall.

It's entirely possible that Martin's current slump is just a statistical anomaly and he'll bounce back with an excellent September. However, when a guy who's never caught a full season before is rivaling Jason Kendall's workload, something's got to give.