It’s been a little over a month since I analyzed Russell Martin’s performance this season. I highlighted some key factors that I thought would lead to a turnaround for Russ: mainly his very low BABIP despite his line drive rate staying right around his career norms. His batting average has improved since this date, but he still hasn’t produced in the way the Yankees may have hoped, especially given the overall struggles of the lineup as of late.
Since that date (July 28), he has improved his batting average .017 points, from .182 to .199, and hit three homers. At the time I wrote that article, ZiPS projected a batting average of .231 the rest of the way. Remarkably, ZiPS was extremely accurate: Martin has hit .233 since July 28.
.233 is certainly more respectable, but the frustrating part is how far it brings his on-base percentage down. He’s getting on at a .307 clip during this time period we’re discussing, which just about makes him an automatic out. His walk rate has been 8.7%, down from his season rate of 11.2% and career mark of 11.5%, which is additionally frustrating.
Much of Martin’s batting average improvement can be pointed to his BABIP improvement. On the season, it’s now .211 (still horrid), but is up from .189 on July 28th. In the last five weeks, his BABIP is still not good (.259), but certainly an improvement. His career BABIP is .289.
Now, if you’ve been watching the games and not looking at numbers, it still seems pretty clear that Martin has been bad. I totally agree, even this improvement in batting average hasn’t been reflected much on the eye test. The main problem is his lack of pop: he’s had six extra base hits over this timeframe.
We’re talking about six extra base hits in 114 plate appearances, good for a .296 wOBA. On the season, his wOBA is also poor (.300), while his career mark his .331. Martin’s month of August was a rough one in terms of the power department: .279 wOBA and 69 wRC+.
In 110 games this season, Martin stands at 84 wRC+, certainly a below average hitter. The Yanks sure miss his perfectly average, 100 wRC+ season last year. Of the 22 catchers in 2012 with at least 300 PAs, Martin is 18th in wRC+. This is a big fall from last year, where he was 14th out of 26.This certainly has been a black hole for the lineup in the past five weeks or so. With so many injuries, having essentially a harmless hitter like Martin has shortened the Yankees lineup. Plus, with other weak hitters like Jayson Nix seeing extended playing time, along with struggles of Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones, Russell has been a real lineup killer.