Russell Martin: Lucky son of a BIP(s)

Let’s start with a multiple choice question.

1) Russell Martin has been lucky on the following balls-in-play type(s):

a) Grounders

b) Liners

c) Flies

d) at least Grounders and Flies

If you chose a) grounders, you would be wrong. If you chose d) flies, you would be wrong. If you chose b) liners, well… you could be partly right, however, the correct answer is d) at least grounders and flies. You could argue that there should be an e) option, ‘all of the above.’

According to Zach Sanders’ End of Season Catcher rankings, Russell Martin bamboozled his way into the top 10 at #7 overall and produced what would have been his 2nd best fantasy season if he approached 150+ games.

By bamboozled, I mean BABIP’ed.

Look at his 2014 ground ball, fly ball and line drive-related BABIP’s on each individual balls-in-play type in 2014 relative to his career; relative to 2013 (still with the Pirates); and relative to the mean if we considered his career rates as a one year performance:

In 2014, Martin had a ground ball BABIP 30 points higher than his career rate (50+ points higher than his 2013 rate). His infield hit% jumped almost 8%. His fly ball BABIP was almost 70 points higher than his career rate (44 points higher than his 2013 rate). His 2014 line-drive BABIP was 100 points higher than 2013 albeit under his career rate.

As of this post on updated hitter shift data and its effect on xBABIP, according to Inside Edge data, his xBABIP was around .275 versus his .349 actual BABIP at the time: the 41st biggest BABIP differential and the 17th biggest hit differential, which was worth about 17 hits.

The lucky BABIP across the board resulted in a .290 batting average, but to his credit, he also showed pre-Yankee walk and swinging-strike rates as well.

Still, at age 32, I can only expect the BABIP R2M (regression to the means) monster to find him and eat him a live. For 2015, I’m expecting something along the lines of the following:

  • GB% = 49.73%; GB BABIP = .235; GB AVG = .235
  • FB% = 31.9%; FB BABIP = .149; FB AVG = .235
  • LD% = 18.3% (i.e. 1-GB%-FB%); LD BABIP = .676; LD AVG = .680

…This would output a general batting average of .249 or an xAVG (HR+xBABIP*(AB-K-HR+SF))/AB) of .250 to .253.

Let’s finish the rest of his 2015 projections. Based on his career/trending PA/G; 2B/H; SB/PA R/PA; and RBI/AB numbers, I came up with the following rates:

  • 4.06 PA/G
  • .190 2B/H
  • .012 SB/PA
  • .099 R/PA
  • .138 RBI/AB
  • 18.1% K-rate
  • 11.4% BB-rate.

As I looked at Russell Martin’s player page, I just realized that Steamer projections are already out! It looks like I am giving slightly more credit to Martin’s discipline and BABIP.

Using the above numbers, let’s output his projections based on 111 (2014), 127 (2013), 133 (2012) and 143 (steamer) games played:

Based on his 2015 projections, if he plays in only 111 games as he did this season, he would basically be our replacement level catcher – or $0.61 above our replacement level, Kurt Suzuki (sorry @Brandon_Warne).

Russell Martin would require a Steamer quantity of games (143) and the associated counting stats to approach the same overall/z-sum value as he did this year in only 111 games.

He has a ton of value in the real game. He has a ton of value if you like redundant consonants in your first names, but for 5×5 fantasy baseball (he surely has more value in OBP leagues), I’m valuing him around replacement level. I’d rather have Travis d’Arnaud, Yasmani Grandal and Jason Castro; and naturally Yadier Molina, Wilson Ramos and Matt Wieters who finished under him based on AB totals. Heck, give me Andrew Susac’s potential if something happens to Buster Posey uber-early next year.

Daniel Schwartz contributes for RotoGraphs when he's not selling industry leading thermal packaging. You can follow him on twitter @RotoBanter

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7 years ago

Interesting. I did not realize he had so much luck.