Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The decline of Russell Martin

Prospects come into the majors with hype and potential. Some live up to the expectations, some do not.

But how does a guy like Russell Martin go from one of the best catchers in the league to a mediocre -- at best -- player in just two years?

Martin burst onto the scene in 2006. He hit .282/.355/.436 as a rookie catcher for a playoff team. The Dodgers traded their everyday catcher before Martin, Dioner Navarro, because of the way Martin played.

Martin's 2007 season was worthy of all the accolades he earned -- his first All-Start berth, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. He hit .293/.374/.469 with an OPS+ of 116 (100 is average). For a catcher to be putting up those numbers was great, as catching was, and still is, a defense-first position.

Then things went south. Way south.

In 2008, Martin regressed a bit. He hit .280/.385/.396, good for an above-average OPS+ of 108. However, Martin's extra basehits dropped from 54 in 2007 to 38 in 2008. Many attributed the decline to the number of innings Martin had caught in his first three season (3507 innings as a catcher -- most in MLB).

There were big expectations for Martin going into 2009, but he never even came close to living up to them.

He hit .250/.352/.329 for a career-low .680 OPS and OPS+ of 86. He hit just seven home runs and had 26 extra basehits. And So far in 2010, Martin his hitting .241/.349/.327 with 13 extra basehits.

Martin's Wins Above Replacement (WAR) mark has fluctuated as well. He started with a 2.7 as a rookie, went up to 5.8 and has decreased every year since (4.6, 2.2, 1.5). Those numbers are acceptable for a catcher, but not a guy who showed as much as he did early on in his career.
Martin also hasn't been great behind the plate since winning the Gold Glove in 2007. He's been serviceable.

But serviceable isn't what the Dodgers or their fans expect from a guy who started his career with such incredible promise. He was once looked at as the leader of the team and untouchable in trade talks. Now, he's almost an afterthought.

His overuse behind the plate can partially explain the offensive decline, but what else is the culprit?

It isn't unreasonable to suspect Martin may have used performance-enhancing drugs to put up the numbers he did. So many major and minor leaguers have been nailed for PED use since MLB cracked down with stricter testing. It was about the time Martin's numbers started to decline.
I'm not saying he did it, but I wouldn't be surprised (nor should anyone in this era of baseball) if he did.

Editor's note: I am not accusing Russell Martin of using performance-enhancing drugs of any kind.

It's sad because Martin was always one of my favorite Dodgers. Now, I'm not really excited when he comes up to the plate. He'll make a nice play on defense every once in awhile, but he's doesn't have that same buzz around him he used to. He was on his way to superstardom.

Then again, if this is the real Russell Martin, sobeit.

Monday, June 28, 2010

This is the season

This is it.

This is the make-or-break part of the season.

The Dodgers (40-35, 5 GB in NL West) lost in embarrassing fashion to the Yankees on national television Sunday night, 8-6. Jonathan Broxton, one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball this season, was used on consecutive days in non-save situations and gave up four runs in the ninth inning, allowing the Yanks to tie the game.

The ridiculously bad combination of Ramon Troncoso and George Sherrill ended up giving up the game in the 10th inning.

It's typically a big win that is the turning point or defining moment of a season. However, last night's loss just feels like it is going to determine the season's outcome.

If the Dodgers go on to play well for the next month and are in first place by the trading deadline, they'll be looking to add a player or two for the stretch run (depending on cost, as we all know McCourt isn't going to spend virtually any money).

If the Dodgers continue to tank, we could see a firesale of epic proportions (my own speculation, of course).

Who would be on the block? The question to ask is who won't be?

Manny Ramirez would be attractive to an AL team in need of a designated hitter. Casey Blake could interest a team like Minnesota. Hiroki Kuroda would be awfully intriguing to a team looking for a solid No. 3 starter (provided he'd waive his no-trade clause). In a waffer-thin reliever market, guys like Ronald Bellisario and Hong-Chih Kuo (not that I would trade Kuo) could entice teams.

Pretty much anyone not named Kershaw, Ethier and Broxton could be available for the right price.

But let's not jump the gun. One month is a long time in baseball and a lot of things can happen.

Emotions are running high (and hot) after last night's debacle, but there's still time to get things back on track.

But things have to change now.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dodgers' Draft: Really?

OK, so the MLB Draft is today and the Dodgers drafted right-handed pitcher Zach Lee, a high schooler from Texas.

Lee fits the profile of a Logan White draft: A projectable high school power pitcher with great athleticism.

So what's the big deal?

Lee has signed a letter of intent to LSU to be a two-sport star. He's one of the best prep QBs in the country and LSU has one of the best collegiate baseball programs in the country.

The biggest question mark with this guy is his signability. Some speculate it might take a $3 million signing bonus to get Lee away from his committment to LSU.

Keith Law tweeted the following response when the Dodgers made their pick:


Wow indeed.

Immediate speculation is the Dodgers made this pick knowing they wouldn't be able to sign him, thus saving Frank McCourt, who's in the middle of a messy divorce, the money.

It's sad, but this is seemingly the reality for Dodger fans these days.

If the Dodgers can't even afford to pay $1 million to their first-round pick (not Lee, obviously), then what makes you think they'll be able to add a desperately-needed starter at the deadline?

Just sell the team already, Frank.