St. Louis Cardinals: What can be expected out of Carlos Martinez
The St. Louis Cardinals have a developing ace in Carlos Martinez, but if he’s healthy what can be expected in his second year as a starter?
When it happened, I thought it was a simple little thing in which he would miss one or two starts and that’s it. Unfortunately, it wound up being worse and Carlos Martinez missed the rest of the season with his shoulder injury.
Up until that moment, Carlos was having a stellar season so far for the first time as a full time starter. Martinez went 14-7 with a 3.01 ERA (3.37 FIP), with an incredible K/9 of 9.22 (best since A+). Martinez was also worth 3.4 fWAR this past season.
Martinez’ biggest problem this past season was pitching beyond the sixth inning, as he only went beyond that point in 15 of his 29 starts. Meaning that in just under half of his starts he only registered pitching six innings or less. Not good for a guy who was the ace of the staff last year with Adam Wainwright being down with injury.
This no doubt could have also been by design for the team to save on his innings, as I seem to remember a couple starts in which Martinez was pulled early for no apparent reason. This no doubt likely factored into his lowish fWAR for a guy with a K/9 over 9.00 and FIP under 3.40.
If Martinez comes into the season healthy with no issue to the shoulder at all. What can possibly be expected out of the 24 year old hurler? So, let’s find some comparable players.
The first player I want to take a look at is the pitcher that Carlos is always compared to. Yes, that would be Pedro Martinez. Now, I am not trying to make a player comparison here, I simply am looking at high profile pitchers in their second full year as a starter.
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In 1995, Pedro Martinez was one year younger than Carlos will be as he enters his second year. That year Pedro went 14-10 with a 3.51 ERA and a FIP of 3.90, clearly a regression from his 3.42 (3.32 FIP) numbers. Pedro also saw a drop in his K/9 from 8.83 to 8.04, seeing a dip in his fWAR of 3.4 to 3.0.
The very next season Pedro took off, seeing his FIP drop to 3.27 and his K/9 rise to 9.22, resulting into a fWAR of 5.1 (his lowest fWAR from 1996-2004) and the rest is history as Pedro went on to complete a Hall of Fame career.
Looking for a more relevant example for Carlos, brings us to current St. Louis Cardinals’ pitcher Lance Lynn who had his second full season as a starter in 2013 for the St. Louis Cardinals. That year, Lynn went 15-10 with an ERA of 3.97 and a FIP of 3.28, both numbers rising from his previous year. Lynn also saw a decrease in his K/9 from 9.20 to 8.84, but did see his fWAR hit a career high at 3.7.
Where does he project?
Unfortunately, Steamer sees the same kind of decrease coming for Carlos Martinez next season. Their projections have Carlos with an ERA of 3.49 and FIP of 3.37, with his K/9 dropping down to 8.86, but like Lynn not seeing a decline in his fWAR at 3.4.
I don’t hate this projection, but I don’t like it either. I realize that video will be out on him and that he will have to work a little bit to get better and this projection isn’t much of a sophomore slump in terms of fWAR. What I see in Carlos that makes me think of a slightly different projection is his second half numbers.
From July 25th to his last start on September 25th Martinez had an FIP of 2.61 with hitters having a .360 BABIP against him. Those numbers could have been better as Martinez went under six innings pitched five different times during that stretch (not counting 9/25 injury). This was a result of getting “BABIPed” a lot in those starts.
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My prediction for Carlos is a slightly better season than what he had this year. I truly think he gets better and nets an ERA under 3.00 and FIP close to that. I expect him to work into and beyond the seventh inning with a lot more regularity than he did last year, which would likely lower his K/9, but help to raise his fWAR. So, if I had to put a fWAR on Carlos for next season, I would probably rate him somewhere in the range of 4.0-4.5 for next season if he is healthy