St. Louis Cardinals: Carlos Martinez is not yet a top-flight ace

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 2: Starter Carlos Martinez
ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 2: Starter Carlos Martinez /

It would be hard to deny St. Louis Cardinals starter, Carlos Martinez, has the pitch repertoire that make high-level aces. However, it’s equally clear the other things expected of the best stoppers have not yet consistently appeared in Martinez’s quiver.

It’s just plain fun to watch Carlos Martinez when he’s on. Seeing the St. Louis Cardinals number-one starter throwing 98 mph seemingly without effort into the late innings is a pleasure. Watching righties helplessly flail at his sharp breaking stuff brings a smile to my face.

When Martinez dials in, there might only be a handful of superior starters in the National League.  Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Thor (aka Noah Syndergaard…when he’s healthy), and Zack Greinke are among those starters. You can debate others, but on a given night, Carlos can go head to head with any of them.

There’s also something to say about the proposition that he’s continuing to improve in some notable ways. His strikeouts are on pace for a career high, ranking sixth in the league. He is fifth in hits per nine innings pitched. He’s tenth in WHIP, and his durability and endurance are great, with the third-most innings in the league.

However, the many ways in which he’s asserted his dominance have just not added up to team success compared to the other NL pitching elites. Neither his WAR nor his ERA appear in the top-10 (though his FIP checks in at tenth). So, what gives?

Well, I’d say there are both quantitative and qualitative reasons for the shortfalls.

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Numerically, he’s given up way too many gopher balls. While his 14 homers surrendered doesn’t come close to leading the league, they have been notable to his failures this year.

Half of that total has come in the four games he has given up five runs.

However, if the home runs have hurt him, the walks are downright frustrating.

The advantage Carlos gains by giving up less than seven hits per nine innings pitched is greatly diminished by serving up forty-five bases on balls, the fifth most in the NL.

There are two others on the walks top-10 list that are among the WAR leaders in the league, Gio Gonzalez and Robbie Ray. Guess what, though? They both are sitting about a half earned run per game better than Martinez.

That brings us to the qualitative aspects of Carlos’ inadequacies. As entertaining and lighthearted as he appears in the dugout, you can sometimes feel the frustration vibe at times when he’s on the mound.

He proved last year he could rescue himself from a Code Red situation more so than when he began his starting career. That is a skill he’s added to his portfolio, and it shows in his twelve quality starts of his eighteen total starts to date this season.

To be fair, some of Carlos’ challenges probably come from being too fine, knowing his club’s offense and defense have been woefully inadequate most of the season. The added pressure of carrying the team on his back cannot have helped.

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Look, I’m truly appreciative that we have Martinez on our side. There’s only a handful of other NL starters that I would exchange for our hometown ace. However, if you’re looking for him to consistently outpitch the best of the best, I’d say that there’s still a way for Martinez to go. And, you know what?  It still might well happen.