Carlos Martinez was injured for parts of the 2018 season and served as the St. Louis Cardinals’ closer at the end of the season. What will he do in 2019?
I don’t think many people realize just how young Carlos Martinez really is. We all remember the fireballer who began his career out of the bullpen for the St. Louis Cardinals down the stretch in 2013; he was 21 at the time. As we head into 2019, Martinez is still just 27 years old, and has an opportunity to re-cement himself as the ace of this starting rotation after a somewhat disappointing 2018.
The reason 2018 can be classified as disappointing is because of the injuries Martinez dealt with. He went on the DL multiple times with arm and side issues and each time he tried to come back as a starter, he seemingly would re-injure himself. After the last time he got hurt, the Cardinals decided Martinez would come back as a bullpen arm, a role he didn’t seem to mind.
Numbers-wise, Martinez pitched right at or better than his career numbers, he had a better than average 3.11 ERA and stayed around the same totals in H/9, K/9 and HR/9. The biggest changes in Martinez’ surface level stats were his innings pitched (118.2) and BB/9 (4.6). I’m sure that Martinez would be the first to tell you that he walked too many guys, but that is one of the main attributes that suffer when a pitcher is pitching injured.
Mike Shildt has mentioned that he plans to bring Carlos Martinez back to the starting rotation for 2019, so let’s take a look at what ZiPS thinks Martinez will do in 2019.
ZiPS, unsurprisingly, has Martinez projected to be the St. Louis Cardinals’ best pitcher in 2019. Who is Martinez’s number one player comp in 2019? Bob Gibson. I would assume that is a late career Bob Gibson because in my semi-professional opinion, I would take the over on these numbers.
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For someone who is marketed as a special talent, an ‘ace’ of the staff, these numbers wouldn’t really qualify. I don’t blame ZiPS as Martinez’s 2018 provides some uncertainty for this coming season, but if Martinez makes 29 starts, I would expect him to pitch much closer to 200 innings. As a leader of the rotation, he needs to hit that number.
Other than last year, 168 innings pitched would be the lowest output from Martinez since he began starting games. I just don’t see a reason why he would backslide like this. A 3.2 WAR would also be the second lowest output since he began starting.
An interesting question that I am sure Mike Shildt will be answering soon is who will start on Opening Day. If Shildt wanted to go purely off last year, Miles Mikolas would be the obvious choice as he was the best and most consistent starter. If you go by straight talent, Martinez is the obvious choice. A dark horse may be Adam Wainwright, but I think the only reason he would start is if Shildt wanted to pay homage in what is likely his last season.
As sweet as that would be, I’m sure that choice would not be advised or well received. I believe Martinez should get the nod for Opening Day.
My Prediction: 30 GS, 197 IP, 3.22 ERA, 3.40 BB/9, 132 ERA+, 4.0 WAR
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Carlos Martinez is still 27, he is signed by the club until after the 2023 season at the latest, and if healthy, will be the St. Louis Cardinals’ best pitcher in 2019. Although he is still young, he is one of the veterans of the team that needs to step into a more mature leadership role. I am not saying he needs to lose his flair, he just needs to lead the next wave of young pitchers that are following in his footsteps. Any bets on his Opening Day hair color?