St. Louis Cardinals: You should not give up on Carlos Martinez
This is not a popular opinion, but the St. Louis Cardinals are right to stick with Carlos Martinez in the closer role even after the lack of performance.
REGARDLESS of how the past two appearances for Carlos Martinez have gone, the St. Louis Cardinals need to stick with the 27-year-old closer.
If you’ve made it past the title without commenting something hateful or mean, congratulations and thank you. Many people won’t make it even this far. That says more about them than it does you or myself for writing this, daring to support this opinion. Maybe I don’t even hold this opinion and just wanted to go through the literary exercise of defending an unpopular opinion. Who knows?
In any case, there is more than enough evidence to argue that the Cardinals need to stick with Carlos Martinez in the 9th inning in Game 4 of the NLDS and (hopefully) beyond.
There’s no way to spin it, those numbers from the fireballer are really really bad. Martinez himself has said that his pitches just weren’t going where he wanted and that is clearly frustrating for him.
You have to stick with him though.
First of all, it wasn’t a fluke that Martinez was so good in the closer role during the back part of the season. After struggling during his first month after transferring to the closer role, he converted 13 of 14 save opportunities and had just a 2.75 ERA over the 22 games over the final two months of the season. He walked just seven and struck out 23.
That’s elite closer levels of production right there.
Sure, he made it interesting sometimes but in general, he was elite. Now, after blowing one save, everyone’s calling for his head. It could’ve easily been two games blown as Martinez bent but didn’t break in Game 1, allowing three runs in a four-run game.
On Sunday, Martinez allowed a leadoff double to Josh Donaldson and proceeded to record two outs, leading to a runner at third with two outs and Brian McCann stepping to the plate. Here is where the blame slides off of Martinez.
Mike Shildt decided to intentionally walk McCann, who was 0-3 on the day, to get to Dansby Swanson who was 2-3 already and had hit a ball off the wall in center earlier. The rest was obviously history as Martinez allowed a game-tying double to Swanson and then proceeded to give up a game-losing single to Adam Duvall.
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The Duvall hit can very well be put on Martinez, but there is plenty of reason to suggest that Martinez would’ve been better off facing McCann rather than the red-hot Swanson. Mike Shildt errored greatly with this move. After the game, he blamed the move on playing the career splits that McCann and Swanson had against Martinez but I don’t think it was a smart move at all.
Martinez had just struck out two in a row and while McCann could’ve done the same thing as Swanson, the game flow alone has to say that you pitch to McCann there.
The other reason you have to keep going with Martinez is mental. Call it mental weakness or a headcase or a punk, whatever you want, but Martinez needs the confidence of his manager. That’s exactly what Brian Snitker did after Mark Melancon blew Game 1, and he bounced back fine.
Following the game, Shildt did the same for Martinez, reaffirming his confidence in him. Fans have extremely short memories and seem to have forgotten how good Martinez was this year.
The other angle is that if the team hopes to have Martinez pitch confidently any more this postseason, you are going to have to keep putting him in games. There’s no other way for him to get right.
This brings me to another beef with Shildt’s managing. How can you not have someone warming after the Donaldson double? It’s ridiculous. What I would advocate for, should the Cardinals have a lead heading into the 9th inning, is for Martinez to get back in the game. Have someone warmed up and ready so that the plug can be pulled quickly, but get him back out there and show faith.
Martinez could bounce right back and then be righted for the rest of the season and if not, pull the plug quickly.
Every fan hopes this isn’t the last Cardinals game of the season. If it isn’t, the Cardinals need Martinez to be right deeper in the postseason and the only way it happens is getting him back in there and showing confidence in him.