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Dialing Down Expectations for Corbin Martin

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He may work out, but the pressure needs to be taken off him

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at San Francisco Giants John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

This is not intended as a hit piece on Corbin Martin. He clearly is talented enough to throw a baseball very hard and with movement. His stuff is often lauded as being “great”. He seems to be very well liked by the coaching staff and I’m sure he works extremely hard to be the best he can be. Unfortunately, due to injury and also poor command, it has not yet translated into success in his early career.

Despite being 25 years old, it is still early days in terms of games and IP. Suffering an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery in 2019, and missing all of 2020 due to recovery and then the Pandemic, and then subsequent other injuries late last year as well means he has just 10 Games, 35.1 IP under his belt in MLB so far.

But those 35 IP have been historically bad. He has a 7.90 ERA, which is not that unusual. Many pitchers have run into some bad luck early in their careers. But due to 26 walks and 13 homeruns allowed, Martin has a 8.45 FIP. His FIP actually being higher than his ERA is what caught my eye.

As I said, it’s not hard to find guys with that few IP in their early careers with such a high ERA. But such a high FIP is not that common. In fact it’s very very rare. Since Expansion ERA (1961) , there are just 4 pitchers with minimum 30 IP through age 25 and a FIP over 8.

Original Report Link: Of the other three pitchers on this list, only Travis Blackley managed to have any career at all beyond those first 30+ IP, and he was out of MLB for 4 years before getting in a couple of so so seasons in 2012-13

I went over to Baseball Savant to see what Statcast had to say. His .459 wOBA against and 10.69 ERA are virtually 100% deserved by their metrics too. Usually when you see numbers that bad, there is some bad luck involved. But not in this case. His .459 xwOBA against and 10.06 xERA are virtually the same as his actual numbers and by far the worst in MLB of any pitcher with minimum 50 Balls in play. Report Link

Martin’s 4 Seam Fastball Velocity and Spin Rate is down a bit too

2019: 95.3 MPH, 2413 Spin Rate

2020: 94.1 MPH, 2348 Spin Rate

The Curveball Spin Rate is down as well, from 2666 to 2348. While MLB is cracking down on sticky stuff, these drops pre existed that crackdown

I guess this is as good a time as any to break out Jim’s former favorite example of pitchers who struggled young that turned out great, Roy Halladay (That’s a link to his BB REF page)

At age 23 Halladay had a 10.64 ERA in 67 IP. However he had “only” a 6.47 FIP that year, and a .380 BABIP against (107 hits in those 67 IP)

That was also Roy’s 3rd season in the majors. Before that, in two seasons he had a 9-7 record with a 3.75 ERA in 163 IP. So as much as I want to find comfort in the age 23 comparison between Halladay and the age 25 Martin, squinting that hard just shuts out all light.

Reposting what I transcribed from Torey’s comments on the Martin send out back to Reno in yesterday’s preview, (you can hear the full audio for yourself here)

Corbin Martin Sendout: We made the decision that there needed to be more consistency in being able to follow the attack plan. To go down and get that necessary work to continue learning and growing and get back to the big leagues a little more finished and polished. We feel like he’s very close, we love the stuff, but it’s just about pitch execution. [tl:dr Location, location, location...]

Martin has a lot working against him right now. There is little if any modern history of a pitcher struggling as bad as he has , even this early in their careers, and going on to have a productive career. He’s been fighting off injury, and now has to go back to the most hostile pitching environment in all of minor league baseball to try to figure it out and gain command and location of his pitches. On top of that he pitches for an organization that has made many questionable decisions with their pitching prospects and seems to really struggle to bring any pitching prospects to the majors and have lasting success.

My opinion is Martin should be in AA. I know it would be a big blow to his ego. But he needs to rebuild himself. The team needs to stop forcing the issue and treating him like a 21 year old phenom on the cusp of breaking out. He’s NOT that guy. He’s a 25 year old who is really struggling and needs to re invent himself, and he’s not going to be able to do that in Reno and he’s not going to achieve that with the team dead set on getting something out of him right away so they have more than Josh Rojas to show for the Greinke trade. EVERYONE in that organization needs to check their ego’s and deal with the reality of the situation. If they put Martin in AA, and let him figure out how to locate his pitches there and have success and build confidence, he still has a shot. The notion that he has nothing left to prove in the minors is simply false. He has everything left to prove at this point.