I’ve said it a few times on this site but, I really like Joe Martinez. When you survey the Giants minor league system and the arms that reside in it, Martinez isn’t likely to be at the top of your list. He doesn’t throw particularly hard and at 27-years-old he’s most likely fully developed as a pitcher — no “he might add a few ticks of velocity as he ages” here. Instead, what Martinez has done since the Giants drafted him the 12th round of the 2005 draft is pitch pretty well. Over 6 seasons in the minor leagues, Joe owns a career FIP of 3.72. He’s shown the ability to throw strikes (1.97 walks per 9) and miss the occasional bat (7.05 K’s per 9) while posting a solid groundball rate (55.2%).
So, when Todd Wellemeyer went down with his right quad strain, I was hoping the Giants would recall Martinez. You never wish injury on any ballplayer, but Wellemeyer has been maddeningly inconsistent this year (6.33 FIP, 5.37 BB/9) and when the Giants recalled Martinez I hoped he would impress — or at least be serviceable in his start — to convince the Giants to let him take over 5th starter duties for the time being.
Martinez lost his start against the Orioles but — my personal biases aside — I think he pitched pretty well. Martinez’s ability to throw strikes essentially makes him the anti-Wellemeyer and he was never really hit that hard by the O’s. The O’s seemed to whack a bunch of groundballs that either found holes or were misplayed by the defense. Besides his control, here’s what I really like about Martinez: his 2-seam fastball.
Pictured above is a graph of all the fastballs Martinez threw in his start against the Orioles. As usual, the graph is from the vantage point of the catcher — sitting directly behind the plate. You can see that Martinez’s minor league walk rates aren’t a fluke, he genuinely has a good feel for his fastball and has the ability to throw it for strikes. On the night, Martinez threw 55 fastballs.
* 34.5% of Martinez’s fastballs went for strikes (Called, Swinging, Foul).
* No batter whiffed on any Martinez fastball — he did have a few whiffs, but they both came on changeups.
* 20% of Martinez’s fastballs were hit on the ground. You can chalk that up to the horizontal movement of the 2-seamer — nearly 8.5 inches on average
* Batters made contact against 43.6% of Martinez’s fastballs.
* The average velocity on Martinez’s fastball is right around 89 mph. He topped out at 91 mph.
I think the graph sums up Martinez pretty well. He’s not going to strike a bunch of hitters out, but his minor league K/9 numbers suggest he has at least some ability to occasionally miss bats. What he will do, however, is pound the zone with strikes while mostly throwing his 2-seam fastball. The 2-seam fastball that Martinez features does have some nice horizontal movement. The pitch will run in on right-handed batters and away from lefties. I’ve likened Martinez to a poor man’s Aaron Cook before and I still think the comparison is appropriate. Both are pitchers that will live and die by the groundball and Martinez has posted a better K/9 in his minor league career as compared to Cook — 7.05 vs Cook’s 6.1. Martinez is better than Todd Wellemeyer right now and until the Giants feel comfortable promoting Bumgarner, he’s a fine option for the 5th rotation slot.
Do the right thing Giants, release Wellemeyer and give Martinez his starts.