By Mack Hoyt, from Cardsblog.com
The Case Against
First up, the folks over at MLBTradeRumors.com broke the news quickly, as they always do. The extension talks between the club and Carlos Martinez came as a result of his upcoming first arbitration hearing. Martinez was pushing for a $4.25 million salary for the upcoming season, while the Cardinals submitted $3.9 million. But now the new deal will pay Martinez $4.5 million in 2017, and $11.5 million from 2018-2021.
In Jeff Todd’s article, MLBTR noted that they predicted a Martinez extension to look similar to those of Corey Kluber in 2015 and Matt Harrison in 2013. Both of those players reached a 5-year extension with club options, with Kluber securing $38.5 million and Harrison securing $55 million.
Todd also mentions how Martinez owns a 3.02 ERA since the beginning of 2015, with “robust” ground ball numbers, but is yet to believe that Carlos deserves the “Ace” title. The article claims that he has the arsenal to be an “Ace”, but has yet to reach the strikeout levels and success against left-handed batters.
The one concern that Todd expresses for Martinez is his chance of an injury. Although he has only been on the DL once since the start of 2015, he has throw 175+ innings in each of the last two seasons as a hard-throwing pitcher, which increases his chance of needing Tommy John surgery. But overall, MLBTR seems to think that this extension was a great fit for both Martinez and the Cardinals.
The Case For
Next up is Bernie Miklasz’s article on 101sports.com. Contrary to Jeff Todd’s view, Miklasz claims that Martinez is a bona fide Ace. Miklasz argues that Martinez both has the title of the Cardinals best pitcher, and as one of the best in all of baseball.
First, lets lay out the rules and have a nice chat about the history of the expansion draft. The MLB has held six expansion drafts, the most recent being in 1997 to accommodate the addition of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Arizona Diamondbacks. That draft yielded five eventual All-Stars, including Bobby Abreu.
As a Cardinal, Martinez has led the rotation in nearly every category over the past two seasons. And, compared to all of the MLB, Martinez compares to some of the very best proven “aces” in baseball.
101sports cites that Carlos, over the past two years, has led the Cardinals in innings, wins, ERA, strike outs, quality starts, and opponents OPS. He has been the go-to pitcher in big games, and helps the Cardinals win every time he is out on the mound. In the past two years, the Cardinals record is 18 games over .500 when Martinez has pitched.
In terms of ERA+, Martinez has proven himself as one of the best, recording a 133 ERA+ over the past two years. That figure is good enough for 10th best in the league, behind the likes of former Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw, Jake Arrieta, Zach Greinke, Max Scherzer, David Price, and Corey Kluber. Martinez is also 9th in rWAR for starters over that time period. For these reasons, Miklasz fails to see why one could not classify him as an “Ace”.
But one thing that Miklasz can agree with Todd on is that this deal is great for both the Cardinals and Martinez. The Cardinals have locked up a shut-down starter for 5+ years, while Martinez receives the payday and security he deserves.
So Is Martinez an Ace?
After investigating a little more into both Todd and Miklasz’ claims, it seems clear that Martinez has proven the “Ace” title. Todd seems to be correct that Martinez needs to work on a few issues. His career FIP is 70% higher for lefties than righties, while struggling to maintain similar stats on K’s and walks for the two groups. Martinez has recorded a 26.6% strike out rate and a 6.3% walk rate against righties over his career, but only a 18.3% K’s rate and 10.9% walk rate against lefties.
Although, as a baseball fan, I disagree with MLB Network's objective method of ranking players through pure statistics and sabermetrics, using a machine known as "The Shredder," Diaz earned this high ranking, shining in his rookie campaign.
But at the same time, Martinez has posted a higher ground ball rate than any qualified pitcher not named Dallas Keuchel since 2015. Also, the concern about not having elite strike out numbers doesn’t seem to be too big of a deal. Between the last two seasons, Martinez has posted a higher K/9 than 3 Cy Young winners: Keuchel, Greinke, and Rick Porcello.
So although Martinez has yet to found equal dominance between right-handed and left-handed batters, it's impossible to ignore a few key statistics. After placing 10th in ERA+, 12th in ERA, 23rd in FIP, 18th in xFIP, and 23rd in bWAR over the past two seasons, Martinez is obviously one of the best in the league. I believe that in only two seasons Carlos Martinez has proven himself as an “Ace”, but one more astonishing year in 2017 will cement his name among today’s elite.
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