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2013 Phillies Report Card: Michael Martinez

Bill James once wrote that batting average represents about half of a player’s value (he might have said “offensive value,” but this post isn’t worth my going to look it up). That’s not true for every player–Sean Casey‘s batting average was a much higher percentage of his value than half, while the opposite is true for J.J. Hardy–but it’s an interesting way to look at how offense is created, and that framework informs a conception of why certain players are valuable.

In that same vein, I remember a while back, someone wrote to the Fringe Average podcast with the following question: imagine a player whose defensive value is nil or close to it, who never walks and only hits singles. How high would this player’s batting average have to be in order for him to break a lineup? How high would it have to be for him to be a Hall of Famer?

Jason and Mike mulled this over and decided the closest we’ve come to seeing this player was Tony Gwynn, a bad defensive corner outfielder who didn’t walk a lot and didn’t hit for much power. But even Gwynn’s career line was .338/.388/.459–even the supposed archetype had 135 career home runs, 543 career doubles and 315 career stolen bases. Someone who had literally no patience, power or defensive value would have to hit something like .375 to be a valuable everyday player, and over .400 to make the Hall of Fame, again, depending on how many of the outs he made were strikeouts and so on.

This brings us to Michael Martinez.

Michael Martinez was roughly a replacement-level defensive player this season, and he recorded a grand total of zero walks and zero extra-base hits. He stole one base, which is something, I guess. All of his value was in his batting average. So what did he hit?

One seventy-five. That’s .175 in decimals, 7/40 in the form of a reduced fraction. A .175/.175/.175 batting line, on its face, is as vulgar, scatological and blasphemous as walking into Love Park pulling out a bullhorn and shouting “Jesus Holy Fucking Shit Christ” into the sky in anger at no one in particular because the universe is unjust and we will all die alone, unhappy, and not nearly soon enough. Because Jesus Holy Fucking Shit Christ is Michael Martinez a terrible baseball player.

And it’s not like we didn’t know this to start. Mini-Mart was a terrible fucking baseball player in 2011, when the Phillies gave him 234 plate appearances. He was a terrible fucking baseball player in 2012, when the Phillies gave him 122 plate appearances, and be still my red pinstriped heart, he was even worse in 2013. There’s never been any evidence that he’d be anything but a terrible baseball player, and true to form he’s squandered three chances with the Phillies, which is to say that he’s squandered three more chances than any sane organization would have given a player of his modest talents.

Karl Marx famously wrote: “HegelĀ remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” In the case of Michael Martinez, history repeats itself a third time, as Ruben Amaro showing up in your home, drinking all your beer, peeing on your television and riding your dog around the living room like a horse, swinging a surge protector around above his head like a lasso, all the while shouting in perfect iambic tetrameter “A base, a ball, I love this game / For Rumpelstiltskin is my name!”

Ride ’em, cowboy.

My Grade: F

Michael Paul Eric Ryan