Carlos Martinez, Illusory Starter

Eileen Blass-USA TODAY

Carlos Martinez is not going to throw 90 or so pitches every fifth day this summer no matter how much we want him to.

Last spring, bureaucracy robbed us of a proper spring introduction to Carlos Martinez. Visa issues effectively rescinded the righthander's non-roster invitation to spring training. So delayed was the young Dominican's arrival in Cardinals camp that, when he arrived, he got none of the attention baseball-starved media and fans shower on pitchers and catchers in February and early March, and no chance to pitch against opposing big-leaguers. The lack of a proper spring training for Martinez meant that he felt like a stranger when the Cardinals promoted him to the big-league bullpen in early May. If you didn't follow the steady stream of selfies on his Twitter feed, you wouldn't have recognized him upon his arrival in St. Louis.

When Martinez finally arrived in St. Louis, he offered Cards fans a tantalizing taste of a repertoire that might very well be the most electric of the entire organization. The Cardinals shuttled the righty between the minors and majors throughout the season. By the postseason, manager Mike Matheny was ready to not only give Martinez a bullpen slot, but deploy him in the most hair-raising of October situations. Throughout it all, you and I were probably more nervous than the young flamethrower. With a moxy befitting a man with his last name and nickname at Fenway, Martinez took to the mound in the pivotal World Series Game 2 and delivered two innings of shutout pitching that included three K's, including one on this pitch to Dustin Pedroia.

Martinezpedroia

via cdn3.sbnation.com

Martinez had arrived. But the youngster's October of 2013 just raised the question of what his role would be come April this year. On Tuesday, according to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cardinals pitching coach Derek Lilliquist allowed that it might be in the rotation. "Crazier things have happened," Lilliquist proclaimed with a smile as he presumably thought of a Martinez slider siring gold strikeout offspring with Yadier Molina's mitt.

Lilliquist is wrong. He was presumably still under the influence of watching a Martinez bullpen session when he spoke. It would be insane for Martinez to win a spot in the rotation this spring. This is because of his track record and that of the other young arms the Redbirds are likely to slot into their rotation this season.

Do you know how many would-be 2014 Cardinals starting pitchers have logged 200 or more innings in each of the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons? Answer: none. Do you know how many would-be 2014 St. Louis starters have notched 200 or more innings once in the last two years? Answer: Two. Last season, Adam Wainwright totaled a league-leading 241 2/3 IP and Lance Lynn tallied 201 2/3. For the other potential Redbird starters, here are the innings-pitched totals in the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons, from NCAA to the minors to MLB:

Shelby Miller:

  • 2012 - 150 1/3 IP
  • 2013 - 173 1/3 IP

Michael Wacha:

  • 2012 - 134 1/3 IP
  • 2013 - 149 2/3 IP

Joe Kelly:

  • 2012 - 179 1/3 IP
  • 2013 - 124 IP

Jaime Garcia:

  • 2012 - 139 1/3 IP
  • 2013 - 55 1/3 IP

Carlos Martinez:

  • 2012 - 104 1/3 IP
  • 2013 - 108 IP

That's a lot of pitchers who haven't come all that close to 200 IP in either of the last two seasons. In Derrick Goold's stltoday.com chat on Monday, he stated that he thought the Cardinals would remove the "restrictor plates" from Shelby Miller, and the young Texan would be free to hurl as many innings as he could this season. In that same answer, Goold indicated that el Birdos seemed likely to maintain a workload cap on the other emerging Texas righthander on their staff, Michael Wacha. Jaime Garcia is coming off of shoulder surgery, which means his health will be a lingering question mark throughout the season. Joe Kelly's workload took a substantial step back in 2013. Then there's Martinez.

Nothing about Martinez's minor-league track record suggests he's ready for the workload of even a No. 5 major-league starter. I'm not talking about stuff. Describing Martinez's repertoire as electric doesn't do it justice. Martinez's arsenal of pitches is downright radioactive. But Martinez hasn't deployed his pitches in a campaign anywhere near as protracted as the MLB regular season.

CARLOS MARTINEZ'S PROFESSIONAL WORKLOAD (2010-13)

Level

Year(s)

G

GS

IP

IP/G

Pitches

Pitches/G

R

2010

12

12

59.0

4.92

452

37.67

A-

2011

8

8

38.2

4.83

315

39.30

A+

2011-12

17

17

79.0

4.65

692

40.71

AA

2012-13

18

17

83.0

4.61

1354

75.22

AAA

2013

13

13

68.0

5.23

1159

89.15

MLB

2013

21

1

28.1

1.35

479

22.81

Total

Career

89

68

356.0

4.00

4451

50.01

The "Total" line, which covers Martinez's career shows his IP and pitches thrown totals per appearance as opposed to start. But even if we correct and divide by games started instead of appearances, he hasn't lasted very deep into games. During Martinez's time as a professional, he has averaged 4 IP per appearance and less than 5 IP per game started. Martinez has also thrown about 50 pitches per game during his pro career. Those are the averages. The following chart shows breaks down Martinez's games by innings pitched and pitch total achieved during his professional career.

CARLOS MARTINEZ: PRO GAMES BY IP TOTAL

Martinez has tallied less than 5 IP 49 times during his professional career. He's notched 5 IP or more on 40 occasions. This is the opposite of what a club looks for in a big-league starter.

It's hard to believe Lilliquist when he says Martinez has a legitimate shot at winning a spot in the St. Louis rotation this spring, especially given the questions surrounding the ability of the starters in the rotation not named Wainwright or Lynn to shoulder 200+ innings. It seems much more likely that the Cardinals are giving Martinez the same treatment they did Rosenthal last spring. Talk up his chances in February and early March, then shift him to the bullpen shortly after spring training games start. Given Martinez's pro track record, that seems like the wisest course.

Correction: This post originally listed Martinez's 2013 regular season IP total without including his innings from Double-A Springfield. It has been corrected to include that total.

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