Eleven starts into his first full season as a big-league starting pitcher, Carlos Martinez, overall, has performed about as well as anyone could have possibly predicted. Sure, he had two terrible starts in a row, but at 23 years of age, speed bumps are to be expected along the way. That being said, he is averaging just over six innings per start with strikeout and walk rates of 26.9% and 11.1%, respectively. His 3.19 xFIP provides backing to his 2.94 ERA, signifying the potential for Martinez to maintain this type of success over the course of the season.
As you likely already know, I have written about Martinez's "stuff" before (comparing it to that of Jaime Garcia) and have always put a special emphasis on his fantastic changeup. A few weeks ago, Martinez decided to throw one of the most devastating sliders of 2015, so I wrote about that pitch, too. Needless to say, "stuff" has never been an issue for Martinez, but being able to harness this "stuff" over six plus innings was a hurdle he needed to clear before having sustained success as a starting pitcher.
2015 PITCHf/x Information
|Pitch||Frequency||Velocity (MPH)||Dragless Horiz. Movement (in.)||Dragless Vert. Mov. + Gravity (in.)|
As you can see, Martinez is comfortable throwing all of his pitches, in virtually any count, as he goes through his full repertoire once every five or so pitches. While Martinez has understandably dialed back his velocity since entering the rotation, this has resulted in increased differences between the horizontal movements of his pitches (see the table above). The biggest difference can be seen between his changeup and slider. Some easy arithmetic reveals a difference of 24.45 inches, horizontally, between the two pitches, or just over two feet. For perspective, the width of home plate is 17 inches. The numbers are telling, but thanks to the ever talented Daniel Doelling, using one at bat during last Friday's game, we can now visualize the difference in movement on three of Martinez's four pitches.
Strikeout of Scott Schebler in the bottom of the fourth inning
Pitch 1: Changeup (85.85 MPH), Pitch 2: Changeup (88.66 MPH), Pitch 3: Fourseam (96.67 MPH), Pitch 4: Slider (86.71 MPH)
After allowing a sharp single off the bat of Schebler in his first MLB at bat back in the second inning, Martinez unleashed (nearly) his full arsenal the second time around—throwing four pitches with three of them resulting in whiffs. Schebler jumped on a first-pitch sinker in the second inning, so Martinez scrapped that approach by throwing two straight whiff-producing changeups. After failing to paint the corner with a fourseamer on 0-2, Martinez tied Schebler up for strike three with a slider down and on the inside corner of the plate. Have a closer look:
"Pitch tunneling" is a key component to success as a pitcher, and this GIF does a tremendous job at depicting the concept. Martinez's release point is virtually identical on all four pitches, allowing for a fairly similar ball flight out of the hand. Yet, despite starting on a similar path, none of the four end up in the same location. To face all four of these pitches in one at bat, in your first big-league game, seems cruel and unusual.
While I try my best to watch every single game, sometimes, things happen, so I have a small favor to ask of you. If during an upcoming home start (with the dead-center-field TV angle) you feel Martinez used three or more of his pitches effectively, please let me know. While Daniel's GIF from the broadcast in Los Angeles is beautiful, having one using Fox Sports Midwest's broadcast would likely be even better.