The recent struggles of John Gant have made a difficult situation worse for the St. Louis Cardinals. With so many injuries to the team’s rotation, the Cardinals need their healthy starters to pitch well. That has not been the case recently, but while John Gant has declined, there are reasons to believe that Carlos Martinez may actually be pitching better than his results have shown.
Carlos Martinez has struggled in two of his last starts. The right hander allowed 15 runs in 4 2⁄3 innings in those outings, with 10 runs coming in one start in which he lasted just 2⁄3 of an inning. Obviously this is not great. However, in last four starts, Martinez has shown an improved ability to miss bats while also making his two best starts of the season according to FIP.
In his first eight starts of the season, Carlos Martinez struck out five batters in a game just one time. In his last four starts, he has done it three times, with the only failure being his catastrophic outing against the Dodgers. In these four games, Martinez has fanned 20 batters in 17 2⁄3 innings. In his first eight outings, the 29-year-old fanned 24 batters in 47 1⁄3 innings. This is clear improvement.
Martinez has also drastically improved his CSW%. This means that he is getting a higher percentage of called strikes+whiffs than he was at the beginning of the season. It is important to see Martinez missing bats and getting whiffs since he was struggling to do that at the beginning of the season. This statistic also includes called strikes, which can be just as important. Hitters do not make contact with the ball on either called strikes or whiffs, so there is no chance that they can do damage. Additionally, a foul ball can extend an at-bat or demonstrate that a hitter is just missing or is picking up on a pitcher. Thus, a called strike can be as beneficial to a pitcher’s performance as whiffs.
In his last three of his last four games (excluding his outing against the Dodgers), Martinez has posted CSW%s of 34, 37, and 28, respectively. For reference, the top three pitchers in the league in this statistic are Jacob DeGrom (34.7%), Shane Bieber (33.9%), and Tyler Glasnow (33.7%). Martinez’s CSW%s in these games are significantly higher than his 25.7% CSW rate on the season (which includes these three games, so his CSW% without these games would be even lower). Additionally, his whiff rates in each of these three games were 26%, 33%, and 18%, respectively. His whiff rate on the season is 18%.
This improvement has led to him posting a 3.99 FIP on the season. In his last appearance, Martinez posted a 1.87 FIP. In the outing before that, his FIP was 3.65, and in the outing before his poor performance against the Dodgers, it was 2.15. Before this sequence of outings, his best FIP in a single game was in his fourth start of the season (2.65 FIP) when he allowed one run, walked one, and fanned three in six innings.
There are still causes for concern with Martinez. To begin with, his xFIP (4.80) and SIERA (4.84) do not show much promise. Additionally, his bad outing against the Dodgers cannot be ignored. However, his massive improvement in strikeouts and substantial improvement in CSW% suggest that he may still be able to pitch effectively down the stretch. This is a very small sample size of just three games in his last four appearances, but it demonstrates a notable improvement for Martinez. Although the right hander has allowed 18 runs in his last four starts (17 2⁄3 innings), there are some signs of hope, and that is much needed for a battered Cardinals rotation.