Yesterday, I documented and dissected each of Carlos Martinez's strikeouts last season. Today, through Carlos's generosity and the help of Triple-A first baseman Jonathan Rodriguez, I have the opportunity to share answers to a few questions I was fortunate enough to ask the 24-year-old All-Star.
Viva El Birdos: What is the biggest difference between pitching as a starter compared to pitching as a reliever?
Carlos Martinez: The biggest difference between pitching as a starter compared to a reliever was that coming out of the ‘pen you had to be ready every single day from the first inning on. It was always an unpredictable situation because one appearance could be coming in fresh for an inning or multiple innings, or it could have been to set up the ninth inning or close one day, or even face a batter for a matchup with runners on base. As a starter, I have a better routine and a scheduled start every time, so I know which team I’m facing and when. The preparation is more specific. Also, I have more days in between to rest and better prepare for my next start.
VEB: Which pitch is your favorite to throw and why?
CM: Everybody knows my best pitch is my fourseam fastball, but I like to go to my sinker when I’m in tough situations so that I can control my pitch count and get more hitters to swing at my pitch when I need a double play.
VEB: We saw you working on your strength and conditioning all offseason through social media. What did you do to maintain the flexibility needed to be an effective pitcher?
CM: Every year, I prepare myself as if I was a position player that has to be out there every day. That includes my weight training, and by preparing myself that way, I’ve been able to maintain a longer durability regardless if I was a reliever or starter.
VEB: Last spring, there were reports that you modified your changeup grip slightly with the intention of using it much more frequently in 2015. Are you working on any new pitches this spring or are you mainly focused on fine-tuning what you already throw?
CM: This spring, I’ve been working on fine-tuning my current pitches to have more depth, so that I can be more effective with them.
VEB: What do you think of the El Gallo nickname?
CM: I don’t really think anything about El Gallo. It was some nickname that popped up because of my haircut, but the nickname everyone should go by is El Tsunami.
VEB: What are your thoughts on the possibility of the designated hitter coming to the National League?
CM: I would not like it if the designated hitter came to the National League because with the exception of a couple of pitchers in the league who can swing it, most of the pitchers are giving you an out by bunting.
A few notes from the editor
I am quite intrigued by Martinez's "Everybody knows my best pitch is my fourseam fastball" answer. Frankly, it is a statement that makes me want to learn even more about pitch sequencing and its effect on the success of pitchers. Of course, it is a pitch that can touch 100 MPH, but in terms of results, the fourseam fastball has actually been Martinez's least effective pitch up to this point in his career. In 370 at bats ending with the pitch, hitters have put forth a .335 batting average and .514 slugging percentage.
Now, as I have mentioned before, there are inherent flaws associated with analyzing an individual pitch on solely results. And as we learned in yesterday's post, Martinez often used the fourseamer to successfully set up his offspeed deliveries. Plain and simple, it is hard to quantify the value and significance of set-up pitches at present. Additionally, the poor results we have seen thus far are almost certainly affected by the fact that Martinez is forced to consistently turn to the pitch in hitters' counts, giving hitters the opportunity to not only time it up but also know that it will end up being in the strike zone.
Regarding the question about the El Gallo nickname, Martinez makes it clear that the nickname he prefers is El Tsunami (hence the name of his foundation, Tsunami Waves). However, he at least acknowledges the existence of El Gallo, which is a win in itself. For those unaware of the origins of El Gallo, look no further than this June 16, 2014 game recap written by Viva El Birdos community member santiagofish.
I sincerely thank both Martinez and JRod for taking time out of their busy spring training schedules to answer these questions for VEB. We look forward to following another successful campaign.