Every season in Major League Baseball brings a batch of All-Stars, whether elected to the team by fans, players, or added by the respective managers. Each year, there is one player who was voted onto an All-Star roster who doesn’t deserve to be there. For the 2015 Mid-Summer Classic, that player is starting pitcher Carlos Martínez of the St. Louis Cardinals, who seems to already be taking on the unprofessional demeanor of the franchise.
Despite any behavioral issues, this evaluation will be based solely on Martínez’s on-the-mound performance. The only way to determine the worthiness of an All-Star candidate is to compare his production to his peers whom have logged a similar number of innings during a particular season. Martínez ranks in the top 10 of NL starting pitchers who have logged 100 or more innings to this point in the season in few statistical categories.
Through 107.1 innings pitched and 17 starts in 2015 for St. Louis, Martínez has a 2.52 earned run average (ERA). He has a walks plus hits per innings average (WHIP) of 1.220 and a fielding-independent statistic (FIP) of 3.46. He is averaging allowing 7.4 hits per nine innings pitched, 3.6 walks per nine innings and 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings. His strikeout to walk ratio (K/BB) is 2.63. Martínez has yet to commit an error this season.
Those numbers look decent, but a deeper analysis reveals that Martínez only measures up to All-Star status if you set the bar pretty low. Only Tyson Ross and Anthony DeSclafani have a higher walks per nine innings rate among NL qualified pitchers to this point in the season than Martínez. Martínez’s home runs allowed per nine innings (0.84) pitched ranks 18th. His .287 batting average against on balls in play (BABIP) is 14th. Only five qualified NL pitchers have posted a higher home run per fly ball rate (14.7 percent) than Martínez.
His FIP is 21st among qualified NL pitchers. In this group, his 1.5 wins above replacement value (WAR) is 22nd. Only Ross has been responsible for more wild pitches so far this season than Martínez. That K/BB puts him at 28th on the list. His WHIP ranks him 17th. As far as being error-free to this point in the season, that just makes Martínez part of a very crowded group of NL pitchers who have done the same thing.
Martínez’s strikeout per nine innings rate, percentage of baserunners stranded (LOB%), percentage of balls put in play which are ground balls, ERA, batting average against (AVG) do put him in the top 10 of qualified NL pitchers in those categories.
ERA, LOB% and AVG are deceiving, however, as those statistics are largely determined by the defense playing behind Martínez. As seen by comparing his ERA to his FIP and his skill-interactive ERA of 3.31 (ranked 16th among qualifying NL starters), the Cardinals’ defense has made Martínez look better than he really has been to this point in the season. Also, when a pitchers’ BABIP is nearly .290, inducing a lot of ground balls isn’t necessarily a good thing.
The value of the defense behind Martínez comes out even more when you look at the value of his pitches so far this season. Martínez is inducing swings at his pitches which are outside of the strike zone 32.1 percent of the time so far this season, 18th in the list of qualified NL pitchers. That figure rises to 64.7 percent but the ranking drops to 27th when you consider pitches inside the zone. Simply put, Martínez isn’t fooling any batters this season.
Much of Martínez’s success can be attributed to the uniform he wears, as he is a relatively easily-replaced cog (as demonstrated by his low WAR) on a very successful team with a solid defense. That uniform is also the reason why he won the NL Final Vote, despite his lack of credentials for the honor.