Found June 03, 2013 on
You get the sense with this Pirates team that something is different.
Russell Martin has been a vital part of the Pirates success so far in 2013. (Photo by: David Hague)
Sure, Pittsburgh has been rattling off wins at a near-record pace and appears poised to battle with St. Louis and Cincinnati all summer for positioning in the National League Central with the prospect of spot in the playoffs not seeming like a pipe dream. Those are all not the norm for the Pirates, but what has been the catalyst for the transformation from a good team that could not close the deal in 2011 or 2012 to the team that has been one of the best in baseball through the first two months of 2013?
There are many reasons, and one that jumps out to me is the chemistry this team has with each other. The attitude and vibe in the clubhouse always seems to be positive and that comes from having positive people in key positions.
Enter Russell Martin.
Martin, perhaps more than any of the new faces around PNC Park this season, has been a positive presence not only in the clubhouse but also on the field. Martin’s arrival was a departure from the norm for Pittsburgh as the team outbid the Yankees for his services as he became the most expensive free agent signing of the Neal Huntington era. Some did not like the addition of Martin when he signed with Pittsburgh, and while we’re certainly not above having an opinion that proves to be wrong the question remains: How much better do you feel about the Pirates with Martin as the starting catcher than you did with any of the players that manned the position for Pittsburgh in recent seasons?
After a slow start with his bat, all Martin has done is go on to be one of, if not the most, important free agents signings from last year.
Take a look at his offensive numbers:
Games played: 43
And then consider how important Martin’s role on defense is for the Pirates. Michael McKenry has proven to be a valuable asset as a backup catcher but has not been consistent when playing for extending periods of time and also appears to be a great big green light behind the plate to runners on base. Martin’s presence behind the plate — be it deterring potential base-stealers, framing pitchers or just handling the pitching staff in general — combined with his steady numbers at the plate and his presence in the clubhouse has made him into one of the most important pieces of this Pirates team.
That has not been the case for some of the “big names” that signed as free agents last offseason, but while some of the players that received huge contracts have under performed (to put it nicely) there are others such as Martin that have played important roles on successful teams and lived up to their contracts and reputations.
Let’s take a look at what some of the other free agents in new places have done so far this season:
Hamilton was the most sought after prize during free agency after last season, and with the numbers he put up for Texas it was easy to see why. The Angels snapped up Hamilton for $133 million over five years. This season Hamilton will make $17 million and so far the production has not matched the pay.
Games played: 56
Hamilton is not hitting for much power and is not driving in a ton of runs. His slash line is ..216/.277/.380 with a .657 OPS and he has struck out in more than a quarter of his at-bats.
The Braves brought Upton in to be a key piece in their pursuit to keep pace with all the talent Washington has been stocking up with. Not only was he going to play in the Atlanta outfield with his brother Justin and Jason Heyward but he was going to be relied on to be a big part of the lineup. If not for Upton it would be easy to call Hamilton the biggest dissapointment of the 2013 season so far, but the former No. 2 overall pick has been awful.
Games played: 48
His slash line is laughable (.156/.237/.269) and even more so when you consider Upton will make more than $13 million this season. Guys who make that much money and signed the richest contract in Braves franchise history are not supposed to strikeout in more than a third of their at-bats and there has been some talk in Atlanta about sending Upton to Triple-A to try and fix whatever it is that has plagued him this season.
Bourn left Atlanta for Cleveland in the offseason and appears to be an important part of the Indians’ surprising start. He has never been a player that is going to be a big power threat but it is his speed that made Bourn one of the more sought after free agents. So far in 2013 Bourn has used that speed well both in the Cleveland outfield and on the bases.
Games played: 33
Bourn signed a four-year, $48 million contract with Cleveland and will makes $7 million of that this season (which compares to the $7.5 million Martin will make this season).
Other free agents have had decent seasons so far but how do they stack up to Martin ? Has Russell Martin been the best free agent signing in baseball to this point in the season? Let’s discuss it in the comments section.
BEST OF MAXIM
Russell Martin slides past catcher Devin Mesoraco to score the game-winning run in the 11th inning. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
When PNC Park was built in 2001 along the North Shore of the Allegheny River, the Pirates erected a sign on the right-field wall to track how many home runs the Bucs would hit into the river on the fly.
Twelve years later: 1.
After the Pirates (35-22) missed...
TOP OF THE SYSTEM
A look at how the current top 20 prospects did today. Note that this list doesn’t include players currently in the majors. If a player is in the majors, he will be removed, everyone below him will be shifted up a spot, and a new player will be added to the bottom of the list. Rankings are from the pre-season rankings, and links to each prospect writeup can be...
The usual mock drafts at Baseball America have been run by Jim Callis, but they switched up the process for their latest mock draft released today. They had four of their draft experts take turns making the picks. Nathan Rode picked first, followed by Callis, Conor Glassey and John Manuel. As they note, this is a little different than a mock draft, as this one is based on who they...
Each week we run our “Top Performers” series, looking at the best pitchers and hitters from the previous week. This year we will also be recapping each month in order to award the Pitcher and Player of the month. Below are the average pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the month of May. The rankings include every pitcher who made at least four...
Pittsburgh 1B Garrett Jones becomes the first Pirate to hit a home run into the Allegheny River on the fly on Sunday. And it’s the first blast in over a decade to do so. The shot almost took out two oblivious cyclists on the descent. Watch the towering blast courtesy of MLB.com:
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The only other player to clear all dry land on a blast...
Pirates first baseman Garret Jones became only the second player ever to hit a home run ball out of PNC Park and into the Allegheny River. The eighth inning 2-run shot, which traveled a reported 468 feet, nearly took out a bicyclist on its way to the water. The only other blast to reach Allegheny River was by Daryle Ward of the Astros in 2002. Pittsburgh would eventually win...
Yesterday, Pirates outfielder Garrett Jones became one of the few players to hit a home run out of PNC Park in Pittsburgh and into the Allegheny River behind the stadium.
Jones blast came in the 8th inning against the Cincinnati Reds and keep eye on the below GIF as a cyclist riding along the street nearly gets hit by the long ball:
(Courtesy of SB Nation)
The Pirates have added some reinforcements to the Shark Tank (bullpen) after it was forced to cover 10 innings yesterday. They’ve called up relievers Ryan Reid and Jared Hughes.
Reid, 28, will be pitching in the majors for the first time. He appears to be ready, as his numbers in Indianapolis are excellent (0.52 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 31 K’s and 9 BB’s in 34.2 innings). He had a solid...
Pittsburgh Pirates right-handed Jeanmar Gomez exited Sunday’s
start after experiencing tightness in his forearm. The Pirates wasted little
time moving Gomez to the 15-day disabled list, as they officially listed his
injury as a strained forearm.
To make room on the active roster, the #Pirates have placed RHP Jeanmar Gomez on the 15-day D.L. due to right forearm inflammation...
Kiley McDaniel has the Pirates taking Reese McGuire with the 9th pick.
Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com released his third mock draft today, and has a pretty favorable result for the Pittsburgh Pirates. With the 9th pick in the draft, McDaniel has prep catcher Reese McGuire. With the 14th pick in the draft, McDaniel has prep left-hander Trey Ball. If the Pirates could get both prep...
I’ve spent most of the day working on finishing up the draft rankings with John Dreker. We will be writing up the draft rankings article tomorrow, and recording the rest of the draft podcast. All of that will go up on Tuesday as we prepare for the MLB Draft on Thursday. Because I spent most of the day working on those rankings, I’m going with a “thoughts” article tonight...
For a season preview of the Pittsburgh Pirates two Dominican Summer League teams, check out our article here. Throughout the year, we will provide the recaps of both teams, as well as highlight one player each day.
Result: Rockies 10, Pirates 7
Starting Pitcher: Dan Urbina, RHP (0-0, 9.64) – 4.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HR
Top Hitter: Rodney Polonia...
The Braves blasted their way past the Bucs to take game one of this week’s series in Atlanta, as A.J. Burnett suffered through his worst start of the season.
It was clear early on that Burnett wasn’t happy with home plate ump Dan Iassogna’s strike zone (it definitely did appear to be tight), and he walked three hitters in the first four innings. The third walk was to Freddie...
Garrett Jones is a level-headed guy. Even he gets mad sometimes.
He was upset when he stepped into the batters' box in the eighth inning Sunday after striking out with runners on second and third in his previous at-bat. Jones then unleashed his anger by hitting a 463-foot game-tying home run
Travis Snider then hit an RBI single with two outs in the 11th inning and the Pirates...
Charlie Morton will make a rehab start for Indianapolis tonight, in what should be his last outing before joining the Pirates. In Lakewood today, Tyler Glasnow will try to get back on track after a shaky outing earlier in the week that saw him walk seven batters. Bradenton was rained out yesterday. They will make the game up today as part of a doubleheader. Two new teams on the schedule...