Since the departure of Jason Kendall in 2004, the catching position has been one of weakness for the Pittsburgh Pirates. That all changed in 2013 with the signing of Russell Martin.
Martin, who received the biggest free agent contract in Pirates history, as after failed free agent catching signings (think Rod Barajas) in the past, the Bucs were committing big money to a guy who hit .211 in 2012.
Whether you were in favor of the signing or not, no one could have predicted the impact that the 30-year old brought to this Pirates team.
In addition to the veteran Martin, we saw some nice things from rookie Tony Sanchez as well, giving you the feeling that the catching position could be one of strength for this team for the foreseeable future.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks I will be handing out individual grades to each position on the diamond.
Today I begin with Martin and the catchers.
With that being said let’s take a look how each catcher fared in 2013.
Russell Martin- ..26 AVG/ .327 OBP/ .377 SLG, 15 HR, 55 RBI
The impact of Martin goes way beyond his offensive numbers, which weren’t great, but given what he brought on the defensive end, are adequate enough. He had a good start to the season and came through in the clutch with more than a couple walk-off hits.
Martin struggled down the stretch and you would have liked to see an OPS better than .703, but overall it was a good season for Martin, who also was one of the few Pirates hitters that had a productive postseason.
However when we talk about Martin, it begins and ends with what he did behind the plate and with the Pirates pitching staff. The Bucs finished third in all of baseball with a 3.26 ERA and while the arms definitely deserve a ton of credit, so does Martin. Throw in the fact that he threw out 40 percent of potential base stealers and Martin proved to be exactly what the Pirates have desperately been searching for year- a competent MLB catcher and leader.
Some guys can’t be entirely measured in numbers and with the intangibles that Martin brought to this team, he certainly falls into that category. Grade: A-
Michael McKenry- .217 AVG/.262 OBP/.348 SLG, 3 HR, 14 RBI
“The Fort” had a nice little run in 2012, but was over exposed and there appears to be no turn around. McKenry didn’t play much with Martin around, only 41 games, but when he was on the field McKenry turned out to be a liability.
He is on the roster for his bat, but his .610 OPS didn’t warrant a spot on any MLB roster.
Then there is the fact that he is lousy defensively and continues to get worse. McKenry doesn’t handle the pitching staff very well and has one of the worst throwing arms of any catcher in the game. During the 2013 season he threw out only six of 41 potential base stealers (15 percent) which is even a worse mark than the miserable 18 percent he threw out in 2012.
The Fort may be a great guy, but he may be one of the worst players on any MLB roster. With the emergence of Sanchez, we may have seen the last of McKenry in a Pirates uniform. Grade: F