Pittsburgh Pirates Report Card: Catchers Led By Russell Martin


The Pittsburgh Pirates’ season ended Wednesday with an 8-0 wild card loss to the San Francisco Giants, which means it is time to start reflecting on the season that was.

In this first part of the grading, I take a look at the Pirates catchers.

Russell Martin

The grade on this one should not come as a surprise. Martin is the leader of this team. He leads with his actions and everyone follows. If he does not come back next season it will be because a team offers him something along the lines of a four-year $70 million contract.

Martin’s .290 season with 11 home runs and 67 RBI is great, even despite missing almost a month of action, but his best work came from behind the plate. Martin threw out 37 runners, which is one more than last season, and his caught stealing percentage was 38.5. Martin’s defensive Wins Above Replacement is slightly down from last season at 2.0 but his overall WAR is at 5.5 which is a 1.2 increase from last season.

Martin did have a .343 batting average at PNC Park but did not find similar success on the road with .245. Despite these splits, most of Martin’s power came on the road, where he hit eight of his 11 home runs. Martin saved his best work towards the end of the season, hitting .306 in July, .333 in August and .280 in September and hitting seven home runs and 44 RBI in the process.

I feel like a broken record saying this, but Martin needs to be the top priority this off-season and maybe priority No. 2 and 3 as well. First half grade: A-. Second half grade: A. Overall: A.

Chris Stewart

I came into the season thinking Stewart was a defensive-only signing and I was wrong. Stewart’s defensive WAR was down 0.7 from the past two seasons and his caught stealing percentage was 8.4 percent, lower this season as well.

To the plain eye Stewart had a successful season offensively because he hit .294 and has a WAR of 0.7. Yes, Stewart hit .438 in July and .391 in September but the sample size is so small (39 at-bats). Stewart played in 60 fewer games and had 158 fewer plate appearances than his 2013 season with the New York Yankees, when he hit .211 with four home runs and 25 RBI.

Stewart also struck out in 55.1 percent of his at-bats this season. I was not a fan of his from the beginning and hopefully the Pirates will have a stronger backup catcher next season. First half grade: D+. Second half grade: C-. Overall: D+.

Tony Sanchez

Can’t really provide a second-half grade when he had four at-bats as a September call-up. What I can say is that he may be the Pirates starting catcher in 2015, and that scares me with the way he is playing right now.

Sanchez is a defensive liability when a player reaches base as evidenced by his 14.3 caught stealing percentage. I could be dead wrong, after all, no one saw Josh Harrison‘s breakout season coming, but the Pirates also seem to have lost faith in the player once referred to as the catcher of the future. First half grade: C-. Second half grade: INC. Overall: C-.