Welcome Back and 2019 Player Review: Chris Martin

Chris Martin will be returning to Atlanta! The 6-foot-8 reliever signed a 2-year, $14 million contract with the Braves yesterday. In the past week, AA has invested $22.5 million on an area of strength for the club: the bullpen. With the signing of Will Smith as well as Darren O’Day and Martin returning, there should be no loss of talent on opening day. Barring additional moves, the pen should shake out as Smith, Melancon, Greene, Martin, O’Day, Jackson, and then any of Webb, Dayton, Minter or another prospect filling the final spot. Newcomb is a candidate to be the long reliever if he doesn’t win his way into the rotation, as I covered in his player review last week, otherwise a prospect or veteran signing should take on that role.

This will be one of, if not the, deepest bullpens in the MLB in 2020. Relievers are volatile, but there is no big holes or question marks heading into the season as there was in 2019. Guys such as Arodys Vizcaino, Jonny Venters, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle and Chad Sobotka who were on the 2019 Opening Day roster have all been upgraded; what was the Braves main weakness now appears to be their greatest strength.

2019 Season Summary

Looking back on Chris Martin, the one stat that jumps off the page was his stellar 13.0 K/BB ratio in 2019. Martin posted a 3.40 ERA in 55.2 innings last year, walking only five batters. His FIP of 3.25 was the lowest of his career, and was an astonishing 1.63 in his 17.2 innings with Atlanta. A few runs scored off him due to some bad luck, but looking at that number shows just how dominant Martin can be.

What many people don’t know about Martin, he spent his 2016 and 2017 seasons playing in Japan after struggling to adjust in the MLB. In Japan he pitched 88.1 innings with a 1.12 ERA, 91 strike outs and only 13 walks. This earned him a 2-year contract with the Rangers and he has excelled since his return to the MLB. In 2019 Martin had 1.5 bWAR, second most of any Braves reliever only behind Greene. It is also worth noting that neither Martin or Greene started the year on the team, showing just how much of a weakness the bullpen was prior to the trade deadline.

Looking Ahead

FanGraphs is projecting another strong season for Martin with a 3.53 ERA in 60 innings, however they think his K/BB ratio will drop a good bit to 4.81. While I doubt it drops this low, the 13.0 mark is a bit unsustainable and anything in the 8-10 range should be welcomed by Braves fans everywhere. The Braves likely won’t be making any more notable bullpen additions, but they won’t need to. With Martin primed for another big year, along with Smith, O’Day and the rest of the returners, the Braves bullpen is ready to fire away in 2020!

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Author: Matt P

Hello, I’m Matt Pocza! I am a 3rd year finance student at the University of Florida and I love the Atlanta Braves. I’ve played baseball my entire life, and I am a submarine pitcher for the club team at Florida. I also enjoy scuba diving, football and business. Follow me on twitter @braves_rumors!

33 thoughts on “Welcome Back and 2019 Player Review: Chris Martin”

  1. Can we now pay Josh all the remaining money in time for Christmas as an early present?

    And I will be happy for the holidays

  2. I know on as few major league innings as Martin has, that the norms say you have to “regress” his K / BB way down. But, likewise, I agree that it is likely to be much better than 4.8 to 1. K rate and walk rate stabilize mathematically very quickly.

    Martin is a rare pitcher that can severely avoid walks and not get killed. Good signing.

    My one concern is how much is AA going to spend everywhere else? Is there a way to punch one of the 2 BIG holes (catcher and 3B) with a trade? Is there a way to get a 2 ish pitcher in trade (the next biggest hole)? Can we upgrade outfield with a trade?

    Tune in next week, same Battime, same Batchannel.

  3. Martin was the Braves best reliever in 2019 and it wasn’t really that close. He had a 4.08 ERA, but was remarkable unlucky in his time here, and I’m glad the Braves have a GM that recognized his real talent.

    In his ATL stint:

    0.5BB/9, 11.5K/9, and an astronomical .372 BABIP rate despite carrying a 54.5% GB-rate.

    Those are elite numbers that should’ve shown an elite ERA. I can’t tell y’all how excited I am to have him back.

  4. This signing now makes Newk and Greene even more of wild cards, IMO. AA has really gotten out in front. Now he can trade one of both of them to fill needs, and while it may not be in the same deal, you could probably get an above average every day position player or more for the surplus value Newk and Greene have collectively.

    Don’t get me wrong; I love great bullpens. But I don’t necessarily think you need to have this many solid arms in the pen. Smith, Melancon, Greene, Martin, O’Day, Newk, Jackson, Minter, Webb. You’ll inevitably be able to pick up someone late in FA/ST for not much. And I’m not talking about 8th or 9th inning Jackson or Minter. In this scenario, you’re talking about 5th inning Jackson or Minter. Jackson would be a fantastic multi-inning, middle innings guy.

    It would make for about 30 games where I won’t tune in until the 6th inning, but you really can’t go wrong with Newcomb in the 5th spot. He still has tremendous upside, so even if they land a significantly above average starting pitcher, rounding it out with Folty and Newk would be a dominant rotation. And you have Wright, Wilson, and Touki waiting.

    Gosh, so much pitching. And now so much established pitching. Love it.

  5. RE: Newcomb – I never got the impression that his move to the pen was billed as a permanent move. There was talk that being a reliever had really helped Fried’s confidence and helped him to attack the zone, so there was hope that it could have a similar benefit to Newcomb since he’s struggled with high pitch counts.

    AA said just yesterday that Newcomb has earned another shot at being in the rotation.

  6. I guess there was an AA interivew on 680 yesterday. I haven’t seen it paraphrased on here yet, so I’ll paraphrase a paraphrase I saw elsewhere (credit goes to Tmac if you’re on here):

    * AA talked about Will Smith making the bullpen much stronger; insists that Melancon is the closer, though.

    * Braves are looking for upgrades at 3B and catcher. Doesn’t mention Josh Donaldson at all. Says he’s comfortable with the “floor” that Camargo and Riley provide if they don’t upgrade there.

    * Looking for a catcher to handle between 80-110 games, obviously to pair with Tyler Flowers.

    * AA, “[I] definitely want to add a veteran starter.”

    * Says Newcomb will be stretched out in spring to compete for a starting job. Newcomb wants to do it, and he has earned the right to do it.

    * As of now, AA says he’s comfortable with an outfield of Acuna in right, Ender in center, and a Duvall/Nick platoon in left. Doesn’t rule out an upgrade if it presents itself.

    * Final note. AA says he can make almost any move he wants to financially, as long as it improves the team.

  7. This is AA at his best in strategic thinking. The Donaldson and Grandal free agencies have the probability of extending out for a while. AA’s acquired a large number of pieces that can be used in trades but he will likely not make a trade until all the FAs are figured out. He may even already have a prospective trade more or less agreed upon with someone but not pulling the trigger until the time is right. I’m sure he'[s duscussed trades with several teams. He can make reasonable offers to Donaldson and Grandal and wait to see if they accept. All he has to do is wait for the market to play out and jump on the best situation the presents itself. He’s playing chess and most others are playing checkers. No matter what happens down the line, this will be a fascinating offseason.

    I wonder if signing Martin had anything to do with not putting Burrows or Clouse on the 40-man. He’s likely to need an open space or two to make his nefarious plan work.

  8. That is a world series contender bullpen. If you look at the offenses San Francisco won 3 times with, we compare favorably. Now it’s time for that #1 horse… (I’ll just call him Wheeler…)

  9. Seems like a Bryant, Contreras, Schwarber trade is awfully appealing (well, at least, Bryant and Contreras) – even more so now. Seems like all the Cubs rotation pieces are 31-35 yo and they need an infusion of high upside young SP talent.

  10. I think Minter would have to show something next year to have value. But of course, if he does that, then you may want to trade him. He has more control than Newk, so you’d probably prefer to trade Newk if both were still with the team and performing well. I don’t think Minter has much value, if any, right now.

  11. Flowers
    Castro

    Freeman
    Ozzie
    Dansby
    Donaldson
    Markakis/Duvall
    Acuna
    Marte

    Camargo
    Culberson
    LF Platoon Member

    Soroka
    Fried
    Hamels
    Folty
    Newcomb

    Smith
    Melancon
    Greene
    Martin
    O’Day
    Jackson
    Minter
    Webb

    Trade Ender to dump payroll. Trade prospects for Marte. Sign Hamels, Donaldson, and Castro.

    If my math does not fail, this is about a $140M payroll. If the math doesn’t line up, then trade Greene too.

    Get it done, Wren. Err, AA.

  12. Guys like Minter get NRI’s to spring training — no value. On the other hand, Newk with his year in the bullpen s only rated as $13m surplus value while as a starter he’s more like $45M. I doubt anybody would give us that for him so he has to be in the 4th/5th starter competition just so we don’t sell too low.
    An interesting thing about Newk is that scouts see no reason for the wildness: he has average balance on the mound and repeats his delivery mechanics well. This means the problems are likely mental. I guess Newk and Folty need to see Smoltz’s shrink.

  13. Newcomb can clearly pitch in the bigs. If he has overcome nibbling at the strike zone, he could really be a workhorse starter. I think I still like that lotto ticket.

  14. Right now I feel like Donaldson or Grandal are a must sign unless AA can pull off a big trade to fill the holes. Without one of them the lineup is a lot weaker than last year. Like many have pointed out, Newk and Greene could be trade candidates now but I have a feeling that neither or them will be traded and that both will be integral parts of the team next year.

  15. I don’t think this was mentioned in the Newk write up, but he had a higher FIP last year than he did in the two previous years. It’s hard to say that it was because of his work as a starter. He only made 3 starts before getting moved to the pen:

    4 IP, 0 ER, but 6 H, 4 BB on 91 pitches
    7 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 2 BB
    1.1 IP, 4 ER, 5 H, 2 BB

    I don’t know if that’s enough horrible peripherals to push the FIP that much higher than what it was a reliever.

    Side note, good gosh, what an incredibly frustrating pitcher to watch. 4 scoreless, but 9 baserunners. Then a 7 IP really good start. Then a complete clunker, but you won’t let him stay in to get completely bombed because you know it’s going to happen.

  16. Food for thought: Do you think AA could take advantage of the guys that have QO’s attached and realize that the discount they’d come at pays for the lost draft pick/international $?

  17. How does it work if he ends up signing, say, 3 QFA’s this offseason and you lose Donaldson? Are you losing your 2nd and 3rd round picks at that point?

  18. I think the 2nd and 3rd round picks are the most we can lose even should we sign more than 2 guys. The $500k from the International pool would be a blow as well considering we only get half our normal pool to start with this year

  19. @15 I agree. I’m not comfortable with Riley or Camargo’s floor at 3B this coming season. If they go that route, one of them is hitting middle of the order; and I don’t like it.

    I want both Donaldson and Grandal. I think that’s a championship recipe. Donaldson alone would put them in the convo though with the new fortified bullpen. After all, if they had this pen last season, there never is a GM5. Braves probably move on and goes who knows how far?

  20. @20 Is Acuna going to be leading off for the foreseeable future? I could see him hitting 3rd with Freddie batting clean up. Then it’s Ender who needs to hit or leave.

  21. @16

    it’s very frustrating to see the inconsistencies, he has all the talent in the world and for some reason just can’t stop walking guys. Hopefully he got it figured out in the bullpen and he can stretch it out as a starter. I really liked Newk as a starter in 18 so I’d love to see him be successful in that role in 20.

  22. @21

    I don’t think you want to move Acuña from leadoff. He’s excelled there, better off building around him.

  23. Some guys, like Bobby Bonds, just hit better out of the lead off spot. Bonds managers hated to see all those homeruns “go to waste” but every time they tried him at 3rd or 4th in the order he quit hitting. Ronald has not been as extreme but there has a noticeable difference between roles with his leadoff production being almost 100 points of OPS better. I only move him if he asks to be moved.

  24. @24 That’s my thoughts as well. Right now you have the premier leadoff hitter in the game, who seems to love the role. If you switch that up, he may not hit quite as well in the 3 hole. The one guarantee is no one else hits as well in the 1.

    Give Josh All… THE… MONEY!!!

  25. OK. I’ve been saying to give JD all the dough, and it hasn’t happened. So, I’m gonna change it up.

    DON’T. GIVE. HIM. ANY. MONEY.

    There, He’ll be signed by the end of the work week.

    You’re welcome.

  26. DOB has said on his podcast that Terry McGuirk intimated to him that the Braves would fill up a truck full of money to sign a free agent if they felt the guy was the missing piece to winning a championship.

    So we’re getting Cole and Rendon, right?

  27. I was tweeting a week or two back about how I felt Rendon was actually a realistic possibility. He won’t cost much more per year than Donaldson, would just take ~4 more years on a contract to get it done. Yet to be seen if AA would go long term, but the price is right.

  28. I’ve got a new trade I want to make. Aaron Hicks just had TJ and Yanks are looking for a CFer.

    Clint Frazier for Ender Inciarte. Makes sense for both clubs. Yanks get a cheap CFer that can cover the ground Judge cannot, and Braves take a gamble on upside in a LFer.

  29. Due to the 2019 season Inciarte has very little current trade value. Frazier also has warts but is still in the “unproven” category rather than the “unexciting” bin. I think we need to throw in another piece to make that deal. Besides, with the idiotic way the Steinbrenner children run the team, there is no way the Yankees take on the salary.

    A better trade (at least in my estimation) would be getting Haninger and Seager from the Mariners for Incarte and Contreras. Seager could have a couple good years left if he could just get out of that terrible park.

  30. So the team spent 3/40 on a middle reliever and have now solidified the bullpen out of the gate after the other moves? Boy, have my expectations just gone up…

  31. @30 No thank you. I want absolutely no part of Seager. I’d much rather give the money to Donaldson. If he just really loves Texas or something, then pivot to Moose or go try and get Bryant.

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