Coming into this season, we had all these questions about Carlos Martinez. So far, Martinez has answered every one of these questions and then some. By providing answers for the doubters, he has proven that our lofty expectations might not have been enough.
We’ve all seen what Carlos Martinez is capable of in years past. However, before this year, we have only been teased with a sneak peak of his untapped potential. We saw overpowering fastballs, at times, We also saw the knee-buckling off-speed pitches, occasionally. However, even though he wasn’t consistently dominating just yet, Cardinals nation was extremely optimistic that “Baby Pedro” could become the face of this franchise. Boy, were we excited about his bright, bright future.
However, with all that potential came Martinez’s flare. For every great game we saw Martinez pitch, we heard about an off-the-field incident that illuminated his immaturity. We saw the temper tantrums on the mound that made us question whether he could lead a Cardinals pitching rotation, even though he had every bit the skill for the job.
Then, it was as if we blinked and Martinez matured. Within a matter of months, he went from an immature, yet talented pitcher to unquestionably the best pitcher on the Cardinals. Now, he’s fighting for the right to call himself the best pitcher in the NL Central, with the likes of Arrieta and Jon Lester still marginally ahead of him. However, the gap is closing. Quick.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) June 30, 2016
Call it the “Cardinal Way.” Give credit to John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny. Believe that Martinez finally had an epiphany about how good he could be. However you want to rationalize his growth, we need to stop talking about how could Martinez COULD be. Now, we need to focus on how good he IS.
So far, Martinez has been absolutely spectacular in 2016. He has a 2.83 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 95.1 innings. To put in perspective how much better he has been than other Cardinals’ starting pitchers, here are the other pitchers’ ERAs: Jaime Garcia 4.09, Mike Leake 4.13, Michael Wacha 4.42, and Adam Wainwright 5.04. Martinez has been more than a full run better than any other Cardinal starting pitcher.
Currently, he is 7-5 in 15 starts; however his record does not tell the story about how good he has been. By my estimation, he should have gotten a win in each of the last three games. Trevor Rosenthal cost Martinez wins against the Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners and, on Wednesday, the offense didn’t provide any run support until the bottom of the 9th. Three wins he should have had. Now, if he was 10-5, we could be talking about how Martinez is a dark-horse NL Cy Young Candidate, but oh well.
What has been most impressive about Martinez’s season is how he has heated up as we enter the summer months. Since May 30th, 6 starts ago, here is his stat line: 42 IP, 5 ER, 31 K, and 1.07 ERA. He has earned a quality start in every single of those games.
We have never seen a string of great starts from Martinez in his career ever before. For the first time, we wonder whether our expectations for him have been high enough all along.
Off the field, Martinez has behaved as well. Think about it. Other than when he’s pitching or splashing water in his teammate’s face, when else have you heard his name. There was that one time where he was pulled from a game early due to fatigue and dehydration, but that was it. In 3 months of baseball, the biggest off-the-field story came from Martinez’s fatigue. That is maturity right there.
As we’ve seen for years now and as these last six starts have definitely shown, Martinez has all the talent in the world to be one of the best pitchers in this league. Though he may not ever get to Kershaw’s level of dominance (I’m not exactly ruling that out just yet either), he definitely has the stuff to be a Cy Young contender for years to come. We’ve known all this for years now about Martinez, but there was always a cloud of doubt about whether his exuberant personality would ever allow him to reach that potential.
So far, all Martinez has done is silence his doubters and go out and pitch very well every time out. He has become a man before our eyes.
Photo captured by Billy Hurst- USA Today Sports