After a forgettable opening day start versus the New York Mets, Carlos Martínez downright dominated (8.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 K) the division rival Milwaukee Brewers in his second start of 2018. A Yairo Muñoz error may have kept Martínez from notching a complete game shutout, but the ace's response during the ninth-inning mound visit almost made the rookie's mistake worth it:
I know, we are still only two starts into Martínez's 2018 campaign (so, small sample size alert!), but some intriguing repertoire developments simply must be discussed immediately.
2018 repertoire (via BrooksBaseball)
The cutter he learned from Adam Wainwright during spring training has displayed tangible success, particularly versus left-handed hitters. He is throwing the sinker more frequently than he ever has -- with slightly more movement -- and it is inducing ground balls at nearly an MLB-leading rate.
The slider is lethal as usual and serves as weapon against batters on both sides of plate -- consistently resulting in swings and misses, called strikes, and on-the-ground contact. He has toyed around with a first-pitch, get-me-over curveball over the years, and he seems to be doing so again through two starts (seven thrown so far). I am genuinely curious what his intentions are with that pitch because introducing yet another velocity will make batters even more uncomfortable, just as long as it doesn't come at the expense of his other pitches.
Speaking of his other pitches, the changeup took a bit of a step back last season. If he remains heavily sinker-oriented (and I hope he does!) -- which is not a swing-and-miss pitch by any means -- the changeup will be of supreme importance in 2018. From a tunneling perspective, the sinker and changeup pair quite well with each other based on their respective ball flights. Fortunately, the changeup looked downright filthy versus the Brewers. As you will see below, it did not directly induce any strikeouts, but it did produce some awkward swings and misses -- just ask Lorenzo Cain (courtesy of @NChill17).
Finally, his fastball velocity may be down a bit, but it was cold in New York, and his dialing back in Milwaukee played a vital role in increased command and overall efficiency. Plus, his maximum velocities of 98.51 MPH and 96.11 MPH on the fourseamer and sinker, respectively, should answer any questions about his ability to reach back on his heaters.
Now, let's take a trailed look at the final pitch of each of Martínez ten strikeouts, courtesy of @cardinalsgifs (follow him!). Unlike other posts, I will let the .gifs speak for themselves. That being said, I will discuss is the last one -- the cutter -- as I haven't yet provided my thoughts on the new pitch.
97.6 MPH to Domingo Santana:
96.1 MPH to Jonathan Villar:
85.5 MPH to Jhoulys Chacín:
84.6 MPH to Eric Sogard:
83.9 MPH to Eric Thames:
(This is the best slider I think I have ever seen him throw.)
85.1 MPH to Christian Yelich:
86.4 MPH to Lorenzo Cain:
85.4 MPH to Hernán Pérez:
91.6 MPH to Sogard:
89.3 MPH to Villar:
The left-handed hitter has been a puzzle Martínez has not yet solved in his still-young MLB career. Now, he is really not that bad against lefties, relative to other right-handed starters, at least. But considering he is already elite against righties, getting better against lefties is the obvious next step in his continued development.
If Martínez cannot gain the comfort to consistently locate the slider inside to lefties (he is trying, though, so I commend him for that!), the cutter just may be the perfect pitch for him. He can stick to throwing backdoor sliders, as shown earlier in this post. Heck, from a tunneling standpoint, the cutter -- given its tighter movement profile -- might be an even better option. He can throw changeups down and cutters up and in -- like the one above to Villar; or, he can throw fastballs up followed by cutters down. Regardless, the ability to locate a pitch inside and above the hands of left-handed hitters is a weapon he has not really had before. A weapon that will go a long way for the 26-year-old.
Buckle up. Carlos Martínez is going to be really fun to watch this season.
In case you missed them, here are my three offseason pieces on Carlos Martínez: