Early in Victor Martinez’s career-renaissance season, that being the 2014 Major League Baseball season, I expounded– in a manner so brief it likely took less time to read than the length of an average Martinez plate appearance– upon one component of the (i.e., Rod Allen’s, colloquially) notion of Martinez as a “professional hitter”: Martinez’s ability to extend his plate appearances. I contended that one of the team benefits of Martinez’s approach is that it pushes pitchers to reveal more of their arsenal earlier in the game.
In looking for general evidence of this beneficiary concept by inverting the point of focus from hitters to pitchers, I found Ben Lindbergh’s recent analysis of pitcher performance. The broad, basic point: within a game, pitchers perform worse each subsequent time they face a batter.
Thus, if batters benefit from increased exposure to a pitcher, it would seem to make sense that, assuming they’re paying attention in the dugout, Martinez’s teammates would benefit further from the disproportionately lengthy plate appearances Martinez induces. Lindbergh’s conclusion confirms this:
The times-facing-hitter penalty isn’t as much a fatigue effect as it is a familiarity effect that compounds as hitters have time to study their prey.
(His article goes on to discuss pitchers’ attempts to strike back against this trend.)
While many will be watching Martinez for the wrong reasons this season, keep an eye on him and his ilk to see whether they can continue to help their teammates in secondary ways, regardless of what happens to their own primary production.
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