Carlos Martinez's 2017 Season Couldn't Have Started Much Better
And if Sunday night is any indication, the rest of the National League should probably sit up and take notice, too.
Martinez shut the Cubs down in the Cardinals' 4-3 Opening Night victory, giving up just 6 hits on no walks and 10 strikeouts in 7.1 shutout innings. He featured a fastball, slider and changeup combination that was virtually untouchable.
Can we talk about how Carlos Martinez struck out the side on three different pitches? 100mph heat, 90mph Changeup, 89mph Slider. Crazy. pic.twitter.com/cgNQ1ayzKI
â€” Pitcher List (@ThePitcherList) April 3, 2017
And while the fastball was humming along at its usual velocity (averaging around 95 mph), it was the location of his changeup (averaging around 87 mph) that made him so very nasty.
Carlos Martinez changeup last night might have been perfect. Location heatmaps. 24 to LHH, 18 to RHH @stlCupofJoe @cardinalsgifs pic.twitter.com/hlr1XLJ6GN
â€” Zach Gifford (@zjgifford) April 3, 2017
There is simply nothing a batter can do with a changeup that is 8-10 mph slower than a mid-to-upper 90s heater with that kind of location. Nothing.
It's not like we didn't already know Martinez was really good. After all, he went 16-9 last year with a 3.04 ERA and a Skill Interactive ERA (SIERA) of 1.57. SIERA measures the things that are truly within a pitcher's control, such as how many strikeouts, walks and home runs they allow, but also takes into account batted ball data, such as ground-ball rate and fly-ball rate.
As you can see, Martinez outperformed his ERA last season, so perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised. He struck out 8.02 batters per nine innings (K/9) last season, and while that's down from his 9.22 K/9 the year before, it's still very good.
Based on his Sunday night performance, he's beginning the 2017 season with a K/9 of 12.67. Yes, that'll get the job done.
It's unlikely anyone is going to unseat Clayton Kershaw from his throne as the best pitcher in baseball. However, Martinez can make an argument for being the second-best pitcher in baseball, which would certainly warrant him some consideration NL Cy Young award at the end of the year.
He proved on Sunday night he has that kind of stuff. Now, he just needs to do it through this season.
If he does, the Cardinals might just have something to say about that NL Central race in 2017.