When I wrote about the start of Russell Martin’s Pirates career at the plate yesterday, I stated that his low batting average on balls in play combined with his plate discipline indicated that he would likely see a turnaround in fortunes. What I didn't expect was to see an immediate example of how his selectivity at the plate will help him break out of his slump.
Martin hit his first Pirates homer in the second inning against the Braves. He took a first pitch fastball for a strike before taking three straight balls (a curveball sandwiched by a pair of fastballs) that were only just outside the zone. The fifth pitch (another fastball) was deposited into the left field seats:
Martin reached base twice more in the game; he was hit by a pitch in the four and then singled to third in the fifth before grounding out to third in the eighth. He saw 17 pitches in those four plate appearances and swung the bat just three times. The first chart below chart shows the pitches that Martin swung at last night – all three in the heart of the zone (the curveball charted outside the strike zone was actually the pitch that hit him) – while the second shows Martin's called balls and strikes against the Braves:
The hope is that Martin will build on last night’s home run, however for his luck to improve then he’ll need to tap into more of the power seen in his first plate appearance rather than failing to leave the infield with the other two balls that he put in play. Nonetheless, Martin’s plate discipline right now is a big plus, which is highlighted in the above chart, and it's likely to be the key to turning around his fortunes.