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Stats corner: Martin a massive upgrade at catcher

| Saturday, May 4, 2013, 9:53 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Pirates catcher Rod Barajas takes a break while catching for pitchers in the bullpen during the team's first work-out at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

The Pirates uncharacteristically pilfered a player from the Yankees over the winter, signing catcher Russell Martin to a two-year, $17 million contract that made him the highest-paid free agent in franchise history. While Martin began his Bucs tenure 0 for 17 at the plate, he has since belted a team-best six home runs and has thrown out 38 percent of would-be base stealers — well above the 28 percent major league average and otherworldly compared to the 11 percent clip that Pirates catchers managed in 2012.

Martin's all-around excellence makes him one of the game's best so far in 2013. He ranks second among major league catchers in Wins Above Replacement, a stat comparing a player's offensive and defensive contributions to those of a Triple-A-caliber talent:

Highest WAR among catchers, 2013

Player Team WAR

Carlos Santana Indians 1.5

Russell Martin Pirates 1.3

John Buck Mets 1.2

Buster Posey Giants 1.1

Yadier Molina Cardinals 1.1

Source: Fangraphs.com

Better late than never

The Pirates' latest foray into the free-agent catcher market is going far better than their last. Martin is playing like an All-Star one year after the Bucs paid Rod Barajas $4 million to produce one of the team's worst catching seasons in the expansion era (1961 to present):

Lowest single-season WAR among Pirates catchers since 1961

Player Year WAR

Tom Prince 1993 -0.8

Junior Ortiz 1989 -0.7

Manny Sanguillen 1978 -0.5

Rod Barajas 2012 -0.4

Steve Nicosia 1980 -0.3

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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