Baseball Prospectus | Painting the Black: Throw, Throw, Throw

June 11, 2015

by R.J. Anderson

Fourteen months ago, Nick Martinez joined the Rangers rotation without much fanfare. An 18th-rounder who played second base most days at Fordham, Martinez moved to the mound permanently after being drafted. He took well to his new role, reaching Double-A in his second full professional season, then skipping Triple-A to begin his third. That hastened path to the majors did little to inspire national interest in Martinez--he went unmentioned on Prospectus until January 2014--and at times during his rookie season seemed to hurt his development, as he finished with 29 appearances, a 4.55 ERA, and even worse component measures.

Yet in 2015 Martinez has shone as one of the brightest spots on and--because happy endings rarely come together so prettily--most polarizing aspects of the suddenly competitive Rangers.

Under normal conditions, Martinez's 2.65 ERA would be celebrated as a mark of his improvement; instead his ERA is divisive due to its abnormality. Pitchers who record 1.79 strikeouts per walk and who lead the league in hit batsmen aren't wont to possess shiny ERAs. In fact, only two others (Mike Pelfrey and Kyle Gibson, both Twins) entered Tuesday with statistics similar to Martinez's--at least 50 innings pitched and at most a 3.00 ERA and 2.00 K/BB--and neither had hit as many batters.

What Martinez is doing is irregular, and while laying on the horn and shouting "Regression!" is the easiest response, examining irregularity can lead to a greater understanding of the player and the game. So let's approach Martinez with one question: Is there any legitimacy to his play? To answer, let's break him down by the main components of pitching: stuff, deception, and location and sequencing.

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