Russell Martin and the Hall of Fame

With the Blue Jays making their once-in-a-decade trip to Dodger Stadium this week, we got the opportunity to be reacquainted with an old friend in Russell Martin.

Nearly a decade after leaving the club that drafted him in the 17th round in the 2002 draft, Martin is back in Los Angeles in what could be his final chance to win the World Series. Martin, now 36 years old, was dealt from the Jays to the Dodgers back in January as Los Angeles sought a veteran to help bring along young pitchers and to hold down the fort until top prospect Will Smith was ready to make the jump to the Major Leagues.

Shi Davidi of Sportsnet caught up with Martin prior to Tuesday’s series opener, in which the Montreal native discussed his future in baseball…

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“I’m going to have to see how this one plays out. I really enjoy the game – but I enjoy playing the game. I really like competing. Being on a team like this is fun, but if I wasn’t on a winning team, I’d have to be really selective on where I would go. I’d have to have that perfect fit and who knows if that’s going to be available. There are a lot of things that are going to come into play in the decision. This could possibly be my last year. I don’t know. It could be. We’ll see.”

There’s no doubt that Martin can still hack it as a backup catcher at the big league level. He’s slashing a .211/.332/.304 line, and, according to FanGraphs, he’s been worth 0.7 WAR this season. But, as Martin said in his interview with Davidi, his only desire at this stage in his career is to play on a legitimate contender.

Maybe another contender wants Martin in the same role the Dodgers are using him in now. Maybe the Dodgers want to keep him around. Maybe somebody brings him on board to be a relief pitcher. Who knows. There’s a pretty fair chance that this is Martin’s last season in the Majors and this is his last chance to win the World Series.

Anyways, that brings me to the point of this post. Let’s talk about Russell Martin and the Hall of Fame. If the Dodgers finally go all the way this year and win the World Series and Martin plays a role, he has a very good chance at getting voted into Cooperstown.

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When looking at Martin at a glance, you see a player who has had a very nice career. 14 seasons, 1600+ games, 1400+ hits, nearly 200 homers, 750+ RBIs, 100 stolen bases, four All-Star Game appearances, a gold glove, a silver slugger, and a few appearances on MVP leaderboards. A decade ago, this wouldn’t warrant Hall of Fame discussion. But now, in the world of advanced sabermetrics, Martin certainly has a case.

FanGraphs’ WAR calculation is much different than Baseball Reference’s calculation because it puts more emphasis on pitch framing, which is something Martin has been excellent at his entire career. When you put his glove and his bat together along with his longevity, Martin ranks 10th all-time among catchers in wins above replacement. That’s a spot ahead of Hall of Famer and Yankees legend Bill Dickey and a few spots ahead of near-certain Hall of Famer Yadier Molina.

The difference between Molina and Martin, of course, is World Series championships. Molina won the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006 and in 2011, which has played a key role in him being regarded as the best catcher of this generation even though Martin’s underlying numbers are slightly better.

If Martin can win with the Dodgers, it’ll play a big role in augmenting his sabermetrics to get him into the Hall of Fame when it’s all said and done.