Friday, January 05, 2007

Russell Martin

If there's a current Dodger I like wearing Orel Hershiser's former number, it's Russell Martin. Not only does he put up the numbers, as Ken Gurnick writes at

The RBI total [of 62] was the most for a Dodgers catcher since [Paul] Lo Duca had 72 in 2001. The games played total was the highest in the National League from the time he arrived. The Dodgers were 71-43 with Martin starting behind the plate and 17-31 with anybody else. His catcher ERA was 3.93, third in the league....

Offensively, Martin ranked in the top 10 among National League rookies in average, runs, doubles, triples, RBIs, walks, total bases, on-base percentage, total bases, slugging percentage and extra-base hits. Against left-handed pitching, he hit .366 with a .521 slugging percentage.

It's also because, like Lo Duca, Martin was an undersized prospect who made it through the Dodgers' system. Credit should also be extended to the people who recognized and honed his talent:

Martin has done this only four seasons after being shifted from third base at the suggestion of area scout Clarence Johns, who drafted him in the 17th round, and with instruction from Jon Debus, the former roving instructor who left the organization to join former farm director Terry Collins in Japan.

Besides handling the pitching staff and trying to avoid an offensive sophomore slump, Martin may have the additional pressure of batting second in the lineup, as some have speculated. 2007 will also be Martin's first full season in the majors, as he appeared in 121 games in 2006.

Expectations are high. But Dodger fans are hungry for a homegrown hero. Hopefully management will be smart enough to keep this catcher around.

photo by Ben Platt/