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Mea culpa, Leonys Martin, perfectly good leadoff hitter

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Martin’s strides at the top of the order have made him more valuable to the Indians

Cleveland Indians v Kansas City Royals Photo by John Sleezer/Getty Images

Leonys Martin blocked me on Twitter.

I’m not overwhelmingly positive on Twitter, but I’m not the kind of person who trashes people on social media either. Beyond that, I’m 100% cheering for Martin as a member of the Cleveland baseball organization and as a human being. So, I was a little confused when I went to look at his Twitter account and found that I was blocked. Martin is an adult who has survived the life-threatening journey out of Cuba and a life-threatening illness; I’ve got my own story, but no one is writing about it, so who cares if Martin wanted to block me on Twitter?

Me. I care. So I had to investigate why this might have happened. My best guess:

I can see why that might rankle, in a sense that perhaps Martin just wants to block out any negativity. But I stand by the tweet because numbers don’t lie. That was Martin’s record against lefties. From his debut, September 2, 2011, until he hit the disabled list on August 7 of last year, he was simply not good against lefties. To go a little deeper than the tweet went, in 706 plate appearances he had a 66 wRC+ and a walk-to-strikeout rate of 0.2 with a completely average BABIP of .297. Furthermore, as a leadoff hitter, agnostic of opposing pitcher handedness, Martin’s line was .251/.310/.360 with an 83 wRC+ and 0.3 BB/K in 865 plate appearances.

Based on all that, my tweet was fair.

Was.

In the 2019 season Martin is still pretty bad against lefties (sample size caveat), batting .167/.318/.222 with a 59 wRC+ and BB/K of 0.4 in 22 plate appearances. However, in 69 plate appearances as a leadoff hitter he is slashing .276/.391/.500 with a 142 wRC+ and a decent 0.5 BB/K. That offense has been worth 2.8 offensive runs above average, which is 0.6 greater than his entire 2018 offensive value in about 20% as many plate appearances.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, because Martin started turning things around prior to coming to Cleveland in 2018. As detailed by Dan Richards at Pitcher List, last year Martin’s exit velocity was up a bit, his slugging and isolated slugging were up quite a bit, his hard hit percentage was up a bunch, and his barrels per plate appearance and home runs per plate appearance were up a ton. It’s still too early to say anything with certainty about the 2019 season, but the trends are still going the same direction.

Leonys Martin’s improved batting approach

Season Exit Velo SLG ISO Hard Hit% Barrel/PA HR/PA PA
Season Exit Velo SLG ISO Hard Hit% Barrel/PA HR/PA PA
2015 84.8 0.313 0.094 30 1.6 1.6 310
2016 85.6 0.378 0.131 30.8 3.4 2.6 576
2017 83.8 0.281 0.109 31.6 2.9 2.1 138
2018 86.8 0.425 0.17 38.7 7.4 3.1 353
2019 88.2 0.5 0.224 39.5 7.2 4.3 69

So, mea culpa, Leonys. Against lefties maybe the team should still exercise caution, but a top-50 OBP and top-70 ISO are great attributes in a leadoff hitter. Very close to the kind of attributes our sorely missed 2018 leadoff hitter possessed (Francisco Lindor in ‘18: .352 OBP, 47th, and .242 ISO, 21st). May the hits keep coming.