Martin earns Defensive Player of Year Award at backstop
Veteran led catchers in defensive runs saved; Bucs particularly pleased with help for sinkerballers
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. -- Russell Martin received the 2014 Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award at catcher on Wednesday for his splendid play behind the plate for the Pirates.
Martin led all big league catchers with 12 defensive runs saved, thwarted 37 of 96 steal attempts (39 percent) and his pitch selection and framing was credited with a lot of the success enjoyed by the Bucs' staff, which led the National League Central with a collective 3.47 ERA.
The defensive prop becomes another plank in the free agency of Martin, who on Monday had been tendered the qualifying offer of $15.3 million by the Pirates. Martin has to decide on whether to accept that offer by 5 p.m. ET on Monday.
Recognized as one of the game's most athletic catchers -- Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle referred to him as "a shortstop with catching gear on" -- Martin's influence extends far beyond the plate. The one-time infielder had a total of 90 assists, pouncing on bunts or balls beat into the ground in front of the plate, often spectacularly. The 90 assists ranked second in the Majors to the Cubs' Welington Castillo.
Martin also excels at blocking pitches in the dirt, a particularly valuable asset catching a Bucs staff full of sinkerballers.
"We measure balls blocked in the dirt, and he is as good as any catcher I've ever been around at that," Hurdle said. "He's fantastic."
The day after being trumped by St. Louis receiver Yadier Molina for the National League Rawlings Gold Glove at his position, Martin was honored with selection as the catcher on Wilson's Major League all-defense team. Unlike the Gold Gloves distributed along league lines, Wilson selects the Majors' best at each position.
That is not the only contrast between the two defensive awards. While the Gold Gloves still heavily rest on the "eye test" and votes of big league managers and coaches, Wilson's selections are made with a different yardstick, relying exclusively on statistics, mostly metrics.