After an impressive rookie season, Martin Maldonado was, um, well, not very good in 2013. Following a .266/.321/.408, 4 DRS, +7.6 DEF season, Maldonado, 27, turned in a .169/.236/.284, -0.4 WAR season.
His rookie season stats don’t seem to be a small sample size-induced fluke, though. He posted 256 plate appearances that season, a number that dropped off to 202 in 2013–a dropoff mainly caused by a reduced number of PA in each consecutive month until September.
Offensively, plain and simple, Maldonado was arguably the Brewers worst hitter this side of Yuniesky Betancourt. Behind this struggle was a handful of problems, but his plate discipline may be at the root of them.
In 2013, he swung at 45 percent of breaking pitches, 30 percent of fastballs, and 41 percent of offspeed pitches all outside the zone. Overall, his O-Zone% (pitches swung out outside the zone) was up six percent from his rookie season to 37 percent. Putting the ball in play wasn’t a major concern, especially taking into consideration his plate discipline problems. His whiffs/swing was around league average on every pitch type despite his poor eye.
One positive is that despite shoddy plate discipline, continued struggles, and reduced plate appearances, Maldonado still drew walks at the same rate as he has for almost his entire professional career. Between AAA and Milwaukee in 2012, he posted a BB% of 6.6 percent, which only dropped to 6.4 last season.
After a .320 BABIP in 2012, that figure dropped, as expected. How far is dipped, though, wasn’t expected. Only .214 of balls Maldonado put in the field of play fell for base hits. It’s almost unfathomable to foresee a number that low happening again in 2014.
Let’s recap: Maldonado, after a promising rookie season, had well below-average plate discipline, drew the same percentage of walks, and his BABIP was incredibly low. It’s bound to get better in 2014 as Maldonado continues to spell Jonathan Lucroy every fifth day or so.
Maldonado’s offense is only one part of his game, seeing as how his value is primarily found on the defense.
Wily Peralta has much better splits when Maldonado, who normally catches him, is behind the plate for his starts than Lucroy. With Lucroy as an upper-tier offensive catcher, it only forces Maldonado into duty every fifth day or so–and when he is inserted into the starting lineup, Maldonado’s primary importance is on defense.
Assuming Maldonado maintains his value on defense and can contribute more effectively on offense, he’ll fulfill his room for ImpBrewMent.