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MLB MLB Playoffs

Cardinals vs. Pirates NLDS 2013: Russell Martin Will Be The Difference-Maker

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

They call him a team leader and throughout his career, that is exactly what Russell Martin has been. But now with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Martin’s role as a leader bears more importance than ever. He is a veteran on a team of youngsters, and a player who knows just what it means to play postseason baseball. And when it comes down to it, that experience, poise and leadership is going to rub off on his teammates.

Make no mistake, Martin will be the reason why the Pirates will either win or lose to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2013 NLDS.

At the end of the 2012 season, Brian Cashman wanted nothing more than to keep Martin, who had been catching for the New York Yankees since 2011. Cashman called him the lynchpin of the team and knew the value he provided. Fortunately for the Pirates however, New York was was uncharacteristically strapped for cash. Martin found himself a free agent as a result.

The Pirates opted to sign the 30-year-old catcher with the sole purpose of him being a leader to a young team and with the hope that his veteran experience would help them finally break the 20-year curse of losing seasons. Although he only batted .226 on the season, Martin still provided the Pirates will exactly what they had signed him for in the first place.

Since his career began in 2006, Martin has reached the postseason in all but two of his now eight seasons. While he has not brought a hot bat to the playoffs, he has brought incredible leadership and wisdom beyond his years. In 2013 however, Martin knows the he is the catalyst for this team and if his offense continues the way it did in the Wild Card playoff game (3-for-4, two HRs), then he will certainly be the reason why Pittsburgh can go far.

Other than his offense and leadership, Martin is one of the best defensive catchers in the game. His fielding percentage of .998 was practically perfect, and the staff’s ERA when he was catching was just 3.14. In addition, Martin threw out an astounding and MLB-leading 36 runners in 89 attempts. He caught a career-best, 40.4 percent of base runners.

Martin’s value to this team cannot be understated. He really the lynchpin and if he doesn’t play well, it will doom the Pirates. If he does however, I will go so far as to say that you might be looking at the 2013 World Series champions. He really is that important.

Marilee Gallagher is a baseball writer for RantSports.com. You can follow her on Twitter @MGallagher17 like her page on Facebook, or join her network on Google.