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Martins making presence known in NBA

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

After showing they belong in the NBA as rookies, the Martin twins and the Charlotte Hornets opened the 2020-21 season last week.

In a 121-114 loss at Cleveland on Dec. 23, Cody Martin came off the bench for five points, five rebounds and four assists in 21 minutes of playing time. He made 2 of 3 field goals.

Caleb Martin did not appear in the opener, but he made his presence felt three nights later in a 109-108 home loss to Oklahoma City. Coming off the bench, he had 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting and got 15 minutes. Cody played 16 minutes, grabbing two rebounds and handing out an assist while not attempting a shot.

The 25-year-olds from Cooleemee are both listed at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds.

Merrifield In Mailbag

As you well know, Whit Merrifield of Advance was Major League Baseball’s hit king in 2018-19.

In 2018 the Kansas City Royals’ star hit .304 with a MLB-leading 192 hits. He was also first in stolen bases for the second consecutive year. Across MLB, he was tied for ninth in doubles, 13th in average, 21st in on-base percentage and tied for 26th in total bases.

In 2019 he hit .302 with 206 hits, repeating as the hits leader. He was tied for first in triples, ninth in doubles, 15th in average, 20th in runs, tied for 20th in steals and 23rd in total bases.

Now let’s look at 2020, the shortened 60-game season because of COVID-19. The leadoff man hit .282. In MLB, he was tied for fourth in steals, sixth in hits, tied for 22nd in runs, tied for 23rd in total bases, tied for 40th in doubles, 41st in average and 93rd in on-base percentage.

So, yes, overall there was a drop-off in 2020 compared to his 2018-19 seasons. But after enduring the longest slump of his major league career, he closed the season on an absolute tear, hitting .367 (29 for 79) from Sept. 7 through Sept. 26. He hit safely in 16 of those 18 games.

Which brings us to a question in the mailbag of Royals beat writer Alec Lewis of The Athletic. A fan submitted this question: “Whit Merrifield quietly had a down year last year. Is it being attributed to the oddity of the season or the sign of a decline?”

We saw slippage in Merrifield’s average, doubles and on-base percentage. Still: A decline after putting up the sixth-most hits in the majors during the regular season? Lewis is not buying that. He wrote: “Though Merrifield is 31, it’s difficult for me to attribute anything about 2020 to anything other than the oddity of the season. You saw it with (Adalberto) Mondesi and Hunter Dozier and so many others across the majors. One small slump magnified the numbers and added extra anxiety to every day. Twenty games into the season, Merrifield had a .911 OPS. He seemed destined for a career year. A quick slump happened. There’s one thing about Merrifield, too. It’ll assuredly fuel him next season.”