Why J.D. Martinez is an Elite Hitter

The Red Sox waited until the last possible minute to address their power problem this off season, finally winning a staring contest with Scott Boras. The Red Sox will be dropping their new monster power bat right into the middle of their lineup and Ian York is back with his trademark visuals to show us that J.D. Martinez is an Elite Hitter.

J.D. Martinez was a below average batter for his first few years in the majors before becoming an elite hitter practically overnight, from 2013 (when his OPS+ was just 79) to 2014, when his OPS+ nearly doubled to 154. He took another step forward in his injury-shortened 2017, leading the league in SLG (0.690) while keeping his OBP comfortably above average as well.

To the extent that Martinez has a weakness it is on offspeed pitches, against which he is slightly worse than other right-handed batters. However, he has also improved here, with his 2017 numbers against offspeed pitches being only slightly worse than the average RHB. Meanwhile, his total bases per pitch against fastballs are spectacular. Since pitchers throw far more fastballs than offspeed, his overall numbers parallel those against fastballs. He is also much better than the average right-handed batter against breaking pitches.

Martinez’s 2014 power breakout went along with a reduction in plate discipline, as he started swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone. By 2016, he was back to average, while in 2017 he was significantly less likely than average to swing at pitches not in the strike zone.

This also shows up when we look at his prefered pitch locations. We’ll look at this two ways: first, showing his total bases per pitch (more intense red is higher); and second, compared to all other right-handed batters (red in regions where Martinez is better than the average RHB; blue where he is worse).

In 2013 and, especially, 2014, Martinez was an effective inside-pitch hitter against fastballs and to some extent breaking pitches as well. In 2015, he had fewer total bases from those regions, and by 2017 practically all his fastball hits were within the strike zone.

Martinez has been an elite hitter for four seasons now, and continues to show signs of improving — increasing both power and plate discipline. Barring injury, he should be an imposing force in the middle of the Red Sox lineup.

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About Ian York 208 Articles
Ian is an immunologist and virologist who lives in Atlanta with his wife and two sons. Most of his time is spent driving his kids to baseball and soccer games, during which he indoctrinates his children on the glories of Pedro Martinez, the many virtues of the Montreal Expos, and other important information.

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