MLB: V-Mart gets better with age

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This year, Victor Martinez has not let age or injuries slow him down. (Photo courtesy of AP)

by Brandon Karsten

Reports of the death of the baseball career of Detroit Tigers’ slugger Victor Martinez have turned out to be greatly exaggerated. Despite seeing the Tigers go through a bit of a May malaise recently, with eight losses in ten games, Martinez has become the bright spot in the Tigers’ lineup with his consistency at the plate.

One would only have to look at Martinez’s stats to see that this year, the 35-year old has gotten better with age. Entering play last Thursday, he led the team in batting (.341), on-base percentage (.396) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.996).

The Tigers signed the former Indian (six years) and Red Sox (two years) catcher as  a free agent prior to the 2011 season.  At the time, it looked like the right move in the hopes of getting Detroit and the Illitch family ownership one step closer to that elusive and coveted World Series ring. Martinez brought with him the potential to hit for power from both sides of the plate, whether he was the DH, catcher or first baseman. The 2011 season saw Martinez hit at a career-high .330 and knock in 103 runs, which was the fourth time he drove in more than 100 runs in his career.

But then a knee injury incurred during the following Spring Training kept him out of the lineup for all of 2012. Despite the obstacle of having no Martinez in the lineup, the Tigers made it all the way to the Fall Classic thanks to Miguel Cabrera’s MVP season. There, they fell in four games to the San Francisco Giants.

One could say this year’s resurgence by Martinez could be traced back to 2013. He started pretty slowly in the first couple of months of the season, but really heated up once the calendar flipped to July. He ended the regular season with a .301 average, which was the seventh time in his career he finished above .300.1

Over the past winter, the Tigers traded Prince Fielder to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler. With Fielder gone, it left the door open for Martinez to fill in at the clean-up spot as well as serve as lineup protection for Cabrera.

Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com pointed out that Martinez thrives in two-strike count situations. Castrovince found that, as of May 20, Martinez’s .363 average led the majors with two-strike counts.2 With the ability to come through with two strikes, Martinez has also been one tough guy to strikeout. His 13 strikeouts, entering play Monday, matches his total home runs.

With numbers like that, one would have to think he would be a candidate for the designated hitter spot for the All-Star Game in Minneapolis, right? Except, that’s not the case. MLB.com writer Jason Beck wrote last week that Martinez sat third in the fan votig at the DH position, with Boston’s David Ortiz and Baltimore’s Nelson Cruz ahead of him.3

If winning trends continue for Martinez the rest of the year, and with free agency coming up after 2015, he will have made his own case as to why the Tigers should keep him for however long his baseball career lasts.

 

[1] baseball-reference.com

[2] mlb.com (May 20)

[3] mlb.com (May 27)

 

Brandon Karsten is a contributor to Designated Four Assignment. He can be found on Facebook or contacted by email at bkarsten2009@hotmail.com.

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