J.D. Martinez Making MVP Case

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J.D. Martinez
against the at Nationals Park on July 3, 2018 in Washington, DC.

All is well on Yawkey Way. The Boston Red Sox have 60 wins, making them and the Houston Astros the two best teams in Major League Baseball. What defines this Red Sox team is their dominant batting numbers. They lead the majors in runs (467), hits (829), RBI (444) and batting average (.267). They are second behind their divisional rival New York Yankees in home runs with 127.

While the Yankees may have Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the Sox have the MLB home run leader in J.D. Martinez. Not only will Martinez be a favorite to win the Home Run Derby happening in a little over a week in Washington, but also he clearly is making a case to be a contender for AL MVP honours.

J.D. Martinez a Bargain for Boston

Throughout his eight-year career, Martinez is a .289 hitter, with 179 home runs and 549 RBI. He had a successful four-year stint with the Detroit Tigers, where he acquired a batting average of .300 during that span. But spring training came and went, with Martinez still searching for a team that would sign him. At 30-years old and in the prime of his career, the Red Sox signed the outfielder to a five-year $109.95 million deal, making him earn $22 million a year.

Given that the MLB is operating with revenues upwards of $10 billion, this contract was a bargain for the Red Sox, who clearly saw Martinez as a steal. But the team had legitimate concerns with Martinez, particularly regarding his foot injury that he suffered last season, which could have future ramifications on his career.

Boston knows far too well the volatility of player performance after they sign wealthy contracts. Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, and Pablo Sandoval were landmark free agents that came to Boston for big money, only to flame out and are no longer with the team. It makes sense why the Red Sox did not want to overpay for Martinez. But halfway through the season, it appears that the investment is worth every penny.

J.D. Martinez’s Slugging Numbers Off the Charts

A large part of Boston’s success this season is contributed to the slugging production of J.D. Martinez. The powerful slugger is leading the MLB with 27 home runs, 73 RBI, and 209 total bases. He is currently hitting a whopping .328/.392/.647 (173 OPS+), making him a problem for all pitchers he faces. His slugging percentage and OPS comes in at third, behind his AL counterparts Mike Trout and teammate Mookie Betts.

When he comes to the plate, Martinez has demonstrated he has no major weaknesses to his game. His OPS is 1.839 in a hitter’s count. When it’s a 2-2 count, his OPS is 1.298. His opposing pitchers should not make a mistake on the first pitch because he is hitting .576 when he is hitting the first pitch in play.

It is clear that it will be a battle for the MVP down the stretch between Martinez, Betts, and Trout. And for baseball fans, it will be fun to watch these power hitters continue to wreck their opposition at the plate. But for J.D., he continues to go about his business, despite being in a pressure-filled environment in Boston.

“To me, I just play baseball, whether I have the contract or not,” Martinez said. “I take this game the same way I’ve been doing it for the last four or five years, that’s the way I look at it. That’s what I said when I first signed here. When you guys all asked me that, I said the same thing, I said ‘I’m going to play this game how I know how to play it.’ That’s what I’ve been doing.”

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Embed from Getty Images

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