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Tigers’ Victor Martinez Has Been Hitting the Ball Hard, Even if Results Don’t Show it


One of the themes of the Detroit Tigers’ offseason was that getting Victor Martinez back from injury (to replace Delmon Young) would be the Tigers’ biggest “acquisition” of the year. So far, though, that hasn’t been the case.

While Delmon Young’s .267/.296/.411 triple slash line left a lot to be desired out of a designated hitter, Martinez has hit even worse in the first month-or-so of the year, managing a line of just .220/.277/.297. There’s good news for V-Mart going forward, however, as it appears that he’s suffered from more than a little bit of bad luck.

May 4, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) drives in a run with a double during the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The first thing we see is that balls he’s put into play have found their way into fielders’ gloves at a pretty high rate. His batting average on balls in play is a paltry .236. BABIP number doesn’t tell us everything (or anything) by itself, but there are other indicators that he’ll be better in the future than he’s performed to-date this season.

Martinez has a career BABIP of .314 so we would expect his current rate to trend upwards just based on numbers alone, but, more than that, he really has been crushing the ball – it has just been getting caught.

According to a Tweet by ESPN Stats & Info’s Mark Simon, Martinez is one of baseball’s leaders in at-bats ending on hard hit balls. Check it out (click here for the larger image).

The leader in all of the major leagues is Miguel Cabrera – no surprises there – but what may be surprising based on the raw numbers is that V-Mart is actually fourth below only Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, and Carl Crawford. I haven’t actually run any numbers here, but a quick scan tells me that the average player on this top-25 list probably has an OPS in the .800’s.

BABIP alone isn’t going to solve Martinez’s problems entirely – he’s going to need to hit for more power as well – but merely continuing to hit the ball hard is going to lead to a change in fortune for him.

This also means that if you have him in a fantasy league, hold onto him, and if you don’t have him, maybe try to buy low.