Detroit Tigers Biggest Base-Running Liability is Victor Martinez


Victor Martinez was once one of the most intimidating players on the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, and Cleveland Indians teams.

But, during the Detroit Tigers 2016 season, Martinez’s body showed that his physical intimidation factor is falling to the wayside.

Martinez is one of the most competitive players on the team; but in 2016, his mind was stronger than his body. Of course the hole in center field is one big question; but, a bigger one is what will V-Mart (and his knees) be able to do in 2017?

In his heyday, Martinez was practically unstoppable. He is a career .300 hitter and more importantly, a guy who can get on base. His .833 OPS proves it. His 2014 season with an OPS of .974 is the stuff of legends. Martinez’s at-bats can be game changing. He is highly respected both on and off the field – and that respect is well deserved.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins
MLB: Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins /

Too Many Strikeouts

Unfortunately, Martinez is no longer the same player physically as he once was. This makes him a liability. Throughout his 14 years, he has averaged 55.6 strikeouts per year. In 2016, he demolished the average with 90. The last time he got close to that number was in 2009 when he split his season with Cleveland and Boston; he had 75 K’s.

During that 2014 season, V-Mart was one of the most difficult men to strikeout in all of baseball. He is now a long way from the 42 K’s he had that year.

No Speed on the Bases

While Victor Martinez is an outstanding clutch hitter, the troubles arise when he the lead-off man for the inning. He can get on base with a single or a double – as long as the ball goes far enough for him to make it to the base. But, once he’s there, it is a challenge for the rest of the batters to bring him home. It is difficult to get him into scoring position, which is evident by the 19 double plays he grounded into.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers
MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers /

It is also evident by the lack of RBIs by the hitters who follow him. With V-Mart getting 160 hits, the batters who follow him should have close to 100 RBIs – even with their injuries. Nick Castellanos, J.D. Martinez, and Justin Upton should have significantly more RBIs. But, Victor Martinez cannot get around the bases with speed.

Unless the men who follow him hit home runs or doubles, Martinez has difficulty getting more than one base at a time. Of the 65 runs that Victor scored in 2016, 27 were his own home runs. The rest, only 38, eventually resulted from his 160 hits and the batters behind him. His lack of speed on the bases prevents the runners behind him from getting any extra bases, too. This makes Martinez a liability. (Look at the discomfort in his low body when he swings and the hits that should have been doubles):

Can the Problem Be Solved?

It all depends on what Victor Martinez has been doing in the off season. Right now, his biggest strength is the fact that he can hit home runs. And, he can hit them in clutch situations. But, not every situation is like that.  In Detroit, he has consistently been the fourth hitter, providing protection against Miguel Cabrera. Recently released videos show that Cabrera is in top shape – looking thinner than he has in quite a while. Is Victor working out as hard as Miggy? Is he taking good care of his body – especially those knees? No videos have been released by the Tigers, the Martinez-camp, or the MLB. In fact, no news has been released about Victor Martinez and his off-season workouts, at all.

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Cabrera still will need protection from the walk, so he will still need to have a big hitter follow him. Fortunately, the Tigers have a few of those: Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez, Castellanos, and maybe even James McCann (if his off-season hitting helps him make better contact.) But, placing Victor behind Cabrera in 2016 didn’t do either men any favors.

It might be time to consider moving Martinez elsewhere in the lineup. Unfortunately, he cannot be before the players who make the most of their base running like Ian Kinsler or Jose Iglesias. The same goes for whoever plays center field. It might actually be in the Tigers best interest to put Victor in front of Cabrera. By doing this, Cabrera can hit the home runs that will bring in Martinez. Otherwise, Brad Ausmus should move Martinez down in the lineup. This way, he can have runners on base to score wit his home runs – rather than hitters trying to move him.

Next: Are the Tigers Turning Away from Mediocre Veterans?

Instead of putting players where they always have been, the Tigers need to maximize their players’ strengths. And weaknesses. Victor Martinez does still have strengths at the plate and in his tough baseball mind, but his weaknesses on the bases are just too predictable.