While Detroit Tigers fans fondly remember the unforgettable return of J.D. Martinez on August 3, the popular right fielder is dealing with the criticism he received from big names in baseball.
This is unfortunate news for J.D. Martinez, who in 2015 was in the running for a Gold Glove for his work in the outfield.
Jeff Seidel with the Detroit Free Press shared Martinez’s thoughts on his low analytical ranking: “I’m not proud of the way I played last year.”
Ranking at the Bottom
It is difficult to think of Martinez being ranked at the bottom of any list, but his defensive stats were not up to par. He’s never been the best outfielder in the game, but last year his numbers were not good. In fact, he had a -26 rating in total defensive runs saved above average (Rdrs/yr). That means that his performance in right field allowed an extra 26 runs.
The Fielding Bible gave the top right fielder honors to Mookie Betts who had the opposite total defensive runs saved above average. His 28 rating in right field means that Betts was responsible for preventing an extra 28 runs. That number puts Martinez’s to shame.
Better Training in the Off-Season
But, in typical Martinez style, he’s not wasting time worrying about being stuck in that ranking. He’s focusing on bettering those numbers. And, he’s not alone. According to Seidel, the Tigers have been working on his defense. Martinez said: “This year, I felt great, so I was able to push myself a lot more. I was in the field a lot more. I started throwing a lot earlier.”
Martinez’s numbers in the outfield are a sign of a bigger problem: the whole outfield has struggles on defense. The Tigers still do not know who will play center field. And, the two corner outfielders are not speedy players who make much difference. In left field, Justin Upton earned himself a defensive-runs-saved-above-average (Rdrs/yr) rating of one in 2016. For comparison purposes, Yoenis Cespedes had an 8 in the same statistic in left field last season. Starling Marte won the Fielding Bible award; he had a Rdrs/yr of 26.
Lack of Speed Hurts
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The lack of speed in the outfield does hurt the team defensively. Speed is the key to success in any outfield, especially in the sprawl of Comerica Park. But, when you get down to it, there is only one way to win a game and that is by scoring the more runs than the other team.
Fortunately, Martinez and Upton are good at scoring runs. Upton had a 2.0 oWar in 2016 and Martinez had a 4.1 oWar. Martinez has continually earned oWar numbers in the fours since arriving in Detroit; his numbers in Houston were negative.
Stolen Bases Show Deeper Issues
Unfortunately, Martinez was injured for a significant portion of 2016. And, he’s never been known for his speed. But, then again, not many of the current Tigers have notable speed. Martinez stole one base in 2016. As a whole, the Tigers stole 58 bases in 2016 with Cameron Maybin (15) and Ian Kinsler (14) stealing the most. Now that Maybin is gone, the speed numbers could be even worse. (Remember all those times the Tigers were thrown out on the base paths in 2016.)
It is up to the players to better themselves and to play to their full ability – every single out in every single game. We saw what the Tigers could do with an injury-plagued season and less-than-mediocre fielding and running (don’t even get me started on the pitching). When a player reaches the bottom, there is only one way to go: up. Barring any injuries, my prediction is that Martinez will improve in the field in 2017.