Can we just clone the 2011 version of Victor Martinez and call it a day? If not, we might want to lower our gaze a bit, especially considering he hasn't played baseball in about 16 months.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Victor Martinez played out of his mind in 2011. Then he missed all of 2012. Now, some fans think we'll get the same Martinez back in 2013. My take? We definitely won't, but that's because Martinez was simply too good in 2011.
What happened last season?
In Martinez's case, not much. He tore his ACL just over a year ago, putting his season in jeopardy before half of Michigan had even taken down their Christmas trees. While the injury was somewhat of a blessing in disguise for the Tigers -- they signed some guy named Prince Fielder in case you didn't notice -- Martinez undoubtedly would have rather stayed healthy in 2012. There was talk of Martinez rejoining the Tigers late last season, but the training staff made a smart decision by shutting him down for the entire year instead of risking re-injury.
And hey, had he returned, it would have denied us the unbridled joy of seeing Delmon Young set the franchise record for home runs in the playoffs. Some things just happen for a reason.
Prior to all that, however, Martinez was nearly perfect* during the 2011 season, hitting .330/.380/.470 in 145 games. Those who initially questioned the decision to sign Martinez (/raises hand) had eaten their fair share of crow and then some by the end of the year.
*Or as perfect as you can be in a profession where a 30% success rate gets you paid millions of dollars. When I was in school, they call that "Take this note home to your mom and cower in fear when she says 'Wait until your dad gets home.'"
What needs to happen in 2013?
As far as Martinez is concerned, staying healthy is priority number one. This isn't to say that he's going to go out and re-injure his ACL, but instead making sure that any imbalances created by said injury don't result in another injury elsewhere. After that, maintaining his excellent 2011 production would be spectacular, but probably unreasonable to expect. Martinez may or may not get off to a slow start, but I'd expect his batting average to hover around his career .303 mark by the end of the year, not the crazy awesome .330 he hit in '11. He won't put up an Austin Jackson-esque .343 BABIP again, especially if the ACL injury sapped even more of his non-existent speed. Not to mention, putting up over 100 RBIs with just 12 home runs is a pretty rare feat. Expect Martinez to knock in around 80-90 guys unless (a) hits more home runs, or (b) the 1-5 hitters are actually the offensive juggernaut they seem to be on paper.
2011 stats and 2013 projections
The part where I predict pretty much the same thing Bill James does
As we saw last season with Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta, the crash-landing after a career year can be quite abrupt. While I don't think we will see that type of nosedive from a guy with Martinez's pedigree of consistency, there will likely be some sort of drop-off from his 2011 numbers. Still, it's not unreasonable to see him put up the numbers Bill James projects above. Even if he trails off from those figures a bit, he will still prove to be a massive upgrade from the DH slot a year ago.