Victor Martinez came through on Monday night with a double in the tenth inning to win the game for the Tigers. But some folks are still disappointed with his 2013 season. Is his performance to blame for the Tigers' unexpectedly small lead in the division?
Victor had an excellent 2011 season. His .330 batting average was among the best. Batting average is a weak measure of performance, but producing 103 RBI's was surely somewhat valuable. He had little power with only 12 home runs. Regardless of the statistics, the impression was that if you pitched around Miguel Cabrera, Victor would punish the misdeed.
Victor was out all of 2012, but Prince Fielder was added to protect Cabrera. Cabrera's walks declined from 108 to 66 in his Triple Crown season. However protecting Fielder became the business of Delmon Young. Victor is thankfully back for 2013, but his low .249 batting average is leading to weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Rob wrote a month ago that Martinez was heating up. At first blush, June did not turn out that way. His batting average was up but still only .240. However his on base percentage was up significantly to .322, and the power was returning with a slugging percentage of .400 due to four home runs. And in July he has been on fire with a triple slash line of .378/.439/.568 (batting average / on-base percentage / slugging percentage). The last 28 days have seen a triple slash line of .281/.364/.417, much closer to his usual output.
Victor is striking out in 11.6% of his plate appearances, in line with a career rate of 11.1% and less often than either Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder. He is walking in 8.3% of plate appearances, near his career rate of 9.4%. The simplest answer to why his first half was not typical was that the balls just did not fall in. He did not "hit ‘em where they ain't".
Victor had a great season in 2011 and produced 103 RBI's, but expecting a repeat of a batting average of .330 and OPS of .850 was unreasonable. The numbers indicate that he is making contact as he has in the past. The eye test says he is often making hard contact. The past month has shown the numbers close to what we expect. Going forward I expect results close to his career numbers, only slightly reduced for age. Pitchers will become more aware of the risks of pitching around Prince Fielder, and Prince should see more fastballs. Ultimately Prince will be the one to most benefit from Victor's presence, as his lack of production is a larger concern.
If you need a diversion from the day-to-day grind of the season, but want to read a great article about baseball, try this about amateur baseball in Brooklyn.