DETROIT -- J.D. Martinez is having an All-Star worthy season. Offensively that's not hard to see, particularly after the monster June he had. But defensively, Martinez has been a pleasant surprise. Most hoped for replacement value when Torii Hunter went to the Minnesota Twins after the 2014 season. And Yoenis Cespedes, a legit four wins above replacement player, was the only Detroit Tigers outfielder expected to excel. Instead, the team has two solid defenders.
After a surprisingly good offensive season, there were questions about whether Martinez would regress in 2015. Retooling and then maintaining one's swing is difficult. During spring training no one saw the regression most dreaded. But in April, J.D. struggled, and struggled hard. He was fighting what he said at the time were old habits, ones that existed during spring despite the absence of the signs. Then, something clicked and Martinez went on a tear. And when the calendar turned to June, he exploded offensively.
What's wrong with J.D. Martinez?
Martinez tore the cover off the ball, particularly in the last two week of June. He finished the month batting .290/.320/.677 with 11 home runs, 26 RBI, and three doubles. What stands out, obviously, are the home runs. Martinez's home run total that month nearly tripled the second-highest number hit on the team, by Miguel Cabrera, who had just four. He walked just three times, two of which were intentional. If there was one fault, it was that he didn't walk enough. He had the third-most hits on the team, with 27.
In the last 14 games, though, Martinez turned it up a notch, knocking 10 of his 11 home runs and 21 of the 26 RBI for the month, in his last 14 games, batting .345/.377/1.052 in that time. He had eight multi-hit games in June, and his 11 homers were third-most in club history, and the most since Mickey Tettleton had 11 in 1993. Seven of his 20 home runs this year have come in the seventh inning or later, second-most in Major League Baseball. Only the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista has more, with eight.
Martinez raised his performance from .216/.281/.432 with six home runs, just 15 RBI and a whopping 41 strikeouts through May 8 when he struggled, to now, where he's currently batting .275/.330/535 with 20 home runs and 48 RBI for the season. Since bouncing back from his early struggles Martinez has been batting .312/.359/.606 with 14 home runs, 33 RBI, and eight doubles with 10 walks.
As good as he has been offensively, however, what has gone unnoticed is how good Martinez is defensively. In terms of defensive runs saved, Martinez has a 3 DRS. That's the highest DRS in the American League for a right fielder, sixth-highest in baseball, and ninth-highest of all outfield players for AL. He and Angels' center fielder Mike Trout both have the same DRS, for perspective.
Martinez's Outfield Arm Runs -- the amount of runs above average an outfielder saves with their arm by preventing runners from advancing -- is 2.9, eighth-best in MLB. Teammate Cespedes is second-best, with 4.4 -- another Tigers player deserving of an All-Star nomination. Martinez has made just two errors -- his second not coming until July 1 -- and has eight assists, which is a tie with Rays' Steven Souza for second-most in the major leagues for a right fielder.
His hot streak with the bat earned Martinez the nickname "Country Strong" by Fox Sports Detroit's Rod Allen on Tuesday, a nickname given to former Tiger Marcus Thames by Allen about a decade ago. And by the way he's been hitting, Martinez has earned every bit of it.
Martinez has been more than just one of the best players on the Tigers, he has been one of the best outfielders in all of baseball. Whether he's voted onto the All-Star roster via fans -- unlikely as he sits ninth in voting -- or by the players, Martinez deserves a roster spot in the 2015 MLB All-Star Game. But even if he doesn't make it, his performance has been reminiscent of an All-Star. And the Tigers got away with highway robbery yet again.