Kendrys Morales destroyed a baseball on Wednesday evening. He has done this numerous times for the Kansas City Royals this season. If arbitrary distances are your bag, he has 17 home runs, a healthy total for a switch-hitting designated hitter with a 127 wRC+. If you're up on the newfangled StatCast lingo, the numbers are probably even better. Morales has been a heck of a find for the Royals after they declined Billy Butler's club option last offseason.
This isn't about Kendrys Morales. But we should hope that it will be.
Victor Martinez, another switch-hitting DH, is having an awful season. The 36-year-old is hitting .234/.292/.354 with nine home runs and 53 RBI in 404 plate appearances. Among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances as a DH this season, Martinez's 72 wRC+ is the second-lowest in baseball. This is quite the contrast from 2014, when Martinez led the American League with a 167 wRC+. If you trust wins above replacement (WAR), Martinez has been six wins worse in 2015 than in 2014.
There are reasons for this. For one, he's 36 years old, and baseball players don't last forever. Martinez also had arthroscopic knee surgery in early February, cutting out nearly all of his preparation for the season in spring training. Many feel that the Tigers rushed him back to action too quickly, as he quite literally limped along to a .578 OPS before being placed on the disabled list in May.
There was a brief glimmer of hope after Martinez came off the DL, but it didn't last. Since the All-Star break, Victor is batting .186/.236/.292, which is actually worse than what he did before his DL stint.
So where does Morales fit into this? After declining a qualifying offer from the Seattle Mariners following the 2013 season, the 32-year-old missed the first two months of 2014 due to a lack of interest from other clubs. No one wanted to forfeit a first-round pick to sign a one-dimensional DH like Morales. He missed spring training, and all of April and May. When he finally signed with the Minnesota Twins in June, it was too late. Morales hit .218/.274/.338 in 401 plate appearances for the Twins and Mariners.
If you look at his numbers this season, however, it's as if 2014 never happened. Morales is batting .288/.354/.471 this season, numbers slightly better than his very respectable career figures. His 2013 and 2015 seasons are comparable, and the Royals look to have a valuable hitter locked up at a bargain price for the next couple seasons.
While this comparison has its flaws -- Morales was never injured, for one -- there are some similarities in their peripheral numbers. Both Martinez and Morales saw a drop in walk rate during their down years, as well as a precipitous decline in power.
Morales maintained a relatively stable strikeout rate, but Martinez has seen his rise to its highest since the 2007 season. His swinging strike rate is its highest since 2006, and is nearly double what he managed in 2014. He has also seen his strikeout rate rise as the season has gone on, indicating that, among other things, his timing is out of whack.
Morales didn't demonstrate the same swing-and-miss tendencies last season, so this is potentially where the comparison falls apart. However, the other factors -- missing spring training and a chunk of the season, a drop in walk rate -- help support the idea that if Morales can come back and be effective in 2015, maybe Victor Martinez can do the same in 2016.