Victor Martinez: “I have no excuses”
Spring Training wasn’t really that long ago, was it?
That’s when Victor Martinez seemed like he hadn’t missed a beat, let alone a season. His timing at the plate appeared fine back then, though he dipped into a slump in the final week of camp. Even when he wasn’t getting hits, he was making solid contact. He ended up batting .253 (19-for-75). The one thing missing was power (three doubles and one home run out of 19 hits), but that wasn’t a particular worry given the time he had missed.
After 66 at-bats over the first three weeks of the regular season, Martinez is batting
.167 (11-for-66) .182 (12-for-66 after his hard-hit grounder that hit off M’s shortstop Brendan Ryan Wednesday was changed from an E6 to a single). His one extra-base hit was a double in his three-hit game at Seattle. After making consistent contact all month, he struck out five times in the three-game series against the Angels.
He does not, however, want to hear about a lost season and trying to get his timing back.
“I have no excuses,” Martinez said.
That said, Martinez feels like he has been swinging the bat better than the results would suggest.
“I can’t really control what happens after I hit the ball,” Martinez said. “I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball good.”
He definitely had some well-hit outs on the opening homestand, flying out to the warning track in the home opener and getting robbed of a hit on a line drive to Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner the next day. After going hitless the day after that, he cut open his thumb on the bat rack. He also flew out twice to the left-field warning track in Seattle on Wednesday.
His at-bat with the bases loaded in the ninth inning Sunday suggests he’s still putting good at-bats together. He fouled back three fastballs and worked into a 2-2 count after falling into an 0-2 hole. He couldn’t center one of them to send back up the middle, instead flying out to left.
It’s early, but so far, Martinez is seeing a higher percentage of fastballs than he has in the past, about nine percent over 2011 according to fangraphs. Some of that could simply be a product of the pitchers he’s facing or the early-season cold weather that prompts some pitchers to go to the fastball and try to jam hitters, but some could also be a part of the strategy against him early on.
Make no mistake, the Tigers are going to give Martinez every opportunity to get his timing back this season. Whether he hits for power is almost irrelevant; remember, he drove in 103 runs two years ago with just 12 home runs but 40 doubles. Remember, too, that it doesn’t take much run production to provide an upgrade over what Detroit received from the DH spot last season. Still, a productive Martinez is better than the vast majority of designated hitters in the league, which is all the more reason to give him time to get there.