By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – The numbers speak for themselves. Detroit Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez now has 42 hits in his last 30 games. Over 51 games total for the Tigers, Martinez has a batting average of .329 and an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of 1.005.
“What he’s doing right now is crazy,” right fielder Torii Hunter said. “This is something I hadn’t seen in a while, since Trout and Miguel. His last couple weeks or three weeks, four weeks, his numbers are sick. It’s very impressive. Guy started off, he was the fourth, fifth outfielder, and now he’s an every-day player.”
Martinez’s presence has been especially helpful for the Tigers in the recent absence of five-time All-Star Victor Martinez, who until suffering an injury had even better statistics this season than superstar Miguel Cabrera. While Martinez started out as simply a replacement outfielder, taking turns with Rajai Davis in left and occasionally spelling Hunter in right, he has now become a regular in the lineup.
Martinez has demonstrated considerable power, with 22 of his 42 hits going for extra bases. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has been impressed by those numbers but by Martinez’s approach at the plate.
“A lot of people with power try to hit home runs, and I think J.D.’s becoming comfortable with the fact that he doesn’t need to try to hit home runs to hit home runs,” Ausmus said. “He can hit them to all parts of the field. When you realize that as a hitter, there’s not as much effort in your swing, and it makes it a lot easier for you to make contact, it makes it a lot easier to put the ball in play, and when you have the type of power he does, just putting the ball in play sometimes is going to lead to some home runs.”
Martinez recorded a .274 batting average as a rookie in 2011, a .241 average in 2012 and a .250 average in 2013. His resurgence has been no accident; he reworked his swing in the offseason and has been relentless in his efforts since then as well.
“He earned every bit of it,” Hunter said. “This is a guy behind the scenes that you guys don’t see that we see that works hard. He goes to the cage early, before everybody gets here, and he’s in the cage, and I come in, he’s sweating already. I definitely think that he worked his butt off. Private discipline equals public success.
“This guy, all he does is swing – swing, swing, and swing, swing,” Hunter added. “He’s constantly working on his craft, and it carries over on the field. I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon.”