By Will Burchfield
J.D. Martinez set a Tigers record on Sunday by hitting his 10th home run of the season in his 22nd game. No one in franchise history has smacked more homers in the same time frame.
The previous record was held by Chris Shelton, who went deep nine times in his first 22 games in 2006.
“I don’t know any of this,” Martinez said, when told of his new record. “But thank you.”
He probably didn’t mean it. When it comes to his personal numbers, no matter how impressive or historic, Martinez prefers to stay in the dark.
“It doesn’t do anything for me, that’s why I hate hearing it. I don’t even want to hear it,” he said. “That’s why most players dodge it because you try to stay out of your own head. You just wanna go out there. Like I said, everyone wants (to know), ‘How does it feel? How does it this and that?’ To me, that’s how you get lost in it. It’s pointless to me.”
Martinez does his best to avoid his own statistics. In this day and age, of course, that’s not always easy.
“I don’t look at ‘em, I try not to. It’s hard because everywhere you look and every person you talk to, they let you know. To me it’s like, what am I doing now, what’s my next at-bat, what’s the next challenge?” he said.
Don’t mistake this for petulance. Don’t mistake this for a ballplayer bellyaching about the business. Martinez discusses his quirkiness with a smile and a forthright nature.
“It’s not a superstition, it’s just talking about it. It’s like, ‘Hey, hey, you know you got three hits today?'” said Martinez, playfully poking a reporter. “‘Hey, you know you got four? Hey, you know you got five? Hey, you know you got six?’ You’re like, ‘Dude, just stop talking about it, just leave me alone,’ because then you start thinking about. I hate when it gets brought up. That’s why every time somebody starts talking about it I always try to walk away.”
He’d rather think about what lies ahead. If the past is a closed book, the future is a clean slate.
“I focus on today and who we got and my next at-bat. If I got a home run my last at-bat, you know what? I still got three more at-bats today, so what does it matter? In this game, you guys (the media) are the first ones to tell us when we go 0-for, you’re the first ones to tell us when we do good. It’s, ‘Martinez, he’s red hot right now,’ but in a month he’s ice cold. It’s a game where what you’ve done is forgotten and what you’re doing now is more of what people care about,” he said.
The past isn’t a completely closed book — not for Martinez, at least. In his case, it’s quite literally an open book, one that includes detailed notes on every pitcher he’s ever faced. He keeps it with him throughout the season and consults it often. But he’s not interested in past results.
“I look at my book just to see how I saw a pitcher, not what I did off a pitcher. It’s, ‘Well this guy’s got a slider, this guy’s got a fastball,’ but there’s 9,000 people that throw 96 (mph) with a slider all through the minor leagues, so what separates them all? It’s because each one of their balls does something different, each one of their deliveries comes out differently. That’s what I jot down, is how I saw this guy,” he explained.
Martinez is a stern self-evaluator. He’s a student of the game.
Just don’t ask him to study his own stats.