If you believe the reports, J.D. Martinez took a bit of a pay cut to agree to a deal with the Boston Red Sox.
But one look at his swing explains why he should be eager to play in Boston this season.
The stats speak for themselves, as Martinez popped 45 home runs and 104 RBIs for the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks last season. There’s a reason for his success of late, though: A dogged commitment to putting the ball in the air.
Martinez is one of many sluggers to adopt a fly ball-heavy approach in recent seasons. Following a seven-homer campaign for the Houston Astros in 2013, the right-handed outfielder overhauled his swing in the 2014 offseason, focusing on generating a higher launch angle.
The results were staggering: Martinez crushed 128 homers over his next four seasons, and his .574 slugging percentage since 2014 ranks second-best in Major League Baseball in that span, behind only Mike Trout.
The difference in his swing is evident. Even on this 2013 home run for Houston, Martinez uses virtually no stride and has a relatively compact swing.
Contrast that homer to this Martinez blast from 2015 with the Detroit Tigers:
Martinez significantly elongated his swing, taking a longer stride and incorporating a significant uppercut.
A right-handed bat with a healthy uppercut? Sounds like a perfect fit for Fenway Park, which boasts a certain Green Monster that measures just 310 feet down the left field line.
Here’s a look at Martinez’s 2017 spray chart, with all of his batted balls in play overlayed onto Fenway Park (courtesy of Baseball Savant):
The red dots signify Martinez’s home runs, while the yellow dots mark doubles and the pink dots mark outs. If Martinez had played all of his games at Fenway last year, he would have added 10 homers on his hits to left field alone, while his long balls would have landed somewhere on Lansdowne Street.
A look at his 2016 spray chart superimposed onto Fenway Park is even more striking, with the potential of a staggering 17 home runs added.
Sure, Martinez would have lost a few dingers to Fenway’s deep right field corner in both years, and some of those homers to left field might have been doubles off the Monster. It’s also worth noting the 30-year-old is far from a dead-pull hitter; in fact, 27 of his 48 home runs last season were hit to center or right field. Finally, baseball games aren’t played in a vacuum, and he’ll have to adjust from the air-conditioned comfort of Chase Field to an outdoor park with occasionally harsh conditions.
But Martinez adapted just fine going from Houston to Detroit early in his career, and nearly all of the opposite-field homers he hit in 2017 would have left Fenway Park. In short: The move from Arizona to Boston should be a power boon for the veteran slugger, who has perfected a swing that appears well-designed to launch baseballs over the Monster.
Thumbnail photo via Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports Images