The Boston Red Sox won 93 games last season despite a relatively anemic offense as it pertained to power.
This season, Boston is running away with the American League East, is a lock for 100 wins and should end the year as the best regular-season team in franchise history. In the process, they’ve clubbed the 10th-most home runs in Major League Baseball to help pad baseball’s best team OPS.
And one of the biggest differences between the 2017 Red Sox and this year’s club is, of course, slugger J.D. Martinez.
The right-handed masher is making a legitimate push for the Triple Crown, and even if he falls short, he’ll still have one of the best offensive seasons in the club’s storied history: .331 batting average, 40 home runs, 121 RBIs, 1.034 OPS — and on and on.
But what Martinez has done outside the batter’s box has been just as important.
“How much better J.D. has made our team, it’s not just by the home runs and RBIs and hits,” Red Sox pitcher David Price told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. “It’s what he does in the hitting meetings, in the dugout, in the video room. During games, he’s talking to guys about their approach, what to look for against certain guys. You can’t put a number on it.”
This certainly isn’t a new revelation. Red Sox fans throughout the season have seen the stories about how Martinez prepares for games and how obsessive he is about his batting practice. It’s not surprising those sorts of things are rubbing off on his teammates.
According to Rosenthal’s story, Martinez did the same thing for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, too, in a much shorter amount of time. Martinez played in just 62 games with Arizona after the trade deadline, but he certainly made an impact.
“We had a good clubhouse last year before he came. I feel like he transformed it when he showed up,” D-Backs general manager Mike Hazen told Rosenthal. “That is a pretty hard thing to do for someone who was added at the deadline, to jump into the fray like that. There is an obvious presence in the box. But even beyond that, this guy is a master of hitting. The amount of study, work, attention to mechanics — it’s every day. It’s every at-bat — every at-bat.”
For as important as Martinez might be, he alone isn’t responsible for the Red Sox’s power-up. Alex Cora and his staff — including hitting coach Tim Hyers — both deserve credit for instilling a more aggressive approach for Red Sox hitters at the plate.
So while outfielder Mookie Betts probably is the AL MVP favorite from the Red Sox, there’s no denying Martinez’s value to the team, too.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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