clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Daily Red Sox Links: J.D. Martinez’s recent tear and the Oakland A’s

J.D. Martinez is hitting pitches hard and enjoying a blistering stretch of baseball. He will try to continue the run against a team that has had his number in the past. Plus Drew Pomeranz returns, Xander Bogaerts progresses and David Price talks ink.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

When you are the biggest addition to the roster during a Red Sox offseason, you are always going to face unfair expectations. If you stumble even a bit, you might be labeled as a failure and spend weeks, months and even years trying to win back your reputation. We’ve seem some players melt under the pressure and some take off to new heights. Regardless of how reasonable this pattern is, its there.

J.D. Martinez was heralded as the savior of the Red Sox’s power problems when he signed with Boston in February. Some even went so far as to argue that the Sox essentially matched the Yankees’ addition of Giancarlo Stanton for a much cheaper price. That debate will rage on for years to come as the Boston/New York rivalry returns to its heated roots.

With Boston’s attention laser-focused on Martinez really since the last out of the ALDS, the expectations for the newest member of the team had months and months to gestate before he even signed. They only intensified once he did.

Since the baseball-consuming public as a whole is generally privy to the small sample size police, when Martinez started slowly, there was no real panic, but it did hurt a little that he was still batting .227 on April 12, roughly two weeks into the season. That has all changed. Starting on April 13, Martinez has slashed .542/.538/.917 and hit two home runs, giving him a total of four on the season, which trails only Mookie Betts on the Sox.

Its not a surprise and it shouldn’t be. His underlying numbers have been good to great all season. He is squaring the ball up as well as he ever has, with a 65.3 percent hard contact rate, which is more than 15 points higher than it was a year ago. He also has slashed his soft contact rate by more than half while laying balls to all fields, pulling and pushing depending on pitch locations. Many of the shots the other way haven’t been little bloops either.

His BABIP is at an unsustainable .422 and that hard-hit rate will eventually fall back down to earth, especially since he is striking out 28.4 percent of the time and walking at a severely low 5.4 percent mark. Still, the last week or so has allowed Martinez to exhibit his ability to fulfill the prophecy that came down from Mount Fenway upon his signing.

But everybody has weaknesses. Even baseball players have them. It doesn’t seem like Martinez, or anyone on the Red Sox for that matter, have any, but his are out there. On Friday, the newest Boston slugger will have to face one.

What’s that weakness you ask? Why the pitching of the Oakland A’s.

Generally, citing a player’s history against a certain team is just a piece of trivia more than anything, but I was struck by Martinez’s struggles with Oakland in the past. In 118 career plate appearances, he has slashed .187/.254/.336 with nine extra-base hits and 27 strikeouts. That .187 batting average is his worst mark against any team he has at least 100 plate appearances against. He also has had some below the Mendoza Line run-ins with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals, but in smaller sample sizes. Plus, with both teams in the NL, he is largely safe from their clutches.

But the A’s are not a team he will be able to avoid with the Red Sox, specifically this weekend as the two squads kick off a three-game series in Oakland, where Martinez has slashed .136/.208/.227 in 48 career plate appearances. Martinez, who did not face Oakland in 2017, has flipped the switch after a slow start. Now he must defeat the next boss battle and hit against the A’s. Something tells me he’s up to the challenge.

Eduardo Rodriguez tossed six wonderful innings last night, striking out five over six innings of two-run ball. He is just the next Red Sox starter pitching like an ace. (Nick Cafardo; Boston Globe)

Drew Pomeranz will get his chance to join the club tonight. (Doug Padilla;

Xander Bogaerts is making great progress. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)

Bogaerts and Pomeranz’s returns are part of the reason that the Sox are somehow going to get better. (Daniel Poarch; BP Boston)

David Price has a number of tattoos. If you’ve ever wondered what they mean, here’s a rundown. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)

Joe Kelly has a chance to appeal his six-game suspension. (Peter Abraham; Boston Globe)

The Red Sox are still trying to figure out what to do with Tyler Thornburg in terms of his rehab work. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)