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The woes of J.D. Martinez and the effect of bad luck

He’s actually been good, you guys.

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

J.D. Martinez, one of the best bats in the major leagues, has been a main topic of discussion among Red Sox fans lately. However, uncharacteristically for Martinez, it has been for negative reasons. He’s been going through a tough July, batting just .235 with a wRC+ of 68 (league average of 100), which qualifies as his worst month since his first stint with the Detroit Tigers back in 2014. Even his season totals seem lower than usual; his OPS is sitting at .875, after being up over 1.000 for each of the past two years. So, what’s been going on? Has he gotten worse? Is he just aging? Not exactly.

Martinez seems to have been struck with some awful luck this year. Statcast has a large number of expected statistics, which eliminate the effect of defense, and focus solely on how well a batter is making contact with the ball. His xBA, xSLG, and xwOBA (weighted on-base average) are all in the top 3% of the league. But his actual BA, SLG, and wOBA are all lagging behind, resulting in his season looking much more lackluster than it actually is. In addition, his hard-hit rate and exit velocity are both still extremely high, and are in line with his previous dominant numbers in years past.

Let’s bring the Astros’ star OF, George Springer, into the equation. It’s been a tale of two different seasons for him and Martinez. Both players have the exact same xwOBA, .409, and their xBA and xSLG are within 15 points of each other, with Boston’s DH having the slight edge in both metrics. However, Springer has had much better batted ball luck, which has translated to an OPS of .980, and a wOBA 40 points higher than that of Martinez. Instead of having a career year like George Springer, Martinez has been in line with players like Derek Dietrich, Austin Meadows, and Gleyber Torres thanks to his unfriendly outcomes.

It’s important for Red Sox fans to realize just how good/valuable Martinez really is. Despite the discouraging on-field results, he’s been mashing the ball as well as any top-tier player in the league. It should not surprise a single person to see him dominate the final few months of the season. And when Martinez possibly opts out of his contract after this season, it should be fully expected that Dombrowski will offer him a contract similar to his current one, no matter what his end-of-season stats look like.