The first big domino of the Red Sox offseason fell over the weekend with J.D. Martinez declining to use his opt-out clause in order to hit the open market, instead remaining under contract through the 2022 season. He could still be traded, of course, but at this point it seems like he is sticking around for next season to hit in the middle of this lineup. With that in mind, it’s worth zooming in on his season a bit and looking at some of the peaks and valleys from his 2021.
After a blazing hot April, Martinez seemed prime to rebound from his odd 2020 season. He started off the year by hitting six home runs in the team’s first 16 games, a power stroke that seemingly disappeared for him during the video review-less previous season. Martinez finally came back to earth in the first few weeks of April, but this did not stop him from having what was overall a strong season.
Though he seemed to have plenty of up and down streaks, Martinez still posted an above-average wOBA for every month of the season, as seen in the table below.
J.D Martinez’s 2021 wOBA and wRC+ by Month
This overall success was obviously beneficial for the Sox, but let’s take a look at some of the funkier stretches of Martinez’s 2021 campaign.
The first one, obviously is his blazing-hot start to the year.
Martinez begins the year with a 16-game stretch posting an insane 241 wRC+— a mark 2.4 times higher than the league average. At this time he led the team in home runs, wRC+, wOBA, and slugging percentage. With this burst out of the gate, Martinez instills greater confidence into the fans surrounding his skill level and capabilities as a player.
Unfortunately, the next stretch does not have this same positive spin:
During this bad stretch for Martinez, the Sox slugger collected 14 strikeouts compared to only one walk during the same period of time. Along with this, Martinez still collected four doubles and one home run. Unfortunately, it looks like his efforts, despite the extremely high strikeout percentage, did not contribute much to the team, as he had an almost 50% below average wRC+ mark for the two-week period.
Against the Baltimore Orioles:
Martinez, known for destroying the Orioles during his time in Boston, had a field day against the Birds this year. Posting an almost .400 average over a 17-game stretch is no easy feat— and neither is hitting eight homers against a single team, especially hitting three of them in a single, nine-inning game.
Against the New York Yankees:
Unfortunately for both the Sox and Martinez, the sluggers splits nearly flipped in his 17 games against New York. Powerful Martinez lost his stroke in these games, acquiring “only” six extra-base hits in 59 at-bats. Again, his K% skyrocketed, while his BB% dipped below league average (though 9.1% was still, somehow, a higher mark than his season average!).
Finishing off on a high note, let’s look at the last stretch of Martinez’s season where he continued to impress the Fenway Faithful:
September 15-Oct 4:
Amassing eight RBI and an above-average .364 wOBA, Martinez led Boston through a rough stretch of games in order to secure a playoff berth. He lowered his K%, maintained his season-long above-average wOBA, and allowed the team to impress Fenway with both AL Wild Card and AL Division Series titles.
All in all, Sox fans should be more than happy to deal with these dark stretches with Martinez if he continues to uphold long-term success and high marks. Obviously, Martinez’s success couldn’t compare to the perennial All-Star youngster duo of Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, but he still finished the year with strong numbers and was one of the best hitters on the team. At the end of October, Martinez ranked fourth on the team in WAR, third in wOBA, third in wRC+, and second in SLG. Even if it wasn’t everyone’s plan A to have him back, it’s hard to be too upset about that production, even with some peaks and valleys.
Numbers and screenshots from FanGraphs.