At the risk of stating the obvious, there are two types of hitters in baseball: the kind that hit for average and the kind that hit for power. The truly special ones are the ones that can do both.
On paper, J.D. Martinez certainly looks like the latter.
That said, let’s continue to dispel one of the great myths about Fenway Park, at least as it dates to relatively prehistoric times. The park isn’t built for right-handed hitters, despite the proximity of the left field wall. Any pitcher with half a brain would do the obvious against right-handed power hitters at Fenway – which is to say that he would pitch those batters away. Given the space in right-center field (400-420 feet) and right field (380), good luck trying to hit it out of the ballpark.
Seriously, think about it. In relatively modern history, how many of the Red Sox’ truly best hitters have been right-handed? Jim Rice. Nomar Garciaparra. Manny Ramirez. That’s really about it. All three of those players had the ability to drive the ball into the bullpens in right and right-center fields, which left opposing pitchers with relatively limited options when it came time to getting them out in key situations. (By contrast, think of the long line of Red Sox lefties who have excelled over the years: Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Fred Lynn, Wade Boggs, Mo Vaughn, David Ortiz. And the list goes on.)
Earlier this week on the air, we asked the question: how would Martinez’ power translate to Fenway Park? Thanks to a useless tool on MLB.com, we were able to take a spray chart of the 45 home runs Martinez hit last season and lay them over a diagram of Fenway. Here’s what we found:
Just to clarify, those red dots are home runs. Based on this diagram, the large majority of Martinez’ home runs would have landed in or over the bullpens. By my count, only six or seven home runs would have been on or inside the lines. Even if we aim on the high side there, Martinez would still have hit somewhere around 37-38 home runs last year if he played all of his games at Fenway.
Will that trend continue in 2018? Impossible to know. Martinez has never had consecutive 30-home run seasons. He has never had the security of a multi-year deal like the five-year, $110 million contract he just signed. Further, there were more home runs hit overall in baseball last season that during any other year in history which certainly suggested the ball was juiced. Additionally, he played in hitter-friendly Arizona, where the ball indisputably carries better.
As we all know, the Red Sox didn’t need another good hitter in their lineup. They needed a great hitter. If Martinez can replicate what he did last season – or even come close – the 2018 Red Sox will be in business, particularly against stacked lineups like those in Houston and New York. If he doesn’t, the Red Sox will look a lot like they did in 2016 and 2017, when they were a good team – and not a great one – in a postseason where greatness usually reigns.
So will Martinez translate to Fenway? Time will tell. In the interim, pay attention to those long fly balls and line drives he hits to the opposite field at Fenway.
More specifically, pay attention to where they land.
— By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub