Boston Red Sox

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Once J.D. Martinez and Giancarlo Stanton donned the jerseys for their respective new teams, the debate began. And Martinez vs. Stanton is a debate that will rage on like a wildfire for, at the very least, the next 4-5 months.

Realistically, this argument is actually years from being over. But so far, Martinez and the Red Sox have jumped to an early lead.

The advantage for Boston lies in Martinez’s torrid month of May, which has seen the left fielder/DH bat .351 with 10 home runs and 19 RBIs in just 19 games. On the season, he’s batting .343 (second only to Mookie Betts in the American League) with 15 homers, 41 RBIs, and a robust 1.077 OPS also second to Betts). He’s legitimately been one of the best hitters in baseball so far.

As for Stanton? He has hit 11 home runs. Provided he plays a full season, he remains likely to hit 40-50 bombs. But he’s also batting a not-particularly-good .263, which is right in line with his .268 career average, and a solid-but-unspectacular .872 OPS. And while Stanton has walked more than Martinez (19 walks to Martinez’s 16), he’s struck out 60 times, compared to 50 for Martinez. Stanton has also made worse contact; his contact rate on pitches in the strike zone sits at 75.1 percent, compared to 80.2 percent for Martinez, according to FanGraphs. Martinez has made better contact over the course of his career, and that’s coming to fruition early on.

Giancarlo Stanton of the New York Yankees walks back to the dugout after striking out for the second time in as many at-bats against Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The Red Sox won 14-1. (Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Giancarlo Stanton of the New York Yankees walks back to the dugout after striking out for the second time in as many at-bats against Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The Red Sox won 14-1. (Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Perhaps a little more alarming for the Yankees is Stanton’s relative lack of hard contact. Though historically a better hard-contact hitter over the course of his career, Stanton has dipped behind Martinez to start the season. Stanton’s hard-hit ball rate is 45.1 percent on the season. Martinez? A whopping 54.3 percent, against just 4.7 percent on contact classified as “soft.”

Another check mark for Martinez goes toward where he’s hitting the ball. He’s done a better job of spraying the ball around the park, particularly to the opposite field. Martinez has hit 36.2 percent of pitches to the opposite field, compared to just 25.9 percent for Stanton.

The biggest difference between the two players, as it relates to their respective teams, remains the financial commitments. Not that you should personally care about the money, but the Red Sox certainly do. Martinez is on the books for five years and $110 million, but can opt out after the 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons. Stanton, meanwhile, is almost entirely locked in for the next 10 years for $285 million. He can opt out after 2020, but he’d probably have to put together another healthy, MVP-caliber campaign for that to be a possibility.

It is fair to mention the standings. The Yankees and Red Sox are in a virtual tie atop the American League, but New York holds the advantage in percentage points (30-13, .698 vs. 32-15, .681). So maybe it’s all moot.

May 20, 2018, Boston, MA, USA: Boston Red Sox right fielder J.D. Martinez rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the Baltimore Orioles during the fifth inning at Fenway Park. (Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

May 20, 2018, Boston, MA, USA: Boston Red Sox right fielder J.D. Martinez rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the Baltimore Orioles during the fifth inning at Fenway Park. (Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Still, with the way the Stanton/Martinez rhetoric reverberated through just about every corner of the New England media, you’d think Martinez was on the verge of busting out in his first season while Stanton would be launching bombs into the Yankee Stadium stands left and right. The way a lot of people in the region, including here at 98.5 The Sports Hub, were expecting Martinez to perform, it’s only fair to point out that he’s wholly exceeded those expectations thus far.

Stanton, on the other hand? Not a disaster, but pretty meh by the standard he’s set for himself and the standard in the New York sports market.

This is merely Chapter 1 of the Stanton vs. Martinez discussion, and the chapter still isn’t over. It could take just one hot streak by Stanton to give the slugger and the Bronx bombers the upper hand. But so far, the Red Sox hold the slight advantage. And it’s at least a promising sign that this will be a legitimate debate for months, even years to come.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.