By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
The question, from the beginning, was whether J.D. Martinez’s power would translate to Fenway Park. Let us now state unequivocally that it has.
In case you missed it, Martinez hit two home runs on Sunday, bringing his season total to 15 – tied with teammate Mookie Betts and Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado for the major league lead. While Martinez’ first home was a cheapie that wrapped around the right field foul pole at Fenway Park, let there be no doubt about the second – a 443-foot blow dart that cleared the 420-foot mark at Fenway Park and landed in what might be regarded as un-groomed terrain.
Impressed? You should be. Not many home runs are hit to that part of Fenway Park, either by right-handed batters or lefties. But it’s just one home run. What’s more impressive, as always, is the consistency with which Martinez drives the ball out of the ballpark to the right-field side of second base, especially at a ballpark (Fenway) that is not necessarily favorable to righties in that regard.
Before the season, while the Red Sox told us they believed Martinez’ power would translate, even the player expressed some doubt. But as baseball nears the end of its second full month, here’s a look at Martinez’s spray chart this season on solely his home runs.
Pretty amazing, right? Nine of Martinez’s 15 home runs have come to the right side of second base. One can only wonder it that reality might eventually lead pitchers to try a peculiar strategy: pitching Martinez inside at Fenway Park and daring him to take on the left field wall.
Over the weekend, in case you missed it, Hall of Famer Frank Thomas (who knows a thing or two about hitting) called Martinez the best hitter in baseball since the start of last season. Thomas, of course, was that rare blend of power and skill, and using those guidelines, here are the only hitters in baseball (minimum: 500 plate appearances) who have managed both a .300 average and a .900 since the start of last year. You might want to note that Martinez’ totals cover 163 games, essentially a full season.
Now, does this mean the Red Sox made the right choice in signing Martinez as a free-agent rather than making a real run at Giancarlo Stanton by trade? In the short term, maybe. In the long term, we won’t know for years. But what we do know is that Martinez thus far has done exactly what the Red Sox have asked him to do – change their lineup by providing a middle-of-the-order presence that leaves opposing pitchers perplexed when it comes to getting him out.
And the kind of presence that is a perfect complement to the supremely talented Betts.
You can hear Mazz weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program, and from 6-7 p.m. on The Baseball Reporters. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.