2014 Player Previews: DH Victor Martinez

After missing 2012 with a torn ACL, Victor Martinez rebounded at the plate, despite a slow start. With Prince Fielder gone to Texas, there will be more pressure on V-Mart to provide a strong presence in the heart of the order. His power might not be what it once was, but in a contract year and two years from surgery, Martinez should still spray the ball around the field with authority.

Victor Martinez 2013 In Review

2013 Stats
Detroit 668 0.9 .340 .301 .313 .323 .355 .430 9% 0/2 -0 -15

Coming off of ACL surgery, it was a slow ramp up returning to the batter's box for Martinez. The first half of the year in fact, he hit just .258 with a wRC+ that was negative. But his average on balls in play was just .269, and the way he was swinging the bat, he looked certain to break out of the slump sooner or later. And that's exactly what he did, hitting .361 over the season's second half to finish the year over .300, with a strong advanced metrics across the board as well.

His ISO finished the year at only .13, a drop from prior years, but something that could well be the result of a lack of drive power related to the knee surgery. As the year progressed and he moved further away from that issue, the power numbers picked up, as he finished the second half with a .500 slugging percentage.

Martinez maintained a solid 8% walk rate, while he struck out only about 9% of the time, meaning that .313 average on balls in play (and the .323 expected average on balls in play) played up, despite hitting only 26 home runs over two seasons with the Tigers. So, despite the tale of two halves, the latter half was more likely a balancing act, and the .300 average, which he's also produced for the length of his career, is legit.

Martinez's base running skills are below average still, and he's not a threat to swipe a base. So long as he can hit .300 and get on base and hit the ball around the diamond though, that won't matter too much, especially given that the Tigers reduced the base cloggers they had in the everyday lineup.

Martinez was good in his limited action at first base, and while below average defensively at catcher, provides the benefit of a very good bat for the position, for above average there.

2014 Player Projections

2014 Advanced Projections
Service PA WAR BA BAbip OBP SLG wOBA D-Val
ZiPS 516 0.9 .291 .300 .341 .425 .328 0
Steamer 583 1.3 .293 .304 .354 .445 .346 -15
Oliver 600 0.4 .294 .306 .348 .417 .333 -16

The 2014 projections on Martinez are consistent in some areas, but not as consistent elsewhere.

They all expect his average to be right around .290, not quite the career .300 that he's produced, but still very close to it, along with an average on balls in play right around .300, likely to account for an expected downtick in the quality of the balls he put in play. That however is counter to his expected average on balls in play, so it's an assumption to watch that might swing in the other direction.

The power performance between the sources differs quite a bit, with Steamer being the most optimistic, expecting a rebounded ISO up above .15, while Oliver and ZiPS expect power production more in line with his 2013 season. If the knee injury still limited him in 2013, the rebound to 2011 levels would be fair – if however the decline was more due to aging, the continued dropoff might be more appropriate.

Defensively, there's not much expectation as he's still likely to be the designated hitter most days. In some ways, his defense serves only as an added benefit, that he can give Miguel Cabrera the occasional day off at first base, and can catch when necessary, which it could be, especially during interleague play.

Overall, the Tigers are still going to rely heavily on Martinez to be a run producer from the middle of the lineup, likely batting cleanup after Cabrera. Given Martinez is in the last year of his contract and is still at the age where he should have a few years left, he has every reason to be focused and give the Tigers a strong season at the plate.

2014 Projections come from three different sources; ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver, all publicly available via FanGraphs.com and presented for information purposes only. ZiPS projections come from Dan Szymborski, Steamer from Steamer Projections, a trio of independent academic researchers, and Oliver Projections from Brian Cartwright.

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