The Detroit Tigers’ designated hitter Victor Martinez hasn’t been the same player that we saw last season. In 2014 Martinez led the league in on-base percentage (.409) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.974).
He was an All-Star for the fifth time in his then 12 years in the major leagues. V-Mart hit 32 home runs just eight behind American League home run champion Nelson Cruz AND he finished second to the Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout in the MVP voting (which to be honest was fair given that Trout had lost out on the award the previous TWO seasons to a member of the Tigers even though it wasn’t Martinez but Miguel Cabrera).
This season the 36-year-old Martinez is hitting just .216 (he batted .335 last season and .301 in 2013) with only one home run and 15 RBI. Obviously, something was not quite right with Martinez.
Tuesday the Tigers placed Martinez on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his left knee. It makes sense but it’s not a good sign for the star that signed a four-year $68 million contract extension with the club over the off-season.
A couple weeks prior to spring training Martinez tore the medial meniscus in his left knee and underwent surgery. He returned towards the end of spring training, which while was on schedule, may have been a bit early. At least I remember thinking he’d made a very quick recovery from surgery!
The Tigers had been avoiding putting Martinez on the DL but the switch hitter had already made it clear that he felt uncomfortable batting against right handed pitchers, he’d been rested for the majority of the past four games, received a cortisone shot and still went 0-4 batting left handed in Monday’s game.
After the game everyone knew the DL was inevitable including Martinez, manager Brad Ausmus, owner Mike Illitch and GM Dave Dombrowski. Ausmus had this to say about the decision,
“We were hoping that final step of the cortisone injection, we might see a difference in his ability to swing a bat from the left side. I just think over the course of the game last night, we decided — or I decided, quite frankly, with Dave’s agreement — that we weren’t seeing the same guy. He just wasn’t getting better the way we hoped he’d get better while playing. We just came to the realization that he’s got to rest.”
So what now for the Tigers lineup? The team has already called up outfielder Tyler Collins from Triple-A Toledo but I wouldn’t expect Collins to spend time in the DH role or get playing time every day.
What seems likely is that JD Martinez, who is great offensively but could be a little better defensively, will end up in the DH role batting in the clean up spot.
The left-handed batting Collins will likely platoon with Rajai Davis in right-field against right-handed pitching.
Against left-handers Collins will probably split time with Anthony Gose, with Gose getting more of the playing time as he has been pretty hot at the plate recently. Neither player is one hits particularly well against left-handers.
Collins appears to be an interesting choice to replace Martinez. His fielding skills don’t appear to be a problem but he was only batting .248 in 32 games with the Toledo Mud-Hens with six doubles, no home runs and just nine RBI.
However, I don’t know much about the Tigers’ farm system so he must have been the best – or only – man for the job. Hopefully for Detroit all Martinez needs is rest. If it turns into more then that it could become a problem.