Thursday, August 29, 2013

V-Mart's Remarkable Turnaround

Martinez's 2013 season has been a tale of two halves
Every year there are players who start out slowly, then recover in the second half and wind up with their usual numbers. Think Dan Uggla in 2011, Albert Pujols in 2012, and Mark Teixeira pretty much every year.

This year, Victor Martinez is one such player.

After sitting out all of 2012 with a torn ACL, Martinez had a lot of rust to shake off. Understandably, it took him a while to get his timing back. He batted .221 /.290/.274 in April. He didn't hit his first home run of the season until May 4th, and by the end of the month his overall batting line stood at .228/.273/.305. In June he "raised" it to .232/.290/.337. Although Martinez was improving, slowly but surely, he looked nothing like the V-Mart of old. 2013 was shaping up to be a lost year for the four-time All-Star.

Finally, things started clicking for him once the calendar flipped to July. He strung together a 14-game hit streak just before the All-Star Break, then came back and rapped out nine hits in a three-day span. He closed out the month strong and has continued to rake in August. With three more hits last night, Martinez boosted his batting line to .294/.347/.415. Over the past two months, Martinez has batted a sizzling .386/.436/.526. He's seeing the ball so well, and making such consistent contact, that he hasn't struck out once in his most recent 49 plate appearances (by comparison, Chris Carter has fanned 21 times in his previous 49 trips to the plate).

Credit Tigers manager Jim Leyland for staying the course while Martinez was lost at sea. The veteran skipper showed extraordinary faith in his slumping star, dutifully penciling him into the lineup everyday and always batting him fifth--behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Martinez's established track record warranted a long leash, and sure enough, the patience paid off.

With Detroit leading the AL Central and gearing up for another playoff run, V-Mart's hot streak couldn't have come at a better time. The Tigers are going to need him come October. They certainly could've used him in last year's World Series, when they were swept largely because they couldn't muster any offense against the San Francisco Giants. If Detroit does return to the Fall Classic, it will be Martinez's first appearance on baseball's biggest stage.

The Tigers can only hope he hits as well in the October chill as he does during the dog days of August.

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