Red Sox star J.D. Martinez has been on an absolute tear this season. Currently, through 56 games played he is top ten in the MLB in hits (68), BA (0.313), runs (41), SLG (0.553), OPS (0.993),and doubles (16). Add on top of that the 12 home runs, 39 RBIs and 120 total bases and it is clear why Martinez is not only an All-Star, but one of the best players in the game today. A large factor to his success is the return of in-game video for the 2021 season.
In-game video allows players to analyze their at bats mid game. They have the ability to see where pitches crossed the plate, how their swing path was looking, if they were early or late, and just about anything that a player might want to know about a previous at bat. It is especially helpful for designated hitters, who will spend two to three innings just waiting for their next at bat. This gives them plenty of time to dissect and analyze their swing and then work on specifics in the cages. It is a tool that has proven to be effective for many players but none more than Martinez.
Starting his career with the Astros in 2011, Martinez was hardly the player we know today. He recorded a batting average of 0.251 and slugging only 0.387 with a mere 24 home runs through three seasons. His biggest faults however, were his 226 strikeouts and his inconsistency, which ultimately led to him getting released in 2014. This is when he took a deep dive into his hitting and swing mechanics to better-understand why he wasn’t as productive as he needed to be. Martinez stated that he soon found that “everything [he] thought [he] knew about hitting was wrong” and figured out what changes were necessary for him to progress as a hitter.
The following season he joined the Detroit Tigers and brought with him a new swing and a new game routine. He began to analyze his swing in-between at bats. He would watch where he went wrong to avoid repeating those mistakes, and seeing where he went right so he could replicate his success. The new changes led him to a great season where he increased his batting average by 0.065, slugging by 0.175, OPS by 0.262 and added 16 more home runs! The following year he added another 15 home runs and 26 RBIs and was named an All-Star for the first time.
He continued to dominate at the plate in the following years, including in 2018 when he not only won a World Series with Boston, but he did it in style putting up career best stats ( BA 0.330, SLG 0.629, OPS 1.031, 43 home runs and 130 RBIs) and finished fourth in MVP voting. Even as team success dwindled in 2019 he continued his dominance earning him a third career All-Star appearance. Arguably, the best aspect of his game during this time was his clutch ability. From 2014-2019 Martinez ranked number one in slugging percentage during the 7th-9th inning proving that he is one of the game’s best, especially on the offense.
In 2020, during a pandemic year, his dominance was diminished. In wake of cheating scandals throughout the league and a shortened season due to Coronavirus; the MLB elected to ban in-game video for all teams. Martinez publicly expressed his disapproval of the ban stating that “It’s a joke, it’s gotten so ridiculous…. to take our game back 30 years, I think you’re not doing it justice.” Now for some players this ban was of no importance, but for Martinez it proved to affect his game more than anyone could have expected. His production dropped tremendously, his batting average went down by 0.091, slugging by 0.168, OPS by 0.259 and OBS by 0.091. It was no secret that he relied on video analysis but no one could have predicted this big of a drop in production. Even as the underwhelming 24-36 season came to a close, he made it very clear that 2021 was going to be a different story. Martinez emphasized that he would be back stronger, and hopefully with the tool that had been with him throughout all his success.
When the MLB and the players union reached an agreement to bring back in-game video for 2021, Martinez was relieved, “It’s definitely cooled my anxiety” he claimed. The ability to dissect his swing mid game had made all the difference in previous years and he was confident it would give him the edge he was missing, once again he was correct. Currently, Martinez is putting up incredible numbers and on his way to a presumed fourth All-Star game. The 33 year-old has proven the effectiveness of this new age tool and why it is a valid part of today’s game and should be here to stay.