As a team, the Boston Red Sox didn’t fare so well in the month of August. They went 13-14, seeing their playoffs odds (per FanGraphs) plummet from 45.2 percent (end of play on July 31st) to 5.5 percent (heading into play on September 1st). Boston has absolutely no room for error, as they trail the second wild card spot by a sizable margin of 5.5 games.
One player who has raised his game significantly of late is J.D. Martinez. In August, he hit .394/.475/.768 with 10 home runs and 29 runs driven in. That was good for a 212 wRC+, meaning that he created runs at a level 112 percent above the league average.
He led the Red Sox offense in every single stat listed above. In fact, of the 268 MLB batters to register at least 60 plate appearances in August, only two of them recored a higher weighted runs created plus than Martinez — Nelson Cruz (216) and Alex Bregman (224).
J.D. became the first Red Sox hitter (minimum 80 plate appearances) to post a .750+ SLG during the month of August since David Ortiz did so in 2011 (.836). He’s riding a 4 game multi-hit streak and is batting .448/.500/1.034 over the course of his last seven games.
In terms of what could possibly be fueling his hot streak, there are obviously many possibilities, but after taking a look at some video, I believe it has to do with several adjustments Martinez has made to his swing.
Right from the get-go, J.D. is now angling his bat more upwards. He’s accomplished this through extending his front elbow closer to the plate.
At the time in which the pitcher is about to release the ball, J.D.’s front foot is raised drastically higher than it was in the early goings of the 2019 campaign. This is likely an effort to both a. generate more power and b. refine his timing.
When his front foot hits the dirt in the top photo, Martinez has already commenced his swing (his hands, bat, and back elbow) are dramatically lower. Theoretically, this would allow him to get more out in front of the baseball, which would result in a higher pull rate. This is exactly what has happened.
|per FanGraphs||2019 March – July||2019 August||Career|
An appealing trait that J.D. brings to the table is that he hits the ball well to all fields.
With that being said, he is still most successful when he pulls the ball into left field, especially this season.
|per FanGraphs||Career AVG||Career SLG||2019 AVG||2019 SLG|
In starting his swing earlier, J.D. has also improved his walks-to-strikeouts ratio. From the beginning of the season through July, he walked 9.9 percent and struck out 20.2 percent of the time. In August, he walked far more frequently (12.7 percent) and simultaneously struck out less often (16.9 percent).
In August, he was able to lay off of more pitches outside of the strike-zone as well. This increased level of selectivity did not hinder his ability to make pitchers pay when they threw it over the strike-zone. J.D. actually swung at strikes more regularly than he did in the past.
If Boston is to pull of a miracle, J.D. Martinez’s ridiculously strong play needs to carry over into September.
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