The Boston Red Sox have found their power source in the form of J.D. Martinez.
The sound of the balls coming off the bats got louder and louder last season in Major League Baseball and the Boston Red Sox signing J.D. Martinez has exemplified the increased importance of power in the middle of a batting order.
It was a sign of an evolving game, one that values the home run ball as much as it ever has.
Baseball set an all-time home run record last year with 6,105 home runs, surpassing the mark set in 2000 of 5,693, a year spotlighted by Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Troy Glaus, Jeff Bagwell, Vladimir Guerrero, Richard Hidalgo, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Frank Thomas, Todd Helton and Jim Edmonds.
In 2017, Giancarlo Stanton hit 59 home runs followed by four others to hit over 40 home runs — Aaron Judge, J.D. Martinez, Khris Davis and Joey Gallo. Over the course of the season 41 total players hit more than 30 home runs.
With the current state of the game, Stanton was traded to the New York Yankees in November and given the largest contract in the history of North American sports, a lucrative $325 million deal over 13-years.
The addition added to an already dynamic Yankees offense including some of the game’s premier hitters in Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorious and Brett Gardner.
It became a question of how the Boston Red Sox were going to respond to the splash made by New York.
Boston made the decision to sign free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez to a $110 million contract over six years, a cheaper alternative and one with not as much glamour attached to it compared to Stanton’s.
Martinez, though, has made the Red Sox’ decision arguably the best signing of the offseason while Stanton is doing less and drew boos from the Bronx crowd earlier in the season after striking out five times in one game.
Through 45 games, Martinez’s .345 batting average and13 home runs are tied for second in baseball and his 38 RBI ranks third.
To go along with those numbers, Martinez has scored 29 runs with a 1.055 OPS and a 2.1 WAR rating hitting in the middle of the Boston lineup.
His performance at the plate has been part of the recharged Boston offense that’s scored 242 runs, best in baseball by six runs (New York, 236).
A new source of power in the middle of the lineup
It’s been a welcoming sign as the retirement of David Ortiz at the conclusion of the 2016 season impacted the the Red Sox offense in 2017. Boston scored 785 runs last year, 10th best in baseball. It was the worst offensive season since 2014, in which the team ranked 18th in runs scored with 634 that year.
Boston was first in runs scored and topped the MLB in the final year of Ortiz with 878 runs.
With the offense back in peak form and Martinez being a big reason behind it, the Boston Red Sox are tied for first place in the AL East with New York.
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The eight top run scoring teams all made the postseason last year — Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Houston, the No. 1 offense won the World Series tasked with facing the Los Angeles Dodgers, the No. 12 ranked offense in baseball.
In recent World Series matchups the importance of elite run production has been glaring. The last time less than eight total runs per game was averaged in a World Series was back in 2013, when the Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals in a six game series when the two teams averaged just under seven total runs per game in a pitching centric series.
All of these numbers are representative of the evolution on baseball that is unraveling day-by-day on the diamond.
So now a quarter of the way through the 2018 season, the contract of Martinez is shaping up to be the best of this offseason and also one of the better deals in recent years.
With seven outfielders making more than Martinez in terms of total salary — Stanton, Jason Heyward, Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Braun, Mike Trout and Shin-Soo Choo — Martinez is right there with Trout as being the best of the bunch making him a tremendous value.
It was certainly a win this offseason for the Boston Red Sox front office and the fans are reaping the benefits.