Victor Martinez: How Does V-Mart Compare?

Blake VandeBunteContributor INovember 27, 2010

This is old news by now, but the Tigers made the first REALLY big splash of the free agent season by picking up Victor Martinez.  Martinez is familiar to Tiger fans because of his time in Cleveland with the Indians and more recently with the Boston Red Sox.

Martinez is a switch hitter and can play catcher and first base.  According to the Tigers brass, the plan is to have Martinez catch about two games a weeks and spend the rest of his time at DH.  I’d like to see Martinez catch a game or two more a week to help maximize his value, but this makes for a serious upgrade on the Gerald Laird/ Alex Avila combo of 2010.

Victor is a three time All Star and a career .300 hitter over 1,004 big league games.  Here’s a few more numbers for ya:

  • OPS+ of 121
  • Five seasons of at least 20 home runs
  • OBP of .369
  • .298 hitter against righties
  • .301 hitter against lefties

Martinez is one of those rare players that hits for equal pop and average against both left-handed and right-handed pitchers as his averages and slugging numbers are pretty close across the board.  This is obviously big for the Tigers as they now have a guy that actually hit lefties.  Curtis Granderson, Brennan Boesch and all those other dudes just cannot hit the lefties.

Martinez has generally seen his time behind the plate wane as he has advanced in age.  However, last season in Boston, the 31-year-old spent the bulk his time behind the dish.  This shows that he is still capable of catching full-time.  The thing to consider there though is that Boston likely knew he was on his last year with the club, so they just didn’t care.  The Tigers on the other hand, are locked into the guy for the next four years and are going to want to keep him hitting as long into the deal as possible.

It’s safe to say the Tigers haven’t had this kind of hitter behind the plate since Ivan Rodriguez’s hey-day, and Pudge never got on-base at the rate V-Mart will (should).

Here’s where V-Mart ranks amongst catchers that have caught at least 800 games since 2002 (Martinez’s rookie season):

  • 3rd in HR behind Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek
  • 2nd in RBI behind Posada
  • 1st in Batting Average
  • 2nd in On-Base Percentage
  • 2nd in Slugging
  • 2nd in OPS+
  • 2nd in Runs Created

Clearly the club is picking up an elite offensive talented, provided he can stay behind the plate.  Martinez is a very good hitter, but his offensive value takes a pretty substantial blow if he isn’t catching at least part time.  Hopefully his body can hold up and the Tigers can play him there 80 or so games in 2011.