Martinez Versus Judge: Who Provides More Value?

Major League Baseball’s hottest debate heading into the 2019 season is the battle between Mookie Betts and Mike Trout for being the sport’s top dog. However, it would be hard to leave out two big names receiving a bit less flare in the media. J.D. Martinez and Aaron Judge, two of baseball’s biggest sluggers, deserve some love too. As so, we present Martinez versus Judge: Who Provides More Value?

By the Numbers- Measurements

By now you have heard that Aaron Judge is one of baseball’s biggest stars, but thatMartinez Versus Judge: Who Provides More Value? also applies in a literal sense. Judge is listed at 6’7″ and 282 lbs., a true mammoth in the sport. Martinez is no slouch, countering at 6’3″ and 220, but few players possess the shear mass of Judge. Advantage to the judge’s chambers on this one.

By the Numbers- Contracts

Aaron Judge is a bargain, as he has yet to make more than $650,000 in a season. Martinez is raking in an impressive $23.75 million per year, as he enters year two of his five-year, $110MM contract. Advantage to Judge, and especially the Yankees, at least until it’s time to pay the big man.

By the Numbers- Offense

In a side-by-side comparison, Martinez bested Judge in nearly every offensive category in the 2018 season. It is important to note that Judge was sidelined with a wrist injury that held him to 112 games. Even so, Judge only managed to surpass Martinez in walks (76 to J.D.’s 69). The Red Sox off-season splash put together a historic season for Boston that pushed him past the Yankee star in many statistics including batting average (.330 to .279), home runs (43 to 27), RBI (130 to 67), and OPS (1.031 to .919). Martinez’ 43 homers, in fact, were the most ever for a player in his first season in Boston.

Martinez takes the upper hand, but in a full season for Judge, we can expect closer results in 2019.

By the numbers- Defense

In this side of the Martinez versus Judge debate, Judge surely takes the cake. Martinez struggles in the outfield according to his defensive metrics on Fangraphs, with a Defensive UZR/150 of -4.6 for the 2018 season. That would place him towards the bottom of the list of qualifying outfielders from last season. Judge, on the other hand, posted a UZR/150 of 14.1, which would place him near the very top of the list of qualifiers. Defensive analytics are no perfect science, as it’s quite difficult to make easily decipherable numbers of defensive value. But in this instance, Judge is off the charts compared to Martinez.

By the numbers- Awards won

In fairness to Judge, who has only played full seasons in 2017-2018, we’ll consider hardware won the last two years. In 2018 alone, Martinez amassed an All-Star selection, 4th place in MVP voting, and a historic benchmark: two Silver Slugger awards, for both outfield and designated hitter, an unprecedented feat. Judge, meanwhile, collected AL Rookie of the Year in 2017, a Silver Slugger, has two All-Star selections, and finished second in MVP voting in 2017. Both have decorated their trophy cases, but there is one achievement that separates the pair, and that is Martinez’ 2018 World Series ring. We’ll give the slight edge to Martinez, but both are in great position to expand their winnings in 2019 as well. Provided both mashers can stay healthy in 2019, they should be the focal points of their offenses.

The Verdict

Judge’s ability on both sides of the ball, plus his pay rate, makes him more valuable going forward. Ultimately, Martinez Versus Judge is going to be a treat for us to watch in the battle for first place.

Andrew Benintendi Picked A Great Time to Heat Up

As the Boston Red Sox blazed out of the gate to a 17-2 start this season, the bat of Andrew Benintendi was nowhere to be found. But it didn’t matter. The rest of the offense picked up the slack, and then some. Through the month of April, he batted .274 with 23 hits, 15 runs batted in, a .376 on-base percentage, a .440 slugging percentage, and only managed to hit one home run.

His struggles at the plate were largely overshadowed by the rest of the offense. Namely Andrew BenintendiJ.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts, who had much less trouble hitting dingers. The duo captivated Boston. Betts emerged as a surefire MVP candidate and Martinez warmed the hearts of Red Sox Nation as a home run of a free agent signing. Pun intended.

But those struggles were never ignored completely. Between the lines of the Red Sox’ historic start was curiosity as to where the production from Boston’s handsome left fielder had gone. Then the calendar turned to May, and the beautiful swing of Andrew Benintendi started making things happen. And the timing could not have been better.

Andrew Benintendi Back In Form

Hanley Ramirez was designated for assignment on May 25th. Mookie Betts was shut down with a left abdominal strain that same week. Later placed on the 10-day disabled list, Betts is still out of the lineup. And all of a sudden the Red Sox lineup was missing some serious offensive firepower. Benintendi’s missing bat finally started to show up, resulting in a drastically more productive month of May. Improving upon his batting average (.349), on-base percentage (.411), slugging percentage (.633), hit total (38), RBI total (23), and HR total (6), he finally returned to the form we know and love.

And it gets better. Benintendi’s month of June is off to an even better start. Against the reigning champion Houston Astros on June 2nd, Benintendi launched a ball into the Milky Way to put the Sox ahead for good and secure the team’s 40th victory. He then put another one into orbit the following night en route to a 9-3 win. His power surged helped the Sox salvage a series split against one of the best teams in the nation. Thanks in large part to him, the Boston Red Sox were the first team in the league to win 40 games.

At 41-19, the Boston Red Sox have the best record in Major League Baseball. And while Benintendi may not have contributed early on, he is more than making up for it now.

Mookie Betts Taking More Aggressive Approach at the Plate

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts has easily been the biggest story of Spring Training for the Boston Red Sox, in large part due to his more aggressive approach at the plate as of late.

In 14 Spring Training games thus far, Betts is hitting .452/.477/.857, good for an astounding 1.334 OPS. The 22-year old infielder-turned-outfielder has collected seven doubles, two triples, two home runs and five runs batted in.Mookie Betts

What number stands out the most, however, is only two base on balls.

“[Major league] pitchers are just around the zone more. I feel like you have to swing a little more. You can’t go up there taking,” Betts shared with Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. “I kind of learned last year that you can’t go up there taking. You’ve got to be ready to swing it. That’s how [Derek] Jeter got 3,000 hits. He wasn’t up there taking.”

“That’s kind of why my approach is a little more aggressive than it used to be, which is all right. I feel like it works both ways — it cuts down on strikeouts and it may cut down on walks, but that’s OK. I’ll take [walks] when they come, like today.”

The new offensive approach seems to be working brilliantly for Betts, who at one point this spring had more extra base hits than any player in the Grapefruit League.

“I think [the more aggressive approach] just kind of just developed over last year, especially against [major league] pitchers,” Betts said. “They’re kind of in the zone with everything. I feel like if you go up there taking, you’ll be 0-2 in the blink of an eye.”

“It’s not something that I think about. It’s just something that’s naturally been an adjustment, the same way I always say – I feel like I just make natural adjustments.”

The ability to make those adjustments on the fly should pay huge dividends for Betts, as he prepares for his first full season in the majors. In 52 games in 2014, Betts hit .291/.368/.444 with five home runs, 18 runs batted in, seven stolen bases and 21 walks.

Boston Red Sox Outfield Surplus

red sox outfield 2014With the recent addition of Rusney Castillo, that gives the  Red Sox eight legitimate candidates to compete for outfield jobs in the spring of 2015. Other than Castillo, the Sox have Yoenis Cespedes, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, Brock Holt, Allen Craig and Daniel Nava. I didn’t even include minor league prospects such as Bryce Brentz and Alex Hassan in that mix.

To be realistic, the Sox will probably only carry four outfielders. Advantages to carrying Brock Holt is that he can play anywhere on the diamond except pitcher or catcher and Allen Craig who can also play first base. Some folks will need to go in order for the numbers to work. Rusney Castillo will be given every shot to win the center field job. You can probably lock in Yoenis Cespedes in left field,unless another major trade happens, and possibly Shane Victorino if he is healthy. Victorino went on record as saying he is planning on being the right fielder next year. That leaves room for one back up among the others.

If Victorino isn’t healthy, Jackie Bradley Jr. would then move into that spot as the Sox have said they like employing two center fielders in the outfield. Mookie Betts would likely start the year at AAA Pawtucket as would Bradley Jr. if Victorino is healthy and can regain his productivity. You would think that Allen Craig came here to start and play everyday and not just be a fourth outfielder. Another scenario could be moving him to first base and possibly trading Mike Napoli.

A case could also be made to keep Daniel Nava as he is the only left-handed bat among that group. I expect him to get traded though as early as now or September to a contender  that could use him as a push into the playoffs. He is playoff tested, after last season, and could draw interest from teams. The last guy in this equation is Brock Holt. He has done everything the Sox could ask for this season and then some.

Brock Holt has really bailed the Sox out with providing a legitimate lead off hitter to fill the void left by Jacoby Ellsbury. That was a spot that Grady Sizemore couldn’t handle nor could Jackie Bradley Jr. He is also a nice guy who plays hard and is a sort of throwback on all of the positions he could play. If not in the Red Sox outfield, he could be the back up utility infielder.

It should be an interesting final month of the year to keep an eye on how all these guys will fit in to the Red Sox outfield for the remainder of the season and in 2015.

A Catch Reminds Us of the Great Fred Lynn

fred lynn

Fred Lynn (L) and Jim Rice (R) Courtesty of Fenwaypark100.com

Remember Fred Lynn? Or at least have you seen footage of him play center field like a wild man, bouncing off the wall with the full brunt of his body to catch a ball? Surely I did as I watched Jackie Bradley Jr. make that incredible catch on Opening Day against the Yankees. The catch was nearly identical to the one Lynn made in the short clip below:

Lynn says the hardest part about a catch like that is not grabbing it, but keeping it in the glove. Lynn ended his first season, 1975, earning two honors, the Rookie of the Year award and MVP in the American League.  Bradley Jr. and Lynn are both graduates of the University of South Carolina and are outfielders, preferring the center field position.

 

fred lynn

Courtesy of garnetandblacktraditions.com

After yesterday’s start, the question remains whether Bradley Jr. will continue to follow in Lynn’s footsteps. Will he score Rookie of the Year honors too? Will he be an MVP? I do not know. I do know that watching that catch over and over last night, after a much too long day, gave me great hope; a hope that only baseball and spring provide.

It also made me smile and think of my father, as Lynn was one of his favorite players during that 1975 season. I hope the Red Sox do better than the projected 80 plus wins some sources reportedly hope for, and earn 95 as they did in 1975. I hope we reach the ALCS as they did that year, too. Though a sweep and a World Series berth, may be asking too much of the baseball Gods.

For right now, for this moment, we caught a glimpse of hope in our proverbial baseball gloves. Let’s hold on to it as the season unfolds.

Platoon Players on Red Sox Roster

platoon players

Courtesy of ttp2.dslyecsi.com

“Platoon, isn’t that a movie, or has something to do with military structure?” I asked myself. I thought I knew most everything there is to know about baseball, but then I took this job. I learn something new every single day. People tell me that no one loves to learn more than I do, so I suppose I am living my mission.

Platooning, or platoon players, is the latest discovery I made.  The use of the term platoon in baseball, as defined at baseball-reference.com, is “when two players share a position.” This can occur both offensively and defensively. For instance, one player may be strong against left-handed pitchers and another against right-handed pitchers.  Jonny Gomes is an example of a platoon player for the Red Sox. Gomes makes lots of money in this role, a whopping $10 million to be exact, because statistics show he has a strong bat against left-handed pitchers. Gomes enjoyed a consistent on base percentage this Spring Training with an average of .316. Defensively, he can play both left and right field and switch off with, let’s say, Daniel Nava, or Shane Victorino. Offensively, there are plenty of players on the roster that can complement him against right-handed pitchers. Long story, short, we pay him lots of money because of his versatility. We hope it pays off. As New England fans, we hope for a lot of things like for it to stop snowing at the end of March.

platoon players

Courtesy of boston.com

In most of my posts, I emphasize the need for this team to play as one cohesive unit, and not individuals who happen to be wearing the same shirts. This platooning idea speaks directly to the team philosophy. Plus, it provides depth in key positions on the field and in the batter’s box. Gomes is one good example, and there are others on the team like Mike Napoli, who could play first base, catch, or DH.

Now, my earlier post on the depth chart starts to make more sense to me. I get why certain players are mentioned in more than one position.

As one famous dude once said, “Eureka!”