Why isn't J.D. Martinez hitting like J.D. Martinez?


The Red Sox really, really need J.D. Martinez to hit.

This hasn't been a complicated equation since the designated hitter was identified as the middle-of-the-order fail-safe that David Ortiz supplied all those years. For example, the Red Sox are 53-18 over the past two seasons when J.D. Martinez has hit at least one home run. Get the picture?

More proof? Look at 2020 so far.

Martinez hasn't been Martinez, heading into Saturday night with a .219 batting average and .637 OPS with not a single home run. Since getting off to a solid starts in the season's first two games, he has just two hits in 23 at-bats over the past six contests, leaving 16 men on base.

It's early. (It took him seven games to hit his first home run in 2018.) But with this season's schedule early is a relative term. And this version of Martinez certainly seems different.

So why the slump? There are some theories.

The first has to do with a lack of access to the in-game video. For a very routine-oriented player, this was the routine. Now, because of changed rules and COVID-19-induced restrictions, the viewing options have been few and far between.

"It’s definitely been an adjustment for me," Martinez said after the Red Sox' 5-1 loss to the Yankees Friday night. "It’s a big part of my routine and who I am, the studying and everything. It’s one of those things where I have to find a new routine really."

He added, "I’m still trying to figure that one out. It’s one of those things where when you do want to grind on something, you can’t come in because there’s a certain amount of time you can come in. It’s tough. It’s one of those seasons you hope you have your swing right out of the shute. Because if you don’t then it’s hard to get in early, get some work done, get on the videos, watch because you really just don’t have it anymore. It’s a different routine, a different way to just. It’s different."

Then there is where Martinez has been primarily hitting in the lineup, the No. 2 spot.

"It’s a little different," he noted of the new spot in the batting order. "The whole routine changes. Obviously I don’t get as many at-bats to watch the pitcher early on. Usually, I have the first two to three guys to kind of time them up a bit. That’s probably a different part about it."

But Martinez also makes it clear, he's not lobbying to be moved out of the new spot in the order.

"I don’t care," he said. "I told Ron, I was like, I’ll carry the bat bag, I don’t care, just give me four at-bats a game. I’m down for anything."

Whatever the alteration, the Red Sox need Martinez to be Martinez. That part isn't up for interpretation.

J.D. Martinez after the Red Sox loss ... pic.twitter.com/ZfBBdfcLuT

— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) August 1, 2020