USA Today Sports

This is why J.D. Martinez needs to keep hitting home runs

Rob Bradford
September 10, 2018 - 9:47 am

After his pivotal three-run blast Sunday night, J.D. Martinez has 40 home runs. What does it mean to him?

"Nothing. Forty. I don't care," he said after the Red Sox' 6-5 walk-off win over the Astros. "I mean, honestly, I don't look at all that stuff. I'm just worried about the little things and just worry about the day to day and the process more than the results really." (For a complete recap of the Red Sox' win, click here.)


But he should understand that the Red Sox can't be so nonchalant when analyzing the importance of those homers. They have needed them ... badly.

The Red Sox are swept by the Astros if not for Martinez's ability to hit the ball out of the park Sunday night. This was the issue a year ago, one which was agonizingly evident while matching up Houston against the Sox in the American League Division Series. While John Farrell's team seemingly needed five hits in a row to get anything going, the eventual world champs could lean on the ability to flip the game upside-down with one swing of the bat.

It feels different this year because it is different.

The Red Sox have hit 185 home runs this season, 120 of which have come with at least one runner on base. A year ago? The season total was 168 with 97 of them accounting for more than one run. Alex Cora's club is also 51-7 when hitting more than one homer, having managed the feat already 13 more times than in 2017.

At it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that leading this charge has been the guy who just wants to hit the ball in the air.

Martinez's homers have accounted for 68 runs, which is six more than the total number of RBIs both Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez accounted for in 2017. And when the Red Sox' DH/outfielder hits at least one home run the Sox are 32-5.

He also leads the majors with 28 home runs with men on base, 13 more than last year's Red Sox' leader (Mookie Betts), and eclipsing the 27 turned in by David Ortiz two season ago. Martinez's homers have also broken ties a team-leading 12 times.

"If you get caught up in the process -- I didn't start the season off by saying I've gotta hit 40 home runs," Martinez said. "That looks like I'll never hit that. But if I get caught up in hey you know what, I gotta hit the ball on the barrel this at bat. How am I going to do that? Worry about the small goals then big ones take care of themselves. That's why I never get caught up in it. That's why I never talk about whatever I do or anything like that. It's just how many times did I hit the ball on the barrel tonight? That's what I measure."

Martinez probably felt a bit different over the previous 22 times he was in the lineup leading into Sunday, having hit the ball out of the park just twice. But at the same time, while he was going through that home run drought, the Red Sox still had a player who was hitting .333 with an OPS of .883.

This is still a guy who has the second-most balls hit with an exit velocity of 95 mph or better, while only trailing Joey Gallo when it comes to most barreled balls per plate appearance. Home runs or not, he hits. That hasn't stopped.

But it certainly does feel a whole lot different when Martinez is hitting homers. That was undoubtedly the case Sunday night.

"I have an idea because you guys tell me or the guys bring it up to me but I honestly like, I feel like looking up at the scoreboard and looking at statistics is like death," Martinez said. "It's like bad. Like, don't look at it. Just because it doesn't do anything. What good does it do? Nothing. Like yesterday, I come out and just like that you go 0-for-5, you lose the game and stuff like that, then you gotta come back today and you gotta bounce back. But if you get caught up in your numbers and this and that you'll go crazy. This game is too much. It's based off failure. You gotta just kind of try to make it as positive as you can."