It is a thankless job that doesn’t really command the respect it deserves. No, I’m not talking about my craft fair bracelet company; I’m talking about protecting Miguel Cabrera in the lineup. It has been a struggle over the years that was seemingly solved when the Detroit Tigers stunned the baseball world by acquiring Prince Fielder, and then just as fast they stunningly plopped Fielder back into the ocean. Now the same problem remains that impacted this team back two years ago; who is going to protect the best hitter in all of baseball and can he produce at such a rate that Tigers fans don’t have to constantly watch Cabrera being intentionally walked? Those questions are very much up in the air.
No one is questioning Victor Martinez‘s talent and the fact that he is a switch hitter will be a big advantage in matching up against teams, but he has to show more power than he has the past few years if he is going to adequately protect Cabrera. Obviously he isn’t going to match Cabrera homer for homer the way Tigers fans dreamed Fielder would, but Martinez can no longer be a nine home run guy with up and down months. The Tigers need a guy who can hit .300 month after month and hit at least 20 home runs behind him. Martinez has been that guy in the past, but as the years catch up to him can he do it again? I say yes.
I say yes partly because of hope but also because Martinez has a career track record that suggests he can do this job. The age is a concern, but being a DH means that Martinez should be healthy all season and can focus his strength on his hitting. He also has adjusted to injuries and the new role of DH, and he is finally coming out of unique slumps caused by those factors. This will be the first year he comes in either completely healthy in a Tigers uniform or completely used to the DH role. I expect a big year out of Martinez, and because of that we should expect another gigantic year out of Miguel Cabrera.