After Prince Fielder was traded to the Texas Rangers last November, one of the biggest questions on the minds of many Detroit Tigers fans was whether or not Victor Martinez would hit with enough power to protect Miguel Cabrera. Well, it is still very early, but Martinez is currently batting .321 with two home runs while Fielder has struggled to the tune of a .162 batting average and has yet to homer through his first nine games.
That said, even if Martinez does not stay on this pace and cannot revert to being the 20-25 home run man he was with the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox, he should still provide more than enough protection for Cabrera.
The switch-hitting Martinez is simply a magician with the bat from both sides of the plate. He is exceptionally good at putting the ball in play and hitting for a high batting average. He has a lifetime .303/.368/.465 slash line and has never struck out more than 78 times in a single season. He also averages over 100 RBIs per year and is good for 30-to-40 doubles each season. The guy is special.
Moreover, there is already precedent for Martinez being able to provide sufficient protection for Cabrera. In 2011, Martinez batted fifth behind Cabrera who was the Tigers’ cleanup man that season, and Cabrera won a batting title while posting an overall slash line of .344/.448/.586 with 30 home runs, 48 doubles and 105 RBIs.
Cabrera may only be hitting .286 so far in 2014, which is low for him, but he is bound to turn up the pace once the April showers begin bringing May flowers.
Martinez is currently playing in the final season of a four-year, $50 million contract he signed with the Tigers back in November of 2010. According to Baseball Reference, Martinez will earn the final $12 million of that contract in 2014. Although that is still a very nice payday to say the very least, some may be interested to know that it is exactly half of what Fielder will be making this year while Martinez is very likely to end up having a more productive season.
Granted, Fielder is still very likely to turn his season around, and he will most likely have more home runs than Martinez does by the time the leaves turn brown. But Martinez can be expected to have more hits, fewer strikeouts and a higher batting average than Fielder. The RBI totals are likely to be comparable.
Martinez also comes with a bit more versatility than Fielder. Not only can manager Brad Ausmus slide Martinez in at first base and allow Miguel Cabrera to DH or move over to third for a day, but he can even put Martinez behind the plate on occasion.
It is true that Cabrera did take his game to another level in 2012, which coincides with the arrival of Fielder as he won a Triple Crown award in 2012 and back-to-back MVP awards. However, although we will never know what Cabrera’s numbers would have looked like if Martinez did not suffer the season-ending knee injury in Jan. 2012, which consequently paved the way for the Fielder signing, in all likelihood Cabrera’s numbers still would have been among the best in all of MLB.
At any rate, Martinez is simply the epitome of a professional hitter and any team would be lucky to have him as their cleanup man. He may actually be one of the more underrated players in all of baseball.