Every year, there are players who start out slowly, then recover in the second half and wind up with their usual numbers. Think Dan Uggla in 2011, Albert Pujols in 2012 and Mark Teixeira pretty much every year.
This year, Victor Martinez is one such player.
After sitting out all of 2012 with a torn ACL, Martinez had a lot of rust to shake off. Understandably, it took him a while to get his timing back. He batted .221/.290/.274 in April, didn’t hit his first home run until May 4, and by the end of June he “raised” his batting line to .232/.290/.337. Martinez was improving, slowly but surely, but looked nothing like the V-Mart of old. The 2013 season was shaping up to be a lost year for the four-time All-Star.
Finally, things started clicking once the calendar flipped to July. He strung together a 14-game hit streak just before the All-Star break, then came back and picked up where he left off. He continued to rake in August, totaling 44 hits and batting .386 for the month. He’s seeing the ball so well, and making such consistent contact, that he’s struck out just two times in his most recent 92 plate appearances.
Credit Tigers manager Jim Leyland for staying the course while Martinez was lost at sea. The veteran skipper showed extraordinary faith in his slumping star, dutifully penciling him into the lineup everyday and always batting him fifth — behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Martinez’s established track record warranted a long leash, and sure enough, the patience paid off. The career .302 hitter is flirting with another .300 season, which will be the seventh on his resume if he can boost his average a few more points from his current .296 mark.
With Detroit leading the AL Central and gearing up for another playoff run, V-Mart’s hot streak couldn’t have come at a better time. The Tigers are going to need him come October. They certainly could’ve used him in last year’s World Series, when they were swept largely because they couldn’t muster any offense against the San Francisco Giants. If Detroit does return to the Fall Classic, it will be Victor Martinez’s first appearance on baseball’s biggest stage.
The Tigers can only hope he hits as well in the October chill as he does during the dog days of August.