Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez’ early struggles are no concern

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 1: J.D. Martinez /

A slow start is nothing new for Boston Red Sox outfielder/DH J.D. Martinez. We shouldn’t be nearly as concerned as the Yankees are with Giancarlo Stanton.

The Boston Red Sox prepare to renew their rivalry with the New York Yankees this week with the prized offseason acquisitions for both teams struggling out of the gate. While J.D. Martinez has yet to live up to his stellar reputation, his slump is nothing compared to the woeful production of Giancarlo Stanton.

Martinez was signed to a lucrative deal to cure the power drought that plagued the Red Sox last year. He’s only gone deep once through nine games and the Red Sox sit outside the top-10 in the league in home runs.

The 30-year old slugger enters the day slashing .226/.286/.419 in 31 at-bats. Aside from his one homer, his only extra-base hits are a double and a triple that Kevin Kiermaier misplayed to allow the ball to fall over his head.

Despite this lack of production, Red Sox fans shouldn’t be concerned about Martinez. He’s a historically slow starter, hitting .263 with a .793 OPS in March/April over the course of his career. His OPS has been well above .800 in every other month. Keep in mind that Martinez also had a late start to camp this spring due to his ongoing contract negotiations. He has a history of heating up when the weather does and this year should be no exception.

The same can’t necessarily be said about Stanton. The new addition to the Yankees lineup is off to a brutal start, slashing .167/.271/.429 in 42 at-bats. His performance prompted impatient Yankees fans to shower him with boos in his first home game in pinstripes.

The most concerning part of Stanton’s slump has been the strikeouts. He leads the majors with 20 K’s and is striking out in nearly half his at-bats. Stanton recently became the first hitter in the live ball era to strike out five times without a hit twice in the same season. It’s only the second week of April!  Yankees fans will be quick to begrudge the fact that Stanton had more strikeouts in a week than Joe DiMaggio had during the entire 1941 season.

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Martinez isn’t in the batting title race either but at least he’s not striking out at a historic rate. His 31.4 K% is higher than usual but not by a staggering amount given the small sample size. Martinez owns a .300 BABIP that is about league average yet remains a substantial drop from his career .340 rate. A bit more luck on balls in play, plus the ability to hit the ball further once the cold weather fades away, will result in an uptick in performance.

Staton’s problems won’t be resolved quite as easily. No amount of luck or warm weather will help him if he can’t make contact.

The reigning NL MVP is bound to improve but this may not be the week it happens. Stanton is tasked with facing a Red Sox pitching staff that ranks second in the league with a 2.69 ERA and fourth with a .209 batting average against. They’ll send Chris Sale to the mound Tuesday night. The ace will be followed by David Price, who has yet to allow a run this season. Good luck facing that two-headed monster when you’re already in a slump.

Martinez hasn’t put up the numbers we expect but he has hit safely in five of his last six games. Stanton has come up empty in five of his last seven, including a horrific 0-for-7 performance in his last game.

Next: Red Sox vs Yankees Series Preview

It’s a promising sign that the Red Sox have started the season with an 8-1 record in spite of their star slugger’s struggles. Stanton’s lack of production is magnified by the Yankees mediocre 5-5 start. Boston can afford to let Martinez work his way out of a slump. The longer Stanton goes without showing any sign of his superstar form, the further the Yankees risk falling behind.