Alex Cora is confident Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez will find his swing
It’s safe to say that this past season didn’t quite go as well as J.D. Martinez would’ve liked. Boston’s designated hitter was an afterthought for most of 2020 and the Red Sox suffered greatly for it. With his bat ice cold for most of the season, the offense sputtered and never really got into the groove that we’re used to seeing.
Recently re-hired manager Alex Cora spoke on the matter the other day and made it clear that he’d be working with the DH to get him back into the swing of things. One of the tidbits that came out during AC’s press conference on Tuesday was that he never stopped watching the Red Sox. Despite how painful it was to watch this terrible team in 2020, he made sure to keep his eye on the games.
"“I don’t like to gamble but I’m pretty sure he’s going to have a better season, of course, next year than this year. And that’s not hard,” Cora said Tuesday after being reintroduced as Boston’s manager. “I think he’ll be back.”"
Having him come back with as up to date knowledge of the team as possible will be a great asset heading into 2021 because he’ll already know what was missing from the equation in 2020. For Martinez, Cora said what I think we all have said during the campaign, he looked very uncomfortable at the plate and often seemed lost. the Boston skipper attributes that analysis to J.D. widening his strike zone and basically giving pitchers whatever they wanted without putting up much of a fight.
"“A lot of bad decisions at the plate,” Cora said. “He expanded in. He expanded down and away.”"
If you watched Martinez in the batter’s box at all over the last two seasons you would’ve seen someone who was damn near surgical at the plate. He knew what his strike zone was and he wasn’t going to give the pitcher any free strikes by wandering out of it. In 2020, though, it felt like J.D. couldn’t tell what was coming or where it was going because he swung at everything thrown at him. He hit a paltry .213/.291/.389/.680 with just 7 homers and 27 RBI. This was after crushing it during spring training and summer camp.
Let’s look at his strikeout numbers for the last three years and I think it’ll give an idea of what Cora is saying. In 2018, Martinez played 150 games with 146 K’s, 2019 saw 146-138, but 2020 was a staggering 54 games with 59K’s. He was close to averaging a strikeout per game in his previous two seasons with the Red Sox but by eclipsing that threshold he was just plain bad this year.
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Martinez is a big advocate of the replay room and using it during games to check his recent at-bats for things that he needs to tweak. Thanks to COVID those amenities weren’t offered through 2020 and it became a bit of an excuse for J.D. I get that it’s a tool he’s always had the ability to use and has built it into his training regimen, but you need to adapt and figure out a way around it in these scenarios. It wasn’t just him that didn’t have the capability, so why did other hitters thrive and even have off the charts years?
Cora made note of the lack of video usage by Martinez but feels that it may have been a crutch and that through hard work, which J.D. is known for his work ethic, the slugger can get back on track with his offense. Considering the fact that COVID is once again ramping up pretty heavily throughout the US, I’m not sure what state we’ll be in by next season, so the video room may once again be off-limits.
"“I read it. I read the stuff about the video stuff,” Cora said. “I think with his work ethic and what he does on a daily basis, he was just in a bad spot physically to attack pitches. Pitch recognition wasn’t there. That wasn’t J.D. We talked a few days ago. He’s very excited for me to get back and I’ve got a few things for him.”"
The bottom line is that if the Red Sox are going to succeed at all going forward they need the bat of J.D. Martinez to be as hot as possible. With Cora back, there is a good chance that we could see Martinez back to his MVP caliber self in 2021. Having the skipper behind him while also watching his at-bats to break them down will only help the DH find his swing and get back to doing what he does best. It all starts with confidence, and AC has just that in his guy and will make sure that he has it in himself come Opening Day.